House of Commons Hansard #129 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was via.


SupplyGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.


Jim Jordan Liberal Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak to the opposition motion today. I am going to speak to one aspect of the motion, the reference to the national highway system. The motion suggests that the government should be condemned for its continued neglect of Canada's national highway system.

Yesterday the Standing Committee on Transport tabled a report in the House which made several recommendations for the federal government to consider with respect to the renewal of our national highway system. It is a coincidence that we were talking about

those recommendations yesterday and today the third party is condemning us for not taking any action.

I want to congratulate my colleagues on the transport committee for coming forth with the recommendations in the report. Indeed, I want to congratulate the hon. member for Kootenay West-Revelstoke. He is a well valued member of the transport committee. I have enjoyed working with him under the chairmanship of the hon. member for Winnipeg South.

When the Minister of Transport met in Charlottetown last October with the provincial transport ministers, he received unanimous support for the idea that the federal government would participate in a study in which all transport ministers would get together to see if something could be done to address the deteriorating condition of Canada's national highway system. He received tremendous support for the idea of moving forward with the study. We have been encouraged by the kind of inspiration and attitude shown by the provinces.

The federal government is concerned with the national highway system. It must be adequately maintained and properly expanded to meet growing Canadian demands. Trade is associated with a good transportation system. The highway system is also important to the Canadian tourism industry.

The federal government has a long history of supporting the provinces and territories in developing the TransCanada highway system and other highways. The first federal contribution to highways occurred back in 1919. Ever since that time succeeding federal governments have provided an uninterrupted level of support for highway construction and maintenance.

That should not surprise anyone. I believe we are open enough to realize the importance of a highway system. It is too important to say that it is a provincial matter and therefore we should not become involved. That is not the attitude I have sensed in the years I have sat on the transport committee. Of course, there is all-party participation on that committee.

Highway transportation accounts for almost 95 per cent of intercity passenger trips and about 75 per cent of all freight that moves in this country. That is how important it is to all Canadians. I personally think it is too important to be left exclusively to the provinces.

Most of Canada's interprovincial trade moves by highway, as do 60 per cent of Canada's exports and 80 per cent of Canada's imports. There is no question about the need for a national commitment to something that involves our lives to that degree. About two-thirds of the 25 million U.S. tourists who come into Canada each year use the highways.

The federal government already spends a significant amount of money on highways with an expenditure of $292 million on highway development under the federal-provincial agreement's 1996-97 commitment. In addition, approximately $100 million is spent each year on federally owned bridges and roads.

Within just a few miles of here in the last year the government has committed $42 million to construct a highway in which I have particular interest since it goes through my riding. It connects the nation's capital with the 401, the busiest highway in Canada. I have been here for a few years and people may have thought that this is all I have been concerned with.

Indeed, a good deal of my energy has gone into that project because I can see the need for it. I can see the need for the federal government to get involved because a good deal of the traffic on that highway is there because this is the capital of Canada. Most of us would be fairly embarrassed if the old highway were the best we could do. Most Canadians would feel very embarrassed if a visitor to Canada from another country had to travel on highway 16, which hopefully will be highway 416.

It is not just a question of congestion. Highway 16 has a horrid record. Three weeks ago there was another fatal crash. A father and his son were killed. Dozens of people have been killed on that highway in the past six years. I am not speaking of that loosely. When travelling that highway I have had some personal experiences of accidents that have occurred. We speak very often of those who were killed. Usually if an accident is serious enough to kill people, there will also be injured people.

Notwithstanding the federal contribution, it has been clear for some time that a massive and focused effort will be required to maintain and upgrade the national highway system. Analyses conducted by Transport Canada in co-operation with the provinces and territories showed that Canada's highway infrastructure is aging. It is thought that the age of a highway is 30 years. Over half of Canada's major highways are approaching the maximum age limit for highways. It is a very serious problem.

Highway infrastructure requires increased financial resources to maintain them because we have more traffic on our highways now than we did 30 years ago. It is no more complicated than that. Highway infrastructure is experiencing growing congestion in certain parts of our nation. My colleague mentioned in and around some of the western cities. My colleague from the Reform Party was interested in that aspect of it too. We all know there is more volume on our highways today and of course that will reduce the age in which the highways can be of service to the Canadian people.

Despite the identification of highways by several premiers at the conference I mentioned earlier, there are still some provinces that have not regarded highway construction as a pressing economic need. We all have an understanding of the reason for that but we

still think as a nation that all provinces should come together under the guise of the federal government to carry on with the massive reconstruction of our highways.

Someone has said that instead of the weather being the major topic of conversation among Canadians, now it is the condition of our highways about which we initiate conversations. I believe that more and more. Nearly everyone is commenting on the condition of Canada's national highway system.

The hon. member who introduced the motion before us today takes great umbrage with the focus of the standing committee's report on private-public partnerships for highway infrastructure. I want to draw the attention of the House to the committee's own conclusion that there is widespread agreement among the users and builders of the highways that we must get into public-private financing on a partnership basis if we are ever going to see any real and meaningful reconstruction of our national highway system.

It is not my recollection that the transportation committee in its investigation of the relationship that existed between transportation, trade and tourism, decided to focus on the paramount need to renew the national highway system. I thought that was what all committee members agreed to do. Indeed, throughout our discussions over the past several months, I thought even the member from the third party was on board in relation to that.

I know my time is coming to a close, but I want to mention that there is no more basic, fundamental way, in my view, to reach our goal for the future growth of this country than to start immediately with the very pressing problems associated with the deteriorating conditions of our highways nationally.

The government is aware that this will have to be a major financial commitment. Although it is largely a provincial matter, the government is willing to work with the provinces and others to try and correct the network that is in need of immediate attention. It is a massive undertaking but we must address the problem. So much of our economy depends on an adequate transportation system.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.


Jim Gouk Reform Kootenay West—Revelstoke, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the words of the hon. member who just spoke. I have enjoyed working with him the past three years.

I just want to clear up one point. I gather he is under the impression that I oppose involving the private sector through public-private partnerships. I do not. I think it is a good idea. What I objected to specifically are two points.

First, the implication that things like shadow tolling are alternate funding sources. They are not. There are ways to save money and do the job more efficiently at which I think we should be looking. For that aspect of it, I applaud the committee. However, the report suggests that it is an alternate source of funds and it is not. It is simply a cost efficiency and to imply otherwise is extremely misleading.

Second, if we are going to involve the private sector obviously there has to be trust between the government and the private sector. We heard the specific example of highway 401 where the builder-operator of the highway said that it was necessary to negotiate an agreement with the government that it would not upgrade to a freeway standard the other portion of the highway that parallels the one the builder-operator built. Otherwise, no one would travel on the first one if it was not brought up to full highway standard and obviously the company would never recover its money. That trust and agreement had to be made as well which is understandable.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport went into a small tirade but when it was explained to him he understood the wisdom of it and withdrew his objection.

My concern is with the deal that appears to be coming up with Rocky Mountaineer and VIA Rail. If the government allows VIA to go back and compete directly against the very company it sold, it sends a bad message to the private sector. I would specifically point out that the Canadian Council on Public-Private Partnership, the parent organization for that entire movement which is looking to build co-operation between the government and the private sector wrote the minister and specifically said: "Please, do not do that with VIA Rail because it sends a bad message". That is the concern that I have.

The other point is that he said we need to invest more in highways. We heard a huge number of witnesses ask for dedicated revenues. The federal government spends $292 million but it takes in $5 billion from gasoline taxes. Some want dedication of the total amount and others said two cents out of ten cents. That is only 20 per cent. It still allows the government to keep 80 per cent of those revenues for other purposes. This money could be put into a dedicated revenue fund so there is an absolute commitment for long term planning. The funding could not be interfered with.

I would ask for the hon. members' comments. Just before he answers because this is such an important issue, I would ask, Mr. Speaker, that you seek the unanimous consent of the House to make this motion votable.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

The House has heard the proposal of the hon. member for Comox-Alberni that the motion be made votable. Is there unanimous consent?

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Some hon. members


SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

I am sorry, there is no consent.

SupplyGovernment Orders

February 13th, 1997 / 4:50 p.m.


Jim Jordan Liberal Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. friend for the question. We do need to develop a trust when we are embarking on something different. We have dabbled a little bit in the private-public way of doing things, particularly with road construction.

I am pleased, assuming the member speaks for his party, that it will support this private-public membership for highway construction. If I misunderstood that, I apologize.

I have some difficulty with the simplistic way Reform is looking at it. The hon. member is saying that two cents a litre is collected as a tax on gasoline, why not take the two cents and put it back into road construction? However, how far do we want to go?

Where would the money for health care be generated if everything is designated? What is out there in the marketplace that is generating money which could be designated to health or education? That is the difficulty with the argument. I heard it when we travelled with the committee. It sounds like a very simplistic way of doing it but there is nothing wrong with that if it would work.

The difficulty I have is projecting it a bit and asking how far we want to go with it. Do we want every dollar collected by the government to be directed into a specific area? If we do that the government's hands would be tied. It would have no money for the services Canadians demand and want for which there is no money being generated. Would the hon. member propose to use the money generated for highways and for no other purpose? This is the problem I have with the member's position.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.


Maurice Bernier Bloc Mégantic—Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wanted to take part in this debate on the Reform motion criticizing the Liberal government for its transportation policy, if we can call it that.

After listening to the remarks made by the Minister of Transport in this debate, I too wanted to say a word or two. I ventured a question to the minister, but I will come back to that later, because I was not satisfied with his attempted response. The people in my region who are interested in airports in the Eastern Townships will not be satisfied either.

I would like to raise two points. First, I would like to address airports, because, to listen to the minister, the Liberal government has resolved just about every problem there may have been in that area, when the reality is, to say the least, quite different, especially nowadays.

Just look at what is happening in airports, particularly in Montréal, where there is a real farce being played out; this is the only way this situation, which has jeopardized the future of airport operations in Montreal and has had a negative impact on all of Quebec, can be described.

Where has the Minister of Transport been doing during this time? What has the Liberal government been doing about the situation in Montreal, with people in the industry quarrelling over whether Mirabel or Dorval airport should be maintained? They ended up in court, where a judge made a questionable decision resulting in delays the magnitude of which we do not know but which, I repeat, could have untold negative consequences on the future of airports in Montreal.

What did the Minister of Transport do? He washed his hands of the whole thing. That is the policy of the Minister of Transport and the Liberal government on airports. At least, that is what it is in Montreal; they are washing their hands of it. So, I wonder how the minister can rise in this House and rave about the decisions that he and his predecessors made.

Let me give you another example of the kind of policy that this Liberal government boasts about. The minister's predecessor, who is now the defence minister, is known for his ability to casually destroy what is in place, as can be witnessed on a daily basis during question period and in light of the decisions he has made in every sector for which he has been responsible. We can see how the former transport minister, namely the current defence minister, did not care either about the real impact of his decisions on those concerned.

Let me give you a specific example which involves the Sherbrooke airport. You will remember that, a few years ago, this government decided to give up its responsibilities in the airport sector, particularly as regards regional and small airports. This decision was made primarily to dump the Liberal government's deficit on the provincial governments and on regional authorities. Not only did this government offload its responsibilities onto others, but it did not even bother to make sure the facilities which it wanted, and still wants, to get rid of, are in good enough shape to be used by those interested in taking them over. This is exactly what is happening with the Sherbrooke airport.

I raised the matter in the House. I questioned the former transport minister and the Secretary of State responsible for Regional Development on this issue, and we are still waiting for a decision that would ensure the runway is in reasonable shape before local authorities take over the Sherbrooke airport.

What are local authorities asking for? What is needed to repair this runway so that it is adequate? An amount of $1 million is necessary. Again, we have been waiting three years for a decision. This is the type of policy favoured by this government, which, as we have seen in other areas, simply offloads its responsibilities

onto the provinces, without looking at the real consequences of these decisions.

In the case of the Sherbrooke airport, I am convinced we will get a positive answer, because an election will soon be held. I am also convinced the Secretary of State responsible for Regional Development, who is the member for Outremont, will visit the regions in the coming weeks, probably right after what will certainly be a pre-election budget, to announce that the government will give a $1 million subsidy to repair the Sherbrooke airport's runway.

But why did the government wait for three and a half years to make this decision, considering that the stakeholders have had to wait all that time before proceeding with other improvements? Let the government make its decision.

This is what is being passed off as policy in the area of transportation. In the meantime, while they are refusing minimal assistance of $1 million for the Sherbrooke airport, they are going to spend millions of dollars on the Montreal fiasco in the hope of arriving at a logical, intelligent decision, not to mention the tens, even hundreds, of millions of dollars that the Pearson deal will cost.

We must not forget that, during the 1993 election campaign, the present Prime Minister, who was the challenger at the time, promised to cancel the contract the Conservatives had struck with their friends who had contributed to their campaign coffers and who wanted to take over Pearson and make huge profits.

The Prime Minister said: "I am telling you, if you go ahead with this deal, we will cancel it after the election". That is what they did, but how did they do it? They did it in such a way as to still be able to do everything the Conservatives would have liked to have done, which was to benefit their own friends.

The Pearson affair is still dragging on through the courts, and we are going to find ourselves footing a bill that will easily top hundreds of millions of dollars. Here again, I am sure we will not learn the results during the election campaign. We will have to wait, just as in the case of the events in Somalia, until after the election to really find out what went on.

In the meantime, the present Minister of Transport is telling us that one of the factors in his policy is to recognize that a large percentage of trade is towards the Asia-Pacific region, and that rail transportation in the direction of the Port of Vancouver must therefore be improved.

It is obvious that there has been unbelievable growth in the Asia-Pacific region. It is even more obvious that the Port of Vancouver is located in the Minister of Transport's home province. On the eve of an election, this is the kind of coincidence that can be helpful when meeting with future voters, those who will decide whether or not to renew his mandate; to go and tell them that all funds will be directed towards his province will probably be of help in an election campaign.

Members will also recall that the former Minister of Transport pulled a very similar stunt when he cut the Crow rate for rail transportation, literally throwing western farmers not just millions, but billions of dollars in compensation. The bill has been estimated at something like $3 billion, while an amount of only a few hundred millions of dollars has been mentioned for all of eastern Canada as compensation for ending the program of transportation subsidies. The double standard is obvious.

Meanwhile, what is going on with the railways in eastern Canada? It is obvious that improvement was called for. For years, we have seen CN, a public company, and CP-supposedly private one, listed on the stock exchange, but it thumbs its nose at its stockholders, or so I would say-both doing everything in their power to discredit shipping by rail.

How did they do so? They provided their customers with no service whatsoever, which eventually gave them the opportunity to say that the customers were abandoning shipping by rail in favour of shipping by road. Once that finding was made, there was only one decision that could be made, of course: to abandon a rail line.

I will give you the example of a situation that occurred in my riding. When I was told about it, I could hardly believe what I was hearing. I had to go there to find out for myself. A lumber business in Lac-Mégantic, Industries manufacturières Mégantic, is a major purchaser of American wood. Naturally, it used to used the railway connection with Maine to get its supplies.

When its carloads of lumber arrived in Lac-Mégantic, they were left at the rail yards and another work crew with an engine, working out of Sherbrooke, a hundred kilometres or more from Lac-Mégantic, had to come bringing other employees to pick up the car or cars that had been left there and take them to the company's yard, although this could very well have been done by the other train on its route. This was, supposedly, not possible because of the collective agreements involved.

When they had put up with this for years, with the enormous costs it entailed, the tremendous delays, it is not surprising that decision makers in the industry took another tack. Anyone would have done the same. When we see that a company is not capable of giving us the service we expect, we take our business elsewhere.

It is crystal clear that the sole purpose of this approach was to downgrade railway transportation. Finally, they got much what they wanted. Today the network is being dismantled. We should realize that it was our taxes, the taxes of everyone in this country which for years helped to finance the development of this railway network throughout Quebec. We should also realize that the global trend is not toward eliminating but increasing the use of railways

for the transportation of goods, since people have realized how expensive it is to keep trucks on the roads.

According to estimates by the Société d'assurance automobile du Québec, a single truck did as much damage to the road face as 24,000 or 28,000 cars. When we consider the hundreds and thousands of trucks on our highways, the cost is enormous.

Surprisingly, this is the responsibility of the provinces, so here in Ottawa, they could not care less how much it costs to maintain our highways, since they do not pay for road maintenance. If we really wanted a genuine transportation policy, I heard a Reform colleague put a question to the Minister of Transport about development of networks of SLR or short line railways, which will take the place of the companies I mentioned earlier, CN and CP.

When we consider that this government came to power three and a half years ago and is supposed to have a transportation policy, it is amazing that when the following question is put to the Minister of Transport at the end of this government's mandate, "how will your SRL policy work", the minister cannot give us an intelligent answer. This is proof positive that they do not have a transportation policy. What will be the consequences of this appalling lack of vision?

Today, old branch lines are being abandoned, I see this in my own region, and my Bloc colleagues have seen this as well. Hundreds of kilometres of tracks are being abandoned without any indication of being salvaged for further use. Meanwhile, our highway system will deteriorate even more.

When, 10, 15 or 20 years from now, we have to decide to rebuild our railway network because we realize it makes no sense at all to leave trucks on the road and that we should use our railway lines to better advantage, we will have to spend millions and even billions of dollars to correct a situation this government has allowed to deteriorate.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.


Mac Harb Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was very interested to hear my opposition colleague's viewpoint. I am sure he will agree with me that the federal government's transportation program was outstanding. It was well planned, well executed and attuned to the needs of Canadians.

The Department of Transport's decision to transfer the Macdonald-Cartier airport to a non-profit corporation indicates that the federal government has decided to give regional municipalities direct authority. They will be able to plan their own economic development and promote economic growth. The region will also be in a position to establish the type of airport and air services it wants.

The government has done the same thing with Pearson, Dorval, Vancouver and all the airports in the country. Would my colleague not agree that the government has planned its transportation matters well?

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.


Maurice Bernier Bloc Mégantic—Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not think, unfortunately, that you will allow me to repeat my entire speech, but I would have to do so to explain to our colleague that, no, I do not agree with his claim that the government's planning was marvellous and resolved all the problems in the area of transport.

Quite the opposite. I have shown that the government has no transportation policy and that its decisions served simply to transfer responsibilities to other levels of government.

When our colleague for Ottawa Centre says we must trust in the community and that it is a good decision to allow local people to decide the future of their equipment, I agree with him. However, it must not happen any old which way. The government has resolved its budget problems on the backs of the provinces without regard to the consequences.

I repeat the example of what is happening in Montreal at the moment. A court handed down a terrible decision yesterday. Huge delays will result from this decision preventing the local community from restructuring Montreal airport services.

The Minister of Transport was questioned outside the House. In response to a question on what he intended to do about ADM's situation in Montreal, he said it was not his business, that he had set up a local group and that decisions were to be made by these people. This is typical of this government's policies: it transfers responsibility without regard to the consequences.

No, I do not agree with my colleague's assessment. On the contrary, I think real policy should be formulated on co-operation with all levels of government and take financial consequences into account first, to ensure the future of transport.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.


Mac Harb Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is not in agreement with the government's decision in this regard. There is another example. The federal government has launched a Canada wide initiative under the infrastructure program. There are three partners: the federal, provincial and municipal governments.

This initiative has created over 100,000 jobs across the country and was supported by almost every municipality in Canada. Many mayors, including some in Quebec, applauded the federal government.

Now, the federal government has put up $425 million for another initiative under its transportation and infrastructure policy.

Does my colleague support this extraordinary federal government infrastructure policy, including the latest announcement of $425 million in funding? Does he support this initiative and is he not in agreement with this kind of intelligent policy on the part of the federal government in the area of transportation?

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Maurice Bernier Bloc Mégantic—Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have two points to raise. First of all, the results of this infrastructure policy, or rather program, to which our colleague from Ottawa-Centre alludes, are not necessarily what he says they are, as far as job creation is concerned. One might challenge the figure of 100,000 jobs created by the infrastructure program.

But I do not want to get into that, for I have just two things to point out. First, of course the infrastructure program has had a beneficial effect, but it has been a limited effect, both in the number of jobs created and, especially, in their duration. The jobs were created for very short periods, that is the length of time it took to construct or renovate certain infrastructures.

As for the proportions, that is the regional distribution of infrastructure spending, here again, Quebec did not get the share it was entitled to expect, as is the case for all federal spending. I would say that, if the action of the federal government were fair and equitable for Quebec, we would not need an infrastructure program, modern programs of various public works. We would have the jobs Quebecers really need, quality jobs, permanent jobs, to ensure that our families can develop and live decent lives.

That is what we expect of our governments and, unfortunately, that is not what we have received from the federal government.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Joe Fontana Liberal London East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I express my appreciation for being given the opportunity to comment on federal support for VIA Rail.

The Reform opposition motion before us condemns the government's actions with respect to a number of its transportation policies. I do not have the time to get into all of them but I want to spend a little time speaking about our government's support for VIA Rail. The motion is another indication, especially by the Reform Party, of how out of touch it is and how little it understands about the country.

Over the past two or three decades Canadians have supported their national passenger rail service. For the Reform Party to suggest in its blue book platform that VIA Rail should be privatized, which would mean the abandonment of VIA Rail services to hundreds of communities across the country, surely does not point to a national party that supports the needs of the passenger transportation of the country.

There is something bizarre about the motion of the hon. member for Kootenay West-Revelstoke. The Reform transport critic said on June 4, 1996, as reported in the Hill Times : ``I have agreed with the concept behind all the government's transport bills over the past two and a half years, with the sole exception of the Pearson airport cancellation bill''. We have heard this song and dance before with regard to Pearson. He said on June 4, 1996 that he supports all policies, save and except that one of the government, but his motion today condemns what the government is doing.

I like the member for Kootenay West-Revelstoke. He has been a very active member of the transport committee as I and my colleagues have been. For the most part he puts forward some very positive viewpoints and has been in agreement with the government in most cases. I find rather bizarre that all of a sudden today he decides that he is against everything he stood for just the other day.

Liberal governments of the past and of today are governments that supported passenger rail service. When the Tories had power for those gruesome eight years and put this country through pain, it was the Liberal Party from 1988 to 1993 that fought for the retention and enhancement of VIA services.

The government believes that every community needs a national passenger rail service. It also recognizes that the transportation system needs to be an affordable, integrated and efficient system.

Everything we have done since 1993 was to put in place certain efficiencies that do not destroy the transportation systems but enhance them and ensure that Canadians have them, not only businesses but people who rely on our transportation services.

I compliment VIA and its employees. They have not had a very good time since 1989 when Mr. Mulroney and the Tories slashed the VIA network by 50 per cent.

In 1993 the government had a deficit to deal with. It had to impose certain cutbacks on VIA as was done with other departments. What was made clear, thanks to the hard work and dedication of the men and women who work for VIA, the management and employees, was that they were able to do so without cutting one service to the country in the past three and a half years even though their subsidy levels were falling by over $200 million. They did that in a very pragmatic, orderly way making sure that VIA service was available to Chatham, Toronto and all other parts of this great country.

It is also clear that VIA remains committed to looking for opportunities and efficiencies to enhance services by working with their workers, by working with communities and by working with

other partners. It is looking for the opportunity to better serve Canadians from coast to coast with the best passenger rail service.

It has moved to improve the attractiveness of rail service by making certain infrastructure upgrading to permit 100-mile per hour operation of trains on the Montreal-Quebec routes and 95-mile per hour operation on the Toronto-London-Windsor route. The Montreal-Senneterre, the Montreal-Jonquière and the Jasper-Prince Rupert train schedules were revised to provide daylight services for local residents and development of tour packages.

To reiterate, VIA is always looking at ways of enhancing its passenger base. VIA has worked at combining a series of fare increases with special promotion fares and plans to develop year round markets for its services.

As a result of these service initiatives revenues have increased by 26 per cent and the number of passenger miles increased by 16 per cent between 1990 and 1996. Over the same period the number of passengers increased by 5 per cent. The higher increase in the number of passenger miles is because the average trip taken by each passenger increased from 221 miles to 246 miles between 1990 and 1996. It is further indication that Canadians support and want passenger rail service.

The best measure of VIA's success has been the steady increase in its cost recovery levels. Something we would expect from every corporation and in all our operations is that they move toward cost recovery. Between 1990 and 1996 the cost recovery ratio increased from 26 per cent to 44 per cent. This marks the first time ever that VIA's cost recovery has been over 33 per cent.

Under the National Transportation Act, 1987, the government subsidized the operation of three uneconomical passenger services because it believed in treating all regions of the country in a fair and equitable way. Therefore the railways that the government supported and continues to support, the Quebec North Shore and Labrador Railway, the Algoma Central Railway and the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission, is a further indication of its commitment to passenger rail service.

The new transportation act was passed by the House within the last year. It states that the new Canada Transportation Act maintains the government's commitment to remote areas along these routes by having the Minister of Transport enter into special agreements with the railways to provide financial assistance but to give them greater autonomy in how best to provide those services.

It is clear and I do not know why the Reform Party does not get it. The country is a national federation, a country where we need national infrastructure. VIA is the national passenger infrastructure to provide services across the country. Four hundred communities depend on passenger rail service. For Reformers to suggest in their blue book privatization and the depriving of Canadians of passenger rail service, or for them to suggest in their platform book, their new fresh start 1995, the total disbandment of the transportation ministry and the $750 million, indicates that they do not believe in the national government having any role in national transportation.

This is bizarre. I have listened for the last few hours to the Reform Party suggesting that we ought to do more. The fact is that the government is doing more. I do not understand how Reformers can stand and say we should be doing more when their blue book and their fresh start say that we should be doing less or should not be involved at all.

In conclusion, we continue to believe in VIA. We continue to believe that there are opportunities to have VIA work in a most efficient way and to ensure that Canadians have passenger rail service from VIA. We ought to continue to support VIA in its attempt to modernize and in its attempts to provide more service. VIA ought to be given the mandate and the opportunities to enhance its passenger ridership in all parts of the country.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

Order. It being 5.30 p.m. it is my duty to inform the House that proceedings on the motion and the amendment thereto have expired.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.


Dennis Mills Liberal Broadview—Greenwood, ON

moved that Bill C-353, an act to amend the Criminal Code (Internet lotteries), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to begin second reading of the debate this evening. I also appreciate the co-operation we have had from all parties. We will hear from speakers this evening from every region of our country. We will hear from members of Parliament who represent not only urban areas but rural areas as well. This debate will take place over an extended period of time and hopefully we will design and develop something that will be useful for all of Canada.

Just to put this bill in context, I would like to go back three years when I began my experience serving as the Parliamentary Secre-

tary to the Minister of Industry. One of the stories that the government has not told well but which is a tremendous story is the fabulous work that was done by the Minister of Industry in the whole area of the information highway.

Members received not too long ago the final report of the Information Highway Advisory Council. It is a model. The work produced through the support of many people from every walk of life and industry right across Canada has proven to be a guideline for not just our Parliament but for provincial legislatures across Canada. The work that was done in this Parliament is also recognized as being world class.

Serving as the parliamentary secretary immersed me into this whole area of the information highway. I still consider myself to be a techno-peasant, but I could not help but feel some of the energy and the enthusiasm that came from the Department of Industry.

I want to read a couple of recommendations that came from that committee work over the last few years. It is Issue No. 8, Information Controls, and recommendation 8.2: "The federal government should take immediate steps to lead in the development of legislative measures with regard to clarifying the question of liability of owners, operators and users of bulletin boards, Internet and Usenet sites-The Government of Canada should take immediate steps to facilitate the development of a model code of ethics and practices reflecting community standards and to provide for community education programs".

The policy debate that we are developing here tonight is very much consistent with the policy framework that has been going on in Parliament for the last few years under the leadership of the Minister of Industry.

How do we get from that report to a bill that talks about amending the Criminal Code to allow Internet casinos? I have to go back to an experience I had last summer. It was August. I decided to take a weekend off. I travelled to the beautiful island of Antigua. I have a friend that has a place down there, Sheikh Amin Al-Dahlawi from Jeddah, a man that I had met a few years ago. While I was relaxing in his beautiful resort in Antigua one evening I attended a presentation from a company in California, World Wide Web Casinos, Mr. Peter Michaels and Mr. Peter Demos.

They gave a presentation to our group on this whole realm of Internet casino gaming which is emerging as a very strong force. We should know that there are many Internet casino companies throughout the world. I sat and watched the demonstration thatMr. Michaels and Mr. Demos put forward and I was absolutely blown away to see how people could actually turn on their lap top or their home based PC, and all of a sudden they could participate in the entertainment of gaming from wherever they were. It was just like being involved in a real casino, just as if you were visiting a land based casino.

I had never seen anything like it. I then proceeded to sell Canada to them. I thought that if this concept was emerging and it was going to be so strong in its business activity, I asked if they would consider putting a land base Internet casino in Canada. They certainly obliged me in the sense that they thought it was interesting that we would consider it. That was the end of the discussion at that time.

On my return to Canada I then called the Library of Parliament. I am sure most members will agree with me that some of the best researchers in the world are working at the Library of Parliament. I asked them what the rule of law was in terms of the possibility of us having an Internet casino system in Canada.

The Library of Parliament did a fabulous study. It took them about two months but they did a fabulous piece of research, which is available to all members of the House and, for that matter, to anyone else who wants to have access to it. They went through the history of how the whole lottery business, which used to be the purview of the national government, was essentially devolved.

We all know that in 1979 Prime Minister Clark began the whole process of devolving lotteries to the provinces. It was ratified in 1985 but the basic rule of law that governs this system is the Criminal Code.

The researchers state: "It is not clear whether or not it is illegal for an individual in Canada to gamble on Internet casinos, but there does not appear to be a provision in the Criminal Code which prohibits this activity. Therefore, it could be argued that the provincial governments presently have the right to conduct and manage Internet casinos. But it should also be noted that no provincial government has attempted to set up an Internet casino and the courts have yet to issue a decision on whether or not such an activity would be permitted by the Criminal Code".

They go on to say that it then becomes a question of whether or not the Parliament of Canada has in its jurisdiction the right to amend that and deal with the whole issue of Internet casinos. When the whole use of the Internet is exploding in front of our very faces, there was never ever any discussion back in 1979 or 1985 whether or not this was going to be a serious issue.

It is important to note that when the researchers from the Library of Parliament did their investigations they said that Parliament, under the principle of parliamentary sovereignty, is free to modify Criminal Code legislation and provide a new scheme with respect to gaming and presumably could give the federal government the right to conduct and manage Internet lotteries.

It was with that and further advice from the Library of Parliament that I then went to the legislative branch of this House and designed Bill C-53. The whole purpose of this bill is to make sure

that this industry, which is exploding in front of our faces, be put under some kind of regulatory authority.

I would like to add a couple of other important facts. Whether one likes or dislikes, agrees or disagrees, with the whole notion of gaming, the fact is that it is a trillion dollar industry. We also know and experts have said that the whole notion of betting in an underground context is now in excess of $60 billion. This is $60 billion worth of gaming through bookies, et cetera, where there is absolutely no sort of monitor or regulation on it at all.

Now we are going to be faced with this whole new realm, Internet gaming. Rather than being reactive to the situation which is evolving we should be proactive. We should go to committee on a bill like this and listen to expert witnesses who will tell us the pros and the cons. They will tell us the rules and regulations that need to be addressed.

Internet gaming is going on right now with companies that do this totally on their own. There are absolutely no background investigations. There is no random process testing. There is no prize payment bonding. There is really no adequate consumer disclosure of game odds or expected value of the win of all games. There is no control of underage gambling. There is no information highway federal tax. I will deal with the notion of government revenue related to this shortly.

Other aspects include truth in advertising, money laundering control, hacker protection and arbitration of disputes. These are some of the issues that really should be discussed. At the end of that discussion legislators can decide how they want to handle this issue.

We have been given a trust in this Parliament not to be reactive but to be proactive. We must lead the way in looking at the realm of Internet gaming. As a G7 country that is highly respected in the whole area of the information highway, this would be an opportunity for us to do some extraordinary groundwork in this area. Ultimately this could lead to treaties with other countries.

Presently over 200 million people sign on the net every day. It was only 20 years ago that there were 50,000 computers in the whole world. Today 50,000 computers a day are sold. As this industry is exploding in front of our very eyes, let us take a leadership role and make sure the proper regulation and control is put into this very important sector of the entertainment economy, Internet gaming.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-353, whose purpose is to amend the Criminal Code with respect to Internet lotteries.

I think the hon. member was right to talk about co-operation, because we intend to co-operate fully on this bill, considering the very significant proliferation nowadays of gambling, lotteries, betting, and so forth.

Internet and computer games are also coming increasingly widespread. As the hon. member said earlier, more than two million people a day surf on the Internet. This is a little like letting two million people into a casino, since these computer games include gambling, lotteries and betting.

Considering the easy access and the total absence of regulation of this sphere of activity at present, and also considering that Internet users may be minors and can get into the net at any time, it is important to take the time to study this bill. We must find out whether this bill does what it is intended to do, which is provide adequate legislation to regulate gambling, lotteries and betting on the Internet.

For the time being, as I told the hon. member, and I say it again here in this House, there is no problem with the principle: we will co-operate. Where I do have a problem, and I hope we can settle this in committee, is about the games of chance the federal government will want to control on the Internet.

I realize that Internet represents communications and that is a federal jurisdiction. However, lotteries are a provincial matter. I am thinking of the casinos in Hull and Montreal, in Ontario and in western Canada. These casinos are operated and managed by the provinces but are also subject to the Criminal Code and existing legislation.

What bothers me in the bill is that it allows the Government of Canada to establish or operate a lottery on the Internet, in accordance with the regulations. It allows the Government of Canada to grant a licence to an Internet service supplier, with everything that entails. Of course we are in favour of a bill that provides a legislative and regulatory framework to protect the public and deal with this whole new field, this new way of dealing with the Internet and lotteries on the Internet. However, I would have liked to see this done with due respect for the jurisdictions of Quebec and the other provinces.

So yes, we are prepared to give this bill the attention it deserves, because it is a very interesting bill. We pledge our support on second reading so the bill can go to committee, where it can eventually be examined with a view to improving it and, above all, to bring it in line with the jurisdictions of the provinces and Canada.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Werner Schmidt Reform Okanagan Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to commend the hon. member for introducing Bill C-353. I certainly do not want to go on record as saying that the

Government of Canada should now get into the lottery business on the Internet. I do not think that is the issue here. The issue is quite a different one.

We need to recognize the significance of the Internet in our contemporary society. It affects virtually every part of our daily life. We can do all kinds of things on the Internet. I made a brief list of some of the things that can be done on the Internet.

We can buy, sell, trade, travel, read newspapers and magazines, play the stock market, do banking, talk to politicians, sign out a book at the library and upgrade a computer. We can send a postcard or a greeting. Many other things can be done on the Internet. All of them can be done by text, voice or even video.

Introduced in this area now is Internet gaming; this is now a very real thing. Internet gaming is appearing in many jurisdictions around the world, usually in those jurisdictions where the gaming laws are not nearly as fixed as they are in Canada. Let us look at the situation of Internet gaming in the world today.

The key to success on the Internet and all other casinos is traffic. In other words, a lot of people must participate in the business. Worldwide gambling in recent years has gone from a $500 billion a year industry to over a trillion dollars. That is a rather significant increase. Worldwide it has been estimated that in excess of a trillion dollars is wagered annually on various forms of gambling.

For example in Great Britain over 90 per cent of the population participates in some form of legalized gambling. Australians wager almost $2,700 per capita annually on gaming entertainment.

Conservative estimates for the Internet gaming market in the United States projected a total potential market of $8.25 billion in 1996 and it will grow to $22 billion by 1998. Internationally, market estimates for Europe and the Far East predict potential markets by 1998 of $29.2 billion. This is the market opportunity.

The Internet is a worldwide telecommunications network that allows the users to communicate with one another with no geographic boundaries. That is the issue. As a result of this tremendous flexibility of communications, it has become the next frontier for commerce.

The major inroad envisioned by business in the Internet is the ability to perform large scale, large dollar transactions over the network. That is seen by many as the true power of the Internet, where costs can be substantially reduced for businesses, allowing them to advertise and sell to practically millions of consumers and businesses worldwide.

The member talked earlier about the success of a casino depending upon traffic and many, many people. The Internet has magnified the number of participants tremendously. Therefore, there is a very real potential for people who are interested in this particular business.

Let us look at a couple of facts and figures. Worldwide the gaming market, as we have just indicated, is a trillion dollars plus. In the U.S. it is $400 billion. Earnings of legal U.S. casinos-and we are talking about not only the Internet now, we are talking about all gaming-were $188 billion in 1995. Earnings of traditional illegal bookies were $60 billion in 1995. The market outside the United States is more than $500 billion per year. If we add those numbers up, we will see that a tremendous amount of money is going into the gaming business.

In the Internet there are 50,000 computer networks involving 90 countries. Internet users worldwide are some 175 million, which is expected to grow in the next two years to about 200 million. It becomes very clear that this is a very significant issue.

Who are these people on the Internet? It is rather interesting to look at the demographics of the people who are involved. The typical Internet user is male and 44 years of age. Thirty-nine per cent of them have a college degree and an annual income of about $48,000.

If we compare those statistics to the typical Las Vegas/Atlantic City casino gambler, the proportion of males is 51 per cent compared to 60 per cent on the Internet. The median age is 48 compared to 44 on the Internet. The percentage with college degrees who gamble on land based casinos is 29 compared to 39 per cent on the Internet. The percentage of people with college degrees is much greater in those using the Internet and gambling on the Internet than is otherwise the case. The average income is $43,000 for those using land based casinos compared to $48,000 for those using the Internet. It is a very interesting group of people which is involved in this issue.

Has this become a serious issue in a variety of places? Yes, it has. In fact the Interactive Gaming Council has been formed in the United States to come to grips with this particular issue. What is its role? That new industry organization, the Interactive Gaming Council, has been formed to represent the burgeoning interactive gaming industry. It is currently establishing a framework to address defined issues. It recently met in Scottsdale, Arizona on January 19, 1997.

An assistant attorney general, Mr. Alan R. Kesner from Wisconsin, was the guest speaker. He reconfirmed that law enforcement agencies and regulators need input and guidelines in order to fully understand Internet gaming and to go forward with ideas on regulation and taxation. Mr. Kesner's remarks indicated that there

is an enormous public demand for gaming entertainment as proved by the huge proliferation of gaming throughout the United States and Internet gaming will probably be just another venue.

However, the public must be protected from those Internet casinos which would take advantage of them with all sorts of unfair practices. The hon. member just gave us a rundown, almost a catalogue, of some of the things that ought to be covered. It is a real issue. Here in Canada the question is not whether we will have this, but rather when.

Again I want to underline that I am not necessarily a proponent of gaming of any kind. In fact, I am not. I believe it has some very negative connotations. On the other hand, there are many people who do use it. It is a way in which a lot of charitable organizations and non-profit organizations raise funds and do tremendous good in various communities by supporting junior hockey and a variety of service clubs. So I suppose there is some merit in this area.

Canadians are already gambling on the Internet and money is leaving the country. We need to ask ourselves where the responsibility lies to make sure that if there is going to be Internet gaming that it be done in a way which is more or less controlled, to eliminate fraud, to eliminate abuse and to protect the consumers who are involved.

Just before I got up to speak one of my colleagues on this side of the House said: "If you want to control the Internet, good luck". I think that is true. It is a tough one to control. I am not so sure anybody can, but we do have to take steps to try to do it.

If the committee will come to grips at least with that part, it will have made a major dent into the question because it is very significant. It has to do with the whole issue of privacy which is very significant also. It directly involves our banking community and other financial institutions that use the Internet to transfer huge sums of money from institution to institution and also across international and national boundaries. If nothing else, this bill will have a spin-off in another very significant area.

I want to commend the hon. member who was the parliamentary secretary. And by the way I will interject here to say I wish he were still a parliamentary secretary, but that is none of my business. That is between him and his boss, I suppose.

Is there a responsibility for Bill C-353 for Canada and for the federal government? Yes, I believe there is. The hon. member reviewed some of those provisions, so I will not go into them now. The question is one where we need to distinguish-oh, my goodness, I only have one minute left and this is such an important bill, Mr. Speaker.

I want then to indicate rather significantly that I believe if the government is going to regulate it should not get involved in the actual running of a casino itself. That ought not to be in the bill. If there is any suggestion, and I think there is, that the government might have that permission, the bill should be amended so that it does not do that, but that it can license private persons or private corporations to do it. Regulate them so that the consumers' interests are protected and that money is transferred without getting involved in the laundering business and things of that sort.

In conclusion, we do support the principle of the bill. There are some suggestions and it has the opportunity of moving us forward to truly becoming a leader in the Internet business and on the information highway.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Dartmouth Nova Scotia


Ron MacDonald LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak on this legislation. I commend my colleague from Broadview-Greenwood who from time to time brings issues forth in this House. They are usually very controversial but are necessary for the public to have debated in places like the Parliament of Canada and the provincial legislatures.

I know sometimes people say the member for Broadview-Greenwood sometimes comes up with ideas that cause some of his colleagues some difficulty because they would prefer not to have them debated in a public forum. Perhaps this is one of them.

This bill goes into an area where there has been considerable controversy in the province of Nova Scotia, perhaps also the province of Alberta and some of the western provinces where gaming, casinos and video lottery terminals have been taken over and regulated by governments and have become a source of revenue for governments. It begs the ethical and moral argument about whether or not gambling is sinful, whether or not gambling is something that should be spurned or shunned and whether or not government should be involved in it. There are very important debates which should and must take place.

At the same time some of the very people who raise all those questions are the same people who say that governments should cut back on personal income taxes, find other sources of revenue that they are not stripping arbitrarily out of the wallets of individuals. I would say to those individuals that they cannot have it both ways.

It seems that it is human nature that people sometimes like to play games of chance. I am a victim of playing games of chance. I like to play scratch and win games. I do not think I go through an airport that I do not pick up a $2 ticket. It is $2 one I can afford. It is my bit of fun perhaps at the end of the week on the way home on a Thursday night or a Friday morning. Periodically I win a few dollars and periodically I lose a few dollars.

I do it because I want to do it. I as an adult make a conscious decision that is what I want to do. I do it in a framework knowing that the lottery corporation, be it in Ontario or be it the Atlantic lottery corporation, properly regulates the game. I do it knowing what my odds are because they are printed on the back of the tickets. I do not have to worry about whether it is a scam. I do not have to worry about whether it is one of these mail order things that say "do this and you win eligibility for a $20 million prize".

I do it with the full knowledge that the Canadian institutions of government have regulated it and are making sure that the printed odds are actually the odds in the game and that I am not getting ripped off. I make the conscious choice to do it.

What the hon. member has put before us in the middle of all of this controversy about gaming and video lottery terminals and whether they should be in corner stores or whatever is very important. He has hit on the leading wave of technology, the Internet.

It is quite amazing because I am not one of those people who are not terribly technologically proficient. I fumble around on my little computer at home. Most times my five-year old son Stephen or Matthew is able to browse me through where I want to go a little easier than I can do it.

The reality is it is a wired world today. That is what it is. The reality is, as the hon. member opposite just stated, that we can do pretty much anything. From my home on Saturday I called up Debates from the previous Parliament on the Internet. I was amazed that I could actually do it. It also means that my constituents can do it. I can buy car insurance. I can find out where I want to shop. I can book a holiday anywhere in the world. I can find out what temperature it is on a beach down on the west coast of Florida. The world is wired. It is the new wave.

Anybody who thinks they are able to keep off the Internet the provision of leisure gaming services is crazy. It is already there. Today in my office-I did not know you could do this-I sat down, worked around for bit and hooked up with the Liechtenstein Gaming Corporation in Liechtenstein. It is a city, a mountain, a river, and that is it. That is what the place is. I was in the Liechtenstein Gaming Corporation casino.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

An hon. member

Were there free drinks?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Ron MacDonald Liberal Dartmouth, NS

No, there were no free drinks. There are no free drinks anywhere any more.

It was properly regulated. The first thing it indicated was that this gaming corporation was sanctioned and regulated by the Government of the Duchy of Liechtenstein according to internationally accepted guidelines and procedures. I had a bit of comfort that I was not dealing with the mob. I was not dealing with somebody some place down in the United State, Aruba or somewhere running a scam on the Internet.

If I wanted to do my scratch and wins I had to set up my account. I had to be verified. If I won, it automatically went into my bank account in Canada just like that, an instantaneous transaction.

The hon. member's bill does two things. It focuses on whether or not gaming is something that grown adults in a modern democracy should be allowed to access. I think it is a matter of choice. I know people sometimes get addicted to gambling. People get addicted to many things: cigarettes, driving their cars around the block too often or laying on a beach and getting sunburned.

We cannot take those few people who legitimately have a problem and say to everybody else that they will be barred from free choice. The free choice is there now. It exists. It is out in cyberspace. It is on the Internet. We can do it today from the comfort of our rec rooms.

The hon. member's bill says that if this is now happening the Canadian government should look at whether or not it should regulate it, whether or not in this era of regulation the Canadian government wishes to get involved with it.

It begs other important questions, not just ones on regulations. It begs some important questions about provincial government involvement. A few years ago there were lotteries and it was never conceived that there would an Internet with 50 million users and bumbling people could actually sit in their rec rooms and find something on it, talk to somebody around the world and get into the Liechtenstein Corporation Gaming casino.

The bill asks whether it is reasonable that the Government of Canada should consider whether it wants to be in the business and if it is in the business how it relates to the provincial governments and the previous agreements on lotteries that were made a few years ago. It brings up the whole issue of regulation on the Internet and the protection of Canadian consumers.

Somebody browsing on the Internet tonight may get hooked up with a casino somewhere down in the South Pacific run by a hacker with a big bank account, wearing a pair of shorts, drinking a pina colada and laughing all the way to the bank. If such people know the Canadian government or the provincial governments have the proper systems and safeguards in their lottery acts, and if they are going to get into video gambling and video lottery, they would probably choose to do it from the highly distinguished regulatory regime of the Canadian provincial and federal government.

I am very pleased to have spoken on the bill. Once again the hon. member has brought forward a piece of legislation that is both timely in terms of revenue and in terms of the issues of the day. I

hope at the end of this hour to see the entire subject matter referred to committee so the broad range of issues that must be dealt with are dealt with in a timely fashion. I hope people on both sides of the issue will be accorded the time to put forth their points and hopefully we will have come to a conclusion and a recommendation to government.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Dan McTeague Liberal Ontario, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am privileged to speak today on Bill C-353 presented by a colleague. He is someone the House has grown to know as one of its foremost members in terms of generating ideas. Many people talk about creating ideas, but in the context of the private sector it is interesting to know that the hon. member who earlier styled himself as a techno peasant. He should not be so willing to deprecate himself with such terms. He has earned the esteemed role of the wizard of ideas within the House of Commons.

It is interesting the House would be seized with an idea that is of the 21st century. The Internet is something that we all know is one of the most interesting modes of communication. It has gripped every country and can be translated for many people around the world in various forms, whether music, sending information, raw data or transmitting important information to people.

Every month the growth on the Internet worldwide is anywhere from 15 per cent to 20 per cent. The current world usage is some 50 million. That number will be closer to 250 million as we reach the advent of the next millennium.

The hon. member has taken a personal experience and tried to contextualize it, to make it relevant to the House of Commons. He has given the House of Commons and the committee that will hopefully treat this with relative speediness an opportunity to understand the importance of how we are to regulate.

My hon. colleague from Dartmouth indicated earlier how we need to get above and beyond allowing the mob, the underworld or unsavoury elements from taking control of the growing area of gambling. There are certainly ethical considerations dealing with gambling as there are ethical considerations dealing with the Internet in terms of pornography and the dissemination of hate literature.

The House must at some point quickly come to grips with those issues, lest Parliament be treated as irrelevant in the age of cyberspace. Compliments of the help of the hon. member for Broadview-Greenwood, we are allowed to begin to look very seriously at the question of the Internet. We can also look at the question of where the federal government can best use its authority.

Because the Internet is interprovincial-it is also extraterritorial-it makes no sense to have the provinces look into it from a regulatory point of view and to regulate those companies which would receive information so that those who are gambling not only within Canada but around the world might have an opportunity to know they are doing so within a trustworthy context.

Trust is very important in this context. Canada is considered a leader not only among the G-7 but certainly around the world. It is important to note that because we are basically a country that has a high degree of trust when it comes to relationships and transactions of various types. We are in the very unique position of being able to actually look forward to a day when we might be able to regulate this industry.

Other members will have an opportunity in the next few minutes to relate their interests in the bill. However I will summarize mine as being the ability to license it, to regulate it and ultimately in the interests of the taxpayer to tax it so that billions of dollars that might potentially be leaving the country might remain here.

Let us follow the wisdom of the hon. member for Broadview-Greenwood. Let us get the bill into committee and let us keep the bad guys out of it. I applaud the hon. member for his wisdom, foresight and his ideas. May the wizard live long.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


Rex Crawford Liberal Kent, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to speak today on legislation that is precedent setting and very important to all. The issue of gambling in society has always been a contentious one. I am generally against gambling because I have seen its negative effects. Whether or not we like it gambling is an age old form of entertainment that is here to stay. Today the gaming industry is estimated to generate $1 trillion worldwide.

Another thing that is here to stay and is taking the world by storm is the Internet. Industry experts estimate that there are 50 million Internet users worldwide and this figure is increasing by 10 per cent per month. It is natural to assume that these two popular pastimes would somehow come together. The results are Internet casinos that are becoming a very lucrative business and are completely unregulated and completely untaxed.

In Canada we have done a pretty good job of controlling our gaming industry through an earlier federal-provincial agreement. The provinces now reap the benefits of regulated gaming. I think everyone is aware of the astounding profits made from provincially run casinos. My riding is just northeast of Windsor, Ontario, where millions of Americans and other tourists flock to the slot machines, blackjack and roulette tables. This has become a prized possession for the Government of Ontario because of the amount of foreign dollars it gives directly to the province.

Regulated gambling seems to work for Canadians. It can offer an extremely popular form of entertainment. It also does a great job of subsidizing our taxes, not to mention that it generates employment.

Internet casinos can offer many of the same benefits. However right now they are not benefiting anyone except the occasional winner of a hand of poker. As it stands right now, Internet casinos are almost entirely based offshore in remote locations where the laws affecting gambling are not very strict, places like Antigua or Equador.

Via the Internet we can play the tables or the slots from the luxury of our own offices or home computers anywhere in the world. I can be sitting in Wallaceburg playing a round of poker with a gentleman in Hong Kong, a lady in Australia, and the dealer is dealing the cards from the Caribbean. Best of all, nobody has to know. The gamblers earnings as well as the earnings of the casino go completely untaxed. This is exactly what is going on.

The bill proposes a reasonable solution to the problem of unregulated gambling on the Internet. Instead of letting Internet casinos make millions on an island in the South Pacific, the bill is asking Canadians to take a better look at the benefits of this industry in our own backyard. If Canadians have accepted regulated gaming establishments then why not regulate Internet gaming as well? By allowing Internet casinos in Canada we can effectively limit the dangers involved in gaming and regulate the casinos activity.

With an estimated 175 million Internet users by the end of 1997 the potential revenues are astounding. New security measures and software are making Internet users more comfortable with the idea of Internet commerce, cybercash or Visa and MasterCard transactions.

Many countries around the world are realizing the potential of Internet gaming. They have determined that the Internet is a popular reality that cannot be controlled. Other countries have also realized the fiscal benefits of regulated gaming. In order to minimize and eliminate fraud and illegal activity, we should permit regulated Internet casinos in Canada.

I have recently discovered the benefits of the Internet. My grandchildren are using it every day for their homework and other projects. It can be a great tool. However, it can also be abused. It is the job of the government to avoid illegal and fraudulent activity on the information highway. If Internet casinos were legalized, then regulated, we could essentially end these problems.

I support the bill by the hon. member for Broadview-Greenwood for those reasons. I would encourage members from all sides of this House to consider the benefits of this legislation.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to this bill presented by my colleague from Broadview-Greenwood. Since he was sent here by his constituents over eight years ago, he has never ceased to apply his own creative, forward looking brand of politics. He has, in this bill, asked Parliament to look down the road to what is looking at us in the face, a new world of Internet communications, a world of many things, as colleagues on both sides of the House have described.

The government is going to have to direct its attention to this and this is as good a time as any. We should strike now before we end up with problems that are even more difficult to deal with.

This is not a bill, as I understand it, that promotes Internet gaming, but rather is a bill that causes the federal government to occupy a field that is not now occupied at all. One of our colleagues earlier mentioned the Liechtenstein casino which he found available on the Internet here in Canada. There are perhaps many facilities available.

However, many of the members here believe that the federal government should look very closely at this now and occupying the field. What field is it and why? The field is that of gaming by by computer on the Internet.

As I understand it, the person who wants to gamble would establish a credit with a casino or gaming organization anywhere outside of Canada and, in many cases, involves jurisdictions where there is not much in the way of regulation. People would first establish their credit and the software can actually be in the computer. They would simply play the games on their own computer. However, before the game is played, they make their bets and access their credit outside of Canada. If they win their credits go up and if they lose their credits go down. The legitimate operators settle with the banking facility almost immediately or whenever the people have agreed with them. In any event, it is there.

In between the person and the gaming facility outside of Canada is what we call the service provider or server, which is a quasi-local communications provider who will permit your computer to access the Internet to the gaming organization. So that is the field.

Right now from Canada we can access anything we want from around the world, as my colleagues have so amply supplied. Why we want to occupy the field is perhaps more important.

The first thing identified has been the absence of any regulation at all. We all remember the Irish sweepstakes many years ago, before the federal and provincial governments had lotteries. That was the only way a Canadian could buy a ticket to win anything other than at the horse races.

Ultimately, Canadian jurisdictions decided to occupy the field and provided us with lotteries. The Irish sweepstakes may still be there, but there are lots of opportunities for Canadians to put a few dollars away on a lottery chance. They do it in huge numbers.

There are reasons to believe that Canadians will put large amounts of dollars into Internet gaming. We cannot prove it, but we believe it is there. Just as the Internet has mushroomed, Internet gaming could mushroom. As a result, there will be a dollar outflow when debts are made in this fashion.

Second, there is every indication that if there is profit to be made in this, and to be sure there is, organized crime will move in. Organized crime looks for profit, a vacuum or an opportunity. In this case, it is almost certain that if there are profit opportunities in an unregulated way, organized crime will move. It begins with a little extortion here or there and then it applies its resources to cornering, controlling and monopolizing what is otherwise a free market activity. This is not regarded, in our society, as a good thing. It would be considered a bad thing if Canadians were gaming through an organized crime mechanism. It is also a vehicle for money laundering, which we have decided is anti-social.

Third, if the government were to be involved it would provide order in an area where there is now not any order at all. It can be accessed by anyone: minors, fraud artists. Order will prevent or reduce the risk of that being the case.

Other colleagues have mentioned the possibility of taxing for the general well-being the service provider or gaming organization which would be able to operate if this were regulated and authorized under a licence, if the federal government chose to do so or if the federal government and a province chose to do so. There are lots of reasons why the federal government should occupy the field. It could be a complex issue. For that reason, I know colleagues will want to have the benefit of committee views on this.

I support the bill. I want to see Parliament look ahead at what the member for Broadview-Greenwood is holding out before us. I hope this Parliament will be able to take a forward step and get into, if not the gaming business as we have done in lotteries at least regulate the field so that Canadians can do it in a fair way, in a way that suits our social mores.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

Is the House ready for the question?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Some hon. members


Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?