Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak on the Group No. 4 motions. I mentioned earlier today the problems caused for book distributors by this bill and the problems it would cause for consumers of book products as a result.
At this point I would like to cover some objections to the bill that have been raised by the Canadian Association of Student Associations. With some information that they sent earlier today, they have calculated that the average spent on books by students during a university degree is around $4,800, which is a significant amount of money.
All of us who have been through university in the past know that it is always a struggle to pull together enough money to buy the textbooks for the year and $4,800 is not an insignificant amount of money. This figure is based on 10 courses per year with an average figure of about $75 per book. As those of us who have been to university know, many courses require more than one book but this calculation is based on one book per course.
The amount that students are able to save on the trade of used books, according to an average worked out by the Canadian Association of Student Associations, is about $1,600 or one-third of the total they spend. That is enough to pay for an entire semester of tuition and fees.
Students run into problems where professors choose to change the edition of a text from one year to another, which happens fairly often. I see some nods of assent from the other side from members opposite. I know they have experienced the harrowing experience of having professors change the edition of a text.
Students are unable to pass their texts to another student following behind. Therefore, there has been quite an export trade in books which enables the students to make between 40 and 50 per cent of the original cover price as they trade those books back across the border on export.
If the import trade is stopped, then obviously the export trade will end. That will be a direct result of this bill, which maybe the government side did not anticipate. Certainly those who are directly affected can see it quite clearly and they have not hesitated in pointing it out.
That was not something that came from the member for North Vancouver in isolation. It came directly from the Canadian Association of Student Associations. There are many unintended effects. As a result of this part of the bill we will end up with poorer service and higher prices for a Canadian used textbook system.
Ernst & Young did a study which concluded that book publishers were much slower at fulfilling orders than the used textbook distributors. Another unintended effect would be that the supply of Canadian used textbooks will be reduced by perhaps 50 per cent. Blocking reimports will prevent the very recycling of Canadian used textbooks that the publishers say they support.
This really is a badly thought out bill. Unintended effects make it obvious that its drafters should have consulted in a more meaningful manner with those who would be affected, in this case, university students.
The basic facts are that used textbooks are a small percentage of the overall textbook sales at Canadian universities and colleges. That is true. There is about $18 million or about 8 per cent based on the Ernst & Young study for the Canadian Publishers Council.
Canada has a net balance of trade in used textbooks. The Follett's Canadian operations, for example, actually buy and export more textbooks from Canada than are later re-imported for resale across Canada. The export trade is very important. If we start playing around, blocking the incentives for re-importation, then we are going to create a major problem for the export industry, which is very large.
In 1995-96, for example, 42 per cent more textbooks were exported than re-imported. That is a major trade imbalance in Canada's favour. In 1995-96, 29 per cent of Canadian used textbooks which were exported and re-imported were actually Canadian material. As I mentioned a few minutes ago, if this bill is implemented, it will interfere with the re-importation of Canadian material. That will actually interfere with the trade which the bill is supposed to assist.
The conclusion reached is that Canada is not being overrun by foreign used textbooks. In fact it is recycling its own used textbooks through export and re-importation.
The figures of the Association of Students Association, which I mentioned earlier, suggest that the average student is spending about $4,800 on 10 courses per year. Universities and students will lose to the tune of at least $5.4 million each year as a result of the implementation of this bill.
Students will lose about $2 million in revenue from the sale of their used textbooks, which are currently being recycled through the U.S. If the sale of imported used textbooks turns into new book sales, students will end up paying an extra $3 million for the same textbooks they could have obtained through the recycling system.
These figures come directly from the Ernst & Young study. These are not figures which are being pulled out of the air. They come from legitimate studies done by very reliable sources.
Canadian universities and colleges, through their bookstores, are estimated to lose at least $375,000 in gross profits and will face higher inventory costs and greater risks.
These are very serious problems. As I pointed out earlier in the day when I was talking about my constituent who is a book wholesaler, representing a United States company, there will be major impacts on the free market with this system. At the moment the free market has adjusted itself to the point where there are really good values in books available directly through importation from the United States. When these additional layers of protectionism are introduced, which will supposedly protect Canadian culture, in fact it will interfere with the availability of books and cause problems with pricing at the consumer level, as indicated in the concerns raised by the students.
This is a very ill-informed set of clauses. Frankly, they need attention. As has been indicated in a number of speeches made by my colleagues, the bill should be withdrawn. The best solution right now would be to withdraw the bill and take another look at it. We should start again from scratch and investigate whether we need to be using these sorts of tactics to try to protect Canadian culture when in fact we will be interfering with the consumer marketplace.
I am pleased I had the opportunity to bring the concerns of the students' association to the attention of the House. I join with my colleagues in opposing the bill.