Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to speak to Bill C-32, specifically to Group No. 4 amendments.
At the outset I wish I could share the confidence of the hon. parliamentary secretary that the clause I am going to speak on is not going to be a problem for students. I do not see that when I read the bill. I take exception to his confidence that it is not going to be a problem.
Motion No. 44 effectively deletes the second part of clause 45(e) which deals with import copies made with the consent of the owner and the copyright in the country where they were made of any used books. Then it goes on to say except textbooks of a scientific, technical or scholarly nature for use within an educational institution in a course of instruction. That is the clause which is the problem.
Clause 45 in the bill addresses the issue of exclusive distributors in Canada. If a copyright owner has selected a Canadian publisher to distribute his or her work in Canada, that publisher is an exclusive distributor. Clause 45(e) provides an exception to this and makes it lawful for individuals to import used books. That would be fine if this government had left it at that. Instead, the government has created an exception to the exception. It has specifically made it unlawful for individuals to import textbooks of a scientific, technical or scholarly nature for use within an educational institution such as colleges and universities.
What does this mean? The Liberal government has given into the pressures of the Canadian publishing industry at the expense of those who can at least afford it, the students. It is interesting to note that this amendment was pushed through at the last minute in
response to pressure from Canadian publishers. It is also interesting note that when the Canadian Booksellers Association appeared before the parliamentary committee considering Bill C-32 in October 1996 absolutely no mention was made of used textbooks. Instead, this amendment was added at a late date without any meaningful opportunity for interested parties such as booksellers and student associations to have input. That was shameful.
Time and again this government has said that it is committed to young Canadians. This government has tried to make us believe that it is investing in the futures of young Canadians. For many young Canadians the future starts with university or college. Books are one essential part of higher education. As a parent whose daughter is currently in university I am only too familiar with the costs involved, tuition, books, living expenses. They all add up quickly. In a northern riding such as mine, Prince George-Peace River, the expenses can be much more if a student is forced to relocate in order to pursue a higher education.
Luckily my daughter has parental support, but many students do not. One way they can defray the high costs associated with university or college is to buy used textbooks. Because there are few Canadian suppliers of used textbooks, bookstores and students rely on a supply of used textbooks imported from the U.S.A.
The average price of a brand new text book is about $75, and even that seems low. I am well aware that many students face costs of hundreds of dollars for textbooks. It is estimated that the cost to students of purchasing new rather than used textbooks will be $5 million annually if this amendment is passed. This will only worsen the student debt problems that we are currently facing. On an individual level the effect of this amendment will be to increase the total amount a student spends on textbooks over the course of his or her degree by as much as $1,600. This is a huge blow to students and their parents.
Sixteen hundred dollars would pay for a whole semester of college or university. Sixteen hundred dollars could help students from more remote areas who have been forced to relocate to travel home for Christmas or for summer jobs. Not only do students buy used textbooks to save money, they sell them back to campus bookstores in order to recoup some of their money.
These textbooks are exported to distributors outside Canada. Canada currently exports more used textbooks than it imports so there is a balance of trade there. By restricting the importation of used textbooks this government is affecting this export trade. We can expect that if the import of used books stops, so will the export. Demand for used texts will fall and students will no longer be able to sell their books back to campus bookstores. This will result in an estimated loss to students of $2 million in revenue each and every year from the sale of used textbooks.
Canadian universities and colleges are increasingly relying on revenues from the sales of used books. Campus bookstores benefit twice from the sale of used textbooks. They get a commission on the purchase of used textbooks by the students and they get a margin on the later sale of reused textbooks to other students.
It has been estimated that lost revenues for Canadian academic institutions and their bookstores as a result of this Liberal amendment would be almost $600,000 each year. As we all know, decreased revenues are always passed on to the consumer in the form of reduced service and higher costs. In this case I reiterate that the consumers we are talking about are students.
Who will this amendment really help? The Canadian publishing industry seems to think it will protect them. However, despite what we have been led to believe Canada is not being overrun by foreign used textbooks. In 1995-96, 29 per cent of the used textbooks that were exported from and reimported into Canada were Canadian material. Canada is in effect recycling its own used textbooks.
The effect of this amendment will be to force students to buy brand new textbooks, most of which are published by American companies. Therefore the protection of Canadian interests argument does not hold water. I submit that the true effect of this amendment is to protect the profits of foreign owned new textbook publishers.
Another effect of this legislation will be to encourage Canadian students to photocopy their friend's textbooks rather than spend money on new ones. Students who resent being forced to purchase new textbooks or who simply cannot afford them will no doubt pick the cheaper option and head to the photocopier. Who could blame them?
Surely this is a step backward for copyright protection. Not only does this raise concerns from the student perspective, it also raises concerns under NAFTA. The amendment would interfere with trade based solely on geography rather than content or intellectual property rights, thereby offending the national treatment provisions of NAFTA.
Clearly this amendment, which restricts the import of used textbooks into Canada, does little for anyone other than foreign new textbook publishers. All it does is unfairly penalize Canadian students, colleges and universities while at the same time failing to have any positive effects on the Canadian economy.
That is why I strongly urge this House to adopt the amendment proposed by my hon. colleague to delete this senseless restriction on used textbook importation.