moved that Bill C-369, an act to amend the Criminal Code (gaming and betting), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, on March 12, I spoke before the Sub-committee on Private Members' Business to introduce a private member's bill which would have made it possible to open casinos on cruise ships sailing on the St. Lawrence and the Great Lakes.
This bill reflected, not some fantasy of the federal member for Beauport-Montmorency-Orléans, but a need expressed after long consultations with port administrators, community organizations and municipalities along the St. Lawrence. A number of municipal councils have even gone so far as to pass resolutions in support of Bill C-369, not the least of these being Quebec City, Beauport, in my riding, Charlesbourg and Ancienne-Lorette. I also consulted with ship owners, organizations promoting navigation on the St. Lawrence, and tourist associations.
As you are aware, a bill is not prepared without the help of consultants and legal experts. The latter have done the required research and helped me draft the bill which I am tabling in the House of Commons today. This undertaking was, therefore, a serious one, well prepared and necessary for all stakeholders.
Yet, the Sub-committee on Private Members' Business, the majority of whose membership comes from the other side of the House, has not seen fit to accept Bill C-369 as votable by the representatives of the people, or in other words the members of this House.
Nevertheless, I would like to explain the advantages of this bill, if not to convince members opposite, then at least to let the public know about the sometimes mysterious ways in which the party in power operates.
Bill C-369 would amend the Criminal Code in the section on gaming and betting to allow any person on an international cruise ship sailing in Canadian waters to conduct and manage a casino for the passengers of that ship, under certain conditions.
There are four very important conditions I would like to mention. First, the voyage made by the ship shall not constitute a coasting trade, which means operating within domestic waters only. Second, the casino cannot be accessible to the passengers of the ship during the hour preceding the arrival of the ship at a Canadian port. Third, the casino shall not be accessible when the ship is in a Canadian port. Fourth, the casino shall not be accessible during the hour after the ship departs from a Canadian port.
It is clear that this private member's bill does not propose any drastic changes to the Canadian Criminal Code. It merely suggests a few amendments to help economic development.
All members present in this House, and you may have noticed there are not that many, know or ought to know that the Criminal Code currently allows casinos to be open in international waters only, which means that any ship that operates a casino and wishes to visit cities along the St. Lawrence and the Great Lakes is obliged to close the casino as soon as it reaches Anticosti Island.
However, the St. Lawrence and the Great Lakes represent a majestic waterway that compares with the greatest rivers in the world. The St. Lawrence is neither a sea nor a small river. It evokes the power and grandeur of nature and reveals the general vastness of Canada. Whale watching, one of the unique attractions, adds to the splendour of these waterways.
The Saguenay is an impressive fjord that offers passengers on a cruise ship an unforgettable visual experience. With its steep cliffs, it offers the traveller a unique opportunity to see what nature has wrought.
Quebec City, according to a number of surveys, is the port of call preferred by passengers on this route. With its harbour a stone's throw from its historic and much visited centre, with the Château Frontenac that dominates the skyline and its unique location,
Quebec City is a cultural and historical focal point in an exceptionally attractive setting. In fact, it is the only fortified city in North America designated by UNESCO as part of our global heritage.
The city of Montreal and its port where passengers board and disembark offers an urban experience that is unique in North America: a dynamic metropolis with a very special flavour. Montreal has something to offer the religious tourist and the night life tourist, the art connoisseur, the sports fan, the intrepid walker and the avid consumer.
The St. Lawrence has all sorts of natural and human attractions to offer. A single thread links them all: the French fact. The St. Lawrence offers American tourists a foreign experience in a safe setting.
Furthermore, cruise ship facilities on the St. Lawrence are more than adequate. The docks in Quebec City and Montreal are located in the old ports, near the tourist areas. Cruise ship passengers will especially appreciate their cleanliness.
The St. Lawrence is a safe destination for passengers and ship owners alike, a haven from terrorism. In addition, Quebec City and Montreal provide visitors with the sense of security American visitors look for on their holidays.
The efforts by the two major tourist destinations on the St. Lawrence and the ports and cities along the New York-Montreal route in recent years have favourably impressed ship owners.
According to the statistics, ship owners consider that casinos bring in 15 per cent of their revenues. As the casinos must be shut down for several hours or as long as two days, when the ships enter the St. Lawrence and its gulf, a number of owners prefer another port over those serving the cities along the St. Lawrence and the Great Lakes.
Furthermore, tourists who enjoy the casino will choose a port that does not require the closure of the casino for several days.
The cruise industry lives at the crossroads of the tourism and marine industries. It is a rapidly growing industry, making it particularly interesting for stakeholders in the tourism and shipping sectors, all the more so as they are experiencing a certain stagnation in their respective sectors in Quebec.
Cruises are tremendously popular worldwide, and particularly so in North America. The North American cruise industry has grown over 800 per cent in the period since 1970, when 500,000 people went on cruises.
This industry grew an average of 9.4 per cent annually between 1980 and 1992, when the number of passengers hit 4.3 million. And in 1993, this figure exceeded 4.7 million.
Cruises now occupy a solid position in the market. All the international associations expect the number of cruise passengers to reach 8 million annually by the end of the century, despite an expected dip in demand of 1.4 per cent annually over the next few years.
The cruise market potential is therefore enormous, particularly if one bears in mind that only 5 or 6 per cent of Americans have ever been on a cruise. Over the next two years, it is estimated that this market will reach $50 billion internationally. A tourist market of this scope naturally leads to fierce competition between cruise zones.
Unfortunately, the St. Lawrence market is not developing at the same rate as North American markets. The St. Lawrence River is a key route in the Canada-New England cruise zone. It is used primarily for seven day ocean cruises between New York and Montreal. The Saguenay, Quebec City and Montreal are the main drawing cards on the St. Lawrence route. The Canada-New England run, with its 420,415 cruise days, accounts for only 1.2 per cent of the total cruise market, which will reach 50 million cruise days in two years.
The route that takes in the St. Lawrence occupies only a very small part of the market, and ranks twelfth among cruise routes. Even this position is threatened by the sustained and organized efforts being made by southeastern Asia, Australia, New Zealand and the Far East.
A look at the evolution of traffic on the St. Lawrence since 1980 reveals regular growth, with two particularly good years. These statistical anomalies are directly related to the fact that the route is considered particularly safe. We have only to remember the 1987 season, which was very good for us because it followed on the terrorist attack on the Achille Lauro in the Mediterranean. The 1991 season was very good because of the Gulf war.
Taking in these two record years, the average annual growth rate on the St. Lawrence is around 4.7 per cent. This rate was notably lower than the 9.4 per cent of the industry in general, however.
An examination of the statistics for all of the industry in North America indicates clearly that the St. Lawrence is progressing twice as slowly as the market as a whole. A quick survey of the decision makers in the cruise lines indicates that there are two drawbacks: the climate, and the fact that casinos cannot be open. These are what might be called the two irritants to development of the St. Lawrence route. It is very hard to do anything about the
climate, but I hope that, if the other irritant were removed by this bill, the deck would be stacked in our favour.
The economic impact of cruise ships is essential to the development of the cities located along the St. Lawrence. A study carried out in Montreal in 1991 established that the average expenditure was $113 per passenger, and $100,000 per ship, which means a total of $5.3 million for cruise ship passengers, and $4.1 million for cruise ship operators.
Revenues to the Government of Quebec from these expenditures are $1.4 million, and to the federal government, $700,000. In addition to the cash, and direct or indirect employment spinoffs from this, cruise ships on the St. Lawrence generate other benefits which, while unquantifiable, are equally important to the profitability of the tourist industry.
For example, autumn, which is when the ships change locations, is a particularly good season for cruising the St. Lawrence, on top of which there is the attraction of the fall colours, particularly in October. In fact, high season is in September and October, thus extending a summer tourist season which is often too short, and indirectly enabling the bus companies, restaurants, attractions and museums to turn a better profit. We might also mention the St.Lawrence pilots, the retention of whom has been defended by the Bloc Quebecois, for environmental reasons in particular; they too could profit from development of the cruise industry.
By actively marketing the strengths of the St. Lawrence as a destination, and by doing away with the irritant of having to close down casinos, the St. Lawrence should be able to develop as much as, if not more than, the industry as a whole. Informal surveys conducted among ship owners are very revealing. The legislation on casinos is the main obstacle to operating more cruise ships on the St. Lawrence.
Of course, the shipping lines are very discret about this problem because they do not want their clientele to know that 15 per cent of their revenue comes from casinos. They would rather give passengers the impression that casinos are there for their entertainment, if they so desire.
Changing the legislation to allow casinos on the St. Lawrence would have several advantages, the main one being to increase traffic and expand economic and fiscal benefits as well, estimated at $215 million over the next two years.
As you know, all ships sailing on the St. Lawrence must be piloted and brought safely to port by experienced pilots who are members of the Corporation of the Lower St. Lawrence Pilots, as I said earlier. Imagine the number of jobs that would be created and preserved for St. Lawrence pilots if this amendment were to increase the number of ships on the St. Lawrence by 10 per cent.
A study has shown that if we maintain the status quo, by the year 2000 we will have a little over 50,000 passengers, but if we amend the legislation, we will attract more than 101,000 passengers to the greater Quebec City region and the St. Lawrence. Initially, the St. Lawrence would make up for lost time with an increase of 20 per cent annually, while later on, the increase would be commensurate with the growth of the international cruise ship industry as a whole.
Since the bill before the House today is not supported by the current government, because it was not considered to be a votable item, according to the Committee on Private Members' Business, I would like to point out the negatived impact of the status quo. The status quo would, first of all, deprive Quebec and Canada of considerable revenues because cruise ship traffic on the St. Lawrence would remain well below global figures.
The status quo marginalizes the St. Lawrence because it would be the only river in the world of this size where casinos cannot operate on ocean cruises.
The status quo sends a clear message to the owners of ocean-going cruise ships, which are not particularly welcome in the St. Lawrence. Ports and tourism offices are working actively to attract the lines, but the federal government does not want them. The status quo tells the ship owners that Canada is overregulated and unable to adapt its legislation to everyday economic realities.
Furthermore, the status quo confirms that federal legislation may be applied very differently according to whether the sea front is Halifax or Vancouver.
In conclusion, how are the people of Quebec supposed to understand that what is acceptable in the Pacific in Vancouver is not on the St. Lawrence? On the other hand, Quebecers will understand clearly that, if Quebec were sovereign, it would have complete political leverage to decide its own economic future, which does not seem to be the case within the Canadian federation.
On several occasions, Quebecers have told English Canada they want to be "maîtres chez eux", as Jean Lesage put it. And the response from English Canada is: "What does Quebec want?" Well, what we want is to ensure our own economic development with the necessary tools, something we cannot do now, because they are under the control of the federal government, which does not seem to want to allow Quebec to develop as it could if it were sovereign. This is another deciding factor.