Debates of Feb. 23rd, 1998
House of Commons Hansard #65 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was mai.
- Property Rights
- Volunteer Firefighters
- Disaster Assistance
- 1998 Winter Olympics
- Quebec Minister Of Intergovernmental Affairs
- The Senate
- Fight Against Poverty
- The Environment
- The Constitution
- Canadian Census
- The Environment
- Government Staff
- Winter Olympics
- Don Cherry
- Health Care
- The Economy
- Bill C-28
- The Debt
- Oil Industry
- Foreign Affairs
- Child Poverty
- National Parole Board
- Pay Equity
- Diseased Sheep
- The Environment
- Presence In Gallery
- Points Of Order
- Committees Of The House
- Questions On The Order Paper
- Division No. 90
- Division No. 91
- Small Business Loans Act
- Division No. 92
- The Canada Shipping Act
- Division No. 93
- Division No. 94
- Business Of The House
Private Members' Business
Ken Epp Elk Island, AB
Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The standing orders indicate that the member who moves the motion has the right to speak for five minutes at the end of debate. We have about five minutes left so the time should revert to him.
Private Members' Business
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)
The rule pertaining to this states that the member who has proposed the motion has the right to five minutes only if another member does not rise to complete the hour.
Private Members' Business
Ken Epp Elk Island, AB
Madam Speaker, Standing Order 95(2) says that “provided that the member moving the item may speak for not more than fifteen minutes”—that is at the beginning—“and provided that the said member may, if he or she chooses, speak again for not more than five minutes, commencing five minutes before the conclusion of the hour during which the said item is to be considered”.
It is quite clear in the standing order that it is the choice of the member. The member has chosen to exercise that right and I ask that he be given that right.
Private Members' Business
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)
The Speaker of the House has already ruled on that issue and has stated very clearly that the member can only use the last five minutes if nobody else rises.
Private Members' Business
Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC
Madam Speaker, as I was stating, the motion of the hon. member for Saskatoon—Humboldt asks that the charter of rights and freedoms be amended to recognize the right of every person to enjoy and own property and not be deprived of that right without full, just and timely compensation and due process of law.
Perhaps the hon. member has not read the charter of rights and freedoms. Perhaps the hon. member is not cognizant of our Canadian Bill of Rights, but property rights are already protected in the Canadian Bill of Rights.
With the coming of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982 which duplicated many of the provisions of the Canadian Bill of Rights, it is important to understand how the bill of rights enacted in 1960 fits into the larger scheme of human rights protections in Canada.
This bill of rights remains in force but is substantially different from the charter as it does not apply to provincial legislation or actions. It operates as a federal statute which is applicable to federal laws and actions. Whereas the charter expressly overrides any act, whether it be federal or provincial that is inconsistent with the charter, the Canadian Bill of Rights does not have express provisions that permit it to override other federal statutes.
Therefore the difference between the bill and the charter is that the bill does not have a limitation clause as provided by section 1 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. What does the lack of a limitation clause mean for the protection of property rights?
I would ask that the hon. members on the other side of the House who are supporting this motion listen carefully to what I am about to say. They might actually learn something.
Private Members' Business
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)
I am afraid I have to interrupt the hon. member. The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired and the order is dropped from the Order Paper.
February 23rd, 1998 / 12:05 p.m.
Charlie Penson Peace River, AB
That this House condemn the government for: (1) failing to explain why it is negotiating the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (the MAI); (2) failing to explain what benefits and costs it foresees for the Canadian people; and (3) failing to take part in public discussion on the Agreement.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to lead off this debate today. A number of my colleagues will be speaking as well because this is a very big concern in their ridings. Some of them will be speaking from their critic area, such as fisheries, culture and other areas where there are some concerns.
It is important to point out at the outset that the multilateral agreement on investment which is being negotiated is a Liberal government initiative to make Canada a part of the negotiations at the OECD in Paris. Our negotiators have been there since 1995.
It was interesting that during the election campaign in June there was hardly any mention of the multilateral agreement on investment. In fact some Liberal members when contacted denied that negotiations were going on. People who heard about the negotiations were concerned and they raised the issue during the election campaign.
When we in the Reform Party were asked what our stand would be we said that we did not know much about the negotiations, but that we were in favour of free trade in principle and free trade in investment. We supported the free trade agreement and also the NAFTA, both of which have substantial investment sections. In principle we are in favour of the MAI, but we want to know a lot more of the details.
By way of background, the government had to name a new cabinet after the election. In September when the government returned, a new minister was appointed to the international trade portfolio. We thought that he would explain what the MAI meant to Canadians. In fact we asked the minister if we could meet with the chief negotiator, Mr. Dymond, to explain it to us because we wanted to be up to speed on the negotiations.
Mr. Dymond told us that the directions from the new minister were to be a lot more open and to tell people what the deal was about. The minister himself when he came to committee assured us that the government would be much more active in explaining the deal to Canadians. As a result of that we gave the new minister the benefit of the doubt. We expected that he and the chief negotiator would be addressing the concerns being raised across the country. However we were surprised when that did not happen.
The minister's answer in mid-November was to ask the Sub-Committee on International Trade, Trade Disputes and Investment to do a study. We were told that we had a very short time to do that study. The government wanted the report before the House rose in the middle of December. By the time we factored in a week to put the report together, it only gave the subcommittee three weeks to hear witnesses. It did not give us time to travel across the country to places like British Columbia where the concern seemed to be the greatest.
It is important to note whose job it is to inform the public. I would submit that it is the government's job. It is the Liberal government's job to inform the public of what the benefits are and what the downside may be in negotiating a multilateral agreement on investment. It is the government's job to take it to Canadians.
Why are we condemning the government for its failure to explain why it is negotiating the multilateral agreement on investment? Why is it failing to explain the benefits and costs to the Canadian people? Why is it failing to take part in public discussion on the agreement? We will endeavour to smoke out the government today and try to engage it in this debate.
Canada has been negotiating the agreement for two years at the OECD. Largely the negotiations have been secret. There was no mention during the election campaign, except for some groups that came that were getting wind of it like the Council of Canadians. The NDP started to raise it as an election issue. Some Liberal members, even cabinet ministers, were in denial. They said that Canada would not be doing that.
As I said, we were in favour in principle of an agreement depending on how it came out. We recognized that investment leads to trade and trade leads to jobs but we wanted to see what was being negotiated.
It is really ironic. There was no mention of distrust back in 1993 in red book No. 1 or in red book No. 2 for that matter. There was no mention in the throne speech. These were all areas where the government had a chance to outline what its initiatives were going to be for the upcoming mandate. There was no mention of it. Why not? It is difficult for us to understand why it would not be trying to inform the public.
As a result there was growing interest in what the MAI really meant. Many of our members, and I am sure government members, must be getting a flood of mail in their offices. There are a lot of people out there who are spreading what I think is false information, but nonetheless information and accusations that have to be met head on by this government in answers to things such as Canada is going to lose its health care, Canada is going to lose sovereignty as a result of this, government will no longer be able to make laws and so on.
The MAI is a major initiative yet requires support building from this government. That simply is not happening. As a result the public is only getting one side of this issue. Those from the flat earth society would have us believe that the free trade agreement with the United States, which contained an investment chapter, expanded to NAFTA in 1992 were bad for us and it would roll that back. The same group seemed to be lined up on the side of the MAI debate saying no, do not go ahead with it.
Where is the minister in all this debate? Is he out doing talk shows? Is he doing radio presentations to Canadians? Television? Where is he? He is nowhere at all. No town halls. I should not say that. He actually gave a presentation last week to a bunch of business executives at the Chateau Laurier hotel. That is important but it is vitally important that the minister explain this deal to Canadians and he is simply missing in action.
The minister points to the subcommittee and says he gave it to the subcommittee on international trade to study. That is true. He did. He gave us a very short time frame, but he did. Three weeks. What did we hear from witnesses at the subcommittee? Let me just read a few of the quotes.
Elizabeth Smythe from Concordia College in Edmonton said “More public consultation on negotiations should take place.” We heard all kinds of comments like that from almost every witness at committee. Elizabeth Smythe also said “It is not enough for citizens to get a chance to vote for a government once every four years if the kind of trade-offs and choices on important international investment rules are never outlined during an election campaign”. Absolutely.
We heard all kinds of that. What was the government's response? Let me read it. The committee of which I see a couple of members here wrote a report as a result of the three weeks of hearings.
The first recommendation was that the government should stay engaged at the OECD and try to achieve an agreement. The number two recommendation of the committee, an all-party committee, was the government should continue to increase its efforts to inform Canadians of the merits of negotiating an MAI while addressing the concerns brought forward by this committee in public hearings. Exactly what I am saying.
Of the few people that had a chance to come to the committee, the 75 groups or whatever, many of them raised concerns. They said that they were not hearing enough about it, that they did not know exactly what the government was intending to do. The committee recognized that and made the recommendation that the government should explain this deal to Canadians.
In fact the Reform Party, while in general agreement with the thrust of trying to negotiate an agreement said in the second paragraph of its dissenting opinion “While we believe a good agreement will be in Canada's best interest, we acknowledge the apprehension felt by many Canadians in our country. Given the amount of genuine concern around the MAI, we are perplexed that the Liberal government has not put a concerted effort into an information campaign”.
Many witnesses before the subcommittee commented on the need for much wider public consultation. At least the three weeks of hearings by the subcommittee should have been extended to include a week or more of hearings in the west. It simply did not happen.
It even got worse. That committee report came down in December. Where was the minister after that? As I said, at one appearance at the Chateau Laurier for breakfast. He expects people from Victoria, Kamloops and Grande Prairie to come to the Chateau Laurier for breakfast with him. What kind of consultation is that?
What did Liberal members say when they were in opposition? What did they say about this kind of approach to big government? They said that in the red book that the Liberal government would govern with integrity and that open government would be the watchword of the Liberal government. What does open government mean?
They also went on to say that the most important asset of government is the confidence it enjoys of the citizens to whom it is accountable. There is evidence today of considerable dissatisfaction with government. They talk about the Mulroney government and a steady erosion of confidence in the people and the institutions of the public sector. This erosion of confidence seems to have many causes. Some have to do with the behaviour of certain elected politicians but others have to do with an arrogant style of political leadership.
The people are irritated with governments that do not consult them or that disregard their views or that try to conduct key parts of public business behind closed doors. Is that not deja vu? Why have they not learned their lesson? They said they would consult with people.
We have to briefly review where we have been in terms of investment in Canada in the last 30 years. We had a Liberal government under Pierre Trudeau that actually tried to discourage foreign investment with the Foreign Investment Review Agency. It had the effect he wanted. It discouraged investment. Then Brian Mulroney came in, in 1984, and changed the style. The Conservatives said we needed investment in Canada, that investment was good for us. They instituted Investment Canada and tried to encourage investment. Then we went as far as signing the free trade agreement with the United States in 1988. A big section, chapter 11, dealt with investment and the rules needed for investment. We expanded that in the NAFTA in 1992 to include Mexico.
At the same time we were negotiating at the Uruguay round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. We were trying to get an investment section there, but there was something like 130 member countries, not all of whom were interested in investment. Their economies were simply too small. The Ivory Coast and many countries in the third world have economies that are simply not ready for investment.
It failed, but there was still a need to have a common set of rules for investment in the same way as we have rules for trade in goods and services. They tried again and the initiative went to the OECD in 1995. It was all great; there was no problem with it. The only problem I see is that we had a Liberal government that did not want to explain it to Canadians.
What is at stake in this multilateral agreement on investment? We need to know. There is growing interest. Other people want to know what is at stake and there is concern. It is entirely possible the entire deal may fall through. Countries like the United States have said that there is not enough in the agreement for them to sign it.
The NDP would love that. We saw what happened in British Columbia when the NDP government was in power from 1991. Investment dropped off every year the NDP was in government in B.C. All of a sudden I see big ads in the Globe and Mail and other places advertising for investments. I guess the NDP government now recognizes it is important.
This deal may fall through because too many countries are saying they need broad exemptions for this and broad exemptions for that. Exemptions are fine if they are in our national interest, but let us define them as closely as we need to, to protect that interest, not take a broad brush and try to paint it so we essentially have a shell deal here.
Another benefit is that Canadian investors are investing abroad in increasing numbers. We had $170 billion of Canadian investment outside our country last year. That was almost equal to what our investment is in Canada. They need the rules that some kind of international agreement would provide, rules that say we have to treat foreign companies in the same way as we treat domestic companies. We can still make regulations and rules, but we have to treat them in the same way. In the event of an expropriation it would be done in a just and timely manner.
I will read a couple of quotes of people who appeared before the committee. First is a quote by Steven Stinson of the Canadian Pulp and Paper Association, a pretty big employer in Canada:
—evidence of increasing trade and investment flows among the three signatory countries suggests (NAFTA) has been of broad benefit.
George Miller of the Mining Association of Canada said:
Trade follows investments. Because of the expertise gained in Canada and the entrée provided by Canadian mining investment—our suppliers of mining equipment and services are welcomed to Latin American countries and other parts of the developing world.
He also said:
Investment is the lifeblood of economic development.
We know there is something like $7 billion of Canadian mining investment now in countries like Chile. Alan Rugman of the University of Toronto, said:
It would logically seem to me—that if we can get an MAI—that has the same rules as in NAFTA, we will have better access for the outward investment in which Canadian firms engage.
Mike Percy, dean of business at the University of Alberta, said:
We live and die by competing in international markets. Our standard of living depends on our ability to be competitive.
He also said:
One of the remarkable things that has happened in western Canada...is the tremendous expansion in tradable services...—business services, environmental services, oilfield services—(that) have been directed not only to the U.S. market but worldwide.
Canadians are gaining confidence in investing outside our country, Canadians like Canadian Fracmaster in Calgary where there are people I know personally working in places like Russia and China and bringing paycheques and dividends home.
What is the Reform position in terms of investment? We recognize the linkage between investment and trade. We recognize the linkage between trade and jobs. It has been very good for us to be part of a NAFTA type arrangement.
We recognize that Canadian companies need a physical presence abroad. To make trade work they have to make some kind of an investment in another country usually before trade can take place. We support free trade in principle. We believe in the protection of private property. We supported the free trade agreement and NAFTA which both have investment rules. We also supported GATT and the Uruguay round. By the way, GATT has been in place since 1947.
Therefore we support a NAFTA style expanded investment agreement, but we want to know that it is a NAFTA style investment agreement. We want to know what we are dealing with.
In terms of an investment agreement we want to see these principles: transparency and openness in multilateral negotiations, and there is no reason why this should not take place; a national treatment, investment protection and effective dispute settlement mechanism; the elimination of performance requirements; the freedom to transfer payments and after tax profits; free movement of key personnel and minimum sectoral exemptions. If we need exemptions, let us define them as clearly as we can.
Sometimes I wonder why the Liberal government is not trying to sell this deal. I am not sure what it is afraid of. We know it was very much opposed to the free trade agreement. It fought the free trade agreement and NAFTA. In fact the present trade minister was one of the biggest proponents of not signing.
I want to read a couple of quotes from what he said in the past. I wonder if that is why the Liberals are so lukewarm to the agreement. In 1992 he said:
I commend (the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca) for suggesting that this House condemn the government for its failure to be completely open with Canadians about its principal goals and objectives in the current North American free trade negotiations.
With all due respect, it is a shame that we have to rely on our newspapers to begin to enlighten not only Canadians but elected Canadians who are supposed to deal with issues on behalf of the 26 million shareholders of this company called Canada.
Why is the House of Commons not debating the parameters of what it is that Canada should be pushing for or what Canada should not be encouraging?
Yet back home, on an issue that is fundamental to the livelihoods of all Canadians, there is silence and ignorance.
I challenge the government. Why is it not involved? The present Minister for International Trade said all those things in 1992. These were very good questions. Why were there not open negotiations? Does the same thing apply in 1998 on the multilateral agreement on investment?
The Liberals do not really believe in free trade. It is either that or an awful lot of arrogance on the part of the government we are facing across the way, the Liberal government.
It is the same kind of deal we had with the Kyoto summit. There were no negotiations with the provinces until the last minute. In fact we had that again with the MAI. The minister did not meet with the provincial counterparts until last week. Does that not sound familiar?
Arrogance, that is what I believe it is. It is shameful. I challenge the government to get off its butt and get out there to explain to Canadians why this deal may be good for them, or at least meet the challenges head on of what people like Maude Barlow and the Council of Canadians are saying.
If they cannot meet those, if they cannot dispel stories that these are very bad for Canada, maybe it is not a good deal for us. I think it is, but the Liberal government has to take up the challenge.
Protection for Canadian companies is at stake, Canadian companies that have increased the amount of foreign investment outside our country by 50% in the last 10 years. That will continue, but we need some rules.
It is clear that investment leads to trade and trade leads to jobs. Mike Percy of the University of Alberta business school said about three months ago in response to the expansion of the oil sands, the tar sands in northern Alberta and the big pulp and paper projects that were under way in the forestry industry that Alberta would require $20 billion of new investment money over the next 10 years.
We need to encourage investment in the country but we need to know the rules and we need to know that Canadian sovereignty is not at stake. If there are areas where we have sensitive industries that need protection, let us protect them but let us define it as narrowly and clearly as we can so that we do not scuttle a deal in the process.
In conclusion, the government has not shown leadership. It must take up the challenge and deal with Canadians, go out and tell Canadians what this deal is all about and why the government is negotiating it on their behalf.
Julian Reed Parliamentary Secretary to Minister for International Trade
Mr. Speaker, I just wonder if the hon. member would tell me what he calls the 35 meetings with provincial and territorial officials since 1995.
I wonder if my hon. friend has forgotten that there are consultations on an ongoing basis and have been since that time. Could he tell us whether he counts that? Maybe he does not count the ongoing meetings.
When we had the delegation from British Columbia before the committee—I believe my hon. friend was there—the official from the department acknowledged that the province had been very well informed on an ongoing basis and commended the government for that.
Charlie Penson Peace River, AB
Mr. Speaker, those comments are very interesting.
Representatives of the provinces were in town last week. There was considerable complaint that they were not part of the process. The government is negotiating on their behalf. While officials from the department may have been meeting on a low level basis, essentially they were not part of it at the ministerial level until last week.
The point I am making, though, is that the public has not been informed. The minister and the department have not been engaged, and I cannot understand why. Why have they not gone out and talked about what the proposed benefits are to Canadians? What are they afraid of?
It is ludicrous. When I talked with the chief negotiator in September and when I questioned the minister in committee in October, I believe, I raised these concerns and said there were people on the other side. I thought he was causing himself a lot of extra work and damage that was not necessary. A lot of the objections were being raised out there that were not accurate but somebody had to deal with them. The chief negotiator at the time said the minister's direction was for them to inform the public. It simply has not happened.
Why are we getting stacks of letters? Why are we getting all these phone calls? It is because the minister has not gone to British Columbia to talk with Canadians about it. That is where the biggest concern is. That is his job. Even Brian Mulroney in the free trade debate and NAFTA went out and sold what he thought were the benefits of that agreement. It amazes me why this government would not be doing that. I cannot understand it.
Alex Shepherd Durham, ON
Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the member from Peace River could clarify something for me. There is no such thing as an MAI agreement. There is no signed agreement. Why is the member from Peace River engaging in the same kind of conspiratorial theory that the NDP wants to bring out? How can we have a reasonable discussion on a non-existent agreement?
As my hon. colleague the parliament secretary said, I have a list of consistent meetings with the provinces, the private sector, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Information Technology Association, the Canadian Federation of Agricultural, the dairy farmers, and so on. There has been a consultative process. The member is falling into the very trap that these people want us to believe, that somehow there is a conspiracy.
Will the member speak to that issue?
Charlie Penson Peace River, AB
Mr. Speaker, I will gladly speak to that issue. It makes my case about the arrogance of this government.
What does the government want to do? Is it going to be another Kyoto type deal where it says by the way, we were over and negotiated deal, this is what it is and here it is folks? That is not good enough. We had lots of witnesses who said that it is not necessary to carry on these discussions in private. If we do not have public support what kind of an agreement is the government signing on behalf of Canadians?
What we do have is a draft. It was a March draft, then updated to May. We know the objectives that Canada was trying to negotiate. What we did not have until November was the list of exemptions that the government was intending to table. It is not good enough to come and say we have arrived at an agreement and here it is.
The way it is going right now, if the government does sign an agreement, unless it makes some changes this could arrive on Canadians' desks. In the Canada-Chile free trade agreement we never saw the agreement. We never had a debate on it in the House of Commons. All we got was a Canada-Chile free trade agreement. The government said by the way, as a result of this we have to amend some legislation to make it work. That is the arrogant style that Mulroney had and that the Liberal government condemned. I just read the kinds of comments it made in 1992. But this government is doing it all over again. It simply is not good enough in these times. Canadians want to be consulted.
Wendy Lill Dartmouth, NS
Mr. Speaker, the member of Peace River is wanting to, if I may use a vacuum cleaner analogy, suck and blow at the same time.
The Reform Party has said in the minority report that it has no trouble whatsoever with the MAI. It simply wants investors protected more. This is a nuisance motion.
It has been the NDP that has supported concerns about the environment, labour, people, the arts in this agreement. All Reform wants to do is get some sort of attention on this issue. In fact, it wants to get more MAI, the quicker, the better.
My question to the Reform Party is why does it not be a bit more honest with its motion and say let us ram this MAI through faster than before?
Charlie Penson Peace River, AB
Mr. Speaker, that is a very interesting approach. As we said during the election campaign in June, until we see the actual agreement, how are we going to support it. We support the concept of a multilateral agreement on investment that has certain principles. That is what we said in our dissenting opinion. I just read those out for members to remind them.
We did say a lot of Canadians had apprehension and concerns about this. Their concerns need to be addressed. We also said in our dissenting opinion that we wanted to have a public debate and a vote in this House of Commons before the agreement is ratified by the Government of Canada.
It is interesting that the people who are lining up against the rules based investment agreement are the same groups that opposed the free trade agreement in 1988. I was not in government but I remember at the time that the sky was going to fall. Everything that could possible go wrong with Canada was going to go wrong. That is what we got from the NDP.
It is interesting that the member for Dartmouth raises the fact that the Reform Party is not very consistent. It seems to me that the NDP has had a few supply days that could have been dedicated to this since September. Where was it on this issue? There are a lot of mistruths being put out to the public, especially in B.C. I challenge the government to deal with those.
I do not think it is very constructive to say, as the NDP government of B.C. did when it came to committee, that Canada should walk away from this deal and not be involved in the negotiations at all. I do not think that is very constructive.
Look at what has happened to investment in the province of British Columbia in the last seven years. It has dropped every year to an all time low. The premier of B.C. is advertising in the Globe and Mail and the Financial Post “we encourage investment in the province of B.C.”. It is because they are in serious trouble there. Business is leaving in droves.
It seems to me that the NDP has had lots of opportunity. It has taken its opportunities in town hall meetings to talk about how bad this is. I has talked about getting out of the free trade agreement with the United States and Mexico. I do not think it would have very much support for that across Canada.
Bob Speller Haldimand—Norfolk—Brant, ON
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me today to debate this issue on the MAI. I chaired the subcommittee on international trade and trade disputes. We had the opportunity to study the MAI for three months before Christmas.
At that time the hon. member was a member of that committee. He knows we heard from some 50 witnesses in the month of November including the chief negotiator, the Minister for International Trade and a number of significantly large Canadian groups which represented concerns on this issue. We brought forward a report on the MAI which is available to all Canadians if they order it from Public Works and Government Services Canada.
Also, this report is on the Internet. It is at www.parl.gc.ca. Also the Department of Foreign Affairs has a site specific to this, www.dfait-maeci.gc.ca. There is all kinds of information on the Internet from all over the world on this issue.
I challenge the opposition parties to show any government involved in these negotiations which has been more open on this issue. We had witnesses before the committee who stated that this is one of the most open negotiations in the history of these government led trade negotiations.
I want to take a few minutes to talk about the recommendations in our report. I feel they reflect what Canadians were telling us across Canada. I agree with the hon. members who say that there is a great deal of misinformation or disagreement as to what is in the report.
I also question the hon. member especially on what he said in terms of negotiation and information being given to the provinces and the territories. There were plenty of meetings throughout the history of these negotiations with the provinces to let them know. Representatives of British Columbia appeared before the committee. The representative who was not a politician agreed that they had been informed by the government.
As the parliamentary secretary said, there were some 30 meetings with the provinces over the years, but there were also meetings with private organizations and non-government organizations such as the Alliance of Manufacturers and Exporters Canada, auto parts manufacturers, auto industry associations, book and periodical councils, the Canadian Auto Workers, Canadian book publishers, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Canada Council for the Arts, the Canadian Environmental Law Association and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture. There were numerous meetings with representatives of these groups as well as correspondence. The list goes on. Clearly there has been a lot of effort made by the government to inform Canadians.
I want to take a few minutes to speak about the recommendations of the subcommittee, as they reflect what Canadians from across the country who appeared before the subcommittee wanted us to tell the government.
Our first recommendation called on the government to continue participating in the MAI negotiations but only if the final text fully protects Canadian culture, the environment, labour standards, health, education and social services, both at the federal and subnational levels; in other words, federally, provincially and municipally.
That is a very important point. There is confusion in terms of what role each level of government can play in this issue. The federal government has spent a lot of time with the provinces in bringing light to this issue.
Our second recommendation was outlined by the previous speaker. It recommends that the government continue and increase its efforts to inform Canadians. That was agreed to by all members. It was felt that the government should be informing the public. I know the government has reacted. Since the subcommittee reported the minister has spoken publicly on the issue. It is incumbent on all members to do that as well. They have received information packages from the government which they should include in their householders to let Canadians know what the issues are.
The third recommendation is to fully involve the provinces. I have already spoken about that.
With respect to the fourth recommendation, it is felt that the government should consider undertaking a full impact study to let Canadians know the impacts this will have on certain sectors of our economy. It is not practical early on in the negotiations to do this because we do not really know what will be in the final text. These issues will be negotiated, but we do not know what will be the final conclusions.
The subcommittee indicated that it wanted to look at this issue again to ensure that Canadians continue to be informed. It is important that the government let Canadians know and it is in the process of doing that with respect to the full impacts the agreement will have on certain sectors.
The fifth recommendation was that for future negotiations there should be an open and transparent process and public consultations and disclosure as much as is practical under the circumstances. I do not think hon. members expect that negotiations such as this can take place with a million groups looking over the shoulders of the negotiators. Frankly, that is not practical. However, what is practical is as these negotiations continue governments can give updates to certain sectors of the economy. They can have meetings, such as those which took place under the WTO when we had farm groups coming in to talk about agriculture. They were actually there in Geneva at the time with the government.
Governments can do these things. I know that governments have asked certain international groups to the OECD, have met with them and have brought them up to date on these issues.
The sixth recommendation was that the definition of investment in the MAI should be clarified and should reflect the approach taken in the NAFTA.
The seventh recommendation was, in the interests of certainty, that governments and investors under the MAI ensure that it reflects which international agreement takes precedence in terms of the rules. As we know, there is the WTO, there is the NAFTA and now there is the MAI. We wanted to make sure Canadians knew before they invested which international agreement took precedence.
Number eight was that we wanted the government to use this agreement to subsequently pursue an investment accord worldwide. We feel it is important for Canadian corporations. I know the opposition likes to talk about these as big international corporations but over the past number of years the smaller corporations have been engaging in the majority of world investment. Canadian small and medium size enterprises are presently the major worldwide investors.
We are not talking about big monoliths. We are talking about small businesses throughout Canada. They need certainty in some of the smaller countries that are not in the OECD to ensure their investments are safe. That investment helps with trade and it helps Canadian businesses get in there.
Ted White North Vancouver, BC
Why aren't you telling the public?