Madam Speaker, it is my turn to speak to Bill C-4, an act to implement the Agreement among the Government of Canada, Governments of Member States of the European Space Agency, the Government of Japan, the Government of the Russian Federation and the Government of the United States of America concerning Co-operation on the Civil International Space Station and to make related amendments to other acts.
Here we are at the end of a millennium, and when we stop to think about it, the rate of progress of space research and the discovery of space has been phenomenal, especially in recent years. From the moment man first started to go into space, it was only a matter of decades before a space station was built, as well as an orbiting station, permitting astronauts to go into space for months at a time to conduct tests and experiments.
Obviously that advances our research considerably and provides opportunities for important discoveries. It also raises—we have to be honest about it—questions by people about the cost of these projects and results.
It remains very difficult to measure, but it is clear that the effects are very significant. The potential for discoveries there remains infinite.
The research done on the orbiting station will be carried out in a specific climate of research in which the law of gravity does not apply in the same way and where the work will be done in a context other than that on Earth. Therefore, it is very clear that this opens windows of opportunity for incredible research.
In addition, all of the technology needed to build a station, to do this work, to go into space, is clearly becoming transmittable and reusable for other purposes, I would say in a more down to Earth fashion.
In order to put into perspective the progress that has been made possible by this use and discovery of space, let us look at the whole field of communications. It would be hard to imagine how information could be moved rapidly without all those satellites we now have.
A great deal of money had to be invested in the technology for launching these satellites, putting them in service, recovering them if necessary, ensuring they are operating properly, determining their lifespans, and so on.
Now, a new window has opened with the international space station, the lifespan of which is predicted at ten years or so, although according to some sources, it could be much longer than that. It must be remembered that the MIR station was expected to last about five years, but was in service for over ten. It is fairly obvious therefore that the space station will last longer than the predicted ten years.
The involvement of the Government of Canada has been considerable, compared to our country's financial capacity. Clearly, the main contribution comes essentially from the U.S., which plays the lead role in this project. Russia also is heavily involved, which raises questions about the future, knowing the very hard times Russia is going through financially.
Obviously, the initial participation required of them was much greater than it will be in the future, but there are still some grey areas, particularly because of Russia's role and its financial difficulties, which are raising some questions.
Assembly has now started and we are very, very proud that a fellow Quebecer went on the mission and played a part—I am referring to Julie Payette—and we want to congratulate her on her amazing career. We are very proud of everything she has done.
Nor would we wish to forget another Quebec astronaut, Marc Garneau, who also went into space, as well as the Canadian astronauts, including those who will soon help to install the orbital station's Canadarm, which will play a key role in assembly operations. A Canadian system will also play a pivotal role in the repair and maintenance of the orbital station.
So, even though our participation is modest and scaled to what we can do as Quebecers and Canadians, we can take pride in contributing to a project such as this one, which is furthering the development of technology. No one knows yet how significant the discoveries made at the station will be.
With all these partnerships, the next step is to adopt some very down to Earth legislation, such as this bill stipulating which criminal law will apply in the case of an incident, or offence as it would become, inside the orbital station. This brings us to the question of which legislation will apply in space. This is one of the issues addressed by Bill C-4.
I also wish to point out that Bill C-4 flows from an agreement signed by several countries that appears as a schedule to the bill. In this connection, however, I have one criticism to make of the government. Even though we are in favour of the bill, it is still a bit regrettable that these agreements were not approved by parliament.
Since we support the bill, we therefore cannot say that the agreement should not have been debated in this place. It should have been approved by the House of Commons and not simply signed.
The Liberal tendency in this area since they have been in government is somewhat deplorable. Moreover, my colleague from Beauharnois—Salaberry has introduced a private member's bill, C-214, the purpose of which is to ensure that treaties are passed and ratified by parliament. Clearly we would have liked this to have been the case for Bill C-4.
To describe the contents of the treaty appended to this bill as its schedule, I could list the signatory states. schedule Obviously, there is the Government of Canada, and the governments of the Federal Republic of Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, the French Republic, the Italian Republic, the Kingdom of Norway, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland, all of these being member states of the European Space Agency, the Government of Japan, the Russian Federation and the United States of America.
In all, there are about fifteen signatories. The agreement was signed nearly two years ago, and calls for its terms to be implemented within two years of initial signature, and for the necessary legislative measures to be passed within two years.
At the present time, not all countries have initiated the process. Russia is one of these, which is why I referred just now to questions and concerns being raised about its future role in the space station. There are already very specific agreements with Russia; the partnership is not the same as with the other member states. Russia has its own space in the space station.
For example, Canada's laboratory time will be a percentage of the non-Russian space. The Russians have their own space, their own module, laboratory and equipment. There is, however, an agreement on co-operation between the Russians and the other partners, but Russia still represents a potential cause of delay because of its participation and the related funding.
The articles of this agreement—I will not read all of it, as members will find it appended to the bill—first define the purpose and scope of the bill.
Subsequently, they set out the international rights and obligations. Definitions are given. The following are also mentioned: cooperating agencies, registration, jurisdiction, controls, ownership of elements and equipment—which must be defined in such a partnership—management, detailed design and project development, station utilization, as well as operation.
There are also references to rules governing the crews, transportation, telecommunications relating to the orbiting station, project evolution, funding, which in all projects, is a key element, a cross-waiver of liability—the countries have agreed to sign such a waiver—and so on. Then we move on to the sections on customs, a convention on responsibility, data and goods and exchange and the conditions for withdrawing from the agreement, should a member ever decided to withdraw.
There are other sections on intellectual property, since this is very important where research is concerned. In space, there is a notion of intellectual property which may be debated and become the subject of litigation on occasion. However, many applications of research done in space will be used in additional research on Earth. Discoveries will be made there for basic research too, which will find application in other research projects that will be carried out here, back on Earth.
It must also be understood that, even though the astronauts will be there for periods of between three and six months, this is a short time, since research is being carried out over the longer term. Some research will be done there, tested and carried out, but it will be developed much further back on Earth.
There are also provisions on criminal justice. This is what I was talking about earlier and they are to be found in the bill as well. The measures on criminal justice pertain to any incidents that might occur on board the orbiting station. It is fairly straightforward. If ever a Canadian astronaut were to commit an offence, he would be subject to Canadian law, except in the case of homicide.
In the case of a sponsored astronaut, such as a Brazilian sponsored by the United States, American law would apply. That is our understanding of the bill, anyway. There are also sections on the entry into force, amendments, and operative effect between the parties.
That about sums up what is in the agreement signed almost two years ago. As 1999 draws to a close, its adoption is near.
Since some time has passed, the signed agreement probably could have been introduced here first and formally adopted, after which Bill C-4, which establishes the related measures, could have been passed. Parliamentarians could thus have commented on the obligations with which they agreed and those with which they did not agree.
We are not challenging the obligations. We are saying that we do not like the precedent, which has denied the House an opportunity to comment. It is true that we are having our say now with respect to the agreement included in the schedule to the bill, but the bill per se has to do with its own clauses. The agreement as such is contained in the schedule.
Earlier, I mentioned costs and the involvement of the federal government in the orbital station. The space agency itself has an annual budget of about $300 million. This is the funding the agency receives from the government.
Here, we are talking about a forecast of $1.4 billion. One could always argue about the spinoffs, but it is believed that they could reach $6 billion and include some 70,000 jobs, on a yearly basis, for the duration of the project. That is a lot of money and a lot of jobs.
Even if the spinoffs are not as great as anticipated, we are still talking about significant amounts of money that would help businesses, in Quebec and in Canada, achieve some degree of success. Quebec is doing rather well in the aerospace industry. The space agency, which is located in Saint-Hubert, is a very good thing for the aerospace industry.
The work done by companies in these sectors and the contracts that they can get with regard to orbiting station projects allow them to develop a critical mass of researchers and people to do the work. It also allows these companies to use their products for civilian applications.
Some members alluded to numerous technological, medical or scientific achievements and discoveries resulting from initiatives that were originally funded through aerospace projects, whether past ones or the one that we are discussing.
Very clearly, we will support this bill. I know that discussions took place to proceed quickly. We certainly have no intention of delaying the adoption of Bill C-4. However, it would be good to still have the legislation go through the normal process, in other words, to have it referred to a committee after second reading, so that members can get answers to their questions.
Some of us here took part in Space Agency and departmental training sessions on the bill. The Standing Committee on Industry committee will be able to go into the matter further, examining everything related to it, such as timeframes and budgets. It is normal after all to take the time needed in order to ensure that it is passed.
It is therefore normal for the bill to go through the regular stages. If the government had wanted the bill passed more quickly, it ought to have convened the House earlier.
I will conclude now by telling hon. members that we will be voting in favour of Bill C-4 on second reading. We also intend to support it on third reading. There are a few questions we will want to go into in committee, including the meeting of deadlines. We will have the opportunity to discuss matters with those who appear before the committee, particularly Space Agency and departmental officials. This bill will eventually come back to us for the third reading stage. I believe the committee will ultimately move to accept it and return it to the House. It is our intention to again support it.
My congratulations to all those who work on projects relating to the development of the space station, whether Quebecers, Canadians, Americans or others. Who knows, one day one of us, or a friend or family member, or one of our constituents, may benefit from the discoveries resulting from these research projects. Science will show us all the potential future effects of this undertaking, and I must say that the possibilities are endless.
In conclusion, I wish to again indicate our intention to vote in favour of Bill C-4.