Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-5, an act to establish the Canadian Tourism Commission.
When I looked over the bill, I paid particular attention to the objectives, and my first reaction was that the government had said it was getting out of tourism in a throne speech a few years back. And now, in the House of Commons, in the Parliament of Canada, the government introduces an act to establish the Canadian Tourism Commission.
From the outset, it is rather incomprehensible. Why is the federal government bent on interfering in this sector, which is outside its jurisdiction? Why is it bent on using a Canadian tourism commission to do so? I looked to the objects of the commission as stated in the bill for some answers.
The first object is to sustain a vibrant and profitable Canadian tourism industry. I told myself that the Canadian tourism industry is really the sum total of the tourism industry in each of the provinces. In Quebec, we have a tourism policy which was developed some years ago and which has been very successful.
Since the 1978 summit on tourism, Quebec has made important progress as a tourist destination. In 1996, revenue was $5.4 billion. In Quebec this industry comprises 29,000 businesses and over 100,000 workers concentrated in the sectors of accommodation, food services, transportation, travel agencies, entertainment and recreation.
As well, it is the 6th ranking Quebec export next to aeronautics, with international exports of $1.9 billion. Tourism investments in Quebec total $1.3 billion and its annual tax revenues $1.2 billion. As well, it offers considerable employment to young people, as 28% of workers are under the age of 25.
Quebec has therefore equipped itself with a policy to intervene in this sector which is a provincial jurisdiction. It has the means required, and has set in place some highly pertinent structures, such as the regional tourism associations. It therefore has an approach to tourism and to services to tourists that has been highly successful. We attract tourists from all over, other Canadian provinces, the United States, South America and Europe. We boast a number of truly interesting tourist attractions and it is not mere chance, but rather the result of a well-organized tourism effort, that has led to worthwhile results.
The tourism industry in Quebec is guided by Tourisme Québec, a department which directs government actions relating to tourism. There are 19 regional tourist associations, like the one I have already referred to, and their mandate is to group together those involved in tourism in their region, encouraging concerted efforts and co-ordinating the development and promotion of tourism in the region. I believe they are doing this very successfully.
I will give as my example the Lower St. Lawrence region, the one I represent here in the House of Commons. It is a region that had problems 10, 15 or 20 years ago convincing tourists passing through our region to stop and spend some time there, instead of simply heading on to Percé and the maritimes. Creation of the regional tourism association has really borne fruit.
We eventually established tourism commissions in several municipalities, participated in the effort to promote our tourist attractions, proposed nominees for national tourism awards across Quebec, because there is a contest to choose the province's best tourist businesses, and so on. Thanks to this promotion and emulation, the Lower St. Lawrence has become a major tourist area in Quebec.
We have very distinctive attractions. For example, there is our heritage. We have families that were among the first ones to settle in Quebec, such as the Lévesques, the Ouelettes and the Pelletiers. They organize family reunions in our region. These families have been in Quebec for 250 or 300 years. They get together and tour our heritage. We also have an extraordinary religious heritage. It is one of the most vibrant in America, thus making it another interesting attraction for those who come to visit us.
In addition, we have a whole network of hotels and restaurants with a well established reputation at the national level. I am thinking of the hotel Lévesque and the hotel Université in Rivière-du-Loup. These facilities can accommodate a fairly large number of people and are nationally renowned for the high quality of the food they serve.
We also have a network of inns and other attractions, including ecotourism. Ecotourism is a sector promoted by Quebec with the result that we now have a very good structure at the Canadian and European levels, and we do not need a parallel structure.
In our region, ecotourism involves anything that has to do with nature, including the St. Lawrence River. The new Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park will attract tourists from all over the world. That is an interesting prospect. Mountain climbing is also becoming a popular activity in Saint-André-de-Kamouraska, among other places, which offer incredible opportunities.
Therefore, we made the lower St. Lawrence a reception area and we established an area people want to visit in terms of new tourist values and what they want to see. The result—and it is not just with us as an ATR, but it applies to all regional tourist associations—is the promotion of the appeal of these regions.
I think Tourisme Québec's mandate already contains everything necessary to ensure that we manage our tourism industry well. When we look at the objectives of the bill, we realize that there is duplication. Tourisme Québec talks of “orienting and co-ordinating public and private action in tourism”.
The board of directors they want to establish for the Canadian tourism commission is the same sort of representation as for this commission. They will select people representing a province from within the population of the province, but these people may not be the actual delegates of the province, and this fact may cause problems.
The mandate of Tourisme Québec also provides for “the development of a knowledge of tourist products and clients”. It is also found in the mandate of the Canadian tourism commission as “to support the improvement and development of tourism”. I spoke of this earlier: “to inform clientele on Quebec's tourist products and to develop and operate tourist facilities”.
We can see there are many things that are similar to the mandate of the Canadian tourism commission. The federal government has told us that it wanted to get out of this sector, but it is now presenting a bill to establish the Canadian Tourism Commission. One wonders why. The reason is stated under the second goal of the act: b ) market Canada as a desirable tourist destination;
We are talking here about tourism in Canada and from abroad. That is a roundabout way to engage in propaganda.
The hidden motive of this bill is to promote and increase the visibility of the federal government and to reinforce national unity, one of the preferred themes of this government. I think it is going beyond what is normal and acceptable.
The promotion of Canada that is being done by the federal government in Canada does not deal only with tourist attractions, but also with the value of Canada itself as a federation. That is a way to compensate for the weaknesses in the operation of the federation, all the more because this government lacks flexibility and is unwilling to change.
Instead of trying to meet the needs of the various members of the federation, it is content with setting up tougher hurdles in the path of the sovereignist or nationalist movement in Quebec, which should be able to express itself and and develop to its full potential. We see this in all the federal government's areas of activity.
Today, the Canadian tourism commission is one more tool for promoting the Canadian federal system. When the stated object is to promote tourism within Canada, it is very clear that this is the goal.
If the bill had been limited to promoting Canada in international markets, the tourism structures of each province might perhaps have agreed to establish a common fund for international promotion.
But when the government starts talking about a domestic mandate, and tells us that the Canadian tourism commission will organize and promote tourism within Canada, we know very well that, further down the road, the present Liberal government will use these words in the bill as justification for promoting not Canadian tourism but the Canadian federal system. I find this unacceptable.
The objects in the bill also include the following: c ) support a cooperative relationship between the private sector and the governments of Canada, the provinces and the territories with respect to Canadian tourism;
No account has been taken of what I mentioned earlier concerning the tourism development policy of Quebec, which held a tourism forum in 1997.
In the fall of 1996, the government held a summit on the economy and employment. This was followed by a tourism forum in March 1997, which brought together over 200 people representing all sectors, products and regions, as well as the main departments having anything to do with tourism. The forum produced a number of observations, consensus, and various courses of action.
Quebec's current tourism policy incorporates all the conclusions of this meeting and the work done by the chair of tourism of the Université du Québec à Montréal at the forum, the consultations of public departments and agencies by Tourisme Québec, and the August 1997 consultation of the tourism industry.
So, the province of Quebec has come a very long way in terms of tourism, thanks to a tourism policy that makes sense and which has concrete goals.
The policy includes the priorities and intervention strategies developed by both the government and the industry in order to ensure the growth of tourism businesses and to maximize the contribution of the tourism industry to our economic, social and cultural development in the year 2000.
We, Quebecers, have trouble feeling at home within the Canadian Tourism Commission. We do not really understand why the federal government is promoting this vision of tourism development.
Let us turn to the constitution of the Canadian Tourism Commission and its board of directors. There will be twenty-six directors, including the federal deputy minister of Industry. The chairperson and the president will be appointed for five years. Sixteen directors from the private sector will be appointed by the industry minister for a term of not more than three years, with the approval of the Governor in Council and under the advice of a committee set up by the board of directors.
Seven of these 16 directors will be tourism operators and nine will be private sector representatives. Seven public sector directors will also be appointed.
This is a huge structure that will work in parallel with what we already have in the province of Quebec. Again, we feel that our money goes to finance two parallel operations, one from the Canadian federal government and one from the Quebec government. We do not need this kind of duplication. We know from experience that this way is not right for us.
Clause 26(1) of the bill reads as follows:
26.(1) The Commission may enter into an agreement with the government of any province or territory to carry out its objects.
This means that, before entering into an agreement with a province, the Canadian Tourism Commission may want to make sure that the goals of the agreement are in line with its own. These goals might be different from those in the tourism policy of Quebec.
The language issue also comes into play if we want to attract French-speaking tourists to Quebec. It naturally appeals to people from France, Africa and many other countries. There is a tradition. In setting up this service, we must make sure that we are not required at the same time, under an agreement with the Canadian Tourism Commission, to pursue other goals in terms of mobility and the clientele we want to attract, in return for benefits and funds.
In its present form, the bill contains many elements the Bloc Quebecois finds unacceptable.
The government should take the time to go and see what is being done in other jurisdictions, get reacquainted with the policy developed by Quebec in the area of tourism development and look at what has been accomplished in this area. If after that it still wants to introduce a bill, it should be one that gives enough manoeuvring room to those who are already organized in this regard, and makes sure that they can access the necessary resources to implement their own policy.
This sort of action, this recognition of Quebec's dynamism in the area of tourism development are not reflected in the Canadian Tourism Commission Act. This leads the Bloc Quebecois to the conclusion that it cannot support this bill in its present form.
It would need to be either referred to a committee for in-depth examination or quite simply withdrawn, but it is totally unacceptable in its present form. It is unacceptable not only because it requires many amendments, but also because its very basis, the very mandate the government assigns to the commission, will not yield satisfactory results for Quebec.
It is not worthwhile for Quebec to get involved in the action to be carried out by the Canadian tourism commission under its present mandate. Certainly, on the practical level, there can be areas of co-operation, but in the long term there is no future for Quebec in the way they want to organize tourism within the commission and the way the present federal government perceives it.
There is one other aspect I want to address, which I have not touched so far. It is one often found in legislation passed by this government in recent years. This concerns the way accounts will have to be rendered to the government by the commission. It is part of a trend on the government side, and a fine example is the millennium scholarship foundation. I use this as an example because we had concrete information on it in the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development yesterday.
Two officials appeared before the Standing Committee on Human Resources to speak on interventions in the field of education, which is not under federal jurisdiction, but which the federal government would really like to invest in. I asked them if they were aware of the differences remaining between the Government of Quebec and the Government of Canada in resolving this issue. They indicated that they were not.
The representatives of the department did not know what point the millennium scholarship negotiations had reached. They were unable to tell us, because the foundation had inherited the mandate. This is the same sort of situation we could end up with in the case of the Canadian tourism commission and, furthermore, this is an area where little action may be taken.
This is an area where a lot of contracts are handed out. It is an area where firms are told, for example, that the government wants to establish trade policy to sell Canada on Asian or American markets, and this sort of thing costs lots.
They could be sectors of activity where things must be done properly, but because of the way in which the government opts out of its responsibility for administering sums of money, there will be an opportunity for patronage without any requirement for accountability before the House of Commons.
I think that even for a federalist, even for someone who thinks it is a good idea for the Canadian tourism commission to invest in a provincial sector, questions remain. Questions on the relevance and fairness of making it very easy to reward one's friends.
I will conclude by stressing again that the Canadian tourism commission does not have the proper mandate to adequately promote tourism in Quebec.
We have developed tools to promote tourism in Quebec and we have a concerted approach. While there can be levels of services, common initiatives and exchanges in that area, there is no need for a superstructure such as the Canadian tourism commission, which will get involved in jurisdictions where Quebec is already very active.
I think Quebecers will see with this initiative, as with others, that Canadian federalism does not serve them properly, it does not provide them with what they expect. For all these reasons, the Bloc Quebecois will vote against the bill.