Mr. Speaker, I must say that I have mixed feelings about this debate. We are debating at second reading Bill C-5, an act to establish the Canadian tourism commission.
The bill states that the enactment will establish a crown corporation to be known as the Canadian tourism commission. Clause 5 states:
The objects of the commission are to
(a) sustain a vibrant and profitable Canadian tourism industry;
(b) market Canada as a desirable tourist destination;
(c) support a cooperative relationship between the private sector and the governments of Canada, the provinces and the territories with respect to Canadian tourism; and
(d) provide information about Canadian tourism to the private sector and to the governments of Canada, the provinces and the territories.
It is difficult for anyone who has an interest in the future of tourism in our country to oppose this legislation. I appreciate that there are other priorities that we should probably be dealing with. I want to say that tourism is a significant economic priority that ought to be pursued.
We know what is swirling around the countryside. We know that this week delegates from more than 100 nations will meet in Seattle to discuss the World Trade Organization's new round of negotiations. Reports tell us that there are tens of thousands of people in the streets opposing that initiative. I hear from my friend from Esquimalt that he is concerned about other social issues, like homelessness, the lack of affordable housing, the aging population and the implications that that has for housing, health care and other social programs. There are one and a half million children living in poverty. We could look at the pulverizing the Canadian cultural sector is taking, to say nothing about agriculture, fisheries, forestry and the fact that our water is being threatened in terms of exports. There are huge national issues before us and today the government is saying that it wants to discuss Bill C-5 to set up the Canadian tourism commission.
It has to be seen in that context. I would just as soon be talking about a lot of other things, but if this is all we have to do for the rest of the day, then so be it, this is what I will talk about and I will talk about it with some relish.
My colleague from Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre gave a very eloquent presentation the other day. I would encourage anyone who was not here to see it, listen to it or watch that very creative and thoughtful performance to read Hansard . I would think it is probably the kind of speech in Hansard that one would want to clip out and place on a placard in one's bedroom.
Some of the details of Bill C-5 do not have to be covered. I want to say that there are other aspects of tourism that we should consider. At the top of the list, in my judgment, would be to complement the work done by the commission. We should be using more staff from our embassies, consulates and high commissions. These Canadian men and women, and nationals from the respective countries, represent Canada on extremely limited budgets. They do the best they can to represent the Canadian tourism sector and to encourage people to visit Canada.
I have visited half a dozen embassies and high commissions in the last few years. I was always impressed with what individuals have been able to accomplish on such small budgets. I cannot help but think that for an extra few dollars and an extra few staff persons to promote Canada, this would be an obvious thing for us to be doing. I want to flag that as the number one priority, that somebody, somewhere, perhaps even the commission itself, should give consideration to using our overseas representatives in a more creative and productive way when it comes to tourism.
The other thing to recognize is that Canada is a vast country. We are the second largest country in the world. When tourists come, they visit all parts of the country. In many parts of the country the attractions, the tourism infrastructure, are provided by very small operators. Often these small operators have a very difficult time accessing capital for tourism ventures because of high risk, seasonality or because they are located in remote areas.
Banks and other lending institutions like to lend money to very secure investments in the big urban centres. When we start talking about a ski hill in a remote location, a tourism development in Cypress Hills, or tourism facilities in all parts of the country, accessing capital is a major problem.
I suggest that we find some mechanism to assist those entrepreneurs, those business representatives who are prepared to risk their capital to build the necessary tourism infrastructure in the rural parts of Canada, to access capital at a reasonable rate and under reasonable terms.
When I say reasonable terms, I mean when an entrepreneur establishes a tourism facility in a remote location in the high Arctic, for example, or in the northern part of Saskatchewan, British Columbia or elsewhere, often the return will take two or three years before it really starts to make any significant inroads in terms of being a profitable operation. That does not make the banks and other lending institutions very happy. We have to find more progressive ways to get capital into the hands of those entrepreneurs.
I have a proposal that I would like to put on the table, and that is that we consider the establishment of what I like to call tourist bonds. They could be in the form of Canada savings bonds. People could invest in the tourism sector, knowing that the moneys generated by those particular bonds would be earmarked and dedicated to developing tourism infrastructure in the more remote parts of the country where people have difficulty accessing capital.
I see my friend from Cariboo here. I think he would support such a notion. If we could find some way to establish a source of capital for entrepreneurs in the rural and distant parts of the country, we would be doing people a real service. It is something they would appreciate and make maximum use of.
The other area we have to consider is the whole issue of transportation infrastructure. Let us face it, at the moment Canada's two major international airlines do a lot of promotion for Canada. Obviously they are promoting their services as well as Canada, but Canadian Airlines and Air Canada, as well as VIA Rail, attract visitors worldwide. Once they are here then other agencies can take over and provide the necessary promotion and information.
If we are serious about the tourism sector, it is important to enhance the tourism travelling infrastructure of the country: the highway systems, the regional airlines and in particular the rail systems.