Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak to Bill C-55, the foreign publishers advertising services act. It is important for Canada that we protect our publishing industry especially in light of the things that are happening in the industry now with global communications and especially the Internet. Pressure will be enormous on all countries to protect their cultures especially from the United States which is the leader in the Internet revolution.
We agree that the Canadian magazine industry needs to be enhanced and encouraged. On the other hand, we are a trading nation. If we restrict other countries from trading in Canada under the terms of our trade agreements then we must expect the retaliation which is now threatened.
There is a fundamental difference in the way the Americans look at this situation and the way we in Canada look at it. In the U.S. this is just a business deal. It is just part of doing business. In Canada it is a cultural issue. Unfortunately our trade agreements are trade, not cultural. There is a great debate now in Canada on whether the Americans can retaliate against many of our industries. I am not at all convinced that they cannot retaliate against us under the terms and conditions of our trade agreements which we did sign and should comply with. My support for this bill will depend on the assurance of the minister that our industries will be protected. So far I am not at all convinced of that situation.
In my riding we have steel plants, plastics plants, forestry industries and textile factories, all targeted industries. A trade war is not appealing to me or the people of my riding which is an area of high unemployment where it is tough to generate new jobs and create employment. Even though the government has assured us there are protections under the terms and conditions of the agreements, the delays in action by the government send a completely different signal to me and certainly shakes my confidence.
I agree that we should have a negotiated settlement prior to the implementation of this bill so we can avoid any of these trade wars that have been discussed. Canada has responded to other complaints from the Americans and we have had to adjust our trade tariff codes, our postal rates, et cetera.
There is no argument about Canadian culture that it must be protected, but if we sign trade agreements we must comply with those terms. In this case interpretations differ depending on who we listen to. While we must stand up for Canadian culture we must again face the terms and conditions of our agreements. To Americans this is a business deal, to Canadians it is a cultural sovereignty issue.
The minister stood here today and called the Americans bullies. I take exception to that. I do not think they are bullies. I think they are using the tools entrenched in the agreement that we agreed to at the time we signed it. agreement.
In October 1997 the World Trade Organization said Canada was wrong. It told us to change our excise tax and tariffs. Canada was given until October 1998 to get our policy in line with the general agreement on services or face retaliation. We are not always right and in this case we were wrong.
In 1995 the government introduced the original Bill C-103 which did not pass the test. Now we are trying it again with Bill C-55 and there is controversy over whether it will be subjected to the same retaliation and action by the U.S. The U.S. ambassador has threatened a billion dollars in trade retaliation in textiles, steel, plastics and wood.
The assurances by the minister are not very convincing. While she says Canada is safe in this issue, she has already announced a delay in the implementation of the bill in her statements and her officials are marching off to Washington to renegotiate this deal in advance. That makes me very nervous.
The Prime Minister was quoted in the Ottawa Citizen as saying: “We think we can justify it in front of the World Trade Organization”. That does not instil much confidence in me. When he says “we think we can justify it” I think maybe our jobs in steel, textiles, forestry and plastics are safe. It hits home in Cumberland—Colchester because all those industries are represented in my riding and are major employers.
Cherubini Steel is a brand new company but is projected to deliver 90% of its products to the United States. Will it ever get started if this happens? Stanfield's clothing, a brand name known all over the world, has been in business for 100 years.
Many mills have a tradition of shipping their wood products to the United States. Poly Cello Plastics, Ropak Can-Am and Canadian Polymer, all industries in the plastics business, would ship many of their products to the United States. Does the Prime Minister's statement “we think we can justify it” give them confidence? I do not think so. I would not want my job depending on the statement “we think we can justify it”. It is just not good enough.
The Conservatives have been consistent in support of the Canadian magazine industry. We even supported it at second reading of this bill. But my vote will depend on the confidence in the minister, the resulting actions in the next few days and the results of those negotiations in the U.S.
There is another thing that does not instil a whole lot of confidence in me. An article in today's National Post which says that top bureaucrats were dispatched to D.C. to avert a trade war. We have not even passed the bill and we are trying to avert a trade war.
Another statement by the minister of international trade is “We are willing to entertain various options that both protect our mission statement but also address the American concerns. I think we should be doing this”. This does not instil confidence in me. It certainly does not instil confidence in industries in the targeted areas or their employees.
We are not playing games here. This is a billion dollars worth of business. By saying we think we can justify it in front of the World Trade Organization is just not enough.
Again, my support for this bill will ultimately depend on the confidence and the assurances of the minister and the Prime Minister. So far, neither of them has given me the confidence to vote yes on this bill. I am not saying that I will vote no, but so far there has been nothing to convince me to vote yes.
I resent the attitude of the government. The insinuation is that anybody who questions or opposes this is not a supporter of the Canadian magazine industry or is not a supporter of Canadian culture. That is not true. We are talking about a bill. We are not talking about an industry. If we vote against the bill, we are not voting against an industry. We are not voting against Canadian culture. We are voting against a bill which we think was drafted improperly and will result in retaliation.
It is obvious that the government is apprehensive about its position on this just by its actions and concerns. Based on previous rulings against Canada in the World Trade Organization, comments by the Prime Minister that we think we can justify it are not enough.
Regarding any actions by the minister of heritage, again Madam Speaker, I ask you, would you want your job depending on someone saying “we think we can justify it”?