Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure today to speak to Bill C-55. Canada has a longstanding commitment and a tradition of commitment to protecting the Canadian magazine industry. This began in 1961 with John Diefenbaker's O'Leary commission, which was designed originally to develop a plan to protect the Canadian magazine industry against dumping from the U.S. and foreign magazines.
In 1965 the split-run legislation was introduced, again to protect the Canadian magazine industry. This is an issue which combines the elements of the free market with the elements of the importance of protecting Canadian culture.
We are not alone as a country in seeking to protect our culture. Most countries in trade agreements around the world have sought and successfully attained protection for their culture in trade agreements.
The Progressive Conservative government of Brian Mulroney was successful in protecting Canadian culture in both the FTA and in NAFTA. Unfortunately the Liberal government fervently opposed the free trade agreement and now embraces free trade. It has not even utilized the cultural protection instruments within the free trade agreement at this juncture to protect Canadian culture.
The parliamentary secretary said that he had a soft spot in his heart for the New Democrats. The only thing worse than hardness of heart is softness of head. I would argue that the U.S. arguments and threats of what would be illegal retaliation are far in excess of the dollar value of the Canadian magazine industry's advertising revenues in question. This revealed elements of an industry in the U.S. that demonstrated hardness of heart. In response we have a government whose softness of head provided very little opposition and in fact capitulated before the battle even began.
U.S. industry groups that made these threats were not the trade negotiators. They were not representatives of the U.S. government. They were members of U.S. industries with a vested interest. The threats that were made were in unrelated industries. The sanctions would have involved for instance steel and specifically targeted in a rather nefarious manner the home city of the minister of culture. The threats were in the amounts of up to $600 million when in fact the government had determined that $100 million was the actual dollar value of the advertising revenue in terms of Bill C-55.
The minister seemed to be standing firm during this debate and assured the House that Bill C-55 was tenable, was the right thing and would be consistent and defensible in our trade agreements. She provided reassurances to the House that it was a lock-tight agreement and that we would be able to protect the Canadian industry without incurring the wrath of our trading partners.
At the very last minute, after using the House in a very manipulative manner to develop Bill C-55 and providing those assurances, she gave in. It was almost as though the minister throughout that process huffed and puffed and then the Americans blew our house down. It was not the steadfast visionary leadership which is constructive in both protecting our culture and at the same time further promoting and developing our trade relationships with our trade partners.
The Reform Party has had a position from the beginning as being opposed to Bill C-55 and supporting in some ways the illegal U.S. threats. The Reform Party has said that it does not believe in regulating culture and that culture should not be regulated.
This is the same party whose literati have suggested that the book Lolita be removed from the parliamentary library because it is somehow offensive. On one hand it wants to regulate culture and on the other hand it does not want to regulate culture. I cannot quite figure it out. Perhaps we should be able to regulate tawdry publications like Lolita , but we should not be able to regulate culture to protect Canadian jobs and Canadian culture within the confines of our country. I disagree with that inconsistency demonstrated by the Reform Party.
The PC Party and the government of Brian Mulroney had the foresight to protect culture under NAFTA and the free trade agreement. During the free trade agreement negotiations the Liberals were saying that we would lose our culture and that it would not be protected. The Liberals were saying that we would lose our medicare because of the free trade agreement.
Interestingly enough, since 1993 some of the Liberals' predictions have actually occurred. Our medical system has been attacked in an unprecedented manner. Across Canada the medical systems are in a shambles or in crisis in many provinces. That has nothing to do with NAFTA. It has to do with a government whose priorities were clearly not on the health care system in Canada.
We have seen a further example of an inconsistency with the Liberal position. We see the diluted and gutted Bill C-55 potentially threatening Canadian culture. Not only have we seen our health care system attacked by the Liberals and not because of NAFTA, but we are seeing our cultural industries threatened by the Liberals' weak-kneed capitulation. They are not really fighting the good fight and utilizing the cultural protection elements and instruments in NAFTA which the Progressive Conservative government had the courage and foresight to put in there.
That is part of a larger issue. It is one of vision, foresight and understanding of public policy, of not just where the Liberal Party is going in the next election but where the country is going in the next century.
Last weekend I attended the Free Trade at Ten Conference in Montreal. The conference evaluated the impact on Canada of free trade over the past 10 years and of agreements like the FTA and the NAFTA. Donald MacDonald was there. He is a former Liberal cabinet minister and chairman of the MacDonald commission who came forward in the early eighties with a recommendation that the free trade policy with the U.S. be pursued.
It was very interesting to hear him compare former Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and Wilfrid Laurier. He said during his speech at the opening of the conference that Mr. Mulroney had the foresight and vision to do what would help Canadians in a new global economy. He compared Mr. Mulroney to Mr. Laurier except he added that Mulroney was able to achieve more of his vision than was Laurier.
That type of visionary leadership is very important and critical now as Canada faces more challenges in a global environment than we ever have. The protection of culture is becoming an increasingly complicated affair because of the advent of technology, globalization and the pervasive nature of the Internet and the fact that we are increasingly going to develop electronic means to effect change on issues of censorship and regulation in terms of protecting culture.
It is a new world and there are significant challenges. We should not be folding up our tent and going home. We should be rising to these challenges and fighting to protect Canadian culture.
The Liberals are responsible for the capitulation on this very fundamental agreement, this longstanding tradition of protecting Canadian culture which began in the 1960s. This has nothing to do with NAFTA. The Liberals have refused to exercise the instruments of cultural protection.
A New Democrat member said earlier that there are instruments within NAFTA and the free trade agreement to protect Canadian culture. Before utilizing those and before taking every possible step to protect Canadian culture, the Liberals gave in because of threats from the U.S.
This creates a tremendously dangerous international precedence. Whenever there are threats of trade wars, sanctions, or retaliation from any of our trade partners on any range of issues such as culture or the environment, we have demonstrated that we will give in before we exercise to their fullest extent the instruments we have within our trade agreements to defend them. This is clearly inconsistent with the principles of NAFTA and the free trade agreement.
The Liberals' gutting of Bill C-55 is inconsistent with the heritage of the Liberal Party of Canada which in the past has been consistent in the defence of culture. At this juncture the Liberals have turned their backs on a very important heritage. It appears less and less to be the Liberal Party of Pierre Trudeau. It is becoming the party of knee-jerk reaction, Earnscliffe polling, focus group economics and all types of crisis management and poll driven populism. Frankly it is the antithesis of what Canadians need at this juncture.
I mentioned earlier that the government has used parliament as a a pawn in this agreement. It has used parliament in the passing of Bill C-55 as a bargaining chip with the U.S. More offensive than that, the amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-55 have dramatically changed the intent and direction of this legislation. Whether or not the legislation is in order is in question.
When a piece of legislation is changed so dramatically and completely emasculated by a government and when it is not consistent with the general principles and directions of that legislation as passed in the House, it should require a whole new legislative process and a new piece of legislation. Clearly, the end agreement is not consistent with the agreement that the minister and the Liberals were talking about for so long. Their platitude to describe this agreement was that it would allow Canadians to talk to one another and communicate with one another. When the government gets through with this, the only way Canadians will be able to communicate with one another is by telephone.
The government has turned its back on a longstanding tradition, a tradition that was protected by the government of Brian Mulroney in both free trade agreements. In its commitment to Canadians the heritage of the Liberal Party should create a sense of conscience to be consistent in its protection of Canadian culture. Instead of fulfilling the promise to Canadians and instead of the minister fulfilling her promise and commitment to the House that she would stand up and defend Canadian culture, she gave up before the fight.
I am very concerned not just about the contemptuous use of parliament as a bargaining chip and a pawn in this process, but also about the international precedent this will set, that any of our trading partners can bully us with threats of illegal sanctions and retaliatory actions without those claims being researched. Even when legal experts have advised us that these claims and retaliatory measures were untenable and would be illegal in their nature, we have given up. We have given up. That is not the signal we should be sending as we pursue more trade agreements and as we negotiate to play a larger role in a global environment, an environment that is becoming increasingly protectionist.
For instance, both on the far right and the left in the U.S. the protectionist movement is gaining steam and getting stronger. As that occurs and as we demonstrate at every possible turn that we are willing to give in, to cave in and to knuckle under when someone from another country in a specific industry group huffs and puffs, over a period of time the benefits we have gained in NAFTA and the free trade agreement will be lost significantly.
We will not have commensurate dispute settlement. We will not be utilizing the dispute settlement mechanisms that have been put in place intentionally to not only ensure access for Canadians to markets in other countries, but also to ensure that the issues and concerns that are important to Canadians, be they environmental or cultural, are protected.
While there are some who argue that this is some form of protectionism, the free trade agreement and NAFTA were both consistent in providing instruments by which we could defend our Canadian culture. Those are what we should be focusing on. We should be exercising those to the fullest extent. The government has clearly abdicated its responsibility to do so.
If we want to move forward on this and if we want to examine the types of policies that would really help further the competitiveness of the Canadian magazine industry both within domestic sales and potential opportunities for export, in the long run the best trade policy would be a sound domestic economic policy.
The PC Party would argue that the government has to couple its trade policy with a more forward thinking economic and fiscal policy. We have to address the issues of personal and business taxation in Canada.
The Mintz report on business taxation recommended that the corporate tax system in Canada be made more neutral. Treat all industries as consistently as possible and eliminate the non-neutralities and distortions within the corporate tax area.
The Mintz report also recommended that corporate taxes to the greatest extent should be based on profitability. The profit insensitive taxes should be removed. Taxes on capital which have a negative impact on investment and a negative impact on productivity should be removed.
Canada has the third highest corporate tax levels in the OECD countries. Canada has a capital gains tax regime that is twice as repressive as that in the U.S. Our personal income taxes are the highest in the G-7. All these have a negative impact on all types of Canadian enterprise and business, including the Canadian magazine industry.
While we support and believe that, we need to ensure that Canadian culture is protected through the vehicle that has been espoused by parliament since the 1960s through the split-run legislation to protect the Canadian magazine industry against dumping from the U.S. We also believe that the best way in the long term to ensure the viability of the Canadian magazine industry and all industries and small businesses in Canada is to ensure that we have a sound, innovative and forward thinking economic policy. Tax reform should be an integral part of that.
The government should utilize this opportunity now, not just for tax reduction in small politically palatable directions where the government sees fit and focused on a leadership convention or the next election, but in the long term on what Canadians need in the next century. A visionary and holistic approach to the systemic issues within the tax system is needed.
Mr. Speaker, have a good summer.