Mr. Speaker, the purpose of Bill S-26 is to remove from the laws of Canada obsolete provisions that restrain Telus Communications from operating throughout Canada.
Bill S-26 is a standard housekeeping bill in many ways. It would repeal an act to incorporate the Western Canada Telephone Company, known as the BC Tel act. It thus would remove restrictions that hinder BC Tel from competing across the country. These are restrictions only BC Tel faces.
This constraint was put into place in the bad old days of provincial monopolies. Today it is contrary to the competitive climate in which the telecommunications industry works in Canada. The Competition Act, the Telecommunications Act and the Canada Business Corporations Act will still apply to Telus.
We support the bill because it is consistent with Canadian Alliance policy that government should foster a healthy economic environment for the benefit of consumers by pursuing free and open trade at home and abroad, including eliminating interprovincial trade barriers.
The telecommunications industry is Canada's fastest growing industry. According to the Canadian business performance report revenues grew 50% in this industry between 1998 and 1999. This is tremendous growth. It is one of the strongest assets in Canada.
Canadian society is being transformed by the increasing use of technology. In their homes, businesses and schools Canadians are embracing technology and the changes it brings. Computer use in Canada jumped to a 36% national average in 1998 from 29.4% in the previous year. Governments in Canada at all levels are changing the way they do business by incorporating this new technology into their practices. Telecommunications companies provide the important ramp on to the information highway.
According to the Canadian Bankers Association, between November 1999 and January 2000 in Canada approximately 12.7 million adults, or 56%, used the Internet. That shows an increase of 13% since 1997. We can see this is a growing sector. The 43% who are not currently on the Internet anticipate getting online within a couple of years. We definitely need the infrastructure the telecommunications industry provides.
However it is not all good news today. Too many bright Canadian entrepreneurs have been forced to go to the United States to find capital for their ideas. Too many Canadian companies have been forced south or overseas by high taxes. Canada's personal income burden is the highest in the G-7. It is 21% greater than that of the United States. High taxes combined with a stagnant standard of living and an abysmal Canadian currency of a 65 cent dollar have been leading many individual Canadians to leave our country, in increasing numbers. It is quite disturbing.
This summer Statistics Canada reported that over 62,000 Canadians left the country this year, enough people to populate a medium size Canadian city. That is an increase from the 58,000 who left last year. This is accelerating, if anything. We know the U.S. high tech companies continue to look for people around the world. That will continue unless we get our house in order in Canada.
While those people were packing their bags the Liberals were denying that the brain drain existed. As recently as June the Prime Minister publicly rejected the notion that Canada was losing its best and brightest. He insisted that the brain drain was only a myth being perpetuated by his critics.
This year 65,000 Canadians do not agree with that. The brain drain problem must be addressed. The Canadian Alliance fair tax plan would address the main reasons behind the exodus. The Canadian Alliance would increase income for all Canadian taxpayers no matter how much they make. We would remove 1.4 million Canadians with the lowest incomes from the tax rolls entirely. We would encourage investment and savings for retirement. These measures would encourage Canada's best and brightest to stay and work here at home.
It takes quite a bit before a Canadian wants to leave this country. Our friends and families are all here. It is a major disruption. For the people who have immigrated to Canada over the years we know it has been a major traumatic experience. These people did not do it willingly. They were being driven out of their countries.
In addition to relieving the onerous tax burden, Canada needs a strategy to compete in the global economy. The Canadian Alliance would reduce business taxes and build a positive climate for doing business while ensuring Canada has a skilled workforce and a modern infrastructure. Part of that infrastructure is telecommunications.
Investors need confidence that government is getting the economic fundamentals right, and I would suggest that is not happening now.
To encourage more high tech investment in Canada's economy, the Canadian Alliance would lower payroll taxes so that employees would take home more money and businesses could hire more employees.
We would cut the capital gains tax on investing, which would take away obstacles that restrict investment and which would encourage the economy to prosper. We only need to look at the situation in Ireland as an example.
We would cut taxes on the high tech industry. The current system penalizes the new economy. The Canadian Alliance proposes to tax all types of companies equally.
In this day and age Canadians must be able to access government information and services online. We would appoint a senior adviser on technology to oversee a project to ensure that Canadian citizens could access the Government of Canada online.
We would increase support for Canada's research granting councils and co-ordinate scientific activities in all government departments to ensure that science, not politics, prevails. Canadians should not be left behind in the rush to do business online. Canadian regulations need to be modernized to reflect the reality of a new technology.
Bill S-26 is a straightforward piece of legislation which would allow Telus to compete on a level playing field with other Canadian telecommunication companies.
In an increasing global market deregulation of this kind is long overdue. In fact we have quite a bit better legislation and trade agreements in terms of international trade agreements than we have here at home because of our interprovincial trade barriers which restrict Canadians from doing business across provincial borders. That needs to be addressed. It is long overdue. I would suggest the government has not made much progress in that area.
It is time to give Telus the legislative freedom to do business in Canada. Therefore the Canadian Alliance is supportive of the bill and will be supporting it at all stages to allow it to go through the House today.