House of Commons Hansard #112 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was gst.


PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members


PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, next time, I will present all my petitions at the same time. I wanted to give others a chance before continuing, but I see that it is more complicated. Next time, I will present them all at once.

I am pleased to present a petition calling on the House to pass a resolution aimed at stopping the monopoly of the international oil cartels in order to reduce predatory pricing of crude oil, and to allocate sufficient funds for research into alternative energy sources.

That is the first petition I wish to table at this time.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition I am tabling is signed by constituents of the riding of Berthier—Montcalm, who are calling on the government to withdraw subsection 13(5) of the Canada Post Corporation Act so that letter carriers can form a union and earn a decent wage.

I am pleased to table these petitions on their behalf.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

June 12th, 2000 / 3:20 p.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River Ontario


Derek Lee LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

I ask, Mr. Speaker, that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members


The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-5, an act to establish the Canadian Tourism Commission, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

Canadian Tourism Commission ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

York Centre Ontario


Art Eggleton Liberalfor the Minister of Industry

moved that the bill be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to)

Canadian Tourism Commission ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

York Centre Ontario


Art Eggleton Liberalfor the Minister of Industry

moved that the bill be read a third time and passed.

Canadian Tourism Commission ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Scarborough Centre Ontario


John Cannis LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to be able to stand in the House to talk about successes. I am referring to successes that we achieve when we all work together in partnership for a common goal.

The proposed act before us will confirm the advantages to Canada that flow from co-operation among partners working together to address issues of national importance.

Bill C-5, an act to establish the Canadian tourism commission, is another example of this government delivering on its promises. Hon. members are being asked today, for example, to approve the creation of a new crown corporation. If the House agrees, much more than a new corporation will be established. By supporting this bill, members from all sides will be telling Canadians that the federal government has the ability to work co-operatively to produce significant economic benefits for every region of our country.

Tourism is a very unique sector. Although it is led by the private sector, it contributes to Canada's public policy objectives and melds national, regional and, of course, local interests.

Improved partnering between the private sector and governments will result in a greater impact on our target markets in the face of much sharper international competition, for example. Already one of our country's largest industries, tourism, generates thousands of jobs and economic growth in every part of our country, in every province and territory, in aboriginal communities and and many municipalities. Let me point out that last year alone the sector brought in more than $50 billion and employed well over half a million Canadians right across our country.

I would also like to point that out that this sector is essential to regional development plans of governments at all levels. As hon. members can see, the success of tourism sectors and public policy are very much intertwined.

Next, let me comment on the Canadian Tourism Commission and its successful partnership between the private sector and government.

It was the tourism industry's call for improved partnerships that was a key factor in the Prime Minister's decision to establish the original commission in 1995. The private sector contributed so significantly to financing and marketing activities that the original projections for partnership contributions to match federal core funding were very soon exceeded.

The partnership has endured and matured, and the proposed act to turn the commission into a crown corporation will solidify this partnership and provide the conditions for which it can continue to prosper.

The creation of the crown corporation is the result of consultation, negotiation and agreement, let me point out, among all the partners, many of whom sit on the commission's board of directors.

As hon. members know, the purpose of creating the crown corporation is to equip the commission with the legal, financial and management tools that it needs to carry out its mandate even more effectively. Currently, as a special operating agency, it cannot fully operate as it must, using for example private sector management and accounting practices.

First, crown status will give the commission the increased financial flexibility it needs as a marketing agency with strong international competitors.

Second, crown status will give the commission greater flexibility in managing the human resources required to respond to the marketplace and its partners needs.

Third, as a crown corporation the commission will have an even more effective board of directors. The management of the commission will no longer be split between Industry Canada and the board. Under the proposed act the board will manage all the affairs of the commission.

Hon. members can see what can be achieved when there is a willingness to work together and co-operate. Here is an example of government making a vital contribution while respecting and expediting the work of the private sector partners who are taking the lead on this.

We have a winner on our hands here: The small and medium sized businesses that make up the tourism sector benefit. The government's job and growth strategy is continuously advanced to create jobs for Canadians. The new corporation will further demonstrate our commitment to the renewal of federalism.

Of course, all Canadians support tourism. Domestic travel accounts for 70% of the sector's revenue. Every year, in ever greater numbers, Canadians are discovering their home, thanks in large part to the broad marketing efforts of the commission in collaboration with its partners. Beyond the mere addition of dollars and cents, we are richer for this, as we learn more about the geographic and cultural diversity that our country has to offer in the various regions. This should be encouraged on all fronts.

In closing let me say that I am confident that my colleagues here will understand and know the effectiveness of Bill C-5. I look forward to their support on this bill.

Canadian Tourism Commission ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.


Charlie Penson Reform Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak today on Bill C-5, an act to establish the Canadian tourism commission.

I and my Canadian Alliance colleagues are opposed to the bill because it would establish one more unneeded and unnecessary crown corporation. In fact, we want to see the vast majority of the crown corporations that currently exist privatized and out of government hands. I therefore disagree with the parliamentary secretary when he says that people in the House will be pleased. We are not pleased with it and we do not want to see it turned into a crown corporation.

The Canadian Alliance has deep philosophical issues with crown corporations. We believe that most of the functions performed by our current crop of crown corporations are unnecessary and should be carried out by those who can best perform the task most cost efficiently, with the greatest accountability to the owners and with the least likelihood of incurring public debt.

That simply does not match up with what the government is proposing in terms of establishing another crown corporation, this one the Canadian Tourism Association. From this viewpoint, there are very few good reasons to create and maintain another crown corporation. In fact there is overwhelming evidence that in the vast majority of cases, private sector ownership and control is better than government dabbling in business.

EDC is another one of those. We have looked at EDC a number of times and have seen a lot of shortcomings with it. I will be using that example in many parts of my speech today.

The Canadian Alliance believes that crown corporations should be converted to the public sector institutions, left as a division within a government department, or discontinued altogether. This time we are told it is the Canadian Tourism Commission that requires crown corporation status to better serve the Canadian tourism industry and thus the Canadian economy.

We have been studying this issue at the industry committee for some time. We have heard from a lot of witnesses, but I have not been convinced and I do not think that even the parliamentary secretary was convinced of the overwhelming need to turn this tourism association into a crown corporation.

I do not think that case has been made. In fact most of the arguments from the witnesses that I heard at committee seemed to support the privatization of the Canadian Tourism Commission if anything. They told us that it needs to be taken out from under the arm of the Department of Industry because it needs flexibility, regulation and speed in decision making.

I suggest we cannot have it both ways. It cannot be both a government department and have the flexibility of a private business. If it wants to be under government and have government rules, it should stay just as it is now without converting to a crown corporation.

The advocates of the transformation claim that the new crown corporation will be able to advance the cause of tourism more efficiently and effectively, more rapidly than is the case with the Canadian Tourism Commission as it currently operates. Of course, as a division of Industry Canada, CTC is directly accountable to the Minister of Industry. The minister therefore is accountable to parliament. That may gum up the system a little, but that is the way it should remain until the commission is privatized. Either it stays as an arm of industry or it should be privatized. That is our view.

The CTC, the Canadian Tourism Commission, is a relatively young, special agency created during the economic downturn in 1995. Only five years ago the government told us that this was the be all and end all. The Canadian Tourism Commission should be just that, an association between the private sector and the Government of Canada. Now it is telling us that did not work and what is needed is a crown corporation.

The commission was set up with a mandate to promote Canadian tourism both domestically and abroad. The Canadian Tourism Commission receives about $65 million of taxpayers' money every year. Approximately one-fifth of that goes to salaries and operating expenses; the rest goes to the promotion of marketing activities.

We were told in committee that in 1995 when the commission was first established, government revenues were about 70% of the total and 30% was from the private sector. But we know the economy has turned around and that the tourism industry has turned around. We were told in committee that that formula is exactly reversed and 70% of the revenues now come from the private sector and only 30% from government. I welcome the day that the Canadian Tourism Commission can be privatized and just be an agent of the private sector.

By the way, Canadian Pacific hotels is one of the major shareholders in the organization. One would wonder why it cannot do its own tourism promotion and why government is needed in it at all.

The Canadian Tourism Commission has a 26 member board of directors, 16 of whom are directly appointed by the Government of Canada. This is hardly an arm's length relationship. There are representation requirements for the various parts of Canada, the provinces and regions. The way the distribution takes places as to which parts of the tourism industry ought to be represented is spelled out under the current arrangement. Bill C-5 which would turn the commission over to a crown corporation will not change any of that.

Now the Canadian Tourism Commission wants to enter into business arrangements to sell its logo and other revenue generating schemes. It wants to have the authority to open bank accounts. It no longer wants to go through the complicated bookkeeping style or tendering process required by treasury board. Finally, it wants to hire and fire according to the Canada Labour Code and not the federal public service employment act. It seems to me it cannot have it both ways. Either it has to have the disciplines of government that are currently in place or else it should be a private institution and have the kind of flexibility it wants.

If government rules are too slow and inhibiting, which is probably true, why not go the whole way and let it operate on its own as a private commission? It seems to me that empire building with the help of the taxpayers' money is what this is really about. What is really behind this push to a crown corporation at the Canadian Tourism Commission is empire building and the Liberal propensity for state ownership.

As I did during the second reading debate on the bill, I refer the House to an Industry Canada paper entitled “Canada in the 21st Century-Institutions and Growth-Framework Policy as a Tool of Competitive Advantage for Canada” to show the different points of view. The Industry Canada report argues for the rapid divestiture of crown assets and seems to directly contradict the arguments behind the creation of a crown corporation under Bill C-5.

Why would it hire people to do a very long study entitled “Canada in the 21st Century” which tells the government to get out of many areas in the economy and get out of crown corporations but on the other hand it is now trying to go to one in the Canadian Tourism Commission in Bill C-5? It does not seem to make any sense. Maybe they are a little dyslexic in Industry Canada.

We cannot say that there is no role for the federal government in tourism promotion; there probably is. Tourism is Canada's 12th largest revenue generating industry. It directly and indirectly employs hundreds of thousands of Canadians, but I and my Canadian Alliance colleagues are firm, not in the form of a crown corporation. Why would I say that? Our experience is that there are still a number of crown corporations, although the Conservative government under Brian Mulroney asked that a number of those be turned over to private institutions and that happened.

There are still two crown corporations which I am familiar with that have given me a very bad experience. They are the Export Development Corporation and the former Canadian Wheat Board, which is now a mixed corporation and is still a bit of an oddball. It was a crown corporation of government. As a farmer in Alberta, I had lots of experience with the Canadian Wheat Board. There was absolutely no transparency. It was a system where we had to sell our product to the Canadian Wheat Board even though many people did not want to do that. It was kind of a state run agency like we saw in the Soviet Union. Many farmers in western Canada want to get out from under that.

Members might ask why government would want to continue. It is a very good question. I suggest that the lack of transparency is one way the government can look after quite a few friends in this process.

We have asked a number of questions in the House about the Export Development Corporation. The government keeps telling us that it cannot disclose that and that there is a confidentiality issue for the countries it lends money to.

We understand that it has a $2.6 billion contingency reserve for bad loans. Why would it do that? We understand that through the Paris club Canada has written off a number of loans. It has a very strange arrangement through the Canada account which Export Development Corporation administers for the Government of Canada. Export Development Corporation gets credited with the forgone interest even though it did not make that loan.

I suggest that of the $800 million in revenues it has had in the last 10 years, most of that has come from another pocket in the Government of Canada. Treasury board and finance are rebating the Export Development Corporation. In fact, it is not making any money at all but we cannot tell for sure because it will not disclose that to parliamentarians.

When I ask the Export Development Corporation and the Canadian Wheat Board for information, they say they cannot tell me that even though I am a member of parliament. They say they report to the minister. In the case of the Canadian Wheat Board, it was the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. In the case of the Export Development Corporation, it was the Minister for International Trade.

We asked the minister involved for the information. What we got from the minister is, “No, I am sorry. It is an arm's length agency between us and that crown corporation, therefore we cannot give it to you”. It is a very convenient arrangement that should not be continued.

Let us examine what happens when crown corporations are finally liberated from the heavy reins of government. There have been a few that have finally made it out from the famous spider's web.

Canadian National used to lose about $3 billion a year every year for decades. During the time I have been here in the last seven years, CN finally made it out on its own. It finally became privatized and it has absolutely blossomed. It is in the process of acquiring property in the United States, other railways, to make a continental railway system. It is making lots of money for its shareholders. Why could it not make money when its shareholder was the Government of Canada? I suggest that government does a poor job in business and should get out.

Another crown corporation that made it out was Air Canada. Look what has happened to Air Canada. It has acquired Canadian Pacific as a result. Now it is making lots of money. It is essentially a monopoly in the airline industry in Canada.

Petro-Canada is another one that used to lose money. What happened when it came out from under government? It is making money and competing effectively.

Those corporations had a magical transformation from perpetual money losers and drains on the public treasury to productive members of the private sector. And when they do that, they start paying taxes to the Government of Canada and taxes to the provinces. When they were crown corporations they never had to pay taxes, nothing that draconian of course.

In keeping with tradition, I suspect that the cost of running the Canadian Tourism Commission as a crown corporation if Bill C-5 goes through will be higher in five years than it is now.

When I was first briefed about the bill it was suggested that moving the operation to Toronto was a distinct possibility. That is the kind of empire building I am talking about. I can just see the empire building logic behind that move. Where is it now? It is in Industry Canada at the C.D. Howe building just down the street.

I suggest that the commission will not be there very long. It will not be acceptable for the new Canadian Tourism Commission as a crown corporation. It will require some new, prominent, downtown Toronto location, top dollar real estate of course, to reflect the new status of a crown corporation. It will also probably mean that salaries will have to go up so that the current 62 commission employees can afford to live in Toronto, not to mention the cost of relocating all those folks.

That is just another major problem we have with crown corporations. They are not accountable. Sure they must answer to the responsible minister, but the rest of us, especially the MPs in the opposition, are forced to wait until the end of the fiscal year or when they table their annual reports to get the information, if there is any information we can get at all. Whenever we try to get that information we get the runaround in the House of Commons and from the crown corporations themselves.

MPs have gone through an exercise in futility in dealing with crown corporations. Therefore why would we want to vote in favour of creating another one?

It is clear that Canada needs to promote tourism and market our beautiful country as an ideal vacation destination for ourselves and for those from abroad. It is not clear however that we need another crown corporation to do this for us. That is why we are opposed to Bill C-5 and will not be supporting it.

Canadian Tourism Commission ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.


Nelson Riis NDP Kamloops, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a real pleasure to speak in the House today, a packed House thanks to the people in the gallery and my colleagues on this side.

Unlike my friend who just spoke, we will support the legislation. It is not often that I have some positive things to say about the government but I am forced to say some positive things today because Bill C-5, an act to establish the Canadian Tourism Commission turning it into a crown corporation is something we support.

I want to explain the reasons we support it and then make a few critical comments that are aimed to result in some positive change.

The Canadian Tourism Commission was founded in 1992 after a very extensive consultation process with tourism operators across the country. Something had to be done. Basically, people did not know much about Canada outside Canada. There was not much of a marketing effort around the world to encourage people to visit Canada, so this commission was set up. Because the government wanted to get something under way quickly it was easier to create an agency of government than to set up a crown corporation.

The reality is, this agency is working quite well. It works in partnership with the private sector. We have a whole number of private sector tourism operators involved, we have provincial and territorial governments involved, and of course the federal government is involved. This partnership of different levels of government plus the private sector has resulted in a very dynamic organization which is promoting Canada around the world in the sense that we get people to come to Canada and then it is up to other groups, both the private sector and provincial governments, to attract them to Quebec, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, P.E.I. or wherever.

Something had to be done. If there is one criticism I have at this early stage it would be that this crown corporation to promote Canada abroad needs to have a larger budget. To take an ad out in one of the big Japanese newspapers, for example, is very costly. To run a series of advertisements in some of the big airports around the world is very costly. If we are going to do this, then let us do it properly, and that is going to require money.

When it was operating as an agency it was very cumbersome. It required a whole number of departments to have input, and to make the changes that are required today in promoting tourism means that we have to move very quickly.

For example, what was in place was a massive marketing program targeted to attracting people living in the Asia-Pacific region to visit Canada. We know how quickly that economic collapse happened in the Asia-Pacific region. Overnight, bang, it was all over, there was an economic collapse and obviously not many people were visiting Canada, so they had to shift.

Because it was such a cumbersome organization it took weeks and months of fiddling around before it could actually shift to target a different market. This will be facilitated somewhat because of the crown corporation status that it will now have.

I look to two provinces which have mirror legislation. British Columbia, the area from which I come, has Supernatural British Columbia. It has been a magnificent crown corporation. It has done wonders. We have people coming from all over the world by the tens of thousands into what has to be probably the most attractive airport anywhere in the world. You have been there, Mr. Speaker. I think you would agree that the Vancouver airport is world class, second to probably no airport in the world, and people are coming by the tens of thousands, every month, travelling to beautiful British Columbia, based on the advertising and the promotion that the crown corporation is doing, to say nothing about the province of Saskatchewan and the Land of the Dancing Skies organization, which again has been very successful.

The evidence we have would indicate that moving to the status of a crown corporation is a positive move based on what we are seeing provincially.

I think all members agree that tourism is certainly one of the growth sectors of our economy. We know what we have. When people find out what we have, whether those people are coming from Switzerland, China, Indian or Mexico, they come to Canada and they are amazed at what we have to offer.

We know because we live here, but I suspect even we could benefit from these programs to learn what it is like in other parts of the country: people from the west going to the east, people from the east going to the central part, people from the central part going to other parts of the country. I had the pleasure last year of spending some time in Canada's north. I must say that it left a lasting, lifelong impression on me, in terms of what that part of Canada has to offer.

I have two quick points. One is about revenues. My friend from the Canadian Alliance referred to it, but I think it bears repeating.

In 1995, 70% of the revenues for this operation came from government and 30% came from the private sector. When I talk about the private sector I am talking about Air Canada and some of the big hotel chains that obviously stand to benefit from people coming to Canada on their vacations and so on. In 2000 the percentages have flipped around. There is now 70% private sector financing and 30% government financing. We can see the popularity and how well this is moving in terms of taxpayer money.

There is a critical point that I want to address this afternoon. I do not want to detract from some of the positive comments I have just made because we will support this bill at third reading. However, the other day the Liberals were talking about a program called Public Works Festivals. If a festival is going on in a community or a region, the Government of Canada will sponsor it to a point to help local organizers.

I note that 72% of the money went to festivals in Quebec and approximately 20% went to festivals in Ontario. British Columbia, with 13% of the population of Canada—and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans will really be keen to hear this statistic—received about 2.5% of all of the festival sponsorships.

Questions were asked in committee about why this imbalance exists. We were told that not many applications were received from western Canada. When I asked how people in western Canada knew about the program, if it had been advertised in western Canada, the answer was no. If a program is not advertised, how do we expect people to apply for something under the program? It is bizarre, but it points out one of the weaknesses in our system.

If we are going to have a system in place to promote and support festivals across the country, it should be equally accessible to Canadians regardless of where they happen to live. The fact that 70% of the money went to festivals in one province, obviously at the expense of other parts of Canada, is simply not fair. We have to ensure, and perhaps the board of directors of the crown corporation will be helpful in ensuring, that there is some equality across the country. There has to be some resemblance of fairness and equity in these programs in Canada.

I see that my friend the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is here. I know how keen he is on some of these issues, so I would like to throw out a bit of a challenge to him. Over the years that I have been a member of parliament I have been very aware of the various federal programs that apply to provincial jurisdictions; in other words, federal programs that receive applications from provinces right across Canada, including the territories. This is what I have found, and I know members will be astonished at this. British Columbia has approximately 13% of the population of Canada, and yet I am unaware of a single federal program from which British Columbia receives 13% of the funding. I have made it a hobby over the past 20 years to study this issue. For 20 years we in British Columbia have been getting skewered. We always get the short end of the stick.

Canadian Tourism Commission ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

An hon. member

What about fisheries?

Canadian Tourism Commission ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.


Nelson Riis NDP Kamloops, BC

Fisheries is a little different because we are on the west coast in British Columbia. Saskatchewan and Manitoba, being more central, do not get big chunks of fisheries support. I am talking about a program that should have some equality across the country.

I could tell my hon. friends in cabinet sitting across the way and members of the Liberal caucus that sometimes I hear questions like: Why do Liberals not do better in the west? Why do Liberals not do better in British Columbia? One of the reasons is because British Columbia never gets its fair share of anything. It is frustrating.

The other day a number of Liberals from British Columbia admitted that something is wrong with the picture. They admitted that B.C. never gets its fair share. Members of the opposition have said this and we now have members of the government caucus saying it as well. Perhaps something will change. It is a wake-up call.

While we support this piece of legislation, we in British Columbia hope that steps will be taken to ensure that if programs are laid out across the country to support festivals or to advertise various parts of Canada people should remember that there are different parts of Canada and they should all get at least fair consideration in the international promotion that will go on as a result of this crown corporation.

With that I will conclude my remarks. Perhaps some of my friends across the way would like to ask me a few questions.

Canadian Tourism Commission ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Unless there is consent, there will not be that privilege because the hon. member had the advantage of rising on a 40 minute speech, which obviates the need for questions or comments.

Canadian Tourism Commission ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Jim Jones Progressive Conservative Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I am delighted to speak to Bill C-5, an act to establish the Canadian Tourism Commission. This is a particularly significant bill because it involves an issue that is of utmost importance to the Canadian economy: the future vitality of the tourism industry.

For the information of hon. members, just to give an indication of the magnitude of the tourism industry in Canada, consider the following facts.

Tourism spending in Canada reached $51 billion in 1999. The industry employed in excess of 500,000 people in 1999, clearly proving to be one of the leading growth industries within the Canadian business community.

Additionally, according to the Buchanan report on tourism, it is estimated that for every $1 billion of tourism revenue generated in Canada a further $230 million is generated for the federal government, $160 million for provincial governments and $60 million for municipal governments, all in tax revenues.

The continued vitality of the tourism industry is crucial for our country. Anything that can be done to improve Canada's lot in the share of the worldwide tourism industry can only be a positive step.

Bill C-5 will see the Canadian Tourism Commission transformed from what it currently is, a special operating agency, into a crown corporation. The PC Party believes that this is a positive, desirable change that merits our full support.

The Canadian Tourism Commission was originally established by an order in council in April of 1995. Its mandate was and continues to be to plan, manage and implement programs that generate and promote tourism in Canada. The bill before us, which calls for the CTC to become a crown corporation, represents the natural evolutionary step in the developmental process of this successful agency.

In Bill C-5 we find a number of suggested changes to the Canadian Tourism Commission. Many of the proposed changes will result in fundamental differences for the commission, but all of them are designed to provide greater flexibility, thus allowing the CTC to better serve the Canadian tourism industry.

Perhaps one of the most persuasive reasons to support graduating the CTC from a special operating agency to a crown corporation lies in the fact that this move will result in increased flexibility and a greater role in the promotion of tourism for the CTC. First, moving the CTC forward from an SOA to a crown corporation will make the CTC more like a business, which is good. Under Bill C-5 the CTC will have greater administrative, contracting, financial and personal flexibility. This will bode well as the Canadian Tourism Commission strives to meet the new challenges in the Canadian tourism industry.

The new challenges in the tourism industry will be numerous. I will mention four of the primary challenges that the tourism industry will face in the coming years. First, there will, doubtless, be an economic challenge to the industry. This will be a challenge that will require a greater role for actors in the industry and national and regional economies. As a crown corporation the CTC will be free from undue administrative burdens that impede the necessary progress in the industry. This, along with the national reach of the CTC, will enable it to answer the economic challenge.

Second, the major players in the tourism industry will have to convince their respective private sector partners that they are viable in the long term. Clearly, as a crown corporation the CTC will meet this challenge.

Third, the tourism industry in Canada will face stiff competition from the likes of our giant neighbour to the south and from other prime destinations.

Fourth, and perhaps one of the most challenging of all challenges for the Canadian tourism industry, players in the tourism industry in Canada will have to battle the stereotypical foreign view of Canada. I am referring to the stereotypical view which pictures Canada as safe and clean, but equally as cold and boring. Certainly, answering these challenges will be difficult.

As a crown corporation whose mandate it will be to market Canada as a great tourism destination, I am confident that these challenges will be met with success.

The Canadian Tourism Commission will have as its purpose the marketing of Canada as a desirable tourism destination. Toward this end it will be supportive of co-operative marketing relationships between the private sector and governments. It will also provide state of the art information about Canadian tourism to the private sector and to government.

I am convinced of the ability of the CTC to meet the challenges to compete against other appealing world destinations and to battle some of the mistaken images foreigners have of Canada as a destination for tourism.

I am equally convinced that the CTC as a crown corporation will be better equipped and better motivated to serve the Canadian tourism industry. The characteristics of crown corporations are such that they should be on firmer ground as they seek to produce results.

Crown corporations function like the private sector firms with which they compete. This will motivate the CTC to maintain excellence in its service delivery because it will be in competition with other firms. Just as important is that under this bill the CTC will have to balance and consider the benefits of its public policy objectives with the cost efficient delivery of goods and services. The PC Party believes that this notion of fiscal responsibility, and to a very real degree frugality, is best achieved by having the CTC exist as a crown corporation.

Hon. members of the House do not have only my word to support the bill. In fact a number of stakeholders appeared before the Standing Committee on Industry, on which I sit as a member, as witnesses in support of Bill C-5. For instance, we heard from a representative from the Tourism Association of Canada. This association represents the various sectors within the tourism industry, be they small, medium or large tourism businesses, destinations, attractions, transportation providers, adventure tour operators or any other sector. Clearly it is a group with wide ranging membership, not compromised of just any one player in the tourism industry. This group is home to all major and minor players in our national tourism industry.

It says a lot when this group, the Tourism Association of Canada, has characterized Bill C-5 as pivotal. The bill is not only pivotal for the future success of the CTC but for the entire tourism industry in Canada according to the Tourism Association of Canada. Those are strong words and even stronger support from the industry's key players.

The testimony of this association is representative of the bulk of witnesses we welcomed to our meetings as our committee discussed and considered Bill C-5. Their judgment was entirely positive, as hon. members have certainly surmised by the result of our clause by clause consideration of the bill.

In closing, I will add only a few points. It is important to note that there is general support from the provinces and territories for Bill C-5. The provinces and territories play a vital role in the tourism industry and without their support Bill C-5 cannot be successful. This is why I am particularly pleased to see that there is support from their end.

The other factor in the equation is the private sector. Is the private sector on board with this initiative to transform the CTC from a special operating agency into a crown corporation? In one word the answer is yes. Throughout the private sector there is very strong support for Bill C-5.

As a businessman I realize the importance of strong linkages among stakeholders. The fact that the provinces, the territories and the private sector have signed on to this initiative is encouraging for two reasons. It is an indication that the Canadian tourism industry will continue to grow and expand as a successful component of the economy. The wide ranging support for this bill is such that it can only result in success for the Canadian tourism industry and for the tourism players. With the help and co-operation of the major players in the tourism industry, the Canadian Tourism Commission will be better equipped to serve our tourism industry. The PC Party will support Bill C-5.

Canadian Tourism Commission ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.


Pierre Brien Bloc Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, today we are debating Bill C-5, which has been around for a while and which deals with the Canadian Tourism Commission. The purpose of this bill is to transform the CTC from a special operating agency into a crown corporation.

I must tell the House from the outset that the Bloc Quebecois will not be supporting this bill for a number of reasons, which I will state during my speech.

First of all, we must ask ourselves what are the objectives pursued by the government in passing such a bill. There has been a growing tendency over the last few years within government in general, but even more so within this federal government, to take public funds and put them into an agency of some kind outside the government, an agency which is often run by friends of the government and which, for all intents and purposes, is not accountable directly to parliament.

In the case of the Canadian Tourism Commission, the federal government puts $65 million into that agency each year. The board of directors will be appointed by the minister, who will maintain that power. However, if there is ever a problem or if there is a policy with which parliament as a whole disagrees, we can anticipate what the minister's answer will be when he is questioned about that. He will say “Look, they are independent, they are the ones in charge of managing this Crown corporation”. The government will just wash its hands of all that.

Let us not forget that the money going to this organization comes from the taxpayers and that parliament will essentially lose control over the management of public funds.

What was the reason given for taking such an approach since the beginning of the debate on the Canadian Tourism Commission over a year ago, especially during the last weeks in committee? Flexibility. Commission and government officials say “More partnership with the private sector will be possible. It will be simpler and the rules will be more flexible”. As if it were impossible to figure out why a special section of a department is not able to give itself more flexible and faster rules for partnerships with the private sector.

One example has been given. It was the only one, because concrete examples have been very rare, as if mere mention of a vague principle were enough to make it true. We were told that partnership would be easier and flexible. Oh really, and why? No witness had an answer for that, except for the one who said “For example, selling advertising or soliciting revenue is easier for a crown corporation than for a special service of the government. If, for example, there is an internet site looking for business or selling advertising, that will be easier”.

There is a risk of this happening more and more in future. Why not look at the internal rules that make this partnership complicated to set up? All the other departments might benefit from this. The government as a whole could be made more efficient. We are not required to create a crown corporation in order to do so.

If the federal government wants to be more efficient, let us talk about tourism in its broadest sense. Who is involved in this area? There is the Canadian Tourism Commission, which receives $65 million yearly. There are the economic development agencies. In the case of Quebec, it is Economic Development Canada. There are also other agencies for the other regions.

These too spend money to fund projects locally, whether infrastructure, promotional plans or any other program. In Quebec, Canada Economic Development is spending money. The Canadian Tourism Commission has money to promote Canada in broad terms. That said, part of its budget still goes for promotional purposes within Quebec. We were told it represented 7% of its budget.

I will discuss this a little later in greater detail. There is also Attractions Canada, which spends $4 million annually. Who manages Attractions Canada? The Minister of Public Works, the one managing the CIO and administering another $40 million budget, the federal government's sponsorship budget, whose presence is strongly felt at festivals and tourist events.

This same minister, who might be described as being in charge of patronage, or nearly, has two tourism budgets in his control. If the federal government wanted to be more effective, it could first put this money into a single agency. I am saying this without getting into a debate over whether the provinces would be in a better position, or, in some cases, the municipalities that do this. We would much prefer a Quebec tourism promotion plan, sold under the aegis of Quebec, with our own events, our own festivals and our own label. Our tourism product is sold differently from Canada's.

In case the Liberals forget, even if they are the ones reminding us from time to time, though as little as possible, we are distinct and different. So we do not sell Quebec as they sell Canada internationally. We would prefer to have that money along with our taxes in order to manage it ourselves.

That said, as we know about their obsession with visibility and their desire to manage, let them clean up their own yard. Let them dig in the pockets of the minister of public works to see if there is anything there.

I am going to give the example of Attractions Canada. Because, after a long battle in committee, we managed to have these obscure people from the Attractions Canada program testify.

Just look at how things work. These $4 million are given to the Everest group, the buddies of the party, so that it will manage that money on behalf of the federal government. The Everest group is not subject to the same constraints, to the same transparency rules and so on. The government gave $4 million to buddies. They must get a cut on that. I do not know how much, but we will eventually find out. And these people sponsor or display advertising on huge Mediacom billboards, and it is signed Attractions Canada.

Strangely enough, the government did not create a crown corporation for that purpose. It would rather create partnerships with the private sector. It has such partnerships with Cadbury, Via Rail—although Via Rail is not quite a private company and the government gives it a lot of support—and others.

With the money he has in his pockets, the Minister of Public Works is capable of creating partnerships with the private sector. But it did not seem to be the case at Industry Canada. So, a crown corporation was established.

The pattern will be the same. Money will again be given out, and who is to say that it will not also become some kind of a propaganda agency? So, the minister of public works will award contracts to his buddies, while appointments will be made at the agency. We are very concerned by all this.

I do not doubt that there are people within the commission who are full of good intentions. But once the directors have been appointed or approved by cabinet, on the recommendation of the Minister of Industry, might they not conveniently forget that they are accountable to the minister?

I too am concerned about the principle of accountability in the management of public funds. I have in my hands the 1998 report of the Canadian Tourism Commission. I will not show it to the House, because props are not permitted. I challenge the House to find in this annual report the public money contributed. The $65 million from taxpayers is mentioned nowhere in the report.

We see how they spent all the money they collected—the partnerships with the private sector and so on—but nowhere is it mentioned that this money comes from taxpayers, to the tune of $65 million for the federal contribution. There are also contributions from provincial governments and municipalities, and other public agencies. So there is a real problem.

There is also the case of the Office du tourisme et des congrès du Grand Montréal, a group that appeared before the committee. These folks appeared, claiming to be private partners. I was very surprised and I asked questions.

Of this organization's $15 million budget, $1 million comes from each level of government—the municipality, the Government of Quebec and the federal government. That accounts for $3 million. Another $4 million comes from private enterprise, and $8 million comes from a tax on hotel rooms in Montreal of $2 a night.

Mr. Lapointe, the former Liberal minister who now directs the office, told me in committee that this $8 million was private funding, as though no legislation had been necessary to give him the right to levy a tax of $2 a night. I am not kidding—that was what I was told.

Sorry, but when the figures are added up at the Commission on interventions by a body such as that, and the bulk of them are classified as private interventions, I say wait a minute. We must make not mistake about the Canadian Tourism Commission: it is funded largely by public funds, whether federal, provincial or what not. But for the taxpayer, that is all the same.

Obviously, there will always be a certain number of events and partnerships the commission will be publicizing. Let us look at the whole thing here. In our regions, what organizations or events really benefit?

There are the major events, the major festivals, which manage to get included. A highly select few at the top. As for the others, they do not manage to gain anything from the spill-over effect, and still less so from small direct patronage programs such as Attractions Canada. What events in Quebec regions such as Abitibi—Témiscamingue or others even know such a program exists?

When we asked the public servants in charge, their answer was “All people have to do is to consult our internet site. They will perhaps find that there is some information available”. Yet they did not seem to be very clear themselves on how Everest determined its criteria for handing out money.

There are a lot of problems. Before taking the $65 million in public funds from the commission and making it into an institutionalized crown corporation, some internal housecleaning would be in order.

Representatives of the Professional Institute of the Public Service also came to testify at the hearings. For the rest, for the most part, those who came to defend their viewpoint were former members of the board or people still close to the commission. I do not blame them. They did their job. These people were all connected with the commission.

The Professional Institute of the Public Service appeared near the end. At the same sitting in which we were to begin voting on the bill, we heard these people in the morning, the first to speak out against the bill, and the bill was expected to pass before the end of the session, as if it served no purpose to take a step back and consider their arguments. The government took care to have them testify at the end.

I will read a few quotes from their brief:

The government makes much of the success of the commission since 1995 in promoting and enhancing tourism. Since this is such a success story now, why is there a need to change the crown corporation status?

A very good question. A little further on:

As proposed, the Canadian Tourism Commission will provide nothing new, except for the extra implementation cost. Bill C-5 is a measure that is so vague that employees' rights are not stipulated.

They went on a little further in their brief:

It is the institute's position that an internal adjustment of the special operating agency's powers is the way to continue and add to the success story that began in 1995.

They were therefore saying “Since we are told everything is fine, a few small changes would help us to improve things, without having to create a crown corporation”.

A bit further on, they say:

Therefore, there is no need at this point to engage in any creation of a crown corporation, since the agency can continue to undertake the dialogue, research, and marketing that are necessary in the tourism industry.

Their brief concludes as follows:

The institute feels that the extension of crown corporation status to the Canadian Tourism Commission is a completely unnecessary move, based on the fact that no particular advantage vis-à-vis the tourism industry will be gained.

This is an initial brief. There are also other people who appeared before the committee and questions were asked which, in my view, show how confused the federal government's approach is.

When Mr. Francis, the commission's chairman, appeared before the committee, I asked him about Attractions Canada, which I mentioned earlier. I asked him whether Attractions Canada was part of the Canadian Tourism Commission. He told me it was not. I asked him what then was it was part of and he told me that he thought it was part of the Canada Information Office. That was close; he had the right minister, but it was not the Canada Information Office; it was the Minister of Public Works and Government Services.

I then asked him how the various departments got along together, and this is what he said:

“It is an ongoing challenge, something that we have been attempting to do over the last two or three years”.

People say “We are looking at all this. We do not have much of an idea of how it works, but we are looking at it”. So they came to sell us on the merits of creating a crown corporation out of the commission, but without even having done their own homework within the federal government.

I raised a lot of interesting questions but, in the final analysis, they said they were fully in agreement with what was going on.

I asked some witnesses to give me concrete examples of how partnership with the private sector would be easier if they were a crown corporation. These were people who were very close to the action, people who had sat on the board, or those working in tourism. They had no examples to offer.

I asked Mr. Lapointe of the greater Montreal tourism bureau “Are you familiar with Attractions Canada?” His answer was “Vaguely”. I then asked “Are you familiar with its mandate?” He started to explain to me that there were billboards, and that his understanding was that the purpose was to do this or that type of promotion.

How is it that people involved year in and year out in tourism are not fully familiar with the mandate of Attractions Canada, which spends dollars to promote tourism?

How can it be that they are not familiar with the rules for intervention by the minister through his sponsorship budget which, I might point out in passing, ensures that Quebec gets the lion's share? Yes, there are some programs where Quebec gets more than its share of propaganda, whether in billboards or in Canada Day spending. In this area Quebec gets more than its share.

However, when the time comes to ask the Minister of Industry, for instance, to do his part for a project such as the creation of a semi-conductor plant in Montreal, then the answer is: that takes time, it is complicated, they do not want to set a precedent by using a different approach in Quebec. But when it comes to flags, or what approximates a flag, or to nurture the friends of the government, it is a different matter.

I invite anyone who is interested to reread all that was said during the brief week we studied the matter in committee to see that nothing specific was put before us to enable us to conclude that this step of turning a special service into a crown corporation was necessary.

Naturally, there are the clichés “It is a normal stage of development”, “Partnerships will be easier”, “It will be very flexible”. But in practice, there is no specific proof. When we scratch the surface, we see that there are problems left and right. And I have not spoken in detail of Economic Development Canada, because its representatives did not appear before the committee.

However, in order to hear the others I mentioned, whether it be Attractions Canada, or opinions on sharing jurisdiction, it took a real battle in committee to get the minister himself to come and present his bill. They wanted, on the pretext that it was the end of a session, to hustle it through at committee stage, so as few people as possible would be heard on the potential problems.

Economic Development Canada, this federal government agency whose intervention criteria we will never clearly know, had long been an issue with me. Last year, they toured the various regions of Quebec, and in all the press releases, it was obvious there were funds available for tourism. In certain regions, ours for example, we have learned that they are putting money into one project in particular in order to help fund a regional development or marketing plan, but the criteria are not known in advance to those in the area.

We are told that $1.2 million is available, but we are not told how it will be allocated. When government funding is involved and there is a desire to manage it transparently, how can those in the business be expected to know that they are eligible and apply?

Economic Development Canada tells people to send in their applications and it will examine them. What criteria will apply? Nobody really knows. And then, to justify refusals, all we are told is that it did not meet their priorities. Oh? What priorities? Perhaps my region is an exception, but I do not think so. I think that this goes on in many regions in Quebec and I am certain that it also happens elsewhere with regional development agencies.

There is therefore a serious problem. For a minister who says he is concerned about promoting tourism, he should look at what is going on in his agencies, and do a little housecleaning so that his interventions are a bit more effective.

We know that the federal government will not withdraw from a sector such as tourism. The furthest it has gone is to say in the throne speech that it would try to establish new models of partnership with the provinces. Given its obsession with visibility, that is what it will continue to do. But it should at least start by striving for effectiveness and co-ordination in what it does. That would already be a big step forward.

In short, for reasons of efficiency and out of respect for those who pay taxes and who want transparency in the management of public funds, we cannot support a bill like this, especially when we look at the parallel interventions by the government in sponsorship and tourism, we see that public funds tend to be spent on other things and, under the guise of promoting tourism, provide encouragement to friends, such as those in the Groupe Everest.

Drawing parallels, the same minister manages the Canada Information Office or the federal government Liberal Party office of propaganda.

It may be rather alarming to see that there is still a lot of money: $44 million annually in the case of the minister of public works—this is a lot of money—, $65 million in the case of the Canadian Tourism Commission. Taxpayers pay out a lot of money, and we might as why it is used to fund the promotion of an industry that is currently flourishing.

We must not ignore the fact that the weakness of the Canadian dollar helps a lot to improve tourism both in Quebec and in Canada. I am not saying that the tourism market has not improved, but we must realize that the main factor was the quality of what we have to offer and the fact that our dollar is very weak, making other currencies stronger.

We will vote against this bill. I invite all members of this House to bear in mind the fact that we risk turning this agency into another federal government propaganda agency, yet again.

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4:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

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Some hon. members


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The Deputy Speaker

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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Some hon. members


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Some hon. members


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The Deputy Speaker

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

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Some hon. members


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4:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.