House of Commons Hansard #105 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was edc.


Oral Question Period

3:15 p.m.



Don Boudria Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I received moments before question period a copy of the letter to which the hon. member refers. He refers in that to regulations made under section 117 of the Firearms Act, and the tabling requirement under subsection 119(4).

I have some difficulty in understanding how this issue could be before the House today. If the information I have is correct, the matter of the tabling of regulations pursuant to section 117 of the Firearms Act was already brought to the attention of the House by the hon. member for Yorkton--Melville on October 17.

When it was brought to the attention of the House at that time, it was on a point of order and the Speaker accepted that it was a point of order, not a question of privilege. I am in some difficulty to understand how, mysteriously, it could be a question of privilege today.

Second, I am told that the Chair ruled at the time that the matter would be taken under advisement and that the Speaker would come back to the House and give his answer on the matter. I have no information to the effect that the Chair has ruled on it. I assume the Chair has not. If the Chair has ruled on it, it must be only very lately.

Furthermore, I understand that the Minister of Justice intends to lay the matter in question before the House in very short order in any case, which would probably make the point moot if and when it is raised.

Finally, I understand that the Minister of Justice is providing to the two members in question, namely the member who just raised the issue along with the member for Yorkton--Melville, written information regarding the material in question.

Oral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have to add another piece of information to this in relation to what my colleague across the way just said. There is a huge time difference.

The regulation I was referring to, and the urgent need that the minister made, was taking place on September 11. I raised that issue several weeks later. The time differential there was very different from what my colleague is now raising.

This is a question of privilege because the minister has ignored this for a very long period of time. She has completely disregarded it.

These are two separate issues completely.

I did not raise it as a question of privilege. I wanted the minister to reply. She did not give an adequate answer, Mr. Speaker, but that is really not what concerns you in this case.

In this case we have, I believe, a prima facie case before the House on privilege, and because of the time differential these two are not comparable.

Oral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

The Chair will take the matter under advisement. I want to review the remarks of the member for Surrey Central and the contributions, of course, of the hon. member for Yorkton--Melville and the government House leader. I will get back to the House in due course.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-31, an act to amend the Export Development Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts, be read the third time and passed.

Export Development Act
Government Orders

October 30th, 2001 / 3:20 p.m.


Francine Lalonde Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, this bill on the Export Development Corporation—let us call it that for the last time—which was known by the French acronym SEE and the English EDC, stems from a series of consultations in which I participated as a member of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

We have put a lot of work into the Export Development Corporation, and I regret now to have to announce that we will be voting against this bill at third reading. We did, as I said, try to get it amended.

For our audience, it is important to know that the mandate of the Export Development Corporation is to support Quebec's and Canada's exporters, as well as those who wish to do business in Canada. It therefore also has a function to develop trade with other countries.

It was established in 1944 as the Export Credits Insurance Corporation. In 1969, it became a crown corporation and acquired the additional powers of being able—and this was something new—to make direct loans to foreign borrowers, and to borrow against the government's credit to finance its activities.

In 1993, a final change enabled it to invest in capital stock, to lease assets to users outside Canada, to constitute subsidiaries, as well as to take part in joint ventures.

In a way, the EDC is self-funding, in that it receives no parliamentary votes for its activities. It is a very important corporation.

Hon. members need to know that it estimates that it has supported experts and foreign investments to the tune of some $45 billion last year. It is a very important corporation. Despite its financial self-sufficiency, it is still a crown corporation, because a private company wishing to do the same could never compete with it. It is, therefore, a crown corporation which, thanks to a series of privileges, benefits both potential investors in Quebec and Canada and potential exporters from Quebec and Canada.

It is not subject to the Access to Information Act. It is not subject to the Environmental Assessment Act. It is not regulated by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, as is the case for the private sector. It does not pay income tax. It does not have to pay dividends. It can borrow at favourable rates, thanks to the credit extended to the Government of Canada.

Those are some of what might be termed the privileges enjoyed by the EDC.

It is easy to see its importance but it is also easy to see why parliamentarians have repeatedly studied its role in Quebec, in Canada and abroad. It is not subject to the Access to Information Act, nor environmental assessment, and it has developed a policy of extreme secrecy. For all these reasons, there have been numerous recommendations made regarding the EDC.

The first amendment to Bill C-31 is to change the name of the EDC. I think that few parliamentarians noticed this. However, since I have been here, I have seen many legislative texts that begin by modifying the name.

The EDC, the Export Development Corporation, is well known. This bill changes the name to Export Development Canada.

The names of so many crown corporations have been changed to contain the “Canada” trademark, all I can do is to comment that this is also the case with the name of the EDC.

For the benefit of those listening, I would like to point out that the most outrageous change, in my opinion, was that made to the former Federal Office of Regional Development-Quebec, the regional section of the Department of Industry, the former Canadian regional development department, which dealt solely with development investment in Quebec. That was why it was called the Federal Office of Regional Development-Quebec.

Shortly after we arrived here in 1993, a bill was adopted which stipulated that this office, for the region of Quebec, would be called Economic Development Canada. What is peculiar is that, in the budget or votes, the names of offices with a similar mandate in the other provinces—for example, Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and the Western Diversification Office—remained unchanged.

Yet in Quebec, it is now called Export Development Canada. Of course, this is all part of the great propaganda campaign to rename things. So, in French, it is goodbye to the SEE and hello to Exportation et développement Canada.

In 1998-99, the EDC was the object of a first review that had been decided in 1993. For the purpose of that exercise, the firm of Gowlings was asked to make recommendations. Gowlings conducts studies and audits. It is one of these large Canadian accounting, and surely now financial firms.

Gowlings, which is very much a private firm, made recommendations that differed significantly from the practices in use at the EDC as regards, among other things, transparency, the environment, sustainable development and also human rights.

Indeed, this is from the firm of Gowlings, a well known firm of lawyers, accountants and other experts. Its recommendations were not revolutionary, but provided that:

The EDC should regularly publish information on the operations that it funds. This information could include, for example, the name of the borrower, the country, the exporter—

The firm added the following:

Canada must work to achieve an international consensus on guidelines and environmental procedures that must be complied with by organizations similar to the EDC in other countries.

Immediately after, it goes on to say:

The EDC should submit its environmental framework to a public consultation process and ensure that the resulting policy is largely supported by exporters and non-governmental organizations.

This was in 1998-99. The firm then recommended:

—That the EDC act be amended to subject the EDC to the general requirement of establishing environmental assessment procedures in line with its commercial objectives and allow its board of directors to authorize or deny financial support by the corporation, based on the benefits or consequences of the projects or operations for the environment. The corporation should develop and publish a policy regarding its obligation to inform the public of the results of its environmental assessments—

I will not read everything. Finally, on the issue of human rights, the firm said:

EDC should implement a policy whereby when applying for EDC financial or insurance services, Canadian exporters are asked to indicate on a voluntary basis whether they have adopted their own codes of conduct that ensure respect for human rights, ethical business conduct and fair labour standards in their international activities.

The Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade studied the Gowlings report at some length, after hearing from many witnesses. The committee made several recommendations. These recommendations dealt with public disclosure, with its risk assessments, which could be useful to Canadian financial institutions and to the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions.

The committee, with the support of Liberal members—we know, of course, how things work in committee—opted for the principle of improving mandatory disclosure of useful information in the interest of public accountability, in line with the Gowlings report's recommendation, provided that confidential trade information was protected.

It also suggested that:

--a provision be added enjoining EDC to give due regard to the commitments and obligations undertaken by Canada under international agreements—

The committee then proposed, and this is interesting:

—EDC could further enhance its public credibility by conducting a formal consultation with stakeholders on the framework's performance after its first year of operation—

Generally speaking, the recommendations did not find a taker in the report. However, not only the Bloc Quebecois but many NGOs who came to testify found that even the committee's report did not go far enough.

There is one basic principle. This corporation is a crown corporation. As such, can it afford to fund and support in various ways companies which do not respect the environmental assessment framework? Can it refuse to provide information which is provided in other countries by equivalent corporations?

Can it circumvent international agreements that Canada signs in the area of human rights? Can the corporation, which acts on Canada's behalf, do everything contrary to what Canada signs?

This basically is what the Bloc is opposed to. I will not say that there should be no concern over competition and trade secrets. That said, however, there remains a significant margin where, while remaining competitive—the American and Australian corporations are—the corporations must honour the bases of the major international conventions.

Without compatibility, we could be contributing to the confusion and anger of many countries and people living in developing countries, who see countries like Canada with international commitments respecting the environment and human rights and a degree of transparency and practices at home that contravene these very rules.

Bill C-31, which has created a lot of expectations among many people, contains some improvements. They are so timid that they will prevent us, even if we wanted to, from voting in favour of its content.

I have no doubt my colleague from Rosemont will use all his time to speak to the environmental aspect, because what is there is totally inadequate. I will read the only thing sought, and we will see it makes no sense.

Clause 10.1 provides, and I quote:

10.1(1) Before entering, in the exercise of its powers under subsection 10(1.1), into a transaction that is related to a project—

So before it knows if it will support a project,

the Corporation must determine—

(a) whether the project is likely to have adverse environmental effects despite the implementation of mitigation measures; and

(b) if such is the case, whether the Corporation is justified in entering into the transaction.

The problem lies in the fact that the auditor general has said that the frames of reference were inadequate even to evaluate it, and that of the 25 projects she evaluated, 23 did not conform.

In terms of the environment, transparency, public disclosure of information or compliance with international conventions on human rights, Bill C-31 is a long way from attaining the minimum objectives we might have expected.

It is therefore with regret that we will vote against the bill.

Export Development Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, as always I am pleased to rise on behalf of the people of Surrey Central. Today I am taking part in the third reading debate on Bill C-31, an act to amend the Export Development Act and to make amendments to other acts.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to share my time with the hon. member for Kelowna.

The bill is of a housekeeping nature, simply to update the act. The government did not accept any amendments from the opposition parties during the committee stage.

Since legislation governing the Export Development Corporation requires a ministerial review of the act, a review commenced in 1998 and concluded with a report. It was reviewed and reported by the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade. The results of that report are the amendments in Bill C-31.

If passed, the bill will enable the board to delegate its powers. It will require the EDC to establish a pension plan for its employees. The treasury board policy encourages crown corporations to arrange a comprehensive, independent pension plan for their employees.

The CPP managed by the federal government earns even less interest than a bank savings account. That is how expert the government is in mismanaging the employee and employer funds.

The surplus funds from the inefficiently managed CPP were grabbed by the Liberal government. The chief actuary of the CPP was fired for being forthright and not yielding to the Liberals' pressure.

Prior to these amendments, there were no legislated environmental review requirements of the EDC. If the bill is passed, it will require the EDC to determine if a project is likely to have adverse environmental effects and whether it would be justified for the EDC to enter into a transaction.

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act will not apply to the EDC's reviews so that Canadian environment standards and laws are not imposed on other sovereign nations. That is what the government says. Or perhaps the government can further its own agenda under the guise of environmental protection evasion.

The objective of the substantive environmental amendment is to strike a balance between trade competitiveness and concern for the potential environmental impacts of projects supported by the EDC.

My opposition to the bill also stems largely from questions surrounding EDC's lack of environmental accountability under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

In 1996 Candu reactors were sold to China at a cost of $2.5 billion. To sweeten the deal, the Canadian government financed the sale with EDC facilitating the deal.

Ordinarily, the deal would have required an environmental assessment to deal with questions such as whether the area around Qinshan was prone to earthquakes, floods and the like. Issues like these are of vital importance in determining if nuclear reactors are a danger or not. Had an environmental assessment been done at that time, it would have helped put these concerns to rest.

We now know that since the government did not like the rules of the game, it changed them, even though there is a lawsuit by the Sierra Club of Canada. This is another example of how the government failed to do its homework and tried to circumvent due process by altering the rules of the game to suit its purposes.

We all witnessed the alarming and tragic consequences of the nuclear tragedy in Chernobyl. The loss of life directly attributable to that disaster is truly staggering.

Years later, cancer rates in the area remain alarmingly high. Imagine the effect of such a disaster in China where the population is much greater. The death toll from radiation poisoning and cancer would be enormous.

Environmental assessment in highly populated areas, flood prone areas and earthquake prone areas was probably very important, but the government thought it was better to stay quiet about such issues rather than jeopardize the deal.

In general, this weak government's record on environment is very weak. It has let the legislation on the protection of endangered species die a few times on the order paper. It has signed international treaties, including those from Kyoto, Beijing and Rio, for example, with no intentions whatsoever of carrying out its commitments. The government made those commitments without consulting Canadians, parliament and the provinces. The government has made political decisions about matters that require scientific decisions, logic and reasoning.

The auditor general recommended that most international financial institutions, including export credit agencies, have environmental policies and procedures. A consensus emerged on the elements of good practice that an international financial institution should adopt to ensure that the projects it supports are environmentally and socially responsible. Industrialized G-8 countries and OECD countries developed common environmental guidelines for export credit agencies but the government is trying to circumvent them.

To strengthen the framework's implementation, the EDC should concentrate on the tools that identify environmental risks in the screening process and on monitoring to ensure that the framework is operating efficiently and effectively. To strengthen EDC's environmental review process, EDC needs to make changes in both the design and the operation of the framework. To close the gaps in the framework's design, EDC should focus on enhancing transparency through public consultation and disclosure.

Another problem with the bill is that EDC is being used by the Liberal government, no surprise, for political favours, in addition to other crown corporations and agencies being used, such as CIDA, HRDC, WD, ACOA and many others.

Patronage appointments in crown corporations are rampant. Most recently, Mr. Bernard Boudreau, a short term senator and cabinet member who unsuccessfully ran for the Liberals in the last election, was appointed to the board of EDC. The bill does not address the issue of patronage appointments at all.

The Canadian Alliance recognizes the essential part financial institutions play in the everyday lives of Canadians. We would protect the best interests of consumers by fostering competition and ensuring that the financial services sector is adequately regulated, without impairing stability or opportunity for success and growth in these institutions.

Most of the services provided by the EDC, such as short and medium term export insurance and financing, should be privatized. The rest of the EDC services should become a division of DFAIT and should be directly accountable to parliament. This division could provide occasional loan guarantees and other services that are beyond the scope of the private sector, such as long term insurance, political risk reassurance and projects that are not commercially viable but are deemed to be in the national interest. In 1991 the United Kingdom privatized its equivalent export agency, the Export Credits Guarantee Department. We can learn from that.

To serve exporters better, there should be true competition in the export business and financing business. They should have the opportunity to deal directly with their own banks or insurance brokers to have their exports financed and insured. If the banks got into the business, exporters might receive 100% financing in addition to speedier and personalized services.

In conclusion, the bill does not address the concerns that I have highlighted. I ask the government to address these issues and make appropriate amendments to the bill, which they have not done so far. Otherwise I will be left with no choice but to vote against the bill.

Export Development Act
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Werner Schmidt Kelowna, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to address my remarks to three particular points in the bill. I would like to attack it from the principles of patronage appointments and of crown corporations and private enterprise, and also on the business of transparency, in particular with regard to the judge, advocacy and jury all at the same time with the bill. It would do those things.

It is actually amazing what the bill would do and how it came to be. The first thing I want to stress is the business of this crown corporation actually being created to be in direct competition with private enterprise. Some people would ask how I came to this kind of conclusion. The conclusion comes to me on the basis of what the United Kingdom did when it considered joining the EU. At that time it became very evident that it needed to maintain a clear balance between crown corporations, which are really the instrument of government, to develop their particular policies, purposes and objectives, and to do so in a commercially viable way. At least that is the purported intent.

While I do not quarrel with a situation where a private enterprise could not get into that enterprise, I do quarrel with it here. So did the EU and so did the United Kingdom. In fact, in 1991, ten years ago, the United Kingdom privatized a short term branch of its equivalent export agency. It was called the Export Credits Guarantee Department. The agency was privatized to ensure that there were no implied trade subsidies in the EU from one country to another. The United Kingdom government now, as written in 1997, provides a political risk reinsurance to the private company that took over the ECGD.

I think it is very significant that the United Kingdom saw the potential conflict that was there, not only in its own government but also in the governments of other countries, and the complication that it would create among various countries doing business with one another. It wanted to have a fair and level playing field among them.

Why is that significant? The EDC really runs its operation on two accounts. It has a commercial account and it has a Canada account. The commercial account really gets most of its money from financing export operations and the insurance in guaranteeing certain loans to exporters. The Canada account, on the other hand, is designed to advance the particular policies, objectives and purposes of the Canadian government. I am really addressing my remarks here to the first part of that, because that is its major operation. It is here that it finds itself in direct conflict with private enterprise.

Philosophically and on principle I am utterly and completely opposed to government doing things that the private sector can do as well or better. I would suggest that not only is that the case for the private enterprise, but it is actually in the interests of all Canadians that it be the case.

I will move on to my second point which has to do with the patronage appointments that are possible here. I will read, for the benefit of those who are listening to us this afternoon, the provisions for this activity as provided for in Bill C-31. It is really an amendment to section 7. Section 7.1 states:

The Board may establish any other committee and that committee may exercise any powers and perform any duties of the Board delegated to it by the Board.

If we wanted carte blanche, there it is. We would first of all have this board and this board would have a number of members on it appointed by the government. They feel they would like to do something. There may be some friends that they would like to have doing some work, so they form a committee and appoint people who are their friends and who can do certain kinds of things. The number of committees is unlimited. They may form any committee to do whatever they want and then they can delegate whatever powers they have to any one of those particular committees.

One would think that reason would prevail and that in fact there would not be an abuse of this power, but we have seen it, not only in this government but in other governments where this kind of freedom exists and politics rather than the interests of people enter into the decision making process. At that point it is clearly obvious that a political advantage accrues to those who supported the party in power. That is what I am concerned about.

Not only would the bill make it possible, the bill almost says please do it and make sure that there are enough vacancies here so that we can appoint anybody we want to have appointed to these committees. I take strong exception to that. I do not believe that kind of thing should happen.

Can a private corporation do something similar to this? Yes, it can, but it has the added difference that it does this on the basis of being efficient and working in the interests of the shareholders and the people it is trying to serve.

That motivation may be the same for the government, but it may not be. The political situation may be one of fostering its own bed rather than developing what is there in the best interests.

I know, Mr. Speaker, that is not you. You care about people. I know that. I know you very well. Even though you are in an opposing party, you are the kind of guy who I think would not do this sort of thing. However, Mr. Speaker, they are not all like you.

I will move on to my third point which has to do with the judge, advocacy and jury of this committee. I cannot believe the kind of thing that has happened here. However, not only do I have to believe it, I have to put it in the context of what the auditor general said about this corporation.

I want to refer specifically to paragraph 22 in the May 2001 auditor general's report on the Export Development Corporation and in particular the environmental review framework. In paragraph 22 he states:

Unlike federal departments and agencies--

Here I notice that he is separating out from federal departments and agencies that crown corporation in particular, the Export Development Corporation.

--the Export Development Corporation is not subject to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act or to the Access to Information Act. Unlike private sector financial institutions, it is not subject to regulation by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, does not pay income tax, is not required to pay dividends, and can borrow at favourable rates on the credit of the Government of Canada.

That is very significant. This group could determine a number of things. With regard to the environment, it may determine whether a particular project “is likely to have adverse environmental effects” and then later on it will define what an adverse environmental effect is to be. Is that not interesting? A project comes up and the board decides on what are adverse environmental conditions. The other one is whether the particular project actually does meet those requirements. If we wanted to create a situation where we could change the rules of the game halfway through the game, we would have a perfect way in which to do this. All the board would have to do is change the definition and change its particular interpretation or application of that definition for a particular project.

I cannot think of a greater morass, almost a miasma, a poisonous vapour arising from this kind of situation, than a group that comes to this board and says it will not cause environmental damage, with the board members saying they are not sure if it fits the definition or not, and then they could move it around to suit the situation as they wanted.

That should never be allowed. There should be an independent group like the environmental group that stands for all government agencies and departments, financial institutions, private institutions and for us as individuals. It should apply in exactly the same way to this agency even though it is a crown corporation.

I have to vote against this provision unless it is changed.

Export Development Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Mississauga South


Paul Szabo Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, the member raised the issue of the applicability of the Access to Information Act. As the House knows, an all party committee has been looking into the provisions of the act and its applicability to corporations, such as the EDC, the Canada Broadcasting Corporation and others.

One of the important elements of the debate about whether or not there should be applicability of that act has to do with the sensitive competitive information that would otherwise be available to the public.

As the member knows, EDC deals extensively with companies in the business community that are in a competitive environment and wish to promote their export activities. Under the Access to Information Act, their correspondence could be subject to requests.

To give an example, members of Democracy Watch wanted the committee to ask the industry department to provide copies of every piece of correspondence that was ever sent to them concerning a particular policy initiative. It had nothing to do with the decisions of Industry Canada. It had to do with a fishing expedition by people, either educators, researchers or people in the espionage business, looking for information that they could use for their own gain and that they could acquire it at a nominal cost.

I raise that with the member in terms of the sensitivity that he may have to putting businesses, which, in good faith, go through the EDC, at risk of having their competitive position jeopardized because of the applicability of the Access to Information Act.

Export Development Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Werner Schmidt Kelowna, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would be very happy to respond to the hon. member. That is not at all what I referred to. There is sensitive information, and the hon. member knows that I know that.

I completely agree that if there is information that is pertinent to a particular contract, it must be kept confidential. However I do not believe all information is of that nature, and he knows that too.

The important issue here is that there is a lot of information that can and should be made public. The financial institutions, such as the banking institutions that are governed by the superintendent of financial institutions, must give certain information to the superintendent. What we are talking about is that the corporation we are talking about today does not have to do that. It should be as clear and transparent as those institutions have to be to the superintendent, no more and no less.

We are not talking about the abuse of information. I am not going on a fishing expedition and I do not think the hon. member is. That is not the issue nor is it the point I was trying to make.

The point I am trying to make is that if it is legitimate information it should be made public and it should be available to all those who want it.

Export Development Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Val Meredith South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-31, the amendments to the Export Development Act. I think the concern Canadians have whenever we talk about agencies or organizations such as the Export Development Corporation is that once again we are talking about a crown corporation that operates supposedly for the people of Canada and yet lacks all accountability.

EDC has a reputation of being unaccountable, secretive and without transparency in its operations. It does not fall under the Access to Information Act which allows it to operate in such a way that it does not respect environmental concerns and issues. It has a reputation of being a crown corporation that operates out there on its own agenda.

I think Canadians are concerned that it has become a norm for agencies of the government to operate without parliamentary oversight. If people watch question period they will see that even when the opposition parties try to ask questions of the minister to bring some accountability to the crown corporation that the questions are not answered, not that any of them ever are, but questions pertaining to this particular crown corporation are never responded to in a way that shares information with Canadians as to what it is doing.

I think Canadians have real concerns that the government is continuing to operate in this manner and that it is the government's mode to develop organizations that it controls. It controls the people who run these organizations. It controls the information flow that goes into them and the lack of information that comes out about them. In essence, the government is removing any kind of connection between the people who pay for the crown corporation, which is the Canadian taxpayer, and the operation of it.

I think Canadians have become more aware of the involvement of the Export Development Corporation when issues like the Candu reactor come up and the fact that the Canada account, which I believe was used in that kind of venture, is often done in such a way that there seems to be a disregard for those regulations that are put in place, such as the environmental regulations. Canadians are somewhat concerned that Canada would be exporting Candu reactors without any kind of environmental assessments being done, without any real concern about the national security of our country where we would give foreign nations the capacity to perhaps use nuclear by-products for other means other than creating energy.

I think Canadians to a degree are aware of the existence of the Export Development Corporation but are not aware of the details of it, who sits on the board or to whom it answers. Canadians are a little concerned that here again is another crown corporation that is run in a manner that may not be acceptable to the Canadian public who pay for it.

We have to look at the bill and the amendments to see whether they address those concerns. I would suggest that the bill does not seem to address those concerns that Canadians have. I do not think that the means with which the bill deals with the accountability is sufficient. I think Canadians want to know that this crown corporation, which is using Canadian tax dollars to give to some corporations but not all corporations, is done in a fair and transparent manner. Some Canadian corporations might ask themselves why their competitor is getting this kind of support when they are not. Canadians need to feel comfortable that the people who are making the decision as to who will get government support, taxpayer money, are treating these decisions in a fair, open and above-board manner.

I think the fact that the chairman and president of the Export Development Corporation are appointed by the Prime Minister should cause some concern. The fact that the other 13 board members are appointed by the Minister for International Trade should cause Canadians some concern. The reason for this concern is that once again we see that the appointments to this board are political. They are being used to reward individuals who have been faithful supporters of the party with an opportunity to sit on the board.

I think Canadians would like to see the end of that practice. I think Canadians would like to see some justification for the appointments to the board of the Export Development Corporation. They would like to see that the appointments of a president, CEO or chairman are done in such a manner that they could not be used for political purposes. They want to see people appointed who have earned the right to be there, people who have expertise in the field they will be dealing with, who will be fair and balanced in the decisions they make and who will not unduly risk Canadian taxpayers' money for ventures that are not sound.

Somehow, perhaps reflecting on past appointments, Canadians cannot be confident that this is happening. The amendments to the bill do not deal with that concern. A very real concern that I hear on a very regular basis through my householders is that Canadians are concerned about the way the government does business and appoints individuals to positions for whatever reason, most of them political. Canadians are concerned about that as well as being very concerned about how the government spends their money and how the decisions are made on how to spend their money. I do not see any changes in the legislation that deal with those concerns.

As in many other cases, we see the government putting in housekeeping legislation that deals with minor things like changing the name. Canadians do not care whether it is called the export council of Canada or export development council or whatever. Canadians do not care what it is called. They care about what it does and how it does the business of the day.

The issues of transparency and complying with the laws of Canada with regard to environmental assessments are the issues that Canadians care about. Canadians care that when the government is operating in the global market network we can be proud of how Canada is represented, that it is being represented by a corporation and by the government in a way that makes us proud.

Minor changes to legislation such as changing the name and moving around a few of the powers and oversights and whatnot just do not cut it. I heard my colleague from the Canadian Alliance talking about the decision maker, the oversight and the judge all being one. That basically is still the situation. It has not changed.

Once again we see the government operating in a manner that shows its arrogance and lack of contact and connection with Canadian taxpayers. This shows that it really does not believe in transparency, that it really does not believe in giving access to information to Canadians to let them to know what is going on in their government and how their money is being spent.

I do not buy the argument that there are business decisions that cannot be shared. If the Canadian taxpayer is being asked to put money into a corporation, there should not be anything that the corporation is not willing to share with the people who are paying the bill. If those individuals do not want the ordinary Canadian to have access to that information, then perhaps they should not be asking the Canadian taxpayer to pick up the cost. If they want to avoid disclosure, if they want to avoid access to information, there are private funding sources they can go to that do not have that kind of responsibility to disclose and to be accountable.

The government could have done a much better job of making this crown corporation more accountable, of making this crown corporation more acceptable to the Canadian taxpayer who is putting the money up front. I would hope that the government could, in this legislation as in other legislation, make necessary amendments to make it more appropriate.

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4:10 p.m.

Mississauga South


Paul Szabo Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, I am astounded. The member included a lot of platitudes about secretive transparency, no access, arrogance, et cetera. What she did not say, other than that the taxpayer is footing the bill, is that the Export Development Corporation does not cost the Government of Canada anything. In fact it is making money for the taxpayers of Canada. It is making a substantial amount of money after having been set up.

If the member would check and under government departments look at Export Development Corporation, she would see the financial statements. In fact she would also see EDC's annual report, which I commend to the member to give her some information which she obviously does not have.

Let me list some of the services provided. Under credit insurance there is global comprehensive insurance; export credit insurance; documentary credit insurance; specific transaction insurance. Under financing there is direct loan operations; line of credit operations; note purchase; purchase receivables; leasing; equity project financing; master accounts receivable guarantee; small exporter guarantee framework; North Star Trade Finance Inc.; the Scotia Americas capital equipment program. Under contracting bonding, which I know the member knows all about, there is bid security guarantees; performance security guarantees; bid security insurance; performance security insurance; surety bond reinsurance; direct surety bond support; political risk insurance.

I went out to the lobby and in two minutes I got this information off the web.

Export Development Corporation is a vibrant financial institution that is helping Canadian companies and companies abroad to do export business which creates jobs in Canada. This is not simply a bunch of people who were arbitrarily politically appointed, which the member summarily reduces the entire EDC to. These are financial professionals who are working on behalf of Canada.

Perhaps the member would like to retract or rethink her view of EDC and the platitudes she has put out and put some specifics on the table as to why she has to condemn this thing. Is it just a matter of her sheer ignorance of EDC or is she simply playing politics?

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4:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Val Meredith South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is quite interesting that the member had to run out and get some information on it. He has been sitting as a member of parliament for the last however many years and he was not aware of what the EDC is. It is not transparent. It is not open.

If EDC is as successful as the hon. member is saying it is and makes so much money, why is it not in direct competition with the banks? Why is the private sector not doing the job that this government crown corporation is interfering with? The government has stepped out of line once more I would suggest.

The member thinks the Canadian taxpayers should be pleased that honourable people are being appointed. I am not doubting that honourable people are being appointed; I am saying there is a direct correlation with the government of the day, the Prime Minister and the Minister for International Trade by appointing this board. That is not transparent. I would suggest it is not what the Canadian taxpayers want to support.

Let the banks in Canada fund these agencies and companies if it is such a good investment. If they make so much money, let the banks make that money. Let private investors make that money.

I would suggest that if his information is correct, the hon. member has given a reason for the government to get out of the business completely.

Export Development Act
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4:15 p.m.


Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do know a lot about the EDC because the minister responsible came to my riding and we had a business forum on this. It was one of the most successful export forums that we have had.

I should also point out that the EDC was voted one of the top 100 companies to work for because of its success. The member seems to think if the federal government is successful with the EDC that it has to get out of the business. I do not understand the false logic.

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4:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Val Meredith South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it does not surprise me that the Liberal member across the way does not understand the logic that sometimes government does not belong in the marketplace competing with the private sector. Perhaps this is just one more case where the government should be handing it over completely to the private sector to finance corporations for external trade. If it is such a good investment, the private sector should be more than willing to make that investment. It does not need the government to be doing it.

Export Development Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier, Library of Parliament.