House of Commons Hansard #114 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was wheat.


Canadian ForcesRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Anders Canadian Alliance Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal record on these matters has been operation appalling, not Operation Apollo. The first indication that it is operation appalling is that the 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, which is supposed to be sent over and is on 48 hours’ notice, is about the same size as the elite regiment formerly known as the airborne.

Rather than sending an elite regiment like we could have had with the airborne, the government for reasons of political correctness went ahead and disbanded the airborne. It is now thinking of sending a regiment that up until today it was thinking of disbanding. Shame on the minister. That is part of operation appalling.

Due to the fact that the government does not have enough troops and that there is a shortage of money and recruits, it is approaching people from Edmonton and Winnipeg to bolster the third battalion. The minister has failed to meet the recruiting targets in the white paper he so boldly talks about.

Let us imagine that. We have a regiment that was established in 1950 during the Korean war. For the sake of political correctness the minister would go ahead and disband it and poach troops from other parts of the country to bolster his sad record.

I will once again point out something I asked the minister during question period. I pointed to the sad situation where he stood in the House three years ago and said the Sea Kings would be getting their appropriate renewed communications systems. That was not the truth and the minister knows it full well.

The minister stood in the place where he sits now and told the House the Sea Kings would get their communications equipment. He said it was being done as he spoke. Three years later it has still not been delivered. The minister point blank did not tell the truth. He failed his forces.

Canadian ForcesRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

I think the member knows that suggesting members are not telling the truth is a bit over the line. I would respectfully request that he discontinue such comments.

Canadian ForcesRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Anders Canadian Alliance Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, on the story of the Sea Kings, the minister likes to insist the military is as equipped if not better equipped than it was 10 years ago. Ten years ago our Sea Kings in the Persian gulf had various anti-missile systems. Now they are being sent in with a scant one. Ten years later they are less effective than they were then. It is a shame. The minister said something that did not come to pass three years ago even though he said it was happening as he spoke. Ten years later we are far worse off.

It is not just me that says these things. Canadians for Military Preparedness, the Conference of Defence Associations, Lieutenant General Charles Belzile, retired Major General Lewis MacKenzie, Major General Clive Addy, Lieutenant General Roméo Dallaire, Colonel Brian MacDonald and the Canadian Institute of Strategic Studies all say that by 2003 we may have as few as 43,000 troops. That is less than half what there was when the Liberals took power.

The list goes on in terms of the failures of the minister. The Royal Canadian Military Institute; General Jean Boyle, the former chief of the defence staff; Professors Jack Granatstein, Desmond Morton and David Bercuson; Lieutenant Colonel Doug Bland; and even the auditor general are on the list. Everyone on the list gave the minister a failing grade. Yet he has the audacity to claim he is on the job.

When our military goes on war game operations or exercises with the Americans, the Americans keep an extra squadron on standby because our equipment often breaks down. It breaks down so badly the Americans need to keep people to fill in our role.

According to the minister's numbers our military stands at 58,000. In 1990 it was 85,000. Our reserves have fallen to under 15,000. When we consider that it takes roughly 10 military personnel to support one soldier in the field our effective force is only about 5,800 troops. That is an embarrassment and the minister knows it.

Our military counterintelligence computers were so antiquated that it took the tragic attack of September 11 before the minister would respond.

People smuggling ships and those who traffic in human flesh need to be pointed out by the Americans because we do not have the resources to find them ourselves.

When our American neighbours to the south offer to protect us under their missile shield in what is the deal of the century the Prime Minister and the Minister of National Defence run for cover and hide instead of taking them up on the offer. The minister has been sticking his head in the sand in the hope that the threats would go away.

There are 10 ways I would describe the minister: neglectful, rusted out, bureaucratic, fumbling, unprepared, irresponsible, rickety, outdated, desperate and hiding his head in the sand. It is a shame. This is operation appalling.

Canadian ForcesRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.


Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to draw to your attention the fact that the minister mentioned, at the beginning of his statement, that he wanted to inform the House of the latest developments.

I wish to remind the minister and his government that it is not the first time that we are being informed. Troops have already been deployed and, so far, there has been no vote and practically no debate in the House. The Bloc Quebecois wanted to say that before anything else because it is one of the things that we insisted upon.

When the decision is made to deploy troops to a theater of operations that could be dangerous, it seems to me that it would be important that this issue be submitted to the House, not only for information purposes, but for debate and discussion. I want to remind the minister and the government that members are here in the House not only to express their views, but to vote, which is the most important thing.

We are here today after a one week break during which we read in the papers that the minister and the government had just decided to send another 1,000 troops to Afghanistan. It is the second deployment. Members will remember that the same government decided earlier to send 2,000 troops with a tactical naval group and the House was never asked to vote on that. That is one area where the government deserves criticism.

On the subject of whether it is important to send troops, I think the Bloc has been very responsible since the start of this crisis. Everything since the September 11 attack has gone into a legitimate defence of the Americans and the international coalition, as everyone acknowledges.

The UN Security Council, in two resolutions, has said that the United States was attacked and it can legitimately defend itself. Support also came from NATO. This is the first use of article 5 of the NATO agreement, which provides that an attack on one of the signatory states shall be an attack on the 18 others. Here too, there is international agreement that the Americans must have help and that the international coalition is taking symbolic steps to show that we are all in the same boat.

Not surprisingly, since September 11 everything has gone into a military response. The Bloc supported the bombing initially, but, the more it went on, the harder it was for us. Especially since last week, when the Taliban regime totally melted, it seems to me it is time to move on to something else.

We also support the government on the deployment of troops to provide humanitarian aid. This is where we are at. The country has been in a state of devastation for decades. This new attack on it has worsened things. Humanitarian convoys must get through with essential foodstuffs, if we want to protect the civilian population from catastrophe. They have already suffered enough with the bombings. It is likely several hundred civilians have been killed, but for those who sought refuge and headed to the Pakistani border, help must be provided now. Those coming home need help too. There are no more infrastructures, no more food and likely no more water.

We must help these people, and on this point we agree with the government. We cannot wait for a decision from the UN. For the time being, it cannot be done under the aegis of the UN. The combined force must go in. We can deploy people in 48 hours, give the order for them to prepare and move them out in ten days or so. If this were done under the UN, it would take much longer, and there would be the risk of a civilian catastrophe.

While this may be an appropriate measure, the army's capability is a different matter. We have already sent 2,000 troops to Bosnia. Incidentally, I am proud to say that I will go and visit them. I am leaving for Bosnia with two colleagues to see how things are going for the Royal 22nd Regiment.

We have already sent 2,000 troops and we are sending another 1,000 from the PPCLI. I am taking this opportunity to salute them. This is the light infantry regiment that came to my riding during the ice storm. I want to tell them that the people of Saint-Jean recognize the work that these soldiers did for them.

Are the army's structures and resources not already stretched to the limit? We begin to have reservations when the minister says that if we are asked to send more troops we will. I think this would generate an incredible amount of stress on members of the Canadian forces and their families, because their turn will come again much more often. This will be a problem until we have an adequate recruitment level to ensure that the stress imposed on members of the Canadian forces and their families, and on the army's ability to intervene, is not too big.

We have a bit of a problem with the vote issue, but we will support the government regarding the sending of 1,000 troops for humanitarian purposes. We will keep our fingers crossed and hope that these soldiers are not involved in a severe conflict. The term light infantry says it all. If the PPCLI is involved in hard and ferocious battles, it could suffer casualties. But we must make this commitment to now help civilian populations in Afghanistan.

Canadian ForcesRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.


Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my party and caucus colleagues I indicated publicly on Friday that the New Democratic Party was prepared to support the government's commitment of Canadian troops as part of the United Nations sanctioned stabilization force.

The New Democratic Party has been consistent and adamant that the United Nations must lead the response to these crimes against humanity as a result of the horrifying events of September 11. I appeal once again to the Minister of National Defence to give assurances that Canadian troop deployment would be carried out under the auspices of the United Nations. We have been equally adamant that the deployment of Canada's troops must be debated and ratified by a vote in the House of Commons.

Our insistence on these two points is based on two fundamental principles: first, the role of international law and, second, our commitment to democracy. These are more than theoretical abstractions as members well know. We must respect the rule of law and the right of Canadians to hold the government accountable through the democratic process if we are to avoid mimicking the evil that we condemn, uphold the values that we espouse and, simply put, practise what we preach.

The New Democratic Party is absolutely committed to rooting out terrorism. We are committed to rooting out the conditions that breed hatred, despair and hopelessness. We have been leading the call for greater humanitarian aid. We have been asking questions on behalf of the men and women of our military as well as their families and their communities.

I had many opportunities to talk with military personnel and their spouses over the past week in my home riding of Halifax. Like most Canadians, they have many questions they want answered. They understand best of all that asking tough questions about the terms of engagement and about the mandate of this mission is not some kind of disloyalty but rather a parliamentary duty. It is a right that previous generations of sailors, soldiers and air personnel have sacrificed their lives to protect. It is called democracy.

The government needs to show greater respect for our military families. It needs to put the question of troop deployment to a debate and a vote in the House. If the government knows what it is doing then it has no reason to fear that open debate and no reason to fear the judgment of military families. It becomes all the more imperative to maintain the democratic checks and balances at a time of heightened national concern.

It is obvious that not all the answers to these questions reside on the government side any more than all the answers reside with the generals themselves. There are legitimate questions and concerns about the precise nature of the deployment, particularly with northern alliance spokespersons stating their open hostility to the presence of Canadian and other foreign ground troops.

Canadians, especially military families, are seeking the assurance that this mandate is indeed humanitarian in nature, but they are also supportive of the efforts to put in place a transitional administration and that there be a commitment to the long term assistance needed for the reconstruction of a devastated Afghanistan.

I appreciate the minister's candour this afternoon in saying that the precise details of the deployment have not been worked out. I plead with the minister in the spirit of democracy and international law that is being invoked here to come back to the House of Commons when he has details to have a full debate and a vote on the deployment of military men and women to the Afghanistan mission.

Canadian ForcesRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Progressive Conservative Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to enter into this debate based on the remarks made by the Minister of National Defence. There is strong support within the PC/DR caucus for deployment of our military to the conflict in central Asia.

We understand better than most the need for the Canadian armed forces to play a role in the ongoing terrorism war because we were in government during the gulf war and we learned a lot of lessons from that. Perhaps we did not learn enough, but we did learn some and we can understand the pressure on the minister, the department and his officials.

With all due respect to the minister I would like to say there are a few things that trouble me about this. I heard the minister this past Saturday on the CBC radio program The House or it might have been on television. When asked what our military would be doing, he said that we had not been told yet what they would be doing.

This bothers me because the Prime Minister during question period over the last few months, when asked the same question regarding Canada's role, has responded by saying that they had not told us what to do yet. We should be partners in the planning if we are to be partners in this exercise. We should not only be partners in the duties, the fighting and peacekeeping, but we should also be determining what the role is of our soldiers.

This comes down to leadership for our own people and we should reserve that right. I feel that right has been transferred to the United States and it will be deciding the role for our military in this battle based on comments made by both the Prime Minister and the minister. The minister and the Prime Minister have said that we have not been told what to do yet. Those words are troubling and discomforting. Perhaps they could find another way to say it even if it is true.

We understand the need for our participation in the conflict. There are no more courageous citizens than those who volunteered to serve. Although the military is involved, and we are talking about military involvement, there is a role for Canada through diplomacy not with Osama bin Laden and Afghanistan militant people but with other people in the Middle East. I believe Canada has a role.

I recently visited Iran, Syria and Lebanon with the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Everywhere we went they were discussing the root causes of the conflict. Time and again they raised the issue of peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis. It was seen as one of the key problems in causing the excuse for terrorism. I say the excuse for terrorism because there is no reason and justification for terrorism.

I believe Canada has a role to play in helping resolve the differences between the Palestinians and the Israelis. While we are sending our military to battle we as politicians should be doing all we can on the diplomatic side to try to resolve the issues and try to help those two peoples come together to find answers.

We further understand in the PC/DR caucus that in times such as these there will be details that cannot be shared with us in the House and with the public because it would put the security of our military at risk. Even though we understand that, we want to be involved with information. We want to know what is the role for Canadians. We want to be comfortable that the Canadian leaders are in control of the Canadian soldiers. We do not have that level of comfort based on what the Prime Minister and the Minister of National Defence have said.

The government is realizing that cutbacks to the military since 1993 to the present are coming home to roost. We are sending our courageous, brave soldiers to central Asia to fight on our behalf, to represent our country, and they do not have the tools to work with and that is very clear.

We read in the newspapers today that our Sea King helicopters, which we talk about over and over in the House, now have less equipment in them than they had in the gulf war 10 years ago.

It is incumbent upon us as a parliament and as politicians, especially the government, to ensure that if we are asking our military people to go and do battle for us that we give them the very best tools to work with, not tools that risk their lives or make them unable to perform their duties.

Although we support this, we still have many questions. We hope the minister reflects on our comments when he makes his plans.

Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.


David Price Liberal Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1) I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the eighth report of the Canadian-NATO Parliamentary Association which represented Canada at the 47th annual session of the NATO parliamentary assembly held in Ottawa from October 5 to October 9, 2001.

Canada Labour CodeRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.


Ghislain Fournier Bloc Manicouagan, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-413, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code and the Public Service Staff Relations Act (scabs and essential services).

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce, seconded by my colleague, the member for Joliette, a bill to prohibit the hiring of people to replace employees on strike or locked out who work for an employer covered under the Canada Labour Code, as well as federal public service employees on strike.

This bill is also aimed at ensuring that essential services are maintained in case of a strike in the federal public service.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.


Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very honoured to present a petition signed by constituents and others across Canada who are concerned about the buildup of nuclear arms in our society today. The petitioners point out that there continue to exist over 30,000 nuclear weapons on Earth. They believe that the existence of these weapons poses a threat to the health and survival of human civilization and the global environment.

The petitioners call upon parliament to support the initiation and conclusion of an international convention which would set out a binding timetable for the abolition of all nuclear weapons.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

November 19th, 2001 / 3:40 p.m.


Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to seek concurrence in the House to substitute Bill C-319 standing in my name on the order of precedence for Bill C-407 standing in the name of the member for Ottawa--Vanier on the list of items outside the order of precedence.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Does the hon. member have consent to proceed this way?

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Some hon. members


PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Some hon. members


Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Halifax West Nova Scotia


Geoff Regan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

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

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Some hon. members


Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.


Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. If the House would give its consent to return to tabling of documents, I would like to table four responses to petitions on behalf of the government.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Does the hon. member have consent to return to tabling of documents?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Some hon. members


Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Halifax West Nova Scotia


Geoff Regan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to four petitions.

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I wish to inform the House that, because of the ministerial statement, government orders will be extended by 28 minutes.

Canadian Commercial Corporation ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Denis Québec


Pierre Pettigrew LiberalMinister for International Trade

moved that Bill C-41, an act to amend the Canadian Commercial Corporation Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the legislative changes that the Government of Canada is proposing to the act governing the Canadian Commercial Corporation.

Before I address the legislation directly, I would like to make mention of the extraordinary events that took place in Doha, Qatar last week. United in our resolve, WTO partners agreed to start a process that will lead to an effective integrated rules based trading system and greater market access for citizens, not just of Canada but of all member countries.

The only presence of the development theme in the ministerial declaration bodes well for wealth creation, not only in terms of growth but also in terms of equity. As the House knows, the Canadian government believes that contributing to greater equity in the world provides stability for long term and lasting peace. Moreover, the launch of the new round of negotiations at the World Trade Organization is good news for Canada, for our farmers and for agriculture producing countries around the world.

Agriculture touches a country's economic development, social development and food security as well. A stable, predictable market environment is important for a developed country like Canada, but even more important for those less developed countries looking to access international markets and provide economic well-being for their citizens.

Finally, I would like to make special mention of the lead role that Canada played and will continue to play on the issues of investment, competition, transparency in government procurement and trade facilitation.

As a government, we cannot only open new markets to our exporters. We must also provide the tools and support our exporters need to fully participate in these new markets. We must therefore continue to evaluate and improve tools, such as the Canadian Commercial Corporation, to ensure that they are competitive and responsive to world markets and the changing global environment.

Since its creation in 1946, CCC has acquired a unique expertise in the sale of Canadian goods and services to the public sector of foreign countries. It is well-known for its capacity to meet the needs of the defence and aerospace sectors of foreign governments, in particular the U.S. Department of Defense, its most important client.

However, the Canadian Commercial Corporation has become much more than a contractor in the area of defence. In the last few years, CCC has acquired significant capacities in other areas.

At the present time, 30% of its activity deals with areas like information and communication technologies, environmental services, transport and consumer goods. This being said, there are great opportunities to help Canadian exporters to have access to a much larger portion of international public markets outside the defence area.

The international public sector market is huge and could exceed $5 billion U.S. a year. It offers huge opportunities to Canadian exporters, especially small and medium size business. It is also a specialized market, where success depends on experience, reputation and credibility.

This market is also characterized by the lengthy and complex contract negotiations, and payment schedules are often extended, to the point where many small businesses find themselves unable to meet payment terms.

That being said, this market cannot be ignored by Canada, simply because it has specialized needs. More than 45% of our GDP and a third of jobs in Canada depend on our success on international markets. We must seize all opportunities to explore and develop new markets. One of the main targets of Canada must be the international public markets sector, which offers huge possibilities to our exporters, including our small and medium size businesses.

The Canadian Commercial Corporation has the unique capacity to make Canadians access to international public markets and to target them. It has the contacts and the qualifications needed by Canadian exporters to conduct their commercial activity on international markets. Those contacts and qualifications give our exporters an important advantage in finding new contracts, respecting their criteria and obtain contracts in this competitive and specialized market. It is a good commercial activity, which leads to very good jobs and the creation of wealth across Canada.

The Canadian Commercial Corporation is focusing on three specific types of support for Canadian exporters: customized export sales and contracting services, a government-backed guarantee of contract performance for Canadian suppliers of foreign buyers, and finally, access to commercial financing for Canadian companies in need of working capital to finance exports before shipping.

Over the years, Canadians have come to expect from the government and public sector corporations not only unique services, but also efficient and cost effective services. They want these organizations to be self-sufficient, have a commercial approach and be ready to take advantage of new business opportunities, in a way that is relevant in today's business environment.

Bill C-41 is meant to update the act and provide for necessary changes to the corporation's governance and operating procedures, so that the corporation can serve the needs of Canadian exporters in a commercially responsible way and assist Canadian exporters to exploit the significant opportunities that exist in the huge public procurement market.

Bill C-41 proposes three changes. First, it creates separate job descriptions for the offices of chair and president of the corporation, bringing CCC's governance structure in line with treasury board guidelines. This is also consistent with modern corporate management practices.

Second, it allows the corporation to charge a fee for service that will balance the cost of providing the services with the value to client. The fee structures will be fair and will balance the price of service and the value received by clients.

Third, it expands CCC's borrowing authority which will strengthen the corporation's capacity to service large scale international contracts and make timely progress payments to Canadian suppliers.

It is true that from time to time the Canadian Commercial Corporation can face liquidity problems when its largest customer experiences delays in processing payments. This happened just recently when the United States department of defense payments were delayed because of the events of September 11. In the past this has meant that some payments to Canadian suppliers have been delayed. One solution has always been to borrow from the Government of Canada. However, with this legislation the corporation will be able to borrow from commercial lenders as well. This will decrease the corporation's reliance on the federal treasury and will improve its capacity to meet the cash flow needs of Canadian suppliers working on large scale international projects.

Overall, these amendments will strengthen the Canadian Commercial Corporation's capacity to deliver the specialized services that contribute to the success of thousands of Canadian companies in export markets and that have helped produce high quality employment for Canadians throughout the country.

Canadians recognize that trade is a necessary ingredient for economic growth and Canada's continued prosperity and social well-being.

With our economic success so tied to trade, Canada's continued prosperity depends on our exporters accessing an open world economy. Canada's engagement with the world through trade and investment contributes to our competitiveness and employment and helps create wealth. This enhances the ability of the Government of Canada to reinvest in education and innovation, in our universal health care system and of course in our youth.

Trade puts money in the pockets of Canadians who teach in our schools, work in our factories and run our hospitals. As well, Canadian consumers and producers can obtain a broader choice of cheaper and better goods and services through trade.

To put it simply, trade translates into better and higher paying jobs and increased opportunity and prosperity for all Canadians. It is in light of all this that we must ensure that our exporters are equipped to compete in world markets and that the tools we provide to them are effective and efficient.

Over the years, the Canadian Commercial Corporation has proven the value of these services that are unique and customized for Canada and its customers in the export community. It has helped thousands of Canadian companies sell goods and services for more than $30 billion to government buyers abroad. Just in the last year, it had record sales totalling $1.3 billion for Canadian suppliers, 70% of which were small and medium businesses.

We know it is possible to raise the level of activity on international procurement, with an estimated value of $5 billion a year, and we know that other Canadian companies are interested. That is why I urge the House to support Bill C-41.

Canadian Commercial Corporation ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Duncan Canadian Alliance Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was pleased to hear the minister make reference to the meeting last week in Doha, Qatar. It is a sign of the times that Canada had nine federal parliamentarians at the meeting, two from the official opposition of which I was one, as well as some provincial ministers. I was pleased to be there to see the process at work.

We met with parliamentarians from other countries while we were at the meeting. There are currently no terms of reference for parliamentarians at WTO talks so we came up with a resolution as a group that would see a parliamentary association attached to the WTO which would lend itself to increased transparency for the organization.

The resolution would need consensus approval from 144 nations. We are not yet there but the Canadian government is an advocate as is the European community. We can only hope that after the next ministerial meetings this will resonate and we will get there.

Bill C-41, an act to amend the Canadian Commercial Corporation Act, is largely a housekeeping bill related to the activities of the corporation. Unlike the Export Development Corporation, most Canadians do not know about the Canadian Commercial Corporation. Probably the prime reason is that the Canadian Commercial Corporation is generally involved in non-controversial projects. Canadian producers contract to the Canadian Commercial Corporation which then contracts to foreign governments and their agencies for Canadian goods and services.

Protectionism has been falling away and government procurement has been opening up considerably. With additional membership in the WTO governments need to harmonize their procurement rules with WTO rules.

While in Doha Canadian parliamentarians met with Taiwanese parliamentarians. One of the things they mentioned to us was that Bombardier had bid on the transit system in their capital, Taipei, and were unsuccessful. However the rules were different then. As part of the process of becoming a member of the WTO Taiwan had to change its government procurement rules. It has done that. It wanted in no uncertain terms for us to pass on to Bombardier that it is open for business.

Taiwan had looked all over the world and thought Bombardier's product was a good product in the marketplace. Taiwan wants to put transit into three more cities and does not want Bombardier to give up on it as a possible client. These kinds of meetings are potentially quite beneficial.

We also met with the delegation from the People's Republic of China. One of the things we wanted to scope out with them was how much potential Canadian demand there was for forest products. This looks very promising. It is an avenue Canadian suppliers and the Canadian federal, provincial and other governments are pursuing.

As the official government contracting agent established in 1946 the Canadian Commercial Corporation can sell Canadian products and services in foreign government markets. Without the corporation many of these markets would be much more difficult to access and we would lose opportunities.

The difference between the CCC and its partner Export Development Corporation is that EDC is a financial institution that provides loans and insurance whereas the Canadian Commercial Corporation is not a financial institution and does not issue commercial loans or sell insurance.

Bill C-41 would amend the Canadian Commercial Corporation Act by separating the functions of the chairperson of the board and chief executive officer and describing the roles and responsibilities of the chairperson and president of the corporation. It would also authorize additional borrowing. This would be a significant increase. It would go from the $10 million that is currently authorized to $90 million.

The bill would permit the corporation to charge an amount considered appropriate for providing services. The historical level is somewhere between 0.5% and 4% and has tended to be done on a cost recovery basis rather than through a commercial fee for service.

The Canadian Commercial Corporation was involved in $1.338 billion worth of business last year. The corporation currently receives an annual appropriation of $10.7 million for its operating expenses and is allowed to borrow up to $10 million.

The CCC does not lend money. It acts as a facilitator between Canadian companies selling to foreign governments. The CCC generally acts as the prime contracting agency with the foreign government while the domestic producer contracts with the commercial corporation.

The Canadian Commercial Corporation is the custodian of the defence production sharing agreement, otherwise known as DPSA, with the U.S. which represents more than half its business volume. U.S. department of defence regulations specify that all U.S. defence purchases over $100,000 from Canadian suppliers be transacted through the Canadian Commercial Corporation.

The Canadian Commercial Corporation provides services to Canadian defence suppliers such as a waiver of requirement for U.S. cost accounting standards. In other words, the commercial corporation will accept standard accounting practices in Canada and translate them into U.S. requirements. That is a significant service.

The corporation also offers a waiver of requirements to submit cost and pricing data, a waiver of some of the regulations of the buy American act, and duty remittance for defence goods and services purchased outside NAFTA for fulfilment of the defence production sharing agreement.

The Canadian Commercial Corporation charges no fee for DPSA contracts. The $10.7 million appropriation is linked to that part of its activity. In other words, if the CCC is not charging a fee it needs government appropriation to pay its operating and other costs.

This special defence arrangement dates back to 1956. It is in Canada's strategic interest to continue it. As custodian of the defence production sharing agreement the CCC is mandated to serve as the contracting agency in support of the procurement needs of the U.S. department of defence. It also deals with NASA.

In times of crisis or war the Canadian Commercial Corporation, in keeping with our obligations to the United States under the defence production sharing agreement, would serve as Canada's national contracting instrument associated with industrial mobilization of Canadian sources of supply. Accordingly the procurement regulations of the U.S. department of defence specify that all defence purchases from Canada above $100,000 U.S. must be transacted through the Canadian Commercial Corporation.

The DPSA maintains special access for Canadian companies to the enormous and highly protected U.S. aerospace and defence markets. The other 46% of business volume consists of contracts with foreign governments for anything but defence production sharing arrangement contracts. Cost recovery is practised but it is ad hoc. Bill C-41 would allow preset commercial fees to be charged for commercial corporation facilitation.

Some of the things the commercial corporation offers are risk assessment of financial, managerial and technical competencies; advice on preparation and submission; assistance in contract negotiation; government backed guarantees of contract performance; and contract monitoring including auditing and closeout.

The Canadian Commercial Corporation guarantees that small and medium size Canadian companies will be paid by the foreign governments within 30 days. Foreign governments usually take longer than 30 days to make payment so the commercial corporation may have large cash outlays it recovers some time later from the foreign governments. As I understand it, this provision is the major reason the Canadian Commercial Corporation wants to increase borrowing.

I disagree with this. There is no reason suppliers should not have to wait for normal payment regimes from foreign governments when they do so in all other transactions that fall outside the business of the Canadian Commercial Corporation. Domestic suppliers supplying to the Canadian government do not get this kind of favouritism.

In summary, the Canadian Commercial Corporation has had a fairly narrow mandate. As a consequence it has been run until now in a fairly conservative fashion. It has been around since the post war period, 1946, and the defence production sharing agreement has been in place since 1956.

The first priority of the Canadian Commercial Corporation has been the DPSA. The second priority has been all other procurements. It has tended to run a fairly tight risk analysis. This is why in the last fiscal year the broad debt worked out to 0.1% or one-tenth of 1%. Any lender would consider this to be good performance in terms of reducing their risk. I have a concern that relates to the new borrowing powers the commercial corporation wants.

I could describe that concern this way. If it were to have this new-found borrowing authority one of my concerns would be that normal constraints would fall away and there would be a tendency for the commercial corporation to go for riskier business on the basis of its borrowing power. Second, suppliers would be attracted to the commercial corporation not for its technical abilities or its ability to help them gain entry to the market but because of its expedited payment. Essentially, everyone knows that when we deal with governments we do not get paid within 30 days.

I believe this corporation has an essential role to play but I believe that increasing the borrowing power from $10 million to $90 million is not in the taxpayer's interest and is not in the long term interest of the commercial corporation.

Canadian Commercial Corporation ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.


Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to congratulate the minister and the official opposition's critic for having demonstrated such eloquence in describing a bill that is, all in all, relatively modest.

In examining Bill C-41, an act to amend the Canadian Commercial Corporation Act, I found that there are basically three amendments. I admit these changes seem quite in order, however, what is more disquieting is what the bill does not contain.

The first of the three amendments contained in the bill separates the functions of chairperson of the board and chief executive officer. The bill describes the new functions of the two officials in charge of this new Canadian Commercial Corporation.

The second amendment authorizes additional borrowing to allow the corporation to pay its bills to small and medium size businesses diligently, because, as we know, these businesses are often in need of liquidity.

The third amendment would permit the corporation to charge an amount that it considers appropriate for providing services.

After looking at these three amendments, one cannot help but agree with the minister when he says that the purpose of the bill is to ensure that the Canadian Commercial Corporation be more focused on trade, and be better able to respond to the needs of exporters and evolving competition on international markets. He referred to the Doha Conference, which may indeed lead to increased access to a certain number of markets that currently allow either limited, or no access, to international competition.

I must add that the Canadian commercial corporation's contribution is not negligible. I noticed that of the 264 Canadian suppliers that signed contracts abroad through the corporation, 69 were located in Quebec, which represents approximately one quarter of the contracts that were signed. Most of these contracts were in fairly strategic sectors of economic activity and of greater Montreal's economy in particular.

For example, the most sold products are rail equipment and vehicles, at close to 44,3%. As for aerospace as has been mentioned on several occasions during the debate on Air Canada and the current problems with civil aviation, this sector accounts for 18.4% of equipment sales under CCC contracts. Finally, there are armaments at 7.7%.

It is, moreover, important to keep in mind that the Canadian Commercial Corporation plays a key role in respecting the defence protection sharing agreement signed in 1956. As we speak, 60% of the CCC's activities are still governed by or relate to the DPSA.

Obviously, as the minister has said, for some years now the corporation has sought to redirect part of its operations to help Quebec and Canadian exporters to do business with governmental agencies in numerous countries. In this connection, it needs to be acknowledged that it could be playing a far greater role than it is at present.

A survey commissioned by the Canadian Commercial Corporation of 506 exporters in the year 2000 indicated that 82% of them did no business with a foreign government. Worse yet, 86% had never tried to do so. Yet in 1999 government contracts throughout the world totalled $5.3 trillion U.S. in business. We are talking here of 18% of total world trade.

As we know, the coming round of WTO negotiations—and much vigilance is required in this connection—is likely to open up new market opportunities with public administrations. This represents a potential that is, obviously, not being exploited.

It is to be hoped that with the particular amendments the bill would introduce, the corporation could play this role of helping our exporters do business with foreign public administrations.

From this point of view, the Bloc Quebecois supports the bill. It adds the necessary tools for access to these important contracts, as I mentioned earlier, although it could go further.

Where we have a problem is that as the corporation diversifies its activities while maintaining its original functions, and here we are referring to products, such as in connection with national defence, there should be an extremely rigid legislative framework to prevent the Canadian Commercial Corporation from helping a company to export weapons or strategic products to countries which are violating human rights, waging unjustified wars, or encouraging the presence of terrorist groups within their borders.

There is an inconsistency here in connection with weapons and strategic products in that there is no very specific legislative framework guiding the CCC's operations in this or any other bill.

There are a few lines in the Canadian Commercial Corporation's report about the environment and the CCC's social responsibilities, but this seems completely inadequate to us. It puts me in mind of the debate we had a few days or weeks ago in the House and in the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade with respect to the Export Development Corporation.

We read in the Canadian Commercial Corporation's 2000-01 annual report:

CCC voluntarily applies its environmental review framework (ERF) on all capital projects.

This bothers me. How can a crown corporation, as in the case, unfortunately, of the Export Development Corporation, adopt an environmental framework outside the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act? It seems to me that this should have been tightened up. We know that it is very important, particularly in light of the awakening global concern with environmental impacts, including from projects related to foreign investments, often by large international companies.

We find what we read here completely inadequate. We would have liked to see the bill include provisions requiring the environmental framework the corporation uses to assess the impacts of the projects it supports to be better defined and applied much more rigorously.

In the section on the corporation's social responsibilities, it states:

Beyond traditional concern for economic well-being, there is growing interest amongst consumers, shareholders and governments with respect to the effect that business activity can have on genuine social prosperity, good governance and human rights.

Therefore, it is mentioned. What follows is a sentence that I could not manage to understand. I do not know if it is a bad translation or simply that they do not want it to be understood, but it says, and I quote:

Corporate social responsibility speaks to the degree to which corporate business practices reflect ethical principles protecting the community, human rights and the environment.

It is incomprehensible. This corporation will, in the end, take an interest in these concerns that it considers particularly sensitive in terms of public opinion, if it affects its corporate business practices, which should reflect ethical principles that are unknown to us. The only law that this document refers to is the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act.

I hope that concerns regarding human rights, the environment and democratic rights as a whole are considered more important than issues of corruption, which must be adequately suppressed.

This document announces that the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade is currently undertaking a pilot project with Canadian businesses and representatives of the corporation to determine what the CCC's corporate social responsibilities are in the context of international trade transactions.

In this regard, I found the following statement absolutely shocking from the point of view of the interests of the minister himself:

The CCC continues to keep track of DFAIT's work in this area and will respond accordingly to relevant recommendations resulting from the process.

Again, I wonder if it is the French translation that is bad or if the wording is deficient. When the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade will have completed its process, will the corporation engage in cherry picking to determine what it deems relevant in the reports that the ministers will have before them?

In that respect too we expected something a lot more substantial concerning the review of the impacts of projects supported by the Canadian Commercial Corporation in terms of social, human and democratic rights.

In this context, it is clear that we agree with the proposed changes. However, this is not nearly enough. I hope that we will have the opportunity, either following a government initiative or our own initiative, to have a debate on these substantive issues.

These issues are all the more important because the corporation will assume its responsibilities with Quebec and Canadian businesses in a context where—and I think that last weekend's protests should, at last, serve as a lesson to this government and to other governments involved in negotiations to liberalize trade—we must be aware that the public is now getting involved.

It is not just those who protest in the streets and who did so in Ottawa this weekend—and I should mention that my daughter was there to show her solidarity with the others, something which reflects the involvement of our young people—and when they do get involved, it is not necessarily against the opening up of markets. The public wants to make sure that this opening up of markets, this globalization will serve people and communities, and not just economic interests, particularly those of large businesses.

We still have not had this substantive debate. The Liberal government has not yet given us the opportunity to do so, but I can assure it that in the future, especially following the WTO negotiations and the negotiations on a free trade area of the Americas, we will be present to ensure that human, environmental, social and labour rights are respected.

Canadian Commercial Corporation ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.


Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, first I would like to congratulate the member for Joliette for his speech and tell him that I totally agree with his criticisms concerning this bill.

For example, he spoke about the annual report of the Canadian Commercial Corporation. He suggested that there may be a translation problem with regard to the responsibility of businesses that are funded by this corporation. But I must reassure my colleague from Joliette and tell him that it is not a translation problem.

In fact I had underlined, underscored, exactly the same section of the annual report of the Canadian Commercial Corporation.

The bill itself is an innocuous bill. There is nothing particularly significant or profound about the changes that are proposed in this legislation. I venture to guess that only a handful of Canadians even are aware of the existence of the Canadian Commercial Corporation. In fact even if we asked members of the House how many of them are aware of the Canadian Commercial Corporation, how many of them are aware of the mandate and scope of the Canadian Commercial Corporation, not a lot of them are aware.

It obviously does some important work. It facilitates sales by Canadian corporations overseas. In a number of those areas we welcome and support that important work, there is no question about that.

I want to say that in the area in which it has the greatest mandate, which is under the defence production sharing agreement with the United States, we have some very serious concerns about that and particularly about the transparency of those transactions. I will deal with that in a moment.

My colleague from Joliette highlighted the issue of corporate social responsibility. One would have hoped that the Canadian Commercial Corporation, as a government financed agency, something that is ultimately a cannibal to the taxpayers of Canada who finance this, would be at the forefront on the issue of corporate social responsibility. Here is what it has to say on that issue. I am quoting from its most recent annual report:

The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade has been chairing an ongoing process with Canadian business representatives on corporate social responsibility in the context of international trade transactions. The CCC continues to keep track of DFAIT's work in this area and will respond accordingly to relevant recommendations resulting from the process.

That is shameful. It is embarrassing that this is really the best the Canadian Commercial Corporation can do in the area of corporate social responsibility. It is absolutely unbelievable in terms of ethical business practices. It is facilitating the trade by Canadian corporations overseas. I think it has a special responsibility in doing that to lead on issues of the rights of working people, of working men and women, of human rights, the environment and other basic standards.

I too had the opportunity to participate along with the minister and my colleagues from all sides of the House in the recent WTO ministerial in Doha. I want to thank the minister for involving parliamentarians in that delegation and enabling us to play an important role in our work there. There were a number of significant bilateral meetings with delegations from a number of different countries. I certainly found it a very valuable exercise.

What was the outcome of that fourth ministerial? What did it have to say in particular in responding to the longstanding concerns of the least developed countries on this planet, the poorest countries on this planet? Those countries in the Zanzibar declaration and elsewhere have pointed out that under the existing provisions of the WTO there are deep concerns. The gap between rich and poor has grown greater, it has not closed. Serious environmental concerns remain with respect to the impact of the policies of the WTO.

There are a number of major outstanding concerns in the implementation of the existing agreements under the Uruguay round. They pointed out particular issues such as access to our markets on things like textiles and agriculture, and particularly the European protectionist policies on agriculture. Certainly both our minister of agriculture and agri-food and the trade minister were very tough in terms of trying to break down some of those barriers. We saw some movement on that in the final declaration, although once again the commitment to ending those subsidies remains to be seen.

I was frankly surprised and pleased that we saw some progress on the issue of anti-dumping with the United States.The United States of course had been virtually isolated on this issue with tremendous domestic pressure but we did see some movement by the United States. Certainly when we look at the destructive impact of those policies on Canada, particularly in the context of the softwood lumber dispute, any movement at all is to be welcomed and we encourage that.

What about some of the key issues that not just developing countries are concerned about but many of the activists in the NGO community, in civil society are concerned about? What about the environment? What about core labour standards? What about human rights and the relationship between international human rights covenants for example and trade? On those areas I have to say that the progress was very disappointing.

Yes there was some modest movement on the issue of TRIPS but there was no change whatsoever to the TRIPS agreement. It basically was a political statement. Robert Zoellick, the U.S. trade representative, was right up front about that. Canada's position with respect to TRIPS was appalling. We along with a handful of other countries, including Switzerland, Japan and the United States were rightly seen I regret to say as putting the interests of multinational pharmaceutical companies ahead of the interests of the poorest on the planet, ahead of the interests of public health. There was some interpretive movement on that but that was about it.

On the environment there was no clear statement that MEAs, multilateral environmental agreements, must take precedence over trade agreements, absolutely none whatsoever. On the issue of human rights it was similar with virtually no movement at all in that area.

In the area of core labour standards which have been recognized by the ILO, issues such as forced labour, the exploitation of child labour, the whole issue of fairness in the workplace and the right to basic collective bargaining rights, Doha was a dismal failure. The best the international community at the WTO was able to come up with was taking note. The WTO ministers and member countries took note of the work being done at the ILO on the issue of globalization and some of the consequences of globalization.

If we can put the rights of multinational pharmaceutical companies into the heart of the WTO, why can we not put the rights of working men and women into the heart of the WTO as well, basic core labour standards?

When I look at the legislation on the Canadian Commercial Corporation, I look at it from that perspective. What is the role of the CCC in ensuring that the corporations that receive financial assistance from the CCC are promoting those basic standards, are showing respect for the ILO core labour standards, are respecting the environment and are respecting fundamental human rights concerns? The short answer to that is that according to the annual report of the Canadian Commercial Corporation it is not doing anything significant on that at all.

The corporation itself was established in 1946 with a mandate to “assist in the development of trade between Canada and other nations”. I am going to suggest on behalf of my colleagues in the New Democratic Party that it should be providing that assistance while making sure that those basic standards are respected. I look forward to the opportunity when the bill gets to committee to make inquiries as to what steps the CCC is taking to reflect those important Canadian values in the work it does in financing global corporate transactions under its mandate.

I mentioned as well that an important part of its mandate is assisting in transactions under the 1956 defence production sharing agreement with the United States. Here again Canadians have many questions about just how this functions.

There is a lot of concern about the lack of transparency in the whole operation of the DPSA, the defence production sharing agreement with the United States. There are too many examples of that. Recently Canada sold something like 40 Bell helicopters to the United States military. Those Bell helicopters were sold to the U.S. military with Canada knowing full well, I suggest, that they were in turn to be used in the military component of Plan Colombia in Colombia.

Many Canadians totally reject the military component of Plan Colombia. They do not want to see Canadian helicopters being routed through the United States and then used in that military operation. This is one of the gaping loopholes in our defence sales policy so far: the fact that if the sales are to the United States there is no end use scrutiny whatsoever. There is no real opportunity whatsoever to determine whether the United States is in turn selling to other countries which may have appalling human rights records.

We know that Canada itself has sold weapons and has had significant military contracts with a number of countries which have human rights records that have been condemned by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and others, and which are engaged in armed conflicts. Project Ploughshares has documented this. Other groups have documented this as well. Very clearly the concern is about the sale of military supplies to countries that are engaged in human rights abuses. Press for Conversion has published a number of very powerful indictments of Canadian policy in this area, such as selling weapons to countries like Saudi Arabia which we know has a terrible human rights record or Turkey which is engaged in a brutal repression of the Kurdish minority. Surely there should be far greater scrutiny of these operations. To the extent that this corporation is facilitating and supporting these kinds of sales we would want to ask some pretty tough questions.

The Canadian coalition on the arms trade has raised some very important questions about Canada's policy on military exports, but I do not have the time to go through them at any great length. I just want to flag, for example, that when we look at the possibility of contracts for the national missile defence scheme, the new star wars scheme, would the Canadian Commercial Corporation be financing those contracts or supporting those contracts? Is it already engaged in preliminary work in supporting those contracts? If so, certainly we have to ask some serious questions about the role of this corporation.

In closing, I want to say once again that in terms of the actual substance of this legislation and the changes that have been made we in the NDP do not have any strong objection to those changes. There is one question I would ask. I note that one of the changes proposed in the legislation would allow the Canadian Commercial Corporation to charge fees for service on its non-DPSA business. That is a good thing and certainly in terms of cost recovery that is a positive thing, but I have to ask why only on that business? Why should we not be ensuring cost recovery as well on our defence production sharing agreement business? It seems to me that there is a double standard there. I do not understand. I know there is an agreement between the United States and Canada and I suppose that would be the response I would get from a minister of the government, that we have this agreement and we cannot charge for that. However, if we can charge private corporations for facilitating their transactions outside the defence production sharing agreement, surely it is not unreasonable to suggest that we can do the same under the terms of that agreement. Again, that is one of the questions we can raise when the bill gets to committee.

I think this debate, along with the committee hearings, which will not be lengthy hearings, will give Canadians an opportunity to shed some light on what has heretofore been an agency that very few of them, and I venture to say very few members of parliament as well, have been aware of. It is in that light that we will be looking closely at the legislation when it goes to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade.