House of Commons Hansard #128 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.


Competition ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.


Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I think my hon. colleague must have misunderstood. The airline industry is a classic example of the attitude that competition always works and with deregulation it will work, but it does not work in all cases.

At some point some carriers can say that they will charge a ridiculously low price. I am not suggesting any particular carrier is doing that right now but in order for some carriers to provide lower prices I think they cut services. That is not always the case and I do not believe that to be the case of air carriers, specifically the one in Canada right now that is providing a very low cost rate. There has been nothing to indicate that.

However, competition is not always the only answer but certainly competition generally can bring prices down.

During the competition between Canadian Airlines and Air Canada, they were at each other's throats the whole time. They wanted all the people on a given route and flew back to back with each other. It ended up that one carrier was put out of business and the other carrier became a greater monopoly and more of a problem.

Competition was not the only answer in that case. We needed some regulations in place.

I was happy to hear the transport minister actually allude to this a little bit last week in some news reports. He said that maybe we needed to regulate domestic capacity in order to provide the service. Maybe we need to recognize that to provide service to some far reaching and rural areas of Canada some support systems need to be in place from the Government of Canada, and the people of Canada, so that we support each other knowing that it might be a little more costly to provide service up here. It should not be strictly on the backs of the airlines. It should be on us as a country to provide support and assist people throughout the country. That is the balance I would like to see within industry.

Competition ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Canadian Alliance Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to enter into the debate today on Bill C-23, the Competition Act.

Contrary to what the last speaker said, I think the world needs more competition. I would even suggest more competition even at grade school level where kids will learn the facts of life, one of those facts of life being that we win some and lose some but, most important, that we be competitive.

We have a problem in the schools right now. The kids are smarter and they can somehow get around things. When we herd kids out to the playground for the year 2000 or 2001 sports day and tell them about the high jump, we just lower the bar and everybody kind of throws themselves into the pit so that everybody is a winner and everybody feels good. In the hundred yard dash everybody gets into a blob in the middle of the field and they all run in whatever direction they can. They come back later and they all get a blue ribbon. Do they not all feel good?

The problem is that is not competitive. It needs to be competitive because kids need to find what it is that they do well and what they excel at. A competitive world does that for them when they are adults anyway. What we should be doing to help our kids is start them off by telling them we will help them find what they are best at and good at and encourage them to do that.

The same thing could be said in the Competition Act about creating competition or creating the atmosphere or an environment where good competition can take place. The bill is not meant to regulate competition so much as it is to regulate or to restrict anti-competitive behaviour. Anti-competitive behaviour is like the high jump contest. When somebody trips another kid on the way to the high jump it is an anti-competitive behaviour and not a fair behaviour. The bill tries to address that by saying that some things are just not right in a competitive marketplace.

The bill does its best to help the players in the marketplace understand what fair and unfair practices are in a competitive and free market society.

I believe the bill would never have come to the House as it has, had it not been for the work of the member for Pickering--Ajax--Uxbridge. His private member's bills were really the impetus behind this. I do not think there was any idea that the industry minister was going to bring this forward. I do not think it was on his radar screen. He is so busy stockpiling a leadership war chest that I did not think this would even come up on the radar screen. The member for Pickering--Ajax--Uxbridge did a good job. He brought forward a series of bills that pointed out some weaknesses in the current Competition Act that needed to be addressed and that we needed to get with the 21st century. I commend him for his efforts in bringing that forward and highlighting some of the problems in the existing act.

One of the problems I have with the bill is that it is supposed to be framework legislation. Framework legislation means that it gives the parameters for a good competitive law in the country. That is as it should be. It should give broad based principles. We have a commissioner who administers those. He or she should have the authority and the power that this act confers on her or him and the tribunals to make sure things are done properly.

What the bill has also been forced to deal with is to get specific in a couple of areas where there is a strong feeling that we have an anti-competitive marketplace, specifically in the airline industry. While I do not disagree with the amendments, it is kind of like we have to go the way of these amendments in order to deal with the airline industry in the bill. I believe we are doing that in the bill because the government has failed the country in its transportation policy. To create a competitive marketplace in transportation requires the proper transportation framework rather than a Competition Act framework.

What we are doing is trying to fix a mess left by the transport minister, who has presided over the demise of six airlines in the country over the last couple of years because there is no framework legislation on the transportation side that allows for the flourishing of the competitive world of airlines.

That is a shame, because now we are hearing things like we will penalize Air Canada under the act to the tune of up to $15 million if it does not do things right, whatever right is, in the eyes of the anti-competitive behaviour. Now we are hearing talk about perhaps nationalizing Air Canada, of all things. We are hearing people talk about how it is such a dominant carrier that maybe it is only right that we nationalize it, of all things. Third, we are hearing all kinds of chatter about re-regulating the airline industry, chatter saying that we can put on an A-320 from here to there but then we have to have an F28 from here to there and we can charge so much. What a quagmire they are getting themselves into by starting to talk like that.

We should be talking about a framework for the transportation industry that allows broad competition, including, I would say, an active negotiation with the Americans on reciprocal cabotage, something that would allow the American carriers on our routes here if in turn, as it has already proposed, Air Canada would be allowed to do the routes south of the border.

Contrary to what the transport minister said the other day, it was in the newspapers again last weekend that the Americans are stating they are interested in that and they think they should sit down and negotiate that. I urge the transportation minister and the industry minister to get with that before we lose another airline in our country. Let us get at fixing the industry problem, not the competitive problem, because we cannot fix one without fixing the other. That is for the transport minister and that deals with a specific part of the bill.

Let me talk about a couple of other things about the bill that are important for Canadians to know. First, the bill does give an increased specificity on international co-operation on anti-competitive behaviour. This is increasingly important because we are moving into a globalized economy, we increasingly are working in a globalized trade economy and we are working, hopefully, by the rule of law in more and more countries that want to come in and all play by the same set of rules.

Undoubtedly one of those rules in the future would be a common set of rules on how we define anti-competitive behaviour. This is a real problem because we can see what happens, for example, with a merger, one of the things the Competition Act deals with. A merger can be approved in Canada or in the United States, but because we are dealing with international corporations, the same corporations that obtained approval in one continent could go to Europe and find out there is a different set of rules, such that the transaction, the merger, that was approved in one hemisphere would not be approved in another.

We simply have to get a common set of rules around the world on what is acceptable for competitive behaviour and what is unacceptable in anti-competitive behaviour. We will be moving that way. It is inevitable, I believe. It is part of this inevitable globalization of the business community, but increasingly part of what we need to do in Canada and in other industrialized nations is to set the pace and show people that we want to be competitive, that we want to play by a common set of rules.

The bill does give a sample of the type of international agreement we might enter into with another country to reciprocate as far as the sharing of information is concerned, the sharing of trade secrets, so to speak, how much is to be divulged and who would get access to it. All those things are very important, because although we are concerned about competition in Canada, international competition is a driving force in many of our businesses today and will be more so in the future. Getting this right, getting the framework right and getting other industrialized nations to buy into the same kind of framework will be key.

I would suggest that we start with our American partners because we and the Americans have a common understanding of the rule of law and the need for these trade agreements, investment agreements and competitive competition agreements. I suggest that we start with the Americans, bring that together and then move quickly to the G-7 and the G-20 and get at least the industrialized world to agree to a common set of competition laws. We need to do that and I would argue that we need to do it sooner rather than later.

The other parts of the bill are relatively easy to support. There is an increased necessity for giving notice of winning a prize in what I call these fake-a-loo contests where something is sent to people. I got some again on the weekend.

Competition ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

An hon. member

Did you win?

Competition ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Canadian Alliance Fraser Valley, BC

I would swear that I was a millionaire and a boat owner and I won a car all this weekend just by simply opening the mail, except of course that it was all bogus. I will not win anything and I know it. All that went into the big, round filing cabinet.

The bill would force people to say what the prizes are. Also, in regard to these bogus contests that basically say “Send me $500 and it will take you to the next step” the bill would make people provide details for those who are easily deceived or perhaps not sure of what the laws are. It would force companies to put that front and centre in these deceptive contests. I guess it really does come down to the caveat emptor and buyer beware business, but at least the notice would appear on the front of documents. That is a good thing.

There is another thing that the amendments we worked through specifically brought to the Competition Act, and it is the big ticket item, the right to private access. This was in one of the bills brought forward by the member for Pickering--Ajax--Uxbridge. The right to private access was quite contentious in committee and basically broke down along two lines. It seemed that the bigger the business or the more omnipresent the business the less likely it was to be in favour of right to access. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business was in favour of private access.

Private access allows private businesses to initiate an action if they feel they are the victims of anti-competitive behaviour. The way it is right now, if this bill did not pass, for example, they apply to the commissioner and the commissioner may or may not approve it. He may say it is too regional, too local or not within his purview. The right to private access allows private parties, any company or individual, to apply directly to the tribunal for remedies concerning everything from refusal to deal or tied selling, market restriction, exclusive dealings and so on. The tribunal would be able to deal on that without the commissioner's blessing, so to speak.

The commissioner is in favour of this. He does not feel like he is getting the shaft or anything. He is perfectly happy with it. The tribunals will rule. The commissioner may even at times join with the plaintiff in the case if he thinks it is a good case. If he thinks it is integral to future jurisprudence, for example, he may join in and actually take part in the tribunal case. The important thing is that private companies will have direct access to the tribunal for the first time. We heard many people testify that they would like the privilege of doing that. I think if they want it they should be allowed to do it just like they would in any other court case.

I would caution people who think it is a panacea. There is no doubt that a private right to access case is an expensive business. It costs a lot of money and is a very specialized type of litigation. Those who want to start it had better be pretty sure of what they are doing and be prepared to fork over a good amount of money. These things take a long time and are not cheap. That being said, it is up to individual companies to make that move. If they feel they have winnable cases, more power to them.

There was also an amendment that came through at the committee stage. The initial draft of the bill stated that in order to receive costs from one of these private litigations, vexatious action had to be proven on behalf of the other party. In other words, it was to prevent someone from bringing something forward just to be nasty, to drag it through the courts, to tie another person up. It was basically the same sort of thing as a libel chill on a competitive business. We removed that standard of having to prove vexatious behaviour. We just said that if someone wins the case and deserves costs he or she should not have to prove that the other party was vexatious or malicious. A person should just have to prove that it was a very strong case, won fair and square on the same common law rules as anyone else. That initial proposal was removed and I think the bill was strengthened because of that.

There would not be triple damages, though, which is the American experience. The American experience is to allow people to bring a private access case. If they win the case they are awarded triple damages. It is a very punitive system, in which someone could say “I spent a couple of million dollars taking IBM to court, I won the case and IBM owes me 6 million bucks just for my court costs because I get triple costs”.

In Canada we have decided to take a different and, I think, more prudent course. We are saying that if people win the case, they get the rulings, they get the interim orders and they get the anti-competitive actions to stop, but we do not make this a windfall for the lawyers and for people who just want to spend their days in court. I know a few people who love going to court. I will not mention names, but they seem to want to go court at the drop of a hat. There is a simple statement in the news or something and before long people are in court; they seem to think this is a good way to make a living. They will not make a living under this bill.

Under the bill the costs would come back but that is all. People would not get triple damages. Hopefully that would keep most of the sharks out of this pond and allow people who are really concerned about anti-competitive behaviour to actually deal with that issue by itself and not make this just a money making enterprise for the lawyers who specialize in this.

If I may, I will mention again that overall the bill would strengthen the current Competition Act. It would allow the right for private access, something that we support. However, it does it in a way that would restrict lawyers from making a killing on it, so to speak. I think that is proper. It would restrict the ability to do deceptive mass mailings to create the impression that people could win a big prize if only they would fork over a little bit of money. That is proper.

The bill streamlines the tribunal process, which is good. We heard a lot of testimony from people urging the tribunal to put together a proper case management system so that the number of witnesses and so on is not restricted. Instead of endless debate, then, we would have a case management system that would allow things to go forward, as the justice minister would say, in a timely and proper fashion. That would certainly be the case if the government were to do that case management more judiciously.

The bill would allow for temporary orders or interim orders if there is some sort of anti-competitive behaviour that is injurious to someone in a way such that the commissioner says it has to be stopped right away. In some cases he would be able to put forward a cease and desist order to stop irreparable harm being done to a business.

Overall, I believe, the bill should be supported at this stage. I again urge the government to think in terms of leaving the Competition Act as framework legislation and trying to fix the other industry problems, whether it is banking or airlines or whatever it might be.

The government should get into the game when it comes to creating a competitive transportation system. The transportation system is not fixed with the act because we cannot force competition in this, we can only prohibit anti-competitive behaviour. To get competition we need good transport policy. We do not have good transport policy in the country and that is the reason we have seen the demise of six airlines in the last two years.

The legislation as is, I believe, will work. I think it is worth a try for those who have expressed concerns about it. We will be watching to make sure it does not get out of hand, but at this stage I do believe it is the best compromise we could come up with. I do believe it is a good balance. I would urge that the other industry specific problems be addressed by those ministers in charge of those specific industries.

Competition ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Mississauga South Ontario


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

Mr. Speaker, I believe my colleague would like to ask a question so I will make it brief. While speaking to Bill C-23, the member referred to the transportation sector, specifically the airlines. He suggested that reciprocal cabotage would be one avenue that should be pursued. He likened it to what Air Canada had proposed. My understanding is that that is not the case. Air Canada's proposal was that for a U.S. carrier to go between two Canadian destinations, it would have to have a middle stop in a U.S. airport and vice versa for Air Canada.

Could the member clarify his understanding as to whether or not we are talking about reciprocal cabotage or some sort of a clone of cabotage with some restrictions? He might also want to comment with regard to a national transportation policy in the context of a shrinking marketplace.

Competition obviously is important to Canada in ensuring service and price benefits to the consumer. At the same time the U.S. experienced a drop of about one-third in the utilization of its capacity during its highest week, Thanksgiving week. Canada also has experienced a significant contraction. When we consider the financial fundamentals of most Canadian airlines, other than possibly WestJet, there are serious consequences to a contracting marketplace and also a reducing market share if the competition rules would restrict that competition.

Competition ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Canadian Alliance Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, to respond to the member's first point about the cabotage or the genetically modified cabotage proposed by Air Canada, I believe we should look at all those options. There were other options. I read more options in the paper today by another transportation writer who talked about possibly allowing someone to come into a new market that has been developed by a new competitor, not allowing Air Canada to jimmy the prices on a weekly basis, and to set a price and guarantee the price for a certain amount of time.

A number of things can be done in the transportation marketplace; reciprocal cabotage is one of them. If the Americans are interested we should at least talk about that. If it is a modified version where people are zigzagging and stopping in Chicago on their way to Halifax or something, we could talk about that too.

The essence is that we have to find ways to increase competition. If that will do it, then by all means let us explore it. The important thing is let us initiate conversations with their American counterparts. Everyone has the same shrinking market problem. Perhaps consumers and companies on both sides of the border can benefit from the flexibility that this sort of reciprocal cabotage arrangement might bring to the marketplace.

It seems that the incredible shrinking market has affected everyone, probably with the exception of WestJet in Canada and Southwest Air in the United States. They seem to have got around it by being very specific in their marketplace.

I do not know what we can do about that. We could encourage more travel, and we have done that. We have spent money on ads trying to promote the industry, but there is an oversupply and that in the long run means there will be some companies that will go broke. I do not mind them going broke, if they go broke for legitimate, competitive reasons. What we do not want is having them go broke because they have found themselves in a market where they are not allowed to try new things and to explore those options.

One problem in Canada is that Air Canada in part is a creation of the federal government. We have come to this because of longstanding government policy of years ago that helped to create this monopoly. A number of assets were given to Air Canada through a crown corporation. A bunch of debt was forgiven. When Air Canada went through the merger proposal a couple of years ago, the government got involved in which ones were acceptable and which ones were not. For example, it would not take the Onex deal.

The government has forced Air Canada to do certain things and because of that, although it is hard for me to drum up any sympathy for Air Canada, it finds itself in a box not entirely of its own creation. Therefore, when it puts up a red flag says that it does not like the industry specific, Air Canada specific amendments to the bill, it will have to live with it because I will support the bill as is.

Where Air Canada does deserve some sympathy is that it has arrived at this place not entirely of its own doing. It has been boxed in, pushed in certain ways and regulations have made things a certain way. It is trying to live with whatever reality is now. The reality is we have a dominant airline that has 80% or 90% of the market share. With this bill, we are trying to find some way to protect what few airlines still exist in the industry to ensure they are competitive down the road.

Competition ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.


Dan McTeague Liberal Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to express my deep gratitude to the members of parliament who have mentioned my riding from time to time. I also would like to thank the hon. member for Fraser Valley. He was instrumental in assisting the committee and was very much, along with the member for Verchères--Les Patriotes, instrumental in ensuring a co-operative spirit in which we could advance the bill.

We heard from a number of witnesses during committee, as we had before, who were suggesting that was the end of the earth, while more reasoned level heads suggested that perhaps, as far as private access was concerned, it did not go far enough.

Clearly, I do not wish to anticipate what the other House will do, but I know the hon. member represents a party that has a substantial holding in the upper house. Would the hon. member be able to reassure the House, given where some of the lobbyists will be going, that the wisdom found collectively by all members of the House can also be repeated, certainly with his assistance, and will he endeavour to do that?

Competition ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Canadian Alliance Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, one thing I have learned over the last two or three years is that it is best not to suppose too much about what may happen in the other place lest we pay the price just for having supposed it.

I would make the same arguments to senators as I would make to anyone else. This is a good balance between the right to private access enjoyed in Australia, the United States and other jurisdictions around the world and the right to make an application directly and those who say it does not have enough teeth and if they win their case they should get triple damages like in the States. I would argue with everyone that this is a modest proposal that allows for some private access.

However we should not pretend that this will be a panacea. When an individual says he or she is being driven out of business because, for example, the motel across the street has lower rates, that will not go before the Competition Tribunal. One has to prove anti-competitive behaviour and it will be difficult to prove.

People do not have to worry that the bill is too intrusive. It will be difficult and very costly to prove anti-competitive behaviour. People will not be frivolous about this. There may be one or two frivolous cases, but after the first million dollars or so is spent on legal fees, people will find out that this is not something that is done for fun and that they had better have good, strong cases. That is what will restrict the number of cases before the tribunal on the private access side.

Competition ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.


Dan McTeague Liberal Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed an honour to be here today after several years of attempting to redress certain wrongs that were not being perceived correctly in the marketplace. The efforts of myself and my colleagues are finally being recognized on the floor of the House of Commons today.

It is a privilege to have worked with members on the other side of the House, in particular le député de Verchères--Les-Patriotes, the member for Winnipeg Centre, the member for Fraser Valley, the member for Edmonton Southwest and the member for Peace River. I want to give particular thanks to my colleagues who have stood shoulder to shoulder with me over the past several years as we went through the historical and concerned battles with respect to inappropriate pricing, particularly for the independent retailers of gasoline, and the impact which I think we are seeing unfold today of the mergers in the grocery industry and in the telecommunications industry. I thank the member for Tobique--Mactaquac; my good friend and colleague from Yukon; the member for St. Catharines, who is also the vice-chair of the committee; the member for Eglinton--Lawrence; the current chair, the member for Essex; the member for Burlington; and the member for Algoma--Manitoulin.

The bill in essence has been drawn from three or four private members' bills. The more controversial parts, needless to say, came from my Bill C-472 in the last parliament. This understanding of the need for change started back in 1996-97. Yes, it occurred in the energy industry but it also meant that it applied to every other industry as well because we understood the competitive process. At the time there was much resistance to Bill C-235 in the House. Notwithstanding that it had been voted on at second reading and sent to committee, the bill suffered ignominious defeat. It dealt with a concept which has now gripped the country in other industries, that is, the whole concept of the strength and effectiveness of predatory pricing.

It took the courage, understanding and sympathy, as well as the good intentions of the member for Scarborough Centre who, along with the competition commissioner and the then minister of industry, took the time to hear the concerns. They heard the frustrations that were being delivered to me as a member of parliament by a number of businesses in the country that had no voice.

This legislation could not have been without his efforts. The hon. member for Scarborough Centre will be one of the unsung heroes should the legislation meet with the support of the upper house. I wanted to take the time to pay tribute to his efforts without which I think this change to the Competition Act would never have been debated today. We certainly would be dealing with other issues.

I have been on a very long road, some would call it a crusade, not only to amend and bring our competition law in line with our competitor's but also to have it respond effectively to the needs of Canadians, whether they be in large businesses, in small businesses or consumers.

Years ago I wrote an article with respect to the CRTC. At the time I quipped that it was not Canadian radio, television and communications but rather consumers who were rarely taken into consideration. I think we have for some time forgiven ourselves for not doing enough to ensure that there is a level playing field for consumers who want to receive not just effective costs but also choice.

More often than not people will ask how we can attack this issue or that issue when the price is so darn good. We all know the old common quip of short term gain, long term pain. If one business is able to remove its competitor, often through a lack of oversight, which it must rely on for supply or from an acquisition perspective, we suddenly see the prices rise dramatically.

More recently the member for Fraser Valley and I have been co-slaggees, which is not really a word. We have been hit by a couple of editorials in some of what I would say are papers that are more in tune with business papers such as the Financial Post and the Southam chain or at least the Ottawa Citizen . That happened because we dared to suggest that the Competition Act, which they wrote in 1986 with the help of a handful of individuals, should now be subjected to the democratic rigours of members of parliament.

Day in and day out members hear frustrations from their constituents that there is no response because the competition commissioner or the Competition Bureau does not believe there is a case or there is indifference. Also if someone were to speak out without the protection of a member of parliament and parliamentary privilege, that person's company could find itself subjected to rather unsavoury tactics after the fact.

We are here today to provide a new direction, a direction that does not radically depart from the essence of due process of the Competition Act. What we are saying is that in the case of private right of access, interim orders, and certainly in the case of cease and desist as is better described, we are now helping people who might not have the time let alone the financial deep pockets to spend the time trying to defend themselves.

We saw this happen with independent gas retailers. I have mentioned a number of other industries where this occurs. Parliament and the media are very much gripped with the issue of Air Canada. It was music to my ears after writing a letter on November 23 to the Minister of Transport. I requested that he not issue a separate operating certificate for another discount airliner but, more important, that we toughen things up given his position, the week before of improving the Competition Act. Perhaps more adjudication of issues coming out of the airline industry could be provided and more issues surrendered to the rigours of our Competition Act. We could also look at a scenario that provides stronger, tougher cease and desist, not just for an 80 day maximum but right up until the tribunal has the time and an opportunity to review the potential or alleged anti-competitive act.

I also called for a penalty of some $50 million. As colleagues know, the committee, I guess wisely, chose to make that $15 million. The point was made. I want to suggest, not just to Canadians who may be listening to us today but to backbenchers and people who normally do not have a hand in influencing law, that indeed we can make a difference when we decide to apply ourselves on issues that are relevant to Canadians.

We have had opportunities in the past to look at changes to the Competition Act. The subject I would like to discuss is private access. So that people will understand, this allows it in four limited areas. We wanted to make sure we were observant of the safeguards. So many thought we would dispose of them, that we would somehow fling ourselves open to that terrible system which the United States has, not to mention that it is the most productive nation in the world from an economic point of view, but God knows we were not allowed to talk about triple damages or Australia's example of double damages.

No, Canada had to have a form of economic feudalism imposed on it by a handful of individuals who wrote the Competition Act in 1986. For some strange reason they do not want members of parliament meddling with a perfectly good piece of legislation when it is improved and certainly sanitized by the views of Canadians as represented democratically.

I found it very interesting that we heard from the likes of, and I will not mention his name because I do not think it is worth mentioning, people involved with the Financial Post . They actually suggested that members of parliament ought not to be making deliberations, that they should be something between business and business when it comes to the Competition Act.

Comments like that obviously are made by individuals who very much believe that they can hide behind their pens and write whatever they want in the solid belief that paper will not refuse ink.

We have heavier goals to respond to. One of those is to ensure that we have effective legislation that meets the test of time. It is for this reason I compliment the initiatives by our government to address some of the fundamental failings of the Competition Act but in particular not to give businesses an opportunity to engage and an opportunity to bring their cases before the Competition Tribunal. Why is that so important?

As we heard on several occasions, there are not enough precedents with the cases that are submitted to the Competition Tribunal. This is why we do not know the specific weaknesses and strengths of our Competition Act.

It has been at least 15 years since the act was truly reformed and the vast majority of Canadians think we should take this opportunity to review it and ensure that the objectives of our constituents, of consumers and of all businesses, big and small, are included in this legislation.

It is therefore with great pleasure that we made representations, as we are doing now at third reading of the bill, to ensure that small, medium and large sized companies, which really know their product and their business, are at least given an opportunity to know that they can submit their case to the tribunal. We want directors and those who work with the Competition Bureau to have an idea of these lesser known changes.

These differences are often not perceptible to public servants, but they are well understood and supported by those who work in that business field. This is why I am sure that by providing tools to businesses first they will at least be able to settle their cases, because we will have made the act accessible to them.

It is for this reason that these initiatives affect small businesses as much as large businesses. The public perceives that there is a problem but cannot get the proper justice. It cannot get the attention of the Competition Bureau to express the difficulty that exists. Those difficulties may happen in a short period of time, such that the person may be physically out of business.

There are many examples of businesses that have gone under. They have not gone under because they were not efficient and competitive. They put in their sweat, equity, their children's future and their own future. However, much larger businesses with deeper pockets knew full well that the Competition Act was written in such a way that only those who had deep pockets could make use of it.

It is for this reason that we have finally changed the definition and perhaps changed the Competition Act in such a way as to give those individuals a fighting chance to bring their cases before the Competition Tribunal.

These are not questions that we could easily dismiss about whether or not there would be effectiveness with the legislation. The committee heard from Australian commissioner Allan Fells. Australia is not just another country. It happens to be literally a brother or sister within the Commonwealth with laws that are much along the same wavelength as ours. The commissioner came to the conclusion that much of the body of law had been improved by private access, particularly in the area of refusal to deal. My hon. colleagues had an opportunity to exchange those views with the commissioner. We were very pleased to see that happening.

On the other hand there were concerns that having a bit of private access in Canada might ultimately lead to some kind of perversion in which we would have frivolous and vexatious or, as some would call it, strategic litigation. My amendments in committee were improvements. We improved on the terms “if it finds that the proceedings are frivolous or vexatious or that any step in the proceedings is taken to hinder or delay their progress” by putting forward an amendment in accordance with the provisions governing costs in the federal court rules, 1998.

There is little that one can raise as a concern about what this would lead to because it is already understood in law and it is the practice of every court. It is literally a situation wherein a judge would ask to have this stupid case removed from his court right away. The rules the committee suggested, and I hope parliament would approve, would see individuals who bring frivolous or vexatious claims pay a substantial cost as an disincentive for them not to engage in frivolous or vexatious activity.

The member for Fraser Valley suggested that was inevitable. We know that we can do this before any court. The provisions and safeguards are there. Notwithstanding their efforts, professors Michael Trebilcock and Tom Ross suggested that the time to deal with this had ended. We have been dealing with this for 30 years. Let us get on with it. They also suggested that perhaps down the road it would give rise to the need to extend it to other areas, for example abuse of dominant position in sections 78 and 79 of the Competition Act.

Those would be bold moves but they are not ones that parliament would want to make today. We have struck the right balance between assuring that the provisions of the bill would incorporate both the anxieties of those who suggest it is going too far and accommodating those who say in the main that we have not gone far enough.

I am pleased to see that the committee and parliament are addressing this issue with the help of the Minister of Industry at a speed that would allow us to ensure that 2002 will bring with it new expectations for the economy.

This is not just any other bill. The Competition Act, as we will learn today, is probably the second most important economic instrument to Canadians after our fiscal and monetary policy. It is for those reasons that while there are some who say monetary and fiscal policy must be in sync the bill says that our competition law must be in sync, with the rest of the world in a more globalized environment. I am pleased to see that the committee decided to proceed with some of those necessary changes.

We have heard some criticism being levelled at people who tend to venture out and respond to crises several months before their time. When I began my concerns about what was happening in the energy industry, it was not simply about gasoline.

I have a bill before the House that is votable. It deals with the efficiencies defence in the Competition Act in the area of propane. Last year I was concerned about the sudden dramatic rise in the price of heating oil. The government acted responsibly in helping those who had no way of defending themselves. I applaud the Minister of Finance for having done what he did.

If we can take advantage of loopholes in the Competition Act in one specific area, chances are we will be able to do it in others. It is quite ironic that in an article written last week by the Financial Post we read that airlines do not need to be regulated any more than gasoline. This speaks to the very issue that I brought forward. The Competition Act responds to many sectors of the economy as a framework law. We are here to improve the process.

I find it passing strange that the same papers which lament members of parliament and senators engaging in issues that are important to Canadians have the unmitigated gall to engage in a critique in a soft and independent editorial viewpoint.

We saw that this week with respect to Southam telling members of one of its many groups that if they did not like what it was doing they should not bother publishing it. What happened to local views? What happened beyond the question of price to some of the competition? It is clear we have a problem. This is exactly why on August 3, 2000, I wrote to the Prime Minister, saying:

This week's announcement by CanWest Global to acquire controlling interest of Hollinger Inc., coupled with BCE's acquisition of CTV, has fuelled wide speculation that more media takeovers and mergers are pending...Communications media compete in part by offering independent editorial viewpoints and an independent gatekeeper function. A scenario that eventually sees only a handful of media players, cannot effectively respond to a demand for choice or diversity of competition by extending their product lines, since the new media products will inevitably bear, to some degree, the perspective of their common corporate parent.

If it is good for the goose, it is good for the gander. This has been done in industry without even the prospect of oversight. Companies have disappeared in the night, have been wiped off the map, because they were buying gasoline for 52 cents a litre wholesale with all the taxes included but the person who was supplying the gasoline was selling it for 47 cents.

That is anti-competitive yet it is not illegal under the current definition in the rigours of our act. Nor is it illegal to have 75% of the market for propane in one specific region of the country at a time when farmers need it for drying their crops. Nor is it illegal for an airline company that has 80% of the airline market to say it will drop its prices, but only in two locations where it has any semblance of a vigorous and effective competitor.

It is nice to receive editorials, condemning or otherwise, but it would be nice if papers had the intestinal fortitude to publish a story relating to that which they are criticizing. That is politics, I suppose. When we do not have to put our name on the ballot to get elected, is it any wonder that we can hide behind the pen and say anything we want?

The courage of the House of Commons and members of parliament to make dramatic necessary changes in the context of the country and the Competition Act warms the heart of every consumer in Canada. I applaud each and every member of parliament. Let us keep up the good work and make a difference for Canadians.

Tobacco ControlStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Bernard Patry Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, every year smoking kills over 45,000 Canadians. It is our country's most pressing public health issue. The new federal tobacco control strategy is ambitious and bears witness to the government's commitment to fight tobacco use and its effects on the health of Canadians.

This comprehensive strategy is based on our significant successes in recent years: the Canadian tobacco use monitoring survey for 2000 indicated that tobacco use among Canadians aged 15 years and over had reached its lowest point, 24%, since the survey was initiated in 1965.

Among young people, one of our greatest challenges in the fight against the use of tobacco. The rate of use among youths aged 15 to 19, which had been 28% in 1999, is now reported to be 25%.

In the next 10 years, we will be working to achieve our objective of cutting the number of smokers by 20%, reducing the number of cigarettes sold by 30% and increasing to 80% the number of retailers complying with the provisions of the Tobacco Act, which prohibits the sale of cigarettes to young Canadians.

The EconomyStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Anders Canadian Alliance Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian dollar sunk to an all time low no less than five times in the last month. The burning question on the minds of Canadians is: How low can the Liberal loonie go?

Will the dollar have to drop all the way to 50 cents before the Liberals finally admit that their limping loonie needs a bit of a boost? If we believe our Prime Minister, the loonie cannot go low enough. For over three decades our Prime Minister has been spouting the same simplistic dime store wisdom that a low dollar is good for exports. Yes, exporting Canadians.

Canadian businesses do not need a low dollar to compete. They need a Prime Minister who understands the obvious. A strong dollar actually is good for Canadians. I would like to pass on a simple message to the driver of the loonie bus: “You are going the wrong way”.

MulticulturalismStatements By Members

December 10th, 2001 / 2 p.m.


Beth Phinney Liberal Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, on Friday, November 30, a fundraising event was held in Hamilton to raise funds for a Hindu temple that was burned to the ground as the result of an arson attack in mid-September. The temple was the spiritual home of 800 local Hindu families.

Approximately 1,200 people from the Hamilton area attended the fundraising event. This incredible outpouring of support showed the true community spirit of Hamiltonians. I am proud of the citizens of Hamilton who worked so hard to make this event a success. Without them we would not have been able to raise the badly needed funds for the local Hindu community.

This is an example of the compassion that Canadians feel for their neighbours, no matter their race or religion, in their time of need.

Terry Fox RunStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, Peterborough schools are famous for their support of the Terry Fox Run. Over the years our schools have consistently led the nation in fundraising and participation.

This year was no exception. Nine Peterborough schools raised almost $200,000 for cancer research. However St. Peter's Catholic Secondary School set a new standard. The school raised over $80,000, the most ever raised by a single school.

I ask all members of parliament to join me in congratulating all those associated with school Terry Fox runs this year. As we do so, let us give a special thought to Peterborough schools and especially to St. Peter's for its magnificent efforts.

Terry Fox ran through Peterborough 21 years ago. He would be proud of these young people and their contribution to his wonderful cause. I say to go, St. Pete's.

Charles Melville PriceStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Stan Dromisky Liberal Thunder Bay—Atikokan, ON

Mr. Speaker, on January 30, 1944, Sergeant Charles Melville Price was one of seven men on board a Lancaster bomber that was intercepted and shot down in the Netherlands. It was not possible at that time to recover his remains and Sergeant Price was never laid to rest with all the honours he so rightly deserved, until now.

I am pleased to advise the House that last week, at the Zwanenburg General Cemetery in Amsterdam, after almost 58 years Sergeant Price was buried with full military honours.

He will finally rest with his comrades-in-arms. He was a brave Canadian, a young man from Toronto who sacrificed his life for our freedom and values. Sergeant Price, along with his fellow crew members, is also honoured on a memorial that was donated by the Port of Amsterdam Authority. It now stands as a testament to the crew's courage and its commitment to peace.

We must continue to honour those who gave their lives in the service of this great country. We must never forget.

Veterans AffairsStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Roy H. Bailey Canadian Alliance Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, December 7, 1941, is a day that most North Americans remember very well. However most Canadians forget that 1941 was also a very tragic year. That was the year that the Japanese attacked the Canadian contingent at Hong Kong.

Almost 2,000 Canadian soldiers and officers from the Royal Rifles of Canada and the Winnipeg Grenadiers were assigned to defend Hong Kong. Some 290 Canadians were killed, 493 wounded, and in all, after they had been interned in terrible conditions in prison camps, 550 did not return to Canada.

It took nearly 50 years for our government to compensate the Hong Kong vets. That was 10 years after the Canadian government compensated the Japanese, and their descendants, who were interned in Canada.

Because our federal government neglected to pay tribute to these forgotten veterans last week, it falls on the official opposition to express our thanks to those heroes.

Human RightsStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Carole-Marie Allard Liberal Laval East, QC

Mr. Speaker, today, we celebrate the anniversary of the UN General Assembly's adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. This document sets out the responsibilities and fundamental rights of all humanity, vital to human existence and co-existence.

Human rights underlie the values held by Canadians. The rights to freedom, life, liberty and security of person support and protect the values we hold dear, such as inclusion, justice, security, peace, innovation and growth.

Respect for human rights is one of Canadians' most important values and so it should be. It is a vital part of our social fabric.

This fabric was sorely tested on September 11, but I am pleased to say that it held, which shows clearly that our efforts in the past have made it strong. However, if we lose a thread or drop a stitch, the whole fabric will weaken--

Human RightsStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Châteauguay.

Highway InfrastructureStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Robert Lanctôt Bloc Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Speaker, after many speeches and requests by the Bloc Quebecois to the federal Minister of Transport, last week the member for Beauharnois--Salaberry finally had something to say but said it to the wrong person. The member asked Quebec's transport minister to take action and stop playing politics in connection with the plan to extend highway 30 and to build two bridges, when he should have been addressing the federal Minister of Transport.

The member for Beauharnois--Salaberry also recommended to the minister that he take the estimated $108 million in federal funding available. This money is available for all of Quebec, not just for highway 30. We have said this repeatedly, as have the stakeholders, and everyone is ready to go ahead except the federal government.

However, there was a rumour on the weekend that the federal government is bumping up its contribution. The Bloc Quebecois would like to see this rumour finally become reality and would remind the member for Beauharnois--Salaberry that it is he, his party and his government who promised to build two bridges and finish highway 30 during the election campaign.

He made a promise and now he should deliver on it.

HanukkahStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, today is the first day of the holiday of Hanukkah, the festival of lights of freedom, commemorating the foundational rights of freedom of religion, minority rights and human dignity and liberty.

It is also Human Rights Day, commemorating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the affirmation of the inherent dignity of the human person, the equal dignity of all persons and that we are all one human family.

Happily students from Montreal in my own constituency and Ottawa, the Hebrew Academy and Hillel respectively came together to celebrate the convergence of this historic commemoration as the Peace Tower, in an historic first, intoned freedom songs from the Hanukkah festival.

Regrettably we learned today of the deaths of two Palestinian children. Every child, Palestinian or Israeli, Muslim or Jew, is a universe and every death is a human tragedy.

I will close with the words sung by the Hillel schoolchildren today: “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, nor shall they learn war anymore”.

HanukkahStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Rajotte Canadian Alliance Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, last night people of the Jewish faith marked the beginning of Hanukkah. More than 2,000 years ago King Antiochus tried to force the Jews to give up their religion. Judah Maccabee led his people in a fight to drive him out of Israel. The Jews finally won back the Holy Temple of Jerusalem.

In order to rededicate the temple they scrubbed and cleaned it and polished the huge menorah, but when the priests were ready to begin services they could only find a tiny jar of pure oil to burn in the menorah, only enough for one day. By a miracle the oil burned on and on for eight days.

It is that miracle, that triumph, that the Jewish people mark during this darkest time of the year by lighting the menorah in their homes.

To all people who began the celebration of Hanukkah last night I offer best wishes on behalf of the official opposition. All Canadians of goodwill join with them in the lighting of the symbolic candle and the saying of this blessing:

“Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has kept us alive, and has preserved us, and enabled us to reach this season”.

Chris HadfieldStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


David Pratt Liberal Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my colleagues in the House I am very pleased today to congratulate Colonel Chris Hadfield who was awarded the Meritorious Service Cross last Wednesday.

The award was presented to him by Governor General Adrienne Clarkson in recognition of his remarkable achievements as an astronaut. This award goes to outstanding military personnel who bring honour to the armed forces with their professionalism.

Last April Chris Hadfield was the first Canadian to walk in space when he helped to install the Canadarm 2 on the international space station. Chris Hadfield was also the first Canadian to operate the Canadarm in orbit in 1995 and he is the only Canadian to have visited the Mir space station.

All Canadians can be proud of Chris Hadfield's achievements. I ask the House to join me in congratulating him.

TaiwanStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, on Saturday, December 1, the people of Taiwan voted in elections for the legislative yuan and for county magistrates and mayors. In an historic outcome the party of President Chen Shui-bian, the Democratic Progressive Party, won the largest number of seats.

On behalf of my New Democrat colleagues I congratulate President Chen and the DPP for this impressive victory and this affirmation of the vitality of democracy in Taiwan.

It is time now for the international community to welcome Taiwan as an international sovereign state, including membership in the World Health Organization. As well, the Canadian government should end its kowtowing to the mainland in its visa policies for Taiwanese government visits, such as the recently proposed visit of the Minister of Health, and remove the visa requirement for Taiwanese visitors to Canada.

May the coming years bring even stronger economic, political and cultural ties between the people of Taiwan and the people of Canada. I say to Taiwan “Bansue”.

Sima SamarStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to offer warm congratulations to Dr. Sima Samar, who will today receive the John Humphrey Freedom Award from a Montreal organization, Rights & Democracy.

Dr. Samar has just been appointed minister of women's affairs and deputy chair in Afghanistan's brand new government . The challenge she faces, that of improving the lot of women, is huge after years of the Taliban regime in which women were excluded from a society that wanted for everything.

Dr. Samar is not easily daunted. The physician set up hospitals, clinics, and schools for women and girls, and did so despite the pressures, not to mention the heavy penalties imposed under the Taliban regime.

Dr. Samar's courage, tenacity and devotion are receiving international recognition today. She will certainly need it, but what she will need most in this devastated country is assistance. The best tribute that Canada could pay her would be to loosen the purse strings on its international aid budgets.

Let us hope that this is what the Minister of Finance will do in his budget this afternoon.

Human Rights DayStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, on this day in 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

This anniversary, known as Human Rights Day, reminds us of our common commitment to a better world. This reminder is particularly relevant in a time of crisis when the pace of events leaves little time for reflection.

I am proud of how the people of Canada have responded in the aftermath of September 11. We have refused to allow fear to overwhelm our longstanding commitment to human rights. Canadians joined the Prime Minister in condemning racially motivated attacks and rejected attempts to portray this conflict as a clash between religions. We recognize that the people of Afghanistan are not the enemy and we have responded generously to meet the need for humanitarian assistance.

Our sense of compassion, our respect for diversity, our belief in justice and our embrace of human rights at home and abroad, these are the values that define us.

Human Rights DayStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

John Herron Progressive Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, today is International Human Rights Day. This year's commemoration is underscored by the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan as winter approaches.

Canada has had a valued history of fostering human rights, from John Diefenbaker's bill of rights to his and Brian Mulroney's assault on South African apartheid.

My own riding of Fundy--Royal has played a key role in Canada's commitment to human rights. This country's first human rights commissioner was none other than Fundy--Royal MP Gordon Fairweather, and the UN declaration of human rights was penned by Fundy--Royal son John Peters Humphrey.

More than 50 years after John Humphrey laid the groundwork for the conscience of humankind his hometown of Hampton remains a voice of human rights. Countless individuals in my riding have continued to inspire others to participate in the advancement of human rights, including Hampton High School students and teachers and the Hampton John Peters Humphrey Foundation led by Betsy DeLong, Senator Joe Day and Mark Perry which has worked to foster the legacy of John Peters Humphrey.

Human Rights Day is more than just a day to commemorate. It has to be a way of life, a commitment to the betterment of mankind, and it represents the best that we have.