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House of Commons Hansard #66 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was troops.

Topics

AfghanistanGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Before we go to questions and comments, in reference to the point of order raised by the hon. member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, Marleau and Montpetit, chapter 13, page 522, paragraph 3, says:

It is unacceptable to allude to the presence or absence of a Member or Minister in the Chamber. The Speaker has traditionally discouraged Members from signalling the absence of another Member from the House because “there are many places that Members have to be in order to carry out all of the obligations that go with their office.”

Therefore, I thank the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville. It is true that this only refers to the current absence, not to the general absence.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Don Valley East.

AfghanistanGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my colleague opposite.

I have a huge community centre in my riding. I have the Afghan Women's Association. I have met with the Afghan parliamentarians and I have been interacting a lot with the Afghan population here in Canada. The overwhelming majority want Canada's help and have said that we should not be withdrawing. The conflict has been going on for 20 to 30 years. They have only had six and a half years to find some peace and they need help. These are the women who come to us.

They have been talking about how important a role Canada plays. It is lopsided at the moment in terms of the military dollars we are giving but they want the development dollars to stay because if there is no economic enhancement, there will be no improvement and the Taliban will take over. It is not the Afghan Taliban alone. It is also the foreign Taliban. It is important for Canada to help ensure diplomacy and that the northern alliance, which is underground at the moment, does not attack anybody.

People understand that there are the caucuses, the Uzbekistans, the Tajikistan, the Kyrgyzstans, et cetera, where there is a lot of potential for diplomacy. How can we run away from this mission when the women and children are truly appealing to us to stay? I would appreciate the member's input on that.

AfghanistanGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, when the member is speaking, as many people have, about the purported reasons for being there and continuing to be there, it is important for us to look at the path and general direction of what is happening in Afghanistan.

I wonder if it is the member's contention that things are improving when we have report after report out of NATO describing that the opium production has grown greater and that the violence within Afghanistan has continued to grow. The question then fundamentally becomes whether the mission in which we are engaged goes in the right direction. Is it the right mission not only for Canada and Canada's position, but is it the right mission for the Afghanis who she is talking about and the Afghani Canadians who hold concerns?

The current ratio is 10:1 of military dollars to spending in aid programs. Of that $1 being spent in aid, the accountability and transparency has been almost nil. We cannot even track the dollars that are supposedly going toward building the schools and helping the people she is talking about.

We must understand that the counter-insurgency mission as constructed will only continue down this path with the vote that she will cast tonight and that the General Petraeus model, which was used in Iraq, will be applied in greater stead in Afghanistan. Canadian soldiers will be going beyond the wire more often. There will be more risks taken. This is absolutely the Petraeus model that we know and have seen in effect and will be handed over as the marines come in with another 7,000 or 8,000 troops.

Some have the notion that if we simply add a few more helicopters, 1,000 more troops and the Patraeus model, things will improve, but all evidence is to the contrary. The contestation from the NDP is that the counter-insurgency mission, as constructed and designed by the government and her government previously, is the wrong mission both for Canada and for the success that she hopes for, for the Afghani people, and must be ended.

Royal AssentGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2008 / 5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Order, please. I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:

Rideau Hall

Ottawa

March 13, 2008

Mr. Speaker:

I have the honour to inform you that the Hon. Morris Fish, Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court of Canada, in his capacity as Deputy of the Governor General, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bills listed in the schedule to this letter on the 13th day of March, 2008 at 4:29 p.m.

Yours truly,

Sheila-Marie Cook,

Secretary to the Governor General and Herald Chancellor

The schedule indicates the bills assented to were Bill C-9, An Act to implement the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States (ICSID Convention)--Chapter 8; Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Museums Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts--Chapter 9; Bill C-48, An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the financial year ending March 31, 2008--Chapter 10; and Bill C-49, An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the financial year ending March 31, 2009--Chapter 11.

The House resumed consideration of the motion, and of the amendment.

AfghanistanGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Bruce Stanton Conservative Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a great privilege to stand in the House today in support of our government's motion on the future of Canada's mission in Afghanistan. This motion is not a Conservative position nor a Liberal position. It is a motion that represents the values and goals of a vast majority of thoughtful Canadians.

This is an important question, one that beckons us as parliamentarians to understand and express the very essence of our national purpose and identity, to recognize the commitment and courage of those who have fought to uphold our ideals and values and to commit, or not, our Canadian Forces, humanitarian workers and diplomats to responsibilities that will put them in harm's way. I can think of few other questions this House might consider that carry as heavy a burden. We must wear that responsibility proudly and thoughtfully.

One of the backdrops for this debate that has arisen on a regular basis is the notion, the myth really, that we are historically a nation solely of peacekeepers. Members speaking against this mission are inclined to use this argument in suggesting that Canada's current mission in Afghanistan is a departure from that supposed pattern and they are generally eager to extricate us from any combat role so that we can supposedly resume our traditional missions involving only peacekeeping.

One can see the reasons for this. Many in Canada value our peacekeeping heritage, as do I and my colleagues. It is appealing and perhaps more comforting for us to consider ourselves as peacekeepers. It allows us to be more easily differentiating ourselves from other countries in the world. Peacekeeping seems to be more noble and right and keeps us from taking sides, to be the respectful and peaceable country that we are.

We might take comfort in the fact that Canadian peacekeeping missions were less violent and that no shots were fired. However, that was little consolation to the peacekeeping soldiers who were not always able to avoid combat, the soldiers who had to withdraw and stand by while innocent civilians bore the brunt of the conflict.

There is simply no question that the nature of peacekeeping is changing. In 1991, Canadian Forces represented about 10% of UN peacekeeping personnel. By 2007, we had less than 1% committed to this type of mission.

I contend that the excesses of this myth, this misconception, is a disservice to the debate on the role of our military, be it for the future of our mission in Afghanistan or for any other missions we might undertake. It confuses the issue because Canada's contribution to collective security since the second world war, indeed, since the turn of the 20th century with the Boer War, has not been neutral. Canada has always taken a stand in favour of our national and strategic interests and our democratic values.

It is appropriate that members of the Liberal Party have worked to forge a consensus on the motion before us. Leaders of that party and former Liberal prime ministers knew and articulated the objects of collective security very clearly. In fact, I find it humourous when members of the fourth party quote none other than Lester Pearson in defence of their indefensible position.

Pearson understood and was a fervent supporter of collective security. He served as a private in the first world war and in the second world war as a diplomat for Canada. He worked with Prime Ministers St. Laurent and King and others who stood for a strong, assertive Canada, not relishing in the drama or tenacity of war, but for the logic and advantage of working with our allies collectively to defend against aggressors who would use violence and oppression to further their political ends in the pursuit of power.

In 1951, when he was the secretary of state for external affairs under Prime Minister St. Laurent, the hon. Lester Pearson addressed the Empire Club of Canada in Toronto and he stated:

We should accept without any reservation, the view that the Canadian who fires his rifle in Korea or on the Elbe is defending his home as surely as if he were firing it on his own soil.

He went on, adding and referring to considerations of how much or little Canada should contribute to collective security, saying:

...we must play our proper part, no less and no more, in the collective security action of the free world, without which we cannot hope to get through the dangerous days ahead.

Lester B. Pearson's words retain their relevance and wisdom to this day, but most assuredly Mr. Pearson was a humble man, because Canada did much more than was required of it. Mr. Pearson and his fellow soldiers in World War I certainly did, and our soldiers in Afghanistan are doing so today.

Prime Minister Pearson's sentiments shaped Canada's foreign policy and military posture in the years ahead. At the height of our peacekeeping missions in the 1960s and 1970s, there were upward of 1,600 to 1,700 personnel deployed for peacekeeping. Our Canadian Forces involved in peacekeeping performed admirably and helped to stave off conflict between warring states.

During that time, Canada had upward of 10,000 troops stationed in western Europe as part of our NATO commitment to the cold war. Our largest deployment of that era was in maintaining a defensive posture against the threat of Soviet expansion. The threat was real and Canada understood that. In Pearson's time, Canada still devoted more than 7% of GDP to defence.

If we are to stay with our Canadian tradition of contributing to collective security in the world, it will increasingly mean taking on more dangerous missions, and Afghanistan is no exception.

Unfortunately, an Afghanistan that is grasping for the chance to be free and stable forever does not suit everyone. There are elements there, violent Taliban extremists, for example, drug traffickers and renegade warlords, who would vastly prefer an Afghanistan that would be their own personal playground, never mind the 30 million or so ordinary Afghans who would once again be relegated to a miserable fate under their regime.

I contend that Canada's mission in Afghanistan is entirely consistent with Canada's historical role, a mission that is every bit as just, noble and meaningful as those of the nearly 100,000 Canadians, men and women, who gave their lives over the last century to protect and defend our security, indeed, the collective security of our world, shoulder to shoulder with their allies.

In the Afghanistan mission, we join with 37 other countries, 24 NATO countries among them, backed by no fewer than eight UN Security Council resolutions, at the invitation of a democratically government, in a country that is among the poorest in the world, where democratic governance and basic human rights were non-existent just a short time ago, indeed, where women and girls were denied any form of status, health care or livelihood.

Our efforts there are improving the lives of millions of Afghans who have suffered through decades of war. We are there helping them take their future into their own hands.

We can and will do this, not just to achieve the ability for Afghans to chart a new course for themselves: we will be advancing Canada's and Canadians' interests and safety in the process. Experience has shown us that when the world turns its back on the likes of the Taliban or al-Qaeda having their own way with a nation-state or people, global security, including the safety of Canadians, is put at risk. Protecting the safety of Canadians is the first and overarching responsibility our Parliament assumes.

With this motion, Canada has taken a clear position. It asserts that path with conditions for greater allied support so that we can leave Afghanistan in 2011 with the full knowledge and confidence of Afghanistan's new capacity for its own security and reconstruction.

AfghanistanGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

It being 5:30 p.m., pursuant to order made on Wednesday, March 12, it is my duty to put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of Motion No. 5 under government business.

The question is on the amendment. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the amendment?

AfghanistanGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

AfghanistanGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

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

AfghanistanGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

AfghanistanGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

All those opposed will please say nay.

AfghanistanGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

AfghanistanGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the amendment, which was negatived on the following division:)

Vote #75

AfghanistanGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I declare the amendment lost.

The next question is on the main motion.

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

AfghanistanGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

AfghanistanGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

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

AfghanistanGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

AfghanistanGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

All those opposed will please say nay.

AfghanistanGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

AfghanistanGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #76

AfghanistanGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried.

It being 6:07 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private member's business as listed on today's order paper.

Competition ActPrivate Members’ Business

6:05 p.m.

Bloc

Roger Gaudet Bloc Montcalm, QC

moved that Bill C-454, An Act to amend the Competition Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be now read a second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to introduce Bill C-454, An Act to amend the Competition Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, for second reading. While we have a Competition Act at present, there are major flaws in that Act that are in need of speedy correction. I would like to demonstrate the need for the House of Commons to take action to improve the existing Competition Act.

Every time the price of gas soars, the government invariably responds by saying the same thing: there is nothing to be done because the Competition Bureau concluded that there was no agreement among the oil companies to fix prices and so there was no problem.

Well, the Competition Bureau has never investigated the matter properly, because it does not have the power to do so. All the Competition Bureau does is produce studies of the industry explaining how it operates. And when it does a study, the Competition Bureau has virtually no power, because the purpose of the studies is to explain the general operation of the oil industry, not to discipline it. Those studies have no impact and they provide no incentive for the government to take action.

The flaws in the existing Act prevent the Competition Bureau from doing any real work. The Competition Bureau cannot initiate investigations of its own accord; they have to be done in response to a request by the minister or where there have been a number of complaints. Well, we know very well that the minister is not requesting real investigations from which tangible results could be obtained.

In addition, the Competition Bureau cannot compel disclosure of documents or protect witnesses when it does a general industry study. In that kind of situation, how can we expect that individuals who have no protection will come forward to testify? As can be seen, there are limits to what the Competition Bureau can do—and that is putting it mildly. In point of fact, its hands are tied.

We need only look at the current situation to understand that it is urgent that the Competition Act be amended. The price of petroleum products is rising steadily. The price of crude oil has risen by 230% since early 2004. The price of heating oil has gone up by more than 50% in two years. Three years ago, in April 2005, a new price record was set in Montreal: the price of regular gas broke through the one dollar ceiling. Since then, it has stayed at an even higher level. In Quebec, the price continues to go up: the price of a litre of gas was 91.6¢ in May 2005, $1.06 in May 2006 and $1.10 in May 2007, and it has wavered between $1.09 and $1.18—and we have even seen $1.23—since the beginning of 2008.

But that is not all. Refining margins vary remarkably. It actually costs between 3¢ and 5¢ to refine a litre of gas, depending on the type of gas used.

According to the Association québécoise des indépendants du pétrole, when the refining margin is between 4¢ and 7¢ a litre, the company is making a healthy profit. On average, from 1998 to 2002, refining margins were 7.2¢ a litre. That is a little high, but it is within the limits of what is reasonable.

In 2003, on the other hand, the average margin in Montreal was 10¢ a litre, or twice as much as a reasonable amount. In 2004, the average refining margin increased 10% to 11¢ a litre. By 2005 and 2006, it was regularly exceeding 15¢ a litre, and in May 2007, it even reached 28¢ a litre. That is four times the reasonable margin.

At the present time, the refining margin has fallen back to 9¢ a litre, which seems better. However, when the oil companies decide they want their refining profits to soar again, the Competition Bureau will still not have the tools it needs to conduct a real investigation unless the House passes Bill C-454.

It is a great concern as well that a very small number of players have virtually total control over a market as important as gasoline. Is this situation international or not? We do not know because the Competition Bureau does not have the tools it needs to answer that question.

There is no need to remind the House of how shamelessly the oil companies are taking advantage of this. They are posting record sales. In 1995, the entire Canadian oil and gas sector posted combined sales of $25 billion. By 2004, this figure had climbed to $84.9 billion, which amounts to an increase of 239%. Total sales soared to $106.7 billion in 2005 and $118.9 billion in 2006. That is a 376% increase over 1995.

Net profits are also skyrocketing of course. The combined net profit of the six big integrated oil companies in Canada—Imperial Oil, Shell Canada, Husky Energy, Petro-Canada, Encana and Suncor—reached $12 billion in 2006. That is a $5 billion or 70% increase over 2004. The 2007 data are not available yet for all these companies, but there is every reason to believe that their results will be even more astronomical. For example, Petro-Canada finished its 2007 year with a profit of $2.73 billion or 57% more than in its 2006 financial year, which it finished with a net profit of $1.74 billion.

The net profit of the entire oil sector rose from $17 billion in 2003 to $20 billion in 2004 and then $35 billion in 2006, for an increase of 100%.

The Competition Bureau will only be useful and effective if it is able to conduct real investigations. It is illusory to think that it can take real action and come up with real results under the current legislation.

This worrisome situation—the increase in the price of gas, the upward trend in refining margins and the increase in profits—and the flaws in the current Competition Act are a constant source of discussion at the House's Standing Committee on Industry, Natural Resources, Science and Technology. In fact, in the committee's 2003 report on the Competition Act, it recommended reversing the onus of proof for handling “agreements between competitors” and determining whether there is a conspiracy.

In other words, when the Competition Bureau conducts an investigation, only at the request of the minister or if there is a complaint, of course, the Bureau must prove that there was an agreement between the companies, when it should be the opposite. If we consider the economic issues that are at stake, businesses should have to prove their good faith. Businesses that want to sign agreements should also have to prove the social or economic value of the agreements.

For example, in Quebec, there is a single refinery that supplies all the companies, Petro-Canada, Ultramar, Shell, Exxon, Olco, Esso Imperial and so on. The prices are all the same. How can we talk about competition when all the oil companies are in bed together helping each other out and sharing the market? This situation is reminiscent of a cartel—a group of businesses conspiring to create a monopoly.

When Konrad von Finckenstein, the competition commissioner, appeared in front of the Standing Committee on Industry, Natural Resources, Science and Technology on May 5, 2003, he identified the following shortcomings in the Competition Act:

—while the bureau's mandate includes the very important role of being investigator and advocate for competition, the current legislation does not provide the bureau with the authority to conduct an industry study.

He added, and I quote:

It seems to me that it would be preferable to have a study on the overall situation carried out by an independent body that would have authority, that would be able to summon witnesses and gather information. It should also have the power to protect confidential information that someone is not necessarily going to want to share, but which would be vital in order to reach a conclusion based on the real facts.

These statements prove that the existing Competition Act does not enable the Competition Bureau to undertake a real investigation of the industrial sector. How can it gather information if it can neither force the disclosure of documents nor protect witnesses?

During the last Parliament, a review of the legislation was undertaken. The Bloc Québécois found it too weak, but nevertheless supported it and proposed amendments to improve it. The bill died on the order paper, and the Conservatives decided not to bring it back, so the Bloc Québécois introduced Bill C-454 to strengthen the Competition Act.

Bill C-454 was inspired in large part by Bill C-19, which the Liberals introduced shortly before the 2005-06 election, but it corrects that bill's shortcomings. When the Standing Committee on Industry, Natural Resources, Science and Technology studied the act in 2003 and 2005, it found that the act contained a number of provisions that were outdated and no longer useful. In essence, the bill seeks to adapt the Competition Act to today's economic realities. It gives the Competition Bureau the power to conduct its own inquiries into industry. The Competition Bureau will be able to call witnesses and protect them. That last point is very important.

Under current legislation, if businesses decide to reach an agreement to fix prices, no evidence of that will be left behind. If we cannot call and protect witnesses, there is a very good chance we will never be able to prove anti-competitive practices.

Under the new legislation, when businesses try to reach agreements with their competitors, they must demonstrate that those agreements are in the public's best interest. Presently, these agreements among competitors are permitted, unless it can be proven that they are contrary to public interest. This is unhealthy.

The bill contains another proposal: a significant increase in the amount of fines to be paid for violations of the Competition Act, from $10 million to $25 million. If this legislation were passed, the Competition Bureau would be much better equipped to fight against businesses that try to use their dominant position in the market to fleece consumers and damage other economic sectors.

On the whole, Bill C-454 will allow for the creation of a comprehensive strategy to deal with the rising cost of petroleum products. For some time now, the Bloc Québécois has been pressuring the government to take action to address the rising cost of petroleum products. Fighting to defend the interests of Quebec, the Bloc Québécois would like to see the oil and gas industry disciplined. Bill C-454 is a step in that direction. It is time to correct the situation and give the Competition Bureau the powers it needs to do its job properly.

Bill C-454, An Act to amend the Competition Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, is pivotal to any real investigations into the oil and gas sector. Passing this legislation would give the Competition Bureau the powers it needs to carry out its mandate.

Competition ActPrivate Members’ Business

6:20 p.m.

Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I would like to make two points and ask a question.

First, I would like to ask the Bloc member if he is aware that the proposed definition of an anti-competitive act for the abusive dominance provisions to include abusive exploitation may encroach upon provincial jurisdiction?

In other jurisdictions this language has been taken to mean excessive pricing or price gouging. Determining whether a price is too high or too low requires price monitoring and regulation, which are matters of provincial jurisdiction, not federal jurisdiction.

Second, the proposal to amend the anti-cartel provision might, as it now stands, criminalize a number of common forms of business arrangements, such as supply management or joint ventures, which can be beneficial to competition.

The government will not support provisions that could criminalize business arrangements such as joint ventures or supply management, or intrude on provincial jurisdiction.

I would like to ask if the hon. member would take time to reflect on implications of his proposed legislation on the province's right to monitor and regulate prices in certain markets and the potential negative effects that the anti-cartel provisions may have on supply management before the second hour of debate?