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House of Commons Hansard #8 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was lanka.

Topics

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, I am very proud tonight to rise and speak to Bill C-2, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the States of the European Free Trade Association (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland), the Agreement on Agriculture between Canada and the Republic of Iceland, the Agreement on Agriculture between Canada and the Kingdom of Norway and the Agreement on Agriculture between Canada and the Swiss Confederation.

I do not know if I have ever told the House about my late uncle, John Lindsay MacNeil. He quit high school, which was common in those days, and he was a jackleg miner in the McIntyre Mine. I know members are thinking to themselves that MacNeil must be a Cape Breton name, and it certainly is. The MacNeils left the beautiful region of Iona to come to northern Ontario because working in the dangerous gold mines in northern Ontario was safer than working in the collieries in New Waterford and Glace Bay. John Lindsay worked underground on the drills and decided that he should get himself an education. It was not easy then. Actually it was a Russian immigrant who taught my uncle Latin on the night shift. This is a true story. I can see that I have the House's complete attention on this.

He learned Latin on the night shift and went back to university at St. FX, where all the Cape Bretoners go. He became a trade negotiator for Canada and he was in the first trade negotiations for Iceland. Iceland might seem like a small country to many, but we are a trading nation and we send out our trade negotiators to come back with great agreements.

As a very interesting aside, when he was in Iceland meeting with the Icelandic trade commission, he had another Cape Bretoner with him. After three days they had a few shots of Icelandic vodka and the Icelandic trade commissioner looked at my uncle said, “MacNeil, you are not one of those pithy little Celts. Look at your stature. You are one of us. You are a Viking. You are Neilson, not McNeil”. Not only was he able to deal with trade negotiations at the international level, but he also learned a lot about the heritage of the people from Iceland.

I say that because when a trade agreement comes back from our trade commissioners, who bring it to the House, it is the role of the opposition to ensure that the trade agreement is in the best interest of the country. That is our job. If we fail to do that job, we have no business being here.

There are many elements about international trade deals that are important. I know many people, for example, are looking forward to Norwegian cheese coming in. My kids have always wanted to have access to the famous Norwegian blue parrots, which have a beautiful, remarkable plumage. They stun easily though and one has to watch them, especially when they are pining for the fjords, but in a trade agreement that might be something that we might be able to assess.

We have to then ask ourselves, if we are making the trade agreement, what are we giving up? That is the rub of international trade. It is not to close our borders or to be protectionist. It is to ensure that we are on a level playing field. When we go up against a country such as Norway, which has a coherent national strategy in terms of shipbuilding, and we look at Canada that has been completely derelict in terms of a national strategy in key sectors such as forestry, auto and shipbuilding, we are not on a level playing field.

We are signing an agreement with the country of Norway and we have to ask ourselves what is on the table. We are looking at billions of dollars in lost opportunities in Canada, and I simply do not think there is any way we can sell that to the Canadian public and say that it is in their best interests.

Time after time, Canadians have been hosed at various levels of trade agreements. The most notorious of course was the softwood sellout, engineered as a photo op by the Conservatives. From northwestern Ontario to Abitibi region, we can count on one hand the number of saw mills that are still running. When we talk to anybody in those communities who are trying to get value added agreements off the ground, to get small manufacturers going, they do not have quota. They are not allowed to compete anymore, because under the Conservatives' idea of trade, we give up our ability to compete on a fair and open field against the Americans. We have seen that even if they actually produce value added products, they end up paying more in the softwood tariffs. The Conservatives' idea of trade was to have a disincentive against our own producers, who could compete against anybody on the global scale.

Another example of course is the notorious chapter 11 provisions of NAFTA, which have left Canadians on the hook. In Mexico we have seen the same problems.

If one has not dealt with the provisions of chapter 11, then one might not believe how bad some of these trade provisions are. I could give the example of the Adams Mine garbage plan. This was a municipal contract in the province of Ontario to haul waste from a city. It was a notorious crackpot scheme that was eventually shut down. It took the Ontario government to step forward and expropriate the site. A number of years after this was shut down there was suddenly a chapter 11 challenge, which I have here, by a guy from the U.S. calling himself Vito Gallo. He claimed that he was the sole owner of this property through his 1532382 Ontario Inc. company.

This Vito Gallo asked the Conservative government, which is notorious for not standing up for trade interests, for $350 million. We go into chapter 11 without knowing what kind of testimony Vito Gallo is going to bring to defend his claim. The interesting thing to note is that he tried to sue the Ontario government, but his claim was thrown out of court. He could not win in court so it was brought to chapter 11. There is another interesting thing about this Vito Gallo. If we try to find out who owns the Adams Mine, we find that 1532382 Ontario Inc. is registered in North York. It is an Ontario-based company.

In 2004, 1532382 Ontario Inc. gave $4,000 to a leadership bid in the Ontario provincial Conservative Party. Who was the person given this money by this supposed Vito Gallo, this American investor who was robbed of his international rights? It was our own august finance minister.

This case involved a numbered company, registered in North York, Ontario, that gave money to the man who is now the finance minister of Canada, and yet he went to chapter 11 claiming $350 million from the taxpayers of Canada without having to do proper disclosure and without having to prove anything. We have to ask ourselves how could this numbered company that is registered in North York actually be able to sue Canadian taxpayers for a municipal waste contract in the province of Ontario.

A lawsuit was filed by Canadian Waste Services, the Canadian arm of Waste Management Canada, on February 28, 2003. Canadian Waste Services filed a lawsuit against Notre Development, the Cortellucci Group of Companies, which also has given a fair amount of money to the Conservative Party, and 1532382 Ontario Inc. for $4.6 million over the ownership of the Adams Mine. The lawsuit referred to the 2002 sale to 1532382 Ontario Inc. as the Cordellucci agreement, not Vito Gallo. Nobody ever mentioned Vito Gallo but they mentioned Mario Cordellucci, who was very well known to the old Mike Harris wrecking crew and a number of our frontbench people.

We see in this bizarre world of NAFTA that this Vito Gallo, who appeared out of nowhere, can take his case behind the curtain without any public prying eyes or the normal obligations of fair disclosure and public disclosure of evidence. As a citizen of the U.S., he can claim to hit the taxpayers of Canada up for $350 million because we signed on to this in a trade provision. The only thing defending our interests is the Conservative government with the present finance minister. I am not saying there is any connection, but he also received money in the past from the same company.

We have to look to the Conservative Party of Canada to defend our interests in this matter. Oh my God, the Canadian taxpayer will have to wonder what is going to happen to that $350 million. Is the government writing the cheque right now?

This all comes back to Bill C-2. Before we sign a trade agreement, we need to actually squeeze the Charmin and make sure that the kind of things the Conservatives are bringing forward are actually coherent and in the national interest. We need to push them back to the drawing table where they can write a coherent bill of which we can all be proud.

I would be more than willing to entertain questions and comments.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member for Timmins—James Bay, if his uncle MacNeil was alive today what would he think about the bill we are discussing today?

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, I would never deign to put words in the mouth of a MacNeil because they certainly were never afraid to speak loudly and, being somewhat superstitious, my good old Uncle Lindsay might actually pay a visit. However, I know one of the principles of trade that he always talked about was that one needed to have a really clear agreement in place. I think that is what we are talking about.

It is not that an agreement with Liechtenstein and Switzerland is not in the national interest. I certainly think the more trade agreements that we have the stronger we are because we are a trading nation, and the more that we can actually get our products out there, with rules based, that is what we need.

I believe there are problems with this agreement and we need to look at them.

We can look at the complete unwillingness of the European Union and the Americans to play by the rules by which Canada always plays. There are EU export subsidies on agricultural products and it is dumping its products internationally. The U.S. is continually mucking with the price of grain and distorting the price. Our farmers and our industries play by the rules internationally and we are always on the losing end.

We need to learn a lesson when we sit down with trade partners. Liechtenstein might not be the biggest country that we have ever dealt with but it becomes an equal partner and we need to ensure there are not huge flaws in the agreement. The fact that we would be losing our shipbuilding capacity in a country that has probably the largest sets of coastlines in the world is simply not good public policy. The refusal of the government ideologically to actually have a coherent industrial policy is clear.

General Motors is musing publicly about leaving Canada. Ten years ago that would have been unheard of. The government sits back and tells us all to whistle a happy tune and everything will be all right. The lack of an industrial sector strategy is devastating, particularly in Ontario right now and regions of Quebec.

As I said earlier, we can count on one hand the amount of sawmills that are running from northwestern Ontario to Abitibi. That would have been a situation unfathomable 15 years ago and yet we see a government that shows complete and utter indifference to the devastation in the forestry communities and the devastation facing forestry families as they slip through the EI cracks.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Madam Speaker, as I was thinking through all of the interventions I have heard over the past two days in talking about workers, we would all be remiss in this House if we did not think back to all those veterans of the merchant marine who served this country, not from the perspective of an armed combat role but sailed those seas in perilous times. I think back to those veterans of the merchant navy who are today looking at us and saying, “Whatever happened to our shipbuilding? Why is it disappearing?”

I wonder if the hon. member could comment on what it means to those veterans, in a sense, to see this slip away.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, my father-in-law was on the Murmansk run. He was in Burma with the Navy. At that time, Canada, a country of 11 million, as poor as we were coming out of the depression, ended up with the fourth largest navy in the world. It showed the will of this nation, not only of our air force, our massive armed presence in Europe, but our navy. What we built in ships in that period of time is a marvel that we should be proud of. Many of those ships are long gone and Canada walked away on the incredible capacity that we built in that period. I think that to our previous generation, we dropped the ball and we cannot allow the ball to be dropped any further.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Madam Speaker, in our discussions today on Bill C-2 and the discussion around the trade agreement in question, the question we really need to be asking is: What is our vision of Canada?

Growing up as a proud Canadian, I know that words like fairness, equality and justice are words that characterize who we are. Today we stand reeling from a budget so recently passed without our support, where we believe that a failed and disjointed attempt was made to deal with the current economic challenges and a failed attempt to look at the future and build a country that is better for all of us.

We felt that in so many ways the budget was wanting, wanting in terms of establishing that fairness for working people who are losing their jobs, in giving support for people whose industries are now falling apart and in establishing equality. We saw the taking away of pay equity and issues around collective bargaining. We also saw a failure to achieve justice for so many Canadians, Canadians living in poverty, Canadians of different backgrounds, women and aboriginal peoples.

We need to be looking ahead at how we can ensure that vision. We also need to be asking serious questions about this trade agreement and encourage members to vote against it. This trade agreement is fundamentally about our trade relationship with European countries. I am proud to be of European descent. I am proud to be of Greek and British descent and we have a great deal to learn from Europe.

We can look closely at the trade partners we are talking about in terms of this bill. Countries like Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein of course. We have a great deal to learn from countries like Norway, Iceland and Switzerland that have been leaders in terms of establishing fairness, equality and justice in their own countries. While they are open to trade, they ensure it is part of a vision in which their country is better off for it.

That is where Canada can learn. Canada ought to learn and our government ought to stand up on the fact that this trade deal is bad for the country that we want to build. We can learn from the way these countries profit from certain lucrative industries. We have heard that Norway is a leader in terms of its shipbuilding industry and how it reinvests into social programs, whether it is child care, health care programs or women's advocacy groups and other programs that aim to achieve gender equality in their country. Canada has a great deal to learn from countries like Iceland, which has the highest number of women parliamentarians in the world, whereas I believe only 21% of Canada's parliamentary representatives are women. This is shameful in a country where 51% of our population is made up of women.

Let us learn from these countries in terms of building a vision where trade and economic development serve to strengthen us socially in terms of our economy but also in terms of our social rights, equality and quality of being in general. What we are saying here is that we should continue building relationships with countries and to applaud building relationships with countries that are forward-looking in terms of their dealings while ensuring that what we are going for as Canadians benefits us across the board.

I would like to turn to the region that I represent, a region that many people would classify as rural. I know that in northern Manitoba we refer to ourselves as being north, but in terms of many characteristics there are similarities to rural regions. In our region, we are suffering a great deal as a result of the economic downturn. The softwood lumber deal and the economic downturn have led to losses of jobs and the shutting down of what was once a lucrative lumber mill in The Pas, Manitoba. We are also dealing with losses of jobs generally in the forestry industry across our region.

Another industry that is hurting is mining, an industry that, except for a positive commitment to mine exploration, was not referenced in the budget despite a government commitment in December to do so. Mining is an area in which many Canadians in our region are also losing their jobs and families are suffering for it.

I think in both of those industries we have seen what many of us are warning against today. It is the loss of the Canadian government and of Canada to say, “Wait a second, let's look at the benefit for our country. Let's look at the benefit for Canadians”. As a result of the softwood lumber industry, the softwood sellout, an agreement that was signed by the Canadian government, thousands of jobs are being lost and mills are shutting down all across the country. That was our opportunity to act in terms of looking out for the well-being of our own people.

In terms of mining, we have seen in the last few years a rise in foreign ownership of what were previously Canadian companies. That is certainly something that concerns us a great deal in northern Manitoba as we saw a major company being bought out by foreign owners. Once again, we see Canada unable to step up and say, “Wait a second. Let's look out for the benefit of our own people”.

We are seeing the palpable threat of this continuing to happen to the shipping industry, an industry that we hear is not just part of the economic fabric but is part of the cultural and social fabric of our country in so many regions.

Shipping has a very deep connection in our riding, the home of the Port of Churchill, where a great deal of trade goes through Manitoba and all across Canada. We have a great deal of international trade but there are also Canadian ships and Canadian industries that benefit as a result.

We need to be making those linkages between the steel that is produced in Ontario, the nickel that is mined in Ontario that goes to producing the steel, that goes to producing the ships, and also looking at the lumber that goes to building infrastructure all across our country and contributes to the shipping industry.

We need to be making those linkages and seeing how these linkages are actually the stories of people all across the country who are working and making a living off these jobs. The moment we cut off one part of it, whether it is shipping, forestry or mining, when we see the shutting down of these industries, it is people's lives and well-being that is at stake.

It is Canada that has the ability to step up and say that it will not stand for it. That is what we in the NDP are doing and that is what we are looking forward to seeing from the government.

Another real point of contention as a result of the bill is the issue around supply management. Yesterday many members of Parliament from the opposition and from the NDP had the opportunity to meet with dairy farmers. I had the opportunity to meet with three dairy farmers from Manitoba. These were gentlemen who had their farm passed on to them from their fathers and, thankfully, all three of them assured me that they were planning to pass it on to their children as well.

Those people are taking a real leadership position because they are afraid of what might come to be, whereby Canada will not stand up and say that this kind of legislation helps our communities. Besides the contribution of healthy food in the dairy industry, milk, yoghurt, butter or whatever it might be, these are people who build communities and these are the communities that Canada is made up of.

I know many of these communities, speaking as a rural member, are actually represented by people on the governing side. What concerns me is that representatives of these communities would stand to support a bill that goes against the protection of people's jobs in the communities they represent and of the well-being of not just families but the communities and regions. It is a concern I share for my region where there are dairy farmers, but also all across Manitoba,. I would urge the Conservatives to look at that. We are certainly concerned on this side in terms of what that might mean in terms of other areas of agriculture with respect to the Canadian Wheat Board.

Finally, I would like to conclude with that question of vision. Speaking as one of the youngest members of Parliament, I am concerned about the future of our country. I believe we all are concerned. However, we have the opportunity to stand up and say no to legislation that is bad for the future of our country, that is bad for the present, that is bad for young people in Canada, that is bad for people involved in industries all across Canada and ultimately bad for the whole of Canada.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Madam Speaker, I listened with great interest to the speech from our hon. NDP colleague. She mentioned that she met with representatives from Dairy Farmers of Canada, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.

I also met with representatives from the Quebec group yesterday. One of the points they raised was about yogourt production and how it is regulated. I imagine the representatives that the member met with also raised this question.

Did the farmers she met with suggest, as those from Quebec did, that the federal government adopt a national strategy and regulations, using Quebec's standards—which are the highest in Canada—as a model? Quebec produces 90% of Canada's yogourt. And if they were to make such a proposal, would her political party agree? I can say that we would.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Madam Speaker, we definitely foresee serious problems in terms of the future of this industry. The people I spoke with mentioned the leadership of both Quebec and Canada in cheese production.

Why not say the same thing about yogourt, a product that we are all familiar with and that is now touted as essential for health?

There must be a frank and honest discussion with the government in order to protect the quality of this product, of course, but also to support the work these people do in every Canadian community.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, I was very thrilled to hear my hon. colleague talk about the importance of yogourt, cheese and milk, because it deals with issues of trade.

For example, in my region we had Parmalat, the largest milk company in the world. Parmalat decided that it did not want to be in the Temiskaming region any more, that it had bigger things to do and it would simply take its quota and leave. It would not matter how much money was being made in that little plant in Temiskaming, it was not enough for Parmalat.

Through our local efforts, we pushed back and said no to Parmalat, the same as we should say to forestry companies or anything else, that if they want to leave, they can leave, but the quota stays. The quota stayed in Temiskaming and our local farmers took over that plant. Now the Thornloe cheese plant is not only sustainable, it has moved from 30,000 litres to 90,000 litres because it is so successful.

There is a lack of vision in this country where there is no plan to ensure that regional and local operations are sustained. If we simply allow ourselves to be governed by larger and larger multinational units, we will reach a point where there will never be enough money coming from the regions unless they are being basically pillaged to entice these multinationals. We have seen this in forestry, in mining and in cheese.

I would like to ask my hon. colleague what her experience in the wonderful region of Thompson and Churchill, Manitoba is on the need to have a local and regional strategy for the economy?

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Madam Speaker, certainly in our region there are some very exciting initiatives in terms of food security and local food production. Fortunately, we have a provincial government that has taken a leading role in supporting these initiatives.

However, the question in our riding is, where is the federal government? May it step up to support local industries, to prevent the selling out of our jobs across the oceans or south of the border. May it step up and say no, we will look at the well-being of our communities and work to support the jobs in our country right now.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Is the House ready for the question?

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

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

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

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

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

All those opposed will please say nay.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

The division stands deferred until 3 p.m. tomorrow.

Canada Not-for-profit Corporations ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Calgary Nose Hill Alberta

Conservative

Diane Ablonczy ConservativeMinister of State (Small Business and Tourism)

moved that Bill C-4, An Act respecting not-for-profit corporations and certain other corporations, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to Bill C-4. This legislation will establish a new Canada not-for-profit corporations act. It will also transfer 11 corporations established in years gone by by special acts of Parliament to the Canada Business Corporations Act. It will then allow for the repeal of the outdated Canada Corporations Act.

This is a bill that touches all of us. I suspect that all members are active participating members, if not board members, of at least one not-for-profit corporation. Passage of this bill will result in the modernization of one of Canada's most important framework statutes. A new federal not-for-profit statute would act as the main 21st century vehicle for federal incorporation of not-for-profit corporations and other corporations without share capital. It would ensure that federally incorporated not-for-profit enterprises are governed by an up-to-date legislative framework that is flexible enough to meet the needs of both small and large organizations while providing the accountability and transparency necessary to meet the expectations of the Canadian public.

There is widespread recognition of the importance of strengthening Canada's not-for-profit sector, including the social purpose enterprises that form its backbone. These organizations are an important pillar of the economy as a whole. There are approximately 160,000 not-for-profit organizations operating in Canada. When universities, colleges and hospitals are included, the 2003 revenues of the sector were over $136 billion, up from $86 billion in 1997, a decade ago.

The not-for-profit sector is one of the country's largest employers, employing more than two million people who are supplemented by over twelve million volunteers. Of those 160,000 plus not-for-profit organizations, approximately 19,000 are incorporated under federal law. They range from community associations with just a few volunteers to national organizations run by professionals with multi-million dollar budgets. They will all benefit from the provisions of Bill C-4, the Canada not-for-profit corporations act.

Right now, these organizations unfortunately are not well served by the current law, the Canada Corporations Act, or CCA. The CCA has not been substantially amended for more than 90 years. The corporate world, even for the not-for-profit organizations, has dramatically changed over nine decades. Advances in corporate governance, communications technology and financial reporting demand that framework laws meet the exacting standards expected by the public and the corporations themselves.

The not-for-profit sector has repeatedly said that the current statute no longer meets its needs. For example, under the current statute, the incorporation process is slow and cumbersome. There are no provisions for amalgamating two or more corporations. There are no provisions for modern communications technologies. Financial accountability and transparency is inadequate. Directors do not have adequate defences against unwarranted liabilities. Members have few rights, and the list goes on.

Passage of this bill will in large part address these inadequacies and demonstrate the government's commitment to strengthening the sector. The Canada not-for-profit corporations act proposed in this bill has been modelled after the Canada Business Corporations Act, which is a modern legislative framework based upon 21st century principles and practices. The new NFP act will help to ensure a vibrant not-for-profit sector that supports Canada's economy.

Make no mistake, this is definitely a bill whose time has come. Stakeholders strongly supported proposals for a new statute during a consultation process that included three rounds of national consultations in the fall of 2000, the spring of 2002, and the fall of 2005.

Bill C-4 will bring about major improvements. Although it is not possible to list them all in 20 minutes, I would like to briefly review the main features of this reform.

First of all, the bill provides for the long-awaited modernization of the incorporation process. Currently the only way for a not-for-profit organization to be federally incorporated is through the issue of letters patent by the Minister of Industry. This process, which is mandated by the statute itself, is burdensome, lengthy and potentially expensive.

Bill C-4 will allow incorporation status to be granted quickly to any organization that has submitted the required forms, including articles of incorporation and fees. The act will allow corporations broad discretion in setting themselves up and conducting their day-to-day affairs. In particular, they will be able to tailor their bylaws to suit their individual needs.

Under the current statute, there are many prescriptive sections about how an organization must conduct its affairs. The new statute will allow them to focus on what they do best.

A second modernizing feature of the bill is the area of electronic communications to facilitate member participation in corporate activities. Electronic communications is one of the most essential tools of the modern corporation. It speeds up the ability to gather information, make decisions and ensure those decisions are implemented.

In the context of not-for-profit corporations, it can cement the relationship between the corporation and its members, many of whom may be hundreds or even thousands of miles away. As a result, the bill will allow electronic communications between the corporation and its members, including the ability of the corporation to hold meetings entirely by electronic means if members wish.

In recent years, the need for business enterprises to be transparent and financially accountable has increased. This need exists in the not-for-profit sector as well, because they must establish and maintain a high level of public confidence in order to succeed. Bill C-4 addresses the need for financial responsibility with the introduction of a flexible set of rules that can be tailored to meet the needs of individual corporations.

Canadians expect that corporations that benefit from government grants or public generosity should be more transparent. Thus corporations funded by public donations or government grants must adhere to more rigorous requirements respecting the review and disclosure of financial statements.

In addition to making their financial statements available to their members, a requirement for all corporations under this bill, publicly funded corporations would be required to submit their statements to the government, which in turn will make them available to the public.

Another issue that has been addressed in this bill is the question of the liability of directors and officers. The present act contains unclear and inadequate standards for the rights, duties and responsibilities of directors and executives of non-profit corporations. That is a major source of concern for the non-profit sector.

Bill C-4 provides clear, objective standards of diligence based on modern concepts of corporate law. Under Bill C-4, directors and officers will have an explicit duty to act honestly and in good faith in carrying out their duties.

They will also have a clear defence against undue liabilities, including a due diligence defence. This defence, which is well known by the legal community and the courts, is a standard feature of other modern corporate statutes. In essence it states that if a director or officer acts with the care, diligence and skill that a reasonably prudent person would exercise under like circumstances, he or she would have a defence against a liability claim.

The bill would also allow corporations to pay defence costs when a director is accused and would allow for the purchase of liability insurance.

These measures are of particular importance. Not-for-profit corporations have been saying for years that because of liability concerns, they often have difficulties in attracting and retaining good directors, who are often volunteers. This bill will go a long way toward alleviating their concerns.

Bill C-4 provides members with a number of remedies in the event of a dispute with the management or directors of a corporation. These are well known to corporate law practitioners, as they are found in most other corporate statutes, including the Canada Business Corporations Act. They include court-ordered investigations to look into possible corporate malfeasance, including fraud and environmental issues among others.

The new act also introduces to the not-for-profit world the concepts of an oppression remedy and a derivative action.

The bill recognizes, however, that because many voluntary and non-profit corporations active in Canada are faith-based, it is vital that the courts not become a battleground where their tenets of faith can be challenged. Accordingly, the bill excludes the use of the oppression remedy and a derivative action when the court is of the opinion that the action being challenged is based on a tenet of faith.

This bill does not deal only with not-for-profit corporations. There is one other important component of Bill C-4: the transfer of jurisdiction of 11 special-act-of-Parliament business corporations from part IV of the Canada Corporations Act to the Canada Business Corporations Act, or CBCA. Bill C-4 therefore also benefits those few profit-generating corporations that are subject to the Canada Corporations Act.

Similar to the sections of the CCA that deal with not-for-profit corporations, this part of the act dealing with special-act business corporations lacks modern corporate governance features. The corporations subject to these provisions should be given the opportunity to operate more efficiently and effectively in today's global marketplace. By moving these 11 special-act business corporations into the CBCA, the bill gives them that opportunity. The CBCA is the main statute governing business corporations existing under the federal laws of Canada. It is a state-of-the-art statute that provides a proper accountability framework by defining the rights and responsibilities of directors, officers and shareholders. The CBCA also contains provisions relating to corporate finance, trust indentures, insider trading, financial disclosure and other forms of corporate transactions. With the passage of this bill, these modern corporate governance features will now be available to all these special act business corporations.

In closing, I want to emphasize that Bill C-4 is good for the Canadian economy. It will allow not-for-profit corporations to be more efficient and effective in the modern Canadian economy. Bill C-4 will also reduce the regulatory burden on these corporations. The new not-for-profit act is far less burdensome.

Once Bill C-4 becomes law, and after a three-year transition period, it will be possible to repeal the entire outdated Canada Corporations Act.

Bill C-4 springs from the need to replace an 18th century piece of legislation with a modern framework that reflects the imperatives of the Canadian economy's diversity and the changes that have come about in recent years. It directly addresses these issues, and what is more, provides a solid basis on which healthy, dynamic, well-run not-for-profit corporations may flourish.

I urge all members to support this important legislation.

Canada Not-for-profit Corporations ActGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Bloc Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Madam Speaker, Bill C-4 does not include a classification system. The framework is permissive and flexible, allowing organizations to choose how to apply the relevant provisions.

Does the minister consider the lack of a general classification system to be a flaw?

Canada Not-for-profit Corporations ActGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Ablonczy Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for the opportunity to clarify the corporations that will be included in the new legislation. They will be not-for-profit corporations or corporations without share capital. Those corporations will be included in this new act.

Business corporations that do have share capital will be included in the Canada Business Corporations Act. That is the difference. I hope the matter has been clarified for my friend.

Situation in Sri LankaEmergency Debate

6:25 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

As it is now 6:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of a motion to adjourn the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter requiring urgent consideration, namely the situation in Sri Lanka.

Situation in Sri LankaEmergency Debate

6:25 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

moved:

That the House do now adjourn.

Madam Speaker, I would first like to say that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek.

I am very honoured, on behalf of the New Democratic Party, to have requested and been granted this emergency debate on the humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka. I want to thank all other members who requested the same thing.

Let me open with the traditional greeting that we share when we meet the many members of the Tamil community in Canada.

[Member spoke in Tamil]

[English]

Too often when tough times are hitting at home, we forget that many around the world are suffering from violence, displacement and deprivation. In Sri Lanka renewed conflict between government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam has created a humanitarian crisis of profound proportion. At least 250,000 civilians--innocent men, women and children--are at immediate risk.

Canada cannot let that stand. We have a duty to pursue peace, to supply aid, and to use the full power of our influence to protect those innocents. To do so, the Government of Canada must act and must act now.

Here is the situation in Sri Lanka today. It is a country that has been torn apart by a bloody conflict for the past 25 years. Some 70,000 people have been killed since the beginning of the civil war and thousands more have been displaced, not to mention all those who have fled the country and the violence. Unlawful killings, murders of journalists, parliamentarians and judges, the loss of freedom of speech, and the violation of fundamental human rights are all now the norm in Sri Lanka.

In January last year the uneasy ceasefire agreement between the government and the LTTE rebels fell apart and the relentless government campaign against the rebels has devastated the northern regions of Sri Lanka. Thousands have died. There are many simply innocent civilians caught in the conflict, ravaged by aerial bombings and artillery bombardments. Many bombs have hit so-called safety zones, killing and wounding hundreds of civilians, and destroying villages and hospitals.

Amnesty International estimates that there are less than half of the shelters that are needed for the monsoon season, leaving 20,000 families without shelter for that reason alone.

Foreign journalists have been denied access to the conflict zone, helping to keep this tragedy off the front pages and ensuring that those around the world who are concerned will have great difficulty in discerning precisely what is taking place. This also of course removes pressure from the Sri Lankan government itself.

Groups such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the ICRC say that both sides must bear responsibility for human rights violations. The laws of war require that parties to a conflict take all feasible precautions to minimize the loss of civilian life. It would appear that neither side has done so.

We want to simply acknowledge to those who are here in Canada and who are so deeply concerned that we sense their deep sense of tragedy and loss. Just today, here on Parliament Hill, thousands gathered. As I was leaving, having spent some time with them, one man grabbed hold of me and there were tears in his eyes as he spoke about how he had lost his brothers and his sister and their children. The anguish was seen on the streets of my city just last weekend when a remarkable gathering took place, a human chain linking hand to hand up and down the sidewalks of downtown Toronto all the way from Bloor and Yonge to Union Station and all the way back up University Avenue. It was peaceful. It was passionate. It was a call for us to respond.

I am very pleased that such a response is happening here tonight and that members of all parties are participating, some of whom I may say have been very engaged in this issue for a long period of time. I want to acknowledge that.

I want to also say that we hear about hospitals being shelled, and of course we cannot confirm all these things as yet because of the limited access of journalists, but we hear stories of a nurse being killed along with 11 people in a hospital in a conflict zone, a hospital that treats 600 patients. Both sides have been notified that this was a location where treatment was being offered, nonetheless the shelling continues. No one can even identify who was responsible for this particular attack. Both sides must bear responsibility for the violence.

It is the innocent. It is the wounded. It is the medical workers who have lost the most. The humanitarian crisis is far and distant to the thousands of the Canadians whose origins are in this part of the world. There are a 250,000 Tamils in Canada. Many have family and friends already killed or caught up in the conflict. There is no question that right across the country on the phone-in shows and using all the techniques that are possible, people are trying to find out what is happening back home and they are desperately looking for all of us here to help to bring an end to the violence.

Back on October 22 the Governor General urged the Sri Lankan High Commissioner to protect civilians by saying:

Canada believes it is important to ensure that civilians in conflict zones are protected, that they have access to humanitarian organizations, and that their human rights are respected.

I have to say that it seemed to take too much time for us to respond here in Canada. I think this is one of the reasons why the community is mobilizing with such passion. Last week we had the expression from the press release by the Minister of Foreign Affairs indicating that we were deeply concerned and we will deliver strong messages about the importance of a return to the peace process. We did not feel that that was strong enough.

I am glad to hear that there has been an announcement today that the Canadian government will supply $3 million in emergency aid. We welcome this initiative. This may prove to be only the beginning of what is required in the face of this catastrophic humanitarian crisis, but it is an important step. We also understand that there has been a call today from the government for a ceasefire on both sides, as the community and many of us here had been calling for. We welcome that.

However that is not enough. Canada can, and must, do more. We should join Great Britain, Germany and others who are taking on a leadership role in very actively exerting diplomatic pressure, demanding an immediate ceasefire.

We are calling on the government to apply all possible diplomatic pressure to achieve the ceasefire and to put a sustained effort toward this goal. We are also calling for an immediate end to the apparent use of cluster bombs by the Sri Lankan military. We know that this is against international law. We also have to do everything we can to ensure the supply of emergency aid and access to the conflict zone for international aid organizations. This should include the provision of safe corridors for the transmission of the aid and for the movement of people.

We have to use all available channels including our influence at the United Nations and at the Commonwealth to achieve these goals and others that I am sure will be raised here in this important debate. The time for delays is past. I urge the House to join with our party in calling on the government to apply all possible diplomatic pressure to end the suffering and the violence against the innocents.

[Member spoke in Tamil]

[English]

Situation in Sri LankaEmergency Debate

6:35 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to begin my remarks by thanking the member for Toronto—Danforth, the leader of the NDP, for leading the call today for this emergency debate. I also want to thank the other members present who are taking part in something that is so crucial and so important to the Sri Lankan community in Canada.

We heard just now from the leader of the NDP that the people in Sri Lanka are in crisis and many Sri Lankan civilians are caught between the government forces and the Liberation Tigers in a war zone with nowhere to turn. Earlier today, Human Rights Watch issued a release saying that there are continuing reports of high civilian casualties in the Mullaitivu district of the Northern Vanni area. The Sri Lankan government recently issued a statement saying that it is not responsible for the safety of civilians who remain in the areas controlled by the LTTE.

In addition, we have the International Committee of the Red Cross as well as local health workers reporting over the past week that a hospital was hit by three volleys of government artillery in a 24 hour period which left nine people dead and numerous injuries. Again, on February 2, that same hospital was struck again, killing three additional people and injuring 10 more.

Members present will know that under the laws of war, hospitals are strictly prohibited from attack so long as they are not being used for military purposes and both sides, as my leader has indicated, had been told that these hospitals were not being used in the conflict. In any conflict that reaches such a point of indiscriminate battle, both sides hold a measure of responsibility when it comes to protecting non-combatants.

Reports from Human Rights Watch, as well as Amnesty International, point to accusations of both sides in this conflict putting Sri Lankan civilians at risk and indeed, as we have heard regarding the hospitals and other cases, civilians have died as a result.

One of the problems faced by the international community is the fact that the Sri Lankan government has prohibited independent journalists and human rights monitors from accessing the area. As my leader indicated previously, that has put a wall around getting the story told and engaging the world community.

There is no independent field investigations taking place into the conduct of the government forces, nor for that matter the LTTE. But one thing is very clear, Sri Lankan civilians are being maimed and are dying in this conflict. When either side in a war zone violates the rules of war, it does not in any way legitimize their opposition resorting to similar violations.

Amnesty International says that reports coming from the Sri Lankan government suggest that government forces and the LTTE are violating the laws of war by targeting civilians and preventing them from escaping to safety. My point is that we have numerous reports that civilians are being injured and are dying in this conflict. There are reports of horrendous acts and horrors that the civilians of Sri Lanka are facing. To that point, there is no way under these conditions that these claims can be investigated unless and until countries like Canada use their diplomatic powers to gain a ceasefire.

I believe, and the NDP believes, that Canada must work further with the United Nations and the world community to ensure that the aid that is so desperately needed in the announcement of today reaches the most affected in the conflict, the innocent people of Sri Lanka.

I submit that this is not the time nor the place to try to decide who is more to blame for this situation. It is all too easy to place blame when such a conflict has festered for so many years. I do not want to see my country, Canada, stand by and allow civilians to be so forsaken in such a war zone.

I do not want to see Canada's hard-earned reputation as a nation of people, who believe in peace and who have been counted on in so many ways and so many times in the past to be the voice of peace, have that hard-earned reputation squandered. The Government of Canada must continue to stand up along with the world community and ensure that we take a lead position fighting for an immediate ceasefire and in doing so, open the doors for emergency aid to reach the embattled people of Sri Lanka.