Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for Vancouver East for the benefit of her years of experience in this House in being able to talk about those issues.
I will be splitting my time with my friend from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord.
I rise today in the House to support Bill S-14, an act to amend the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act, and I do so for a number of reasons.
The bill would make four main changes to the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act. I will elaborate on a bit on these changes.
Bill S-14 would increase the maximum sentence of imprisonment applicable to the offence of bribing a foreign public official from five to 14 years. It would eliminate an exception for so-called “facilitation payments”, whereby foreign officials are paid to expedite the execution of their responsibilities. It would create a new offence for falsifying or concealing books or records in order to bribe or conceal bribery of a foreign official. It would also establish nationality jurisdiction that would apply to all the offences under the act so that Canadian nationals could be prosecuted for offences committed overseas.
Having noted my support for the bill, I want to take a moment to comment on the process by which this bill comes before us in this House.
It is of concern that we get to this place by way of a 2011 report from Transparency International. That organization ranked Canada as the worst of all G7 countries with regard to international bribery with “little or no enforcement” of the scant legislation that exists in this country on these matters. This is to say that Canada needed to be named and shamed publicly, internationally, for our lax legislation and approach to these issues of corrupting public officials in other countries.
I also want to comment on the timing of the bill, which reflects a curious pathology of the current government. The Conservatives have been in power through a minority and now a majority government since 2006. It seems to elude them that they have been here seven years and that all that they do, now that they have been in power so long, is really an indictment of their own conduct as a government. Implicit in this kind of legislation is an indictment of what they have failed to do over the previous seven years in government.
I note that earlier today the parliamentary secretary justified Bill S-14 on the basis of the fact that we are a trading nation. Well, we were a trading nation as well when the Conservatives came to power in 2006. In fact, we have always been a trading nation. We have always been a very open economy, with goods coming and going to and from this country to other places around the world. When did dawn break over Marblehead? When did the Conservative government realize that we have always been a trading nation? The issues that the bill is meant to address existed in 2006 just as well as they exist in 2013.
It seemed to have taken a series of national embarrassments, largely in the extractive industry, to get the Conservative government to recognize that it needed some legislation such as the bill that we have before us. However, it is still not clear, after all of this, that the Conservatives embrace this legislation.
We had Bill C-300 before in this House. It was a bill that would have required extractive companies receiving government support to meet certain standards. As well, it would have established a system for issuing and assessing complaints against such companies. The government saw fit to whip that vote and defeat that legislation.
We had as well the spectacle of the foreign affairs minister introducing Canadian firms to the transition government in Libya before the United Nations could even assess the needs of post-conflict Libya. Among the companies that our minister of foreign affairs took to Libya, according to media reports, was SNC-Lavalin, a company whose contracts are now being investigated in 10 different countries. It is a company that has been banned from bidding on World Bank projects for 10 years. This is a government that only very recently saw fit to take SNC-Lavalin back into Libya to introduce it to a transition government.
We know too that to date there have only been three convictions on these matters. Since 1999, I would cite the Hydro Kleen group being fined $25,000 in January 2005; Niko Resources Ltd. was fined in 2011 because its subsidiary in Bangladesh had paid for a vehicle and travel expenses for a former Bangladeshi state minister; Griffiths Energy International was fined $10 million in January 2013 after it agreed to pay a $2-million bribe to the wife of Chad's ambassador to Canada, and so on. There have been only three convictions since 1999.
All of this seeming reluctance on behalf of the government to bring forth legislation like this is confirmed by the source of this bill, and that is the Senate. The Senate is an institution with an enormous legitimacy deficit—