Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand in the House to talk again to Bill C-21. I thought yesterday would be the last time I would have a chance to speak, but it turns out I will have another chance today.
One of the things we understand when we look at a bill like Bill C-21 is the close relationship we have with our neighbours south of the border and the fact that geography has us joined. This is one of these things that helps goods flow back and forth in a way that people understand what the expectations are and how they work.
First, we do support the bill. It is important that our border services have the tools they need to keep Canadians safe. The legislation addresses the long-standing Conservative priorities regarding border security and ensuring entitlement programs are not abused.
On this side of the House, we will continue to hold the Liberals to account and ensure that this program is implemented in a way that does not infringe on the rights of Canadians.
Bill C-21 would allow the Canada Border Services Agency to collect and receive biographic information on travellers exiting Canada. It would authorize officers to acquire goods exported from Canada to be reported, despite exemptions, and would give them the power to examine goods being exported.
The Prime Minister first announced the agreement with the United States to fully implement a system to exchange basic biographic information in March 2016, following his first official visit to the United States. Currently, as part of the beyond the borders action plan, the two countries collect and exchange biographic entry information at land ports on third country nationals and lawful permanent residents. Entry information into one country is considered exit information from the other.
As we look at initiatives like beyond the borders, these are the things I hear at round tables. We need to continue to work on ways to ease the flow of goods, services and people. Some of the challenges our companies have are getting goods to market.
We can look at the automotive facilities in Windsor, where I visited this past summer. One of the things Chrysler told me was that based on just-in-time inventory, and automotive manufacturers experience and require the same thing, that any delays such as traffic, caused delays in its production, which was problematic as it worked very hard to get goods to market in a timely fashion.
On November 21, the Senate committee heard from the Privacy Commissioner of Canada who spoke on the general intent of the bill and its amendment, which was passed by the House of Commons. This is related to the data retention period. The Privacy Commissioner said, “I am generally satisfied that this border management initiative is based on important public policy objectives and the personal information in question is not particularly sensitive.”
For the amendment, Mr. Therrien indicated that in order to achieve greater legal certainty, subsection 93.1 should be amended to clarify that the data collected under sections 92 and 93 should be retained by the agency for a period of no more than 15 years.
The legislation will not have any incremental costs for new systems as it will leverage those already in use. It will, however, save an estimated $20 million per year from those who are unduly receiving entitlement programs while out of the country for extended periods. This includes those who are receiving employment insurance from outside of Canada.
Speaking of financial implications at borders, it is important to bring up the issue our country is grappling with right now, and that is the issue of steel and aluminum tariffs that still remain in place. The Prime Minister was supposed to have steel and aluminum tariffs lifted before the G20 summit about two weeks ago. Unfortunately, he failed to do so when he signed the USMCA without assurances that tariffs would be lifted. This is causing major problems with our manufacturers.
I have talked with small and medium-size enterprises. I have talked with steel and aluminum producers. I have talked with automotive, tool and dye and moulding companies. I have talked with a whole host of people who use steel and aluminum in their production and they are dealing with these issues. They tell me that every day these tariffs remain in place, workers will continue to face more uncertainty.
Businesses, especially small businesses, are struggling to pay the surtaxes on the materials they need. Jobs are at risk of being moved south of the border. Some companies are saying they are not sure they can continue to operate the way they are. For smaller companies, moving is not an option and larger companies are certainly reassessing some of the options they have.
I spent some time this summer criss-crossing the country and talking to small manufacturers who depend on stable markets for aluminum and steel. I talked to over 150 stakeholders in three different provinces. I had 26 meetings in 18 cities and talked to a variety of stakeholders. There were business owners, chambers of commerce and trade associations. I heard that U.S. tariffs are killing businesses. We have a 25% tariff on steel, a 10% tariff on aluminum and businesses are having a hard time planning. Not only are they not able to plan for the future, say two or three years down the road, they are also having a hard time planning for the next three to six months. That kind of uncertainty is a challenge.
I have talked to small boat wholesalers and retailers of boats who are trying to buy inventory now. They say the next season is coming up and they are not sure what they are going to do in terms of how many boats to order or what they need to do, because people refuse to pay some of the taxes. Small and medium-sized enterprises form an essential part of our local economies and their loss would be keenly felt if the tariff situation is not resolved in an expeditious way.
Last week, in the international trade committee, Conservatives introduced a motion asking the Prime Minister to attend and present his plan for the immediate removal of tariffs on steel and aluminum products. The Liberals voted against that motion. Canadians have the right to know exactly how the Liberals and the Prime Minister are going to address this growing negative impact of tariffs on steel and aluminum for our workers and the economy. When the Prime Minister signed the new NAFTA, he failed to ensure that the tariffs would be removed from Canadian steel and aluminum products. Canadians are still facing even more uncertainty given the recent announcement that the United States will terminate the existing trade agreement if the new NAFTA is not ratified in six months.
Conservatives spent months travelling across Canada speaking with over 200 businesses, owners, labour groups and stakeholders and heard that same message over and over again. Local businesses are being hindered by red tape and proposed higher taxes by the Prime Minister and the Liberal government and they are unable to access relief. They need to stay afloat during difficult periods, with no end in sight. Businesses have had to cut orders, reduce shifts and, in some cases, have been forced to lay off workers.
Conservatives will continue to fight to protect Canadian workers and our economy and will call on the Prime Minister to also do the same. The Prime Minister must take immediate action and tell Canadians exactly what his plan is to remove the tariffs from our steel and aluminum products and ensure that our workers and our economy will remain competitive.
Speaking of competitiveness, the global competitiveness index has Canada in 14th place. The U.S. has risen to first place out of 140 countries. We are in 53rd place when it comes to regulatory burden. Our corporate tax rate is now close to 27%, which is one of the higher ones of other developed countries in the OECD. We are close to having the highest corporate tax rate. The real tax rate for corporate income is also creeping toward 30%. Canada also has a high personal income tax rate. We spoke with companies trying to attract talent from all over the world and they said it is tough because of the high personal taxes that individuals pay in this country. For entrepreneurs, this is a challenge.
The personal tax rate in most provinces and in Ontario exceeds 50%, and that is certainly a challenge for businesses. Other provinces are getting dangerously close. The U.S. tax rate has been reduced from 35% to 21%, with additional incentives to invest and relocate there. This is our biggest trading partner where over 76% of our exports go. The government must recognize the importance of tax rates, our competitiveness and the importance of a strong business environment for our economic stability. Right now, there is no reason to be confident in our economic prospects. There are issues with capital flight and onerous regulations.
In Alberta right now, there are obviously many challenges. We see that Alberta just mandated an 8.7% cut in oil production to combat low prices. Thousands of jobs and several companies are in jeopardy. Canadian oil is selling at an $80-million discount every single day. Texas oil is going for around $50 a barrel, while Western Canadian Select, I believe, has gone to $14 and below. Why has that happened? One of the reasons is that Alberta cannot get its oil to global markets.
This is a direct result of the Prime Minister's failure to approve three different pipeline projects of over $100 billion. Northern gateway was vetoed. Energy east was killed by shifting regulatory goalposts. The Trans Mountain pipeline was subject to delays and obstruction. We, as a country, now own that pipeline for just a little over $4.5 billion. Bill C-69 would make the problem even worse. This bill would bury any chance at future pipelines, under the mountain of new ever-changing regulations. This is all part of the Liberal plan to phase out the oil sands without a thought for the workers and families who depend on them for their livelihoods.
Unfortunately, with such a high degree of uncertainty surrounding resource development in Canada, investors have taken notice. Canada is no longer seen as a safe bet for economic growth.
Problems are not just in our resource sector. Most people are aware that recently over 2,500 workers at GM in Oshawa were told that their plant would be closing. This is very unfortunate. Other manufacturers are worried as well. A carbon tax increases the price of everything, including energy, industrial inputs and shipping products to global markets. If Canadian companies are tied to a carbon tax that other countries, especially the United States, are not, we are going to be in serious trouble.
Recently, Canada has taken steps to diversify its trading relationship, and I will give the government kudos for that. It is good to see that we have just passed a modernized Canada-Israel agreement. It is good to see that we passed the TPP, or the new CPTPP, and of course the CETA. These are all agreements that our Conservative government previously had done the negotiating on and worked through, and it is great to see that the current government was able to move some of these through.
We cannot lose sight of how international trade really works, though. We still need a strong business environment to compete. That is a serious problem with tax hikes and onerous regulations, especially the carbon tax, which will impact Canadian firms' ability to compete on the basis of price. The government focuses a lot on the Canada brand in promoting global trade, but if our businesses cannot compete, they are not going to be able to engage successfully.
I want to talk about some other jurisdictions as it relates to Bill C-21 and how that has worked, just to show that there are other countries working on similar things as the legislation is here.
We know that the Australian government uses movement records to track arrivals and departures at its borders. Movement records may include name, date of birth, gender, relationship status, country of birth, departure and arrival dates, travel document information and travel itinerary. Collecting this information seems reasonable.
In 1998, the U.K. government ended its collection of paper-based exit controls and in 2004 introduced a more sophisticated approach of collecting advance passenger information for inbound and outbound air passengers. It also added checks in 2015 for those who are leaving.
The Government of New Zealand has implemented a passenger departure card system for outgoing travellers. Since updating legislation in 2009, travellers have been required to fill out a departure card with some basic biographical information before entering passport control.
In the United States, while an entry-exit control system to collect data on arrivals and departures has been legislated several times since 1996, no such system has yet been developed. The U.S. has tested several data collection and sharing programs, two of which are currently running.
The Americans largely rely on information sharing agreements with air and sea carriers for their exit records. One of the two programs still in place is the U.S.-Canada information sharing agreement in which the land entry record in one country establishes an exit record for the other.
Since 2008, under the advance passenger information system program, air and sea carriers are required to provide border police with electronic copies of passenger and crew manifests before departure of all international flights or voyages. This data must be provided before departure so that the manifest can be vetted against terrorist watch lists and so data can be added to the database.
In the spring of 2018, Bill C-21 passed and the Conservatives' supported it. The bill has now been returned to the House with an amendment suggested by the Privacy Commissioner to limit data retention to no more than 15 years. Conservatives will continue to support the initiative started by the previous Conservative government in the beyond the border agreement. It uses existing infrastructure to share basic biographical information between CBSA and U.S. law enforcement.
Once enacted, Bill C-21 would create an entry-exit program and allow the Canadian government to keep track of when individual Canadians enter and leave the country. Most countries in the world have already implemented entry and exit programs. Right now, the Canada Border Services Agency only knows when someone enters the country. The bill would allow the government to keep tabs on high-risk travellers for national security purposes. Knowing who enters and leaves the country is part of the government's responsibility to keep Canadians safe.
As I wrap up, I cannot overestimate the challenges that small and medium-size businesses are struggling with in this country in terms of tariffs. We look at what they are dealing with on an ongoing basis. The U.S. is our closest trading partner and we do things like beyond the border and Bill C-21 to increase co-operation, because the U.S. is a strong neighbour and a friend. As this issue continues to be unresolved, I fear that it puts our future in manufacturing, that it puts the future for our small and medium-size industries that are dealing with tariffs in steel and aluminum in jeopardy.
One of the challenges businesses have as they are trying to plan for the future is how they are going to pay for the steel and aluminum tariffs over the coming weeks and months. We talked to them this summer. Mr. Speaker, I understand you had round tables and were able to talk to some of these very people. We heard that this uncertainty means they may have to lay people off as we move forward. Small and medium-size enterprises are the backbone of Canadian society. They continue to make sure we have jobs in small towns and they employ vast numbers of people. We need to continue to work on trying to remove these tariffs.
Just as Bill C-21 would make it more efficient and we would be able to keep track of people moving back and forth, measures like beyond the border are things we heard about as we talked to people this summer. They said that we need to continue to work on ways to make sure there is less regulation and less red tape at the borders, so they are able to move forward in a strategic way.
I cannot implore the government enough to consider the issues around the steel and aluminum tariffs. We missed great opportunities. The first opportunity was when we originally signed on that one rushed weekend when there was a lot of activity, and we agreed to terms around a new NAFTA deal. The second opportunity was at the signing just a week or two ago in Argentina.
Quite frankly, we continue to hear from small and medium-size enterprises and they are very concerned about what the future holds for them. Who is going to pay the tariffs? A lot of these companies are eating the tariffs themselves right now. They say that if they are going to pass it on, there are suppliers saying they cannot afford to do that.
As we move forward to vote on Bill C-21, which our opposition team supports, there are many other things that need to be done to make sure our borders become more efficient and easier to move through.