Madam Speaker, I first want to address what our Conservative colleague just said. By his own admission, the bill is clearly flawed, but the Conservatives have decided to support it anyway simply to ensure that we do not take more time to get to the bottom of things. To me, that does not seem like the right or appropriate approach to take.
By way of introduction, I want to make three comments, which I hope will be rather brief, before I get into the substance of the matter and explain why we will be voting against this bill at report stage. Here is my first comment.
When he asked his question, my colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé did a great job explaining why we are voting against this bill at report stage. We voted in favour of this bill in principle because we support the idea of having tighter controls on imports coming in from forced labour, slavery and child labour. However, as my Conservative colleague noted, as we listened to some of the witnesses we realized that this bill has major flaws. As the member who introduced it admitted, this is a bill that simply encourages transparency, essentially relies on corporate goodwill, and does not provide for the necessary checks or for what we call due diligence. As my colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé noted, the government will not necessarily follow up to ensure that goods produced from forced labour or child labour are indeed not imported into Canada. I think that is a major flaw of this bill.
As my NDP colleague stated a little earlier, we tried to make some amendments to the bill in committee in light of the testimony we heard. However, the government had absolutely no intention of compromising. Considering the circumstances, we voted against the bill in committee. Consequently, and understandably, we will be voting against the bill given what has been reported today about what happened in committee.
My second introductory comment is simple: I believe that the sponsors of this bill, Senator Miville‑Dechêne and the member for Scarborough—Guildwood have very good intentions. I believe that their reasons for introducing this bill are honourable. They put their heart and soul into the bill and worked very hard on it. I believe they deserve our utmost respect for the work that has been done to date, but it is unfortunately not enough for us to vote in favour of this bill.
Third, I simply want to say that there is time before third reading to do something that would allow us to vote for this bill.
With that in mind, I would like to explain why we went from voting in favour of the bill in principle to voting against it in committee and today. As some of my colleagues have pointed out, the bill does not go far enough. It does nothing to ensure that the necessary checks will be performed to confirm that the spirit of the bill is being respected, in other words, to prevent the importation into Canada of goods made with forced labour, slavery or child labour. Beyond the principle, beyond the intentions, there is no follow-up. That is a fundamental flaw in this bill. Several witnesses who appeared before the committee told us that international experience has shown that once legislatures have passed legislation that simply calls for transparency, they stop there and do not go any further. If we want to go further than that, we should not pass a bill that does nothing beyond suggesting transparency.
Some might feel that this bill does nothing more than ease our conscience. It targets transparency and leans on corporate goodwill, but that is all.
My colleague from Edmonton Strathcona put forward amendments to make the bill more hard-hitting, to give it real teeth so we do not have to just cross our fingers and hope companies will get on board. The government and the Conservative Party rejected every single one of her proposed amendments.
Indeed, some people were in a big rush to shut down the committee's work, supposedly to avoid yet more delays, as my Conservative colleague said. Again, I do not think that rushing legislation is the right thing to do, especially when everyone knows the bill has some major flaws.
I asked that the Minister of Labour appear before the committee because there were rumours that the government had prepared a whole slew of amendments to improve the bill. To my surprise, when we studied the bill in committee, there was not a single amendment from the government, although we had been assured that the government had at least 20 amendments. Not a single one was introduced. What happened behind closed doors? I have absolutely no idea.
From what I understood, the Minister of Labour was persuaded by a number of people, including probably one of the sponsors of the bill, to withdraw the government's amendments and propose a more robust bill instead. I thought that was great, and I wanted the minister to come tell us about it publicly in committee. We invited him, but he declined.
I ran into the minister by chance at an event. He told me that he did not want to appear before the committee to say he had nothing to say because there were no amendments. That being said, he did tell me he intended to introduce a more robust bill along the same lines as Bill S-211.
I told him that that was great and asked him why he would not appear before the committee to tell us about it. He told me that he did not yet have the bill in his hands and he did not want to appear before the committee to say that the bill was not ready yet. I replied that, in that case, he needed to find a way to make public the government's intention in order to allay the concerns of some non-governmental organizations, or NGOs, that the bill would provide only for the transparency measure and would not go any further to ensure the necessary due diligence.
Since then, the minister has not made any public commitment to that effect, so the message he has been sending thus far is not very encouraging. There is still time, however, because we are approaching third reading stage.
In his speech, my colleague referred to a letter he sent to all members on February 28. That letter said this bill will transform Canada from laggard to leader on this issue.
I am sorry, but it takes more than just passing a bill on transparency to be a leader. If the government's position is that transparency would make Canada a leader, then I have concerns. That says to me that the Liberals do not have any real intentions of going further.
Accordingly, I have no choice today than to be consistent with the decision we made in committee and say that at report stage, the stage where we report on what happened in committee, we are voting against this bill. However, I want to assure my colleague, as I did in committee, that we are still open to the possibility of voting in favour of the bill at third reading provided we get a commitment from the government that it is ready and willing to go further than just passing a bill on transparency.
If my colleague can convince the minister to follow through on the informal commitment he made in my presence, he can be assured that we will vote in favour of the bill at third reading stage.