Mr. Speaker, I am sure that hon. members just cannot wait for this wonderful bill.
There seems to be a pretty decent consensus in the House for this bill, with the exception of the New Democratic Party which opposes free trade even when it is point blank in front of their faces that it has done wonderful things for Canada, created hundreds of thousands of jobs. At least they are consistent in their opposition to free trade. We cannot say that for the adaptable Liberal government which very quickly when they see a good idea, no matter where it comes from, will happily take advantage of it.
On the last occasion when we had an opportunity to speak in the House on Bill C-11, we stressed the importance of making legislation that simplifies our lives and simplifies the business practices of business owners. Today, I reiterate these words.
We acknowledge that Bill C-11 will help improve the competitive position of Canadian industry within a freer trading environment as well as in the long run make the tariff system simpler. However, there are some concerns that need to be addressed.
In committee we heard dissatisfaction from business owners as they faced pressures to adopt new methods according to legislative changes. The time period allotted to them is unacceptable, given the nature of the changes they face.
Second, some automotive manufacturers may face additional changes early in 1998 once a clear automotive policy is implemented.
I will address these two main points today. First, amendments to this bill must be considerate of the business owner, the individual or groups of individuals who must implement our decisions in the real world. They must be given the necessary time to implement changes and carry out the process.
Second, it is inappropriate that the government take decisive actions when a clear automotive strategy is not in place as of yet. While we know that industry generally supports the bill, we also know that they have qualms about it.
The issue of greatest concern to the committee is the sense of urgency that is being placed on the bill. Those with the Canadian Importers Association are very concerned with the speedy passage of this bill. They point out that importers do not have sufficient time for what is a very time consuming and costly exercise. They ask for a period of administrative tolerance. This timeframe would allow them to adapt to the changes and alleviate their uneasiness with the timing of the proposed legislative changes.
The recurring message that we are hearing from the business community with respect to the uneasiness they face are their concerns related to the delivery and implementation of the tariff simplification initiative. While they support the elimination of regulation and business procedures, they are deeply affected by the timing of this bill. They feel it is quite rushed and they have not been granted enough time to prepare for the upcoming changes and the enormous challenges they will face.
The Alliance of Manufacturers is but one example of this concern. They stated, and I quote; “It is a scary exercise. There is very little time to do the programming we need.” These are the most affected parties. We demand that the government listen to their concerns and continue with the theme of simplification. If it is going to simplify the process, then it needs to continue with the agreement and simplify the law to all business owners. We will hold the government accountable to this and urge it to listen to the suggestions it has received.
We also heard concerns from vehicle manufacturers groups. It is no secret that Canada is in need of a strategic automotive policy, one based on free and fair trade. We understand that work is to be completed in this area in early 1998. Why then, we ask, make changes to automotive tariffs when the strategy is not in place? Why make changes now when a clear automotive policy is yet to be decided and risk having to amend the tariff to fit the policy later on?
This plan is not logical. It is not fair to the automotive industry. The government ought to stop and think about the possible repercussions of amending clauses now and then setting its automotive policy.
By trying to rush through legislation, the government is missing the point. A comprehensive automobile policy needs to be introduced in conjunction with clauses in Bill C-11 which pertain to automotive tariffs. Why take the chance of negatively impacting jobs and investment in Canada?
The free trade agreement that was so profusely objected to almost 10 years ago is today the largest bill on our shelves in the House of Commons. It is a huge factor in contributing to tax revenues and job creation in this country. The government continues to carry out our Conservative initiatives and our tariff agreements. However, as I have highlighted, there are several important factors to consider.
This is the most complex tariff system in the world. We know it and our trading partners know it. I strongly urge the government to consider the huge task that lies in front of importers in Canada and demand that they be given time to adapt to these enormous changes. As well, strategic consideration must be given to a comprehensive automotive policy.
My message today is that this is a beginning, not an end. We cannot stop now with all the progress we have made for the simple reason that the bill has been simplified. Work still needs to be done.
I would ask the government to commit to continuing with the work in progress, to continue developing trade agreements with our partners and to look ahead at the global marketplace to achieve a standard of excellence with our trading partners. This means that the government must continue to promote trade, thus encouraging business development and job creation in Canada.