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40th PARLIAMENT, 3rd SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 071

CONTENTS

Monday, September 27, 2010





CANADA

House of Commons Debates

VOLUME 145 
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NUMBER 071 
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3rd SESSION 
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40th PARLIAMENT 

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Speaker: The Honourable Peter Milliken

    The House met at 11 a.m.

Prayers



Private Members' Business

[Private Members' Business]

  (1100)  

[English]

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act

    The House resumed from May 25 consideration of the motion that Bill C-440, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (war resisters), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
    Mr. Speaker, I stand today to continue the government's response to Bill C-440, which calls for amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which I will refer to as IRPA, to require the granting of permanent residence status in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds to war resisters.
    The government opposes the measures proposed in Bill C-440 for several reasons. Based on how the bill is currently written, Citizenship and Immigration Canada officials have advised that military deserters could be granted permanent residence in Canada despite being inadmissible for war crimes, crimes against humanity, security, or for serious criminality based on offences such as sexual assault or murder.
    Immigration officials and officers would be powerless to refuse a war deserter application even if they were concerned that the applicant had been involved with such serious matters as I have outlined. It could leave Canada unable to stop foreign criminals from remaining in Canada if they happened to be military deserters.
    The bill would force the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism and officials acting under his delegated authority to grant permanent residence to people who might otherwise be inadmissible. In worst cases, this could oblige Canada to allow military deserters into this country who might also be criminals and whose claims would be normally rejected outright to ensure the safety and security of Canadians.
    Worse still, it could prevent us from deporting those already here who may in the future be required to serve in their country's armed forces.
    In addition to these safety and security implications, the bill proposes staying the removal of applicants until a decision on permanent residence is made.
    Currently, stays of removal for particular groups are only put into effect when there is a general risk associated with a particular country or place. Providing an automatic stay of removal without any evaluation of merit is open to abuse by non-genuine applicants who are subject to removal and wish to remain in Canada. Every citizen of a country with conscription who is illegally in Canada would actually be able to have the removal stayed.
    As a result, the bill risks the safety and security of Canadians.
    As noted earlier, Bill C-440 also goes against some of the laws and principles that govern Canada's own military. It is incompatible with Canada's code of service discipline as set out in the National Defence Act. This code is the basis of the Canadian Forces military justice system and is designed to assist military commanders in maintaining discipline, efficiency and morale within our own forces.
    The code deems desertion by a member of the Canadian Forces to be a punishable offence in Canada. This would apply if a forces member refused a lawful order to participate in an armed conflict not sanctioned by the United Nations.
    As a result, if the bill were implemented, Canadian soldiers would be punished for desertion while foreign nationals, such as military deserters from the United States, would be welcomed to Canada. The Liberals would continue to treat Canadian deserters as criminals but would welcome American, Israeli and Iranian deserters as heroes.
    Worse still, implicit in the rationale for the bill is the assumption that U.S. military practices are somehow unjust; or to put it another way, the Liberal Party is accusing the government of President Barack Obama of persecuting American citizens who are war deserters. This is a claim that even though is popular among the rabble and “no one is illegal set” has been rejected by the independent and arm's-length Immigration and Refugee Board at every instance.
    As drafted, there are no amendments to Bill C-440 that would address the government's concerns. The bill is fatally flawed.
    I would submit that our current immigration system is more balanced and already provides protection to individuals who are from countries where military desertion or refusal to participate in an armed conflict when the circumstances warrant.

  (1105)  

    In summary, Bill C-440 presents significant risks to our immigration and refugee system, as well as the general safety and security of all Canadians. Based on this, I would strongly encourage my hon. colleagues in the House to vote against the bill.
    Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to speak in support of Bill C-440, as other of my colleagues from the New Democratic Party have done.
    First of all, I would like to congratulate the member for Parkdale—High Park for bringing forward this bill. It is a very important measure.
    I am very disturbed to hear the comments from the parliamentary secretary and to hear the member completely dis the bill and the genuine and humanitarian intent that is contained within it. I think the member and the government are obviously fearmongering.
    It was very interesting to hear the parliamentary secretary say that it is popular among the rabble. I am not sure who he means. This bill has very broad support right across the country from significant organizations, from faith communities, from the war resisters support network, from many organizations. It is very disturbing that the government would undermine the bill and its intent in that way.
    We are debating the bill at second reading stage. If the bill passed this critical vote on Wednesday, it would go to committee where there could be further examination. It would be perfectly in order to raise any of the issues and concerns the government has at the committee and to have a response and amendments, if necessary. However, to want to kill the bill at this point is very unfortunate and something with which we certainly do not agree.
    I do want to speak about this issue because one of the war resisters, Rodney Watson, is actually in sanctuary in my riding of Vancouver East in the First United Church. He just marked the first anniversary of his being in sanctuary. He is a 32-year-old man who came to Vancouver in November 2006. He was deployed in Iraq in 2005. He is a very courageous young man. In making the choice not to participate in the illegal war in Iraq, he made a very big life-changing decision that affected him, his family, his future. He did it as a matter of conscience, as a matter of principle, of integrity about what he felt, what he had witnessed, what he had experienced in Iraq.
    He chose to come to this country. Many Canadians have welcomed this young man. In fact, the War Resisters Support Campaign and network across the country has been unbelievable in its tremendous volunteer effort in supporting the 300 or so war resisters in Canada. Probably about 40 of them are engaged in various legal campaigns around their status here in Canada.
    The bill before us would allow someone like Rodney to apply for permanent resident status. We have to think of this in a historical context. It was not that long ago that Canada welcomed about 80,000 draft dodgers, war resisters from the Vietnam war. They came to this country and are now very much a part of the Canadian society, the Canadian fabric. They became doctors, lawyers, professors, workers of varying kinds. They are people who have contributed to Canadian society and Canada is the better for their contribution.
    Here we are 40 years later and we see that the war resisters are fighting a tremendous battle to have their conscience respected, to find a way that they can make a humanitarian option for leaving the military. I support the bill and I know my colleagues support it because we believe there has to be a way within the system to accommodate these war resisters who are people of conscience. I hope very much that within the House there will be a majority vote that will allow the bill to go to committee.
    I want to thank all of the folks at the War Resisters Support Campaign and network, people like Sarah Bjorknas, who has done outstanding work; people like Reverend Ric Matthews who is the minister of mission and community life at First United Church. This church has opened up its space, its mission to welcome this young man, Rodney Watson, his wife and his young son, Jordan. They are currently involved in an application but I know they are hoping that the bill will be supported.

  (1110)  

    It is like a beacon of hope for all of the people involved that we are debating this issue in Parliament and that we are trying to find a way forward to ensure that this young man can remain in this country, and others like him who have made this very courageous decision.
    When the Conservative members play this politics of fear and put out misinformation that this bill would undermine the whole citizenship and immigration system and put Canadians at risk, which is what we heard the parliamentary secretary say, nothing could be further from the truth.
    In fact, what we do know is that all of the usual procedures that are within our system would still be in place. What we are trying to do is to find a humanitarian way, an objective way and a good way of allowing these war resisters to remain in our country so issues around criminality, which are issues that are usually dealt with within the system, nothing would be different here.
    It is very disturbing that the government would kind of play on those fears and undermine this very genuine attempt by a majority of members of the House to find a way for war resisters to remain in this country.
    I do note that a motion expressing that sentiment was passed in Parliament by a strong majority, and I think it is shared by a vast majority of Canadians. These war resisters pose no threat to our country. They are people of conscience who have chosen a way of peace rather than participating in a horrific experience. These are people who want to contribute to Canadian society and be members of our greater community.
    I know that personally, having visited Rodney Watson in Vancouver a number of times. I have talked with him and have met his wife. I attended his marriage at the First United Church where he has been in sanctuary. We must remember that this young man cannot go outside of this building. He cannot see his son play in a park, nor can he take a walk down the street. He is very happy that the First United Church has offered him sanctuary, which is a time-honoured tradition to have sanctuary, but it has placed his life in a very difficult circumstance.
    I and others are very hopeful that the bill will pass second reading, go to the committee where it will be objectively discussed and maybe there will be improvements that are brought forward, which is all in the realm of possibility, then it will come back to this House and be passed. This would give hope to the war resisters that Canada is still a place of refuge, a place of welcome, a place where people of conscience can seek refuge and a place where they can go through a proper process instead of having all of their hopes dashed, as I think the government would like to see.
    I wholeheartedly support this bill and urge all members of the House to support it. It would reinforce the reputation Canada has had over many years as being a place of compassion and a place where people, on humanitarian grounds, can be welcomed and protected. That is what we would like to see with this bill and this is what the bill would make possible, not only for Rodney Watson and the situation he is in, but for the many others who are in a similar situation.

  (1115)  

    Mr. Speaker, we share a North American continent with a global superpower: our American friends with whom we share many foundational democratic principles and with whose economy ours is intimately and intricately intertwined.
    Although we share many of the same values as our American friends, there have been times in history when we fundamentally disagreed with our American friends on issues of human rights, human dignity and especially on issues of war and peace. In fact, during those times there have been Americans who have disagreed with their own government, with their president, their commander-in-chief, and made the very difficult personal decision of uprooting their lives on a matter of principle and heading to the Canadian north to seek sanctuary in Canada.
    It goes as far back as the Loyalists who headed north to Canada because they wished to stay loyal to the Crown. We provided them with refuge. Blacks escaping slavery through the Underground Railroad sought sanctuary in southern Ontario where they built new lives and enjoyed freedom.
    More recently, during our lifetimes, there have been wars in Vietnam and in Iraq. There have been resisters to those particular wars who have once again uprooted themselves and have come seeking sanctuary in Canada. They fundamentally disagreed with their president's doctrine, as did Canadian prime ministers of that time. They disagreed with the doctrine of U.S. presidents, such as Nixon and Bush, who believed that one could bring democracy to middle powers half a world away through the barrel of a gun, to countries that had no traditions or institutions of democracy.
    Over the past few years, as Iraqi war resisters landed in Canada, they expected the same treatment as Vietnam war resisters received two generations ago, that they would be given refuge in Canada. Unfortunately, prime ministers have changed since Canada's decision to not engage in the Iraq war. It is no longer the Right Hon. Jean Chrétien, whose greatest legacy will be his resistance to bringing Canada into the Iraq war. He was a prime minister who did not listen to President Bush's embellished evidence that there were weapons of mass destruction, which was later found to be false. Instead, he listened to the UN inspectors who said that there were no weapons of mass destruction. He resisted President Bush's arm-twisting, who said that the war was about freedom and democracy and that Saddam Hussein was a tyrant, a monster and a crook.
    However, there are many tyrants and monsters.
    Order, please The hon. member for Etobicoke Centre is speaking and I think he deserves the respect he has shown to others here this morning. If people want to have a conversation, if they could take it out to the lobby it would be appreciated.
    The hon. member for Etobicoke Centre.
    Unfortunately, the world is full of monstrous despots, such as Zimbabwe's Mugabi. Why Iraq and not Zimbabwe? Many Canadians, I among them, perhaps feel that it had more to do with Iraq's vast oil reserves than freedom and democracy. What was the end result of the war in Iraq? Over 100,000 dead Iraqi civilians. Yes, today Iraq's oil reserves are controlled by U.S. oil interests and not the Hussein family interests, but at what cost? Over 100,000 innocent civilians are dead.
    For some in this House, that might be a statistic that they joke about, but there were brave soldiers on the front line who saw what it meant. People like Kimberley Rivera volunteered because she believed her president when he said that American freedom was at stake. She went to Iraq, half a world away, and saw the destruction of the personal property of Iraqis, the death of Iraqi civilians and the shell-shocked Iraqi children wandering Baghdad.
    Robin Long, on July 4, ironically, was deported to the United States by our government a month after the House of Commons voted by majority to provide refuge to Iraqi war resisters. A U.S. military tribunal sentenced him to 15 months in prison. He told me that the only evidence brought forward was the fact that he called the Iraq war illegal on CBC.
    We can compare that to the justice of Belmor Ramos who received seven months by a similar U.S. military tribunal for having taken part in the blindfolding and execution of four innocent Iraqi civilians who they then dumped in the Tigris River. One suspects that U.S. military courts have an agenda other than justice when we deport Iraqi war resisters who speak out against this unjust war.
    There are others. Chuck Wiley, with 17 years service in the U.S. navy, who came back and could no longer take part in this unjust war, uprooted his life. Jeremy Hinzman and hundreds of others have arrived in Canada seeking refuge.
    Eighty-two per cent of Canadians supported Canada's decision not to go to war in Iraq. Over the last number of years, continuously, 65%, two-thirds of Canadians have said that we should provide sanctuary to the Iraqi war resisters. Twice in the House of Commons we have voted by majority to provide refuge for those Iraqi war resisters, but unfortunately, the government is not respecting the will of the Canadian people and is not respecting the vote in the House of Commons of the people of Canada.
     It is high time the government ceased standing shoulder to shoulder with a discredited Bush doctrine of chest thumping, unintelligible, unimaginative militarism, and instead, stood shoulder to shoulder with those courageous men and women in uniform who made that difficult and brave decision to say no to their commander-in-chief because they believed he had lied to them and that it was an unjust war they were being forced into. Those courageous young men and women of the American forces then sought sanctuary here in Canada. They did not listen to the unjust orders of their commander-in-chief but listened to the command of the real commander-in-chief who says, “Thou shalt not kill”.

Routine Proceedings

[Routine Proceedings]

  (1120)  

[English]

Economic Action Plan

    Mr. Speaker, for the information of the House, I have the honour to table the sixth report of Canada's economic action plan.

Private Members' Business

[Private Members' Business]

  (1125)  

[English]

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act

    The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-440, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (war resisters), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
    Mr. Speaker, as said previously by my colleagues, the government objects to Bill C-440 and urges all members of the House to vote against it.
    I will continue the government's response to the bill by addressing the effect it could have on military lives and relations.
    Canadians love and value their freedom. We have a proud military tradition that proves we are willing to make the sacrifices necessary to protect it. Some 600,000 Canadians served in the first and second world wars. Over 100,000 Canadians gave their lives for our freedom and the freedom of others. We remember these sacrifices each year on Remembrance Day, November 11, one of the most important days on the Canadian calendar.
    In Afghanistan the brave men and women of the Canadian Forces are carrying on this tradition. Over 140 members have made the supreme sacrifice to bring freedom and security to Afghanistan and prevent the country from serving again as a base for global terrorism.
    When the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism speaks to new citizens, he sometimes talks about the need to meet obligations to family and community. He often cites Canada's military tradition as an example of how citizens have met these very obligations. However, to properly honour this past we must oppose the bill because it could pose challenges for some of the principles that apply to our military.
    The bill would let military deserters from any country participating in an armed conflict not sanctioned by the United Nations stay in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. It proposes to allow those individuals to remain in Canada based on a moral, political or religious objection. It would allow those subject to compulsory military service to refuse to return to service in their country of nationality. It proposes that the government would stay the removal for these applications until a decision on permanent residence for the individuals could be made.
    As drafted, Bill C-440 is incompatible with Canada's Code of Service Discipline, as set out in the National Defence Act. The code is the basis of the Canadian Forces military justice system and is designed to assist military commanders in ensuring that the forces remain disciplined, efficient and motivated.
    The Code of Service Discipline provides that desertion by a member of the Canadian Forces or failure to obey a lawful command of a superior officer are both punishable offences in Canada. These offences would apply in a situation where a Canadian Forces member refused a lawful order to participate in an armed conflict not sanctioned by the United Nations.
    This is, however, the very same conduct that Bill C-440 seeks to use as grounds for granting foreign nationals permanent residence. As a result, Canada could become a haven for military personnel who commit acts for which members of the Canadian Forces would be subject to punishment. The Liberal Party wants to treat Canadian deserters as criminals, but American, Israeli and Iranian deserters as heroes.
    The provisions in Bill C-440 also extend beyond those persons refusing to participate in an unsanctioned armed conflict.
    The bill seeks to grant permanent residence to individuals who, upon return to their country of origin, may be compelled to serve in the military. This provision is overly broad as obligatory military service is practised in many countries, including Israel, Germany and Denmark, countries which are both democracies and close allies of Canada. If Bill C-440 were made law in Canada, it could apply to all former military personnel from such countries.
    Passage of the bill will send an implicit signal that Canada condemns the practices of our allies and could establish Canada as a safe haven for individuals seeking to circumvent those practices. This, when dozens of countries around the world have either obligatory military service, a combination of obligatory and voluntary military service or voluntary systems that rely on obligatory service in emergency situations.
    Bill C-440 proposes that refusing to participate in an armed conflict not sanctioned by the United Nations should be grounds for granting permanent resident status. It has, however, not been common practice for the Security Council to sanction international armed conflicts. The UN is more commonly silent on the status of a conflict. As such, the bill would cover a large range of conflicts worldwide.
    Thus, by allowing all military deserters who are seeking to avoid participation in armed conflict not sanctioned by the United Nations to be provided special treatment, the provision could apply to conflicts that the international community, the Canadian government and/or Canadians deem to be legitimate.
    Furthermore, a decision by the Government of Canada to resort to force is reserved to the executive and not subject to review by Canadian courts. Scrutiny by a Canadian court of a foreign government's decision to resort to force would therefore be unwarranted.

  (1130)  

    Given the scope of Bill C-440, the number of foreign nationals eligible to apply under these provisions could be enormous. In theory, military personnel from any country with armed forces could qualify for permanent residence in Canada. Has anyone on the opposition benches given any thought to that at all?
    As I noted, the proposed amendments could also establish Canada as a haven for military personnel who commit acts such as desertion, for which the Canadian Forces would be subject to punishment. The bill as drafted contains no clear amendments to address these concerns. I would argue that our current immigration system is more balanced and provides sufficient protection to individuals facing persecution or undue hardship.
     Bill C-440 risks undermining the very principles upon which Canadian soldiers take to battle, principles that are fundamental to our military's code of service discipline and to our country's military relations with other countries around the world. Given that, as has been noted earlier, the bill could undermine the government's security and enforcement agenda and the security and safety of Canadians.
    Bill C-440 could pose substantial challenges for Canada. It would present risks to our immigration system, conflict with our military laws and could put at risk the general safety and security of Canadians. Based on these factors, I strongly encourage all hon. colleagues in the House to vote against Bill C-440.
    I will address some additional issues that have been raised by the hon. member across the way.
    The hon. member seeks to impugn the motivation of other countries that have in fact sought to defend their people who live under tyrannical regimes, dictatorships and from those who do not respect the liberty or freedoms of their own citizens. We have a great tradition in our country of standing up for those who cannot stand for themselves. Sometimes that means the government has a responsibility to make decisions that are not easy. The member seeks to impugn governments that make those decisions to take out a dictator who punishes his or her own people.
    He spoke of some people that are particularly offensive. I do not want to put words in the hon. member's mouth, but he indicated that the U.S. government took out a family that was not friendly to it on oil and put in a group that was friendly to it on oil. He did not speak at all about that family, about the former President Saddam Hussein's record on human rights and the travesties that dictator imposed upon his people. He can stand in judgment of the motivations, but I really take offence to the indication that the only motivation to take this man out was to gain control of oil. Those comments are highly offensive to one of our strongest allies and friends, our U.S. neighbours.
    I would also argue that there have been other cases and points in time where the United Nations has not seen fit, as I noted in my speech, to endorse a military action, but where nations of conscience have sought to go in and defend the people. We have seen many instances where the right to protect clause was not enacted by the United Nations, but where I think a lot of people on the outside looked at it and thought maybe it was an instance where it should have been. I do not think we should rely on that as our moral compass for whether or not we should go in and defend a people under a tyrannical regime where they are under threat.
    As I said, the bill is very poorly drafted. The government cannot support it and I urge all opposition members to join us in our opposition to it.

  (1135)  

    This is not the first time we have debated the issue of war resisters. A motion, first presented to Parliament on May 29, 2008, by the member for Trinity—Spadina, was based on an earlier Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration motion that called for the creation of a special government program to allow conscientious objectors, and their families, who had been refused or left military service related to a war not sanctioned by the United Nations to apply for permanent resident status.
    The motion also called for the government to immediately cease any removal or deportation actions that may have already commenced against such individuals.
    There are currently more than 200 Iraqi war resisters in Canada. They are either living underground or they have declared themselves in Canada. This group of men and women of all ages, ranks, family status, political affiliation, has been living and working in Canada since 2004, when the first war resister, Jeremy Hinzman, crossed the border into Canada after his U.S. conscientious objector application was denied and he ran out of other legal options. Since then, the community of resisters and community members have been determinedly fighting for the right of these young men and women to remain in Canada.
    The current private member's bill supports the tradition that Canadians respect, and that is the hopes, the wishes and the conscience of those who refuse to commit human rights violations. This goes back in our history. Most of us will remember, most notably, the days of the Vietnam war in the 1960s and the mostly young men but a few young women who came here and became part of our country's fabric, who made tremendous contributions.
    The 2008 motion and the subsequent motion from March 2009, again from the member for Trinity—Spadina, passed in the House.
    I will tell the members a bit about our experiences of war resisters in London, Ontario.
    In total about 10 war resisters have called London home over the past 5 years. London currently has three living in the community. These people are not looking for a free ride. Every one of them went out and found work as soon as they received work permits. Often they were low-paying entry jobs. These young men and women struggled to make ends meet, but they, nonetheless, worked to pay their own way. They also became active volunteers, participating in a number of community projects, including this past spring, helping to plant trees along Veterans Memorial Parkway in my riding, in memory of London's fallen soldiers.
    I want to talk about one young man in particular because I think his story is important and it is important for the House to hear the story.
    The young man, Josh Randall, joined the American army at age 17 because of lack of any other opportunity. He came from a very poor family. Poverty was the reality. He knew the only way he could escape that poverty for he and his future family was the offer of an education from the army. Therefore, he trained as a medic and was sent to Iraq.
    One of his jobs, in addition to being a medic, being there to look after those who were wounded, was to go on night patrols. I do not know if members know much about these night patrols, but basically three or four soldiers would go into a neighbourhood. They were supposed to be searching for insurgents. They had to break into a house to do the search. They would put an explosives belt around the door and blow it in so they could gain entry. A lot of damage is caused by that kind of explosion as, in the case of these homes, most of the doors are made of wood.

  (1140)  

    At any rate, this group would plant the explosives, break into the house, and they would go from room to room to see if they could find insurgents.
    On this particular night, Josh was with his group, and they did what they were supposed to do: they burst into the home and quickly made a search. There were no insurgents there, but there were three females: a young mother, her 12-year-old-daughter, and her little one, who was about three years old. Josh said that the three-year-old had been hit with splinters and the woodwork from the door. Her face and chest was covered with splinters, and she was bleeding profusely and crying desperately.
    The mother knew only one word of English, and that was “girl”. She kept pointing to the child and saying, “girl”. It was clear that it was a plea for help. Because of his training, Josh immediately wanted to go to work, because he knew that the wounds were such that this child would bleed to death, and that he was the only one who could help her.
    He was ordered out of the house. The sergeant said they had an obligation to get out of here and go on to the next house. He said not to worry about it, that the Red Crescent Society would come in and it will look after the child and she would be fine. Josh knew that this was not true. For this woman to get help would be impossible, because she would be leaving the child alone in her misery and her despair.
    That was what convinced him that what his country was doing was wrong and he had to leave.
    He had already served his tour. He came home and was terrified that he would be a victim of the stop-loss policy, that they would break the contract that he had signed and force him to go back to Iraq and continue to do the kinds of things that he simply could not do. He could not bring himself to be part of that anymore.
    Josh is in London, Ontario now. He brought his young wife with him to Canada and they have a child, a little fellow who was born last May. That little one is the light of their lives, an incredible child.
    I think in light of what Josh experienced, we have to be aware of what we are doing here in this place. To stand up and talk about how people will abuse the right to stay in Canada is beside the point. The point is that people came here acting on conscience, and they had real reason.
    I want to read a bit of what Josh has to say. I want to put his own words on the record. He said:
    I would first like to say that I am no longer a member of the United States armed forces. When I crossed the border January 3, 2008, I had little intention of crossing back over that border. I have officially and strongly resigned from a military that insists on occupying a country and ignoring the rights of the impoverished indigenous peoples. I am no longer a soldier in the U.S. army. I will never stop being a soldier. A soldier fights for the oppressed; he does not become the oppressor himself. Defending your country does not mean destroying other nations out of, or for, revenge.
    It certainly does not mean invoking “my country right or wrong“ as a reason for plundering the resources of another country, as we have seen in Iraq. It is pretty clear that this war was as much about oil as it was about any indignity done to the United States.
    The fact that Iraq was targeted instead of another nation when the government of the U.S. knew that Iraqis did not play a role in 9/11 leads us to be suspicious of all this.
    I want to finish with a word about the reality that we face in Canada with regard to our own military: we need to support our own military as much as any of those coming in.

  (1145)  

    I will leave my remarks at that.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank all of the members participating in today's debate.

[English]

    I would like to address my remarks to the people out there who could be a little confused about what we are debating today.
    Each member in the House received a kit about what this bill attempts to do, what it will do if it is passed at second reading. It will, in a way that respects our military and our relationship with the United States, accept people who for reasons of conscientious objection have decided not to participate in a particular war that was not sanctioned by the United Nations, and that contained acts that many in the United States have regarded as illegal. It would introduce measures that conform to a Canadian sensibility.
    We have noted today that the members opposite have taken this as an anti-government bill. They have responded only in the voice of the government. They have decided that they are afraid to debate the concepts in this bill, the concepts that affirm the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Nuremberg Principles that protect our military. These rights and principles make sure that when we have soldiers under arms we have them there for the right reasons, at the right time, under the right direction.
    This bill reflects a Canadian sensibility, but also some of the duress that a number of these soldiers were under. I know there are members in the House who have served in the military, but most of us have not. Some of these members have been disdainful of the people we are talking about, without reading the books or the literature or talking to the people involved.
    There are people like Chuck Wiley, who spent 17 years in the military. He walked away from a pension of $1,700 a month when he was three years away from it, because of his conscience. He had more guts than anybody in the House has a right to dispute. His situation demands that each hon. member in the House give consideration to this bill on its merits. Unfortunately, that is not what we heard from members opposite.
    There was an element of compulsion at the peak of the Iraq war, a practice called stop loss, which affected people, many of whom find themselves in Canada today. They did not have the choice of honourably serving out their commitments. They were pulled back into service by a trick in their contracts. They were supposed to go back into service after their full services were rendered. In fact, this policy affected as many as 15% of the personnel in U.S. services. The current president has agreed to phase it out. However, it reflects the difficulty of people in that war.
    Distinct from any service personnel under the Canadian flag in any other war, they did not have recourse to the options that most modern armies should have in respect to conscientious objection. Anyone in the National Guard who signed up to serve domestically was forced to go overseas.
    I have made it clear that I am open to looking at any language brought forward by the government. There has been none. There have been no opinions tabled by the Department of Immigration. There has been no information forthcoming, only threats and accusations from various members of the government party who have spoken on this bill.
    It is disappointing. I think people have a right to be disappointed in the inability of the House to take on a bill that contains some contentious elements. I would very much respect those who might sit in opposition to this bill if their opposition was derived from what the bill actually contains.
    This debate has been unfair to the people coming in. This summer, Jeremy Hinzman, one of the resisters, received a court decision that said exactly what this bill says: that conscientious objection is reasonable and must be taken into account. It was sent back for a new evaluation.
    We do not want to send people through courts and grind them through processes. However, the reaction of the government was not that it should maybe take a look at this. Instead, it sent out a one-sided bulletin that prejudiced the chances of anyone's getting a fair hearing. That is the behaviour of a government that does not listen to two motions passed in the House. It does not give heed to the fact that Canadians have pronounced themselves on not just the Iraq war but on the ability of Canadians to have a national sensibility. We accepted 50,000 people at the time of the Vietnam War. Some people in the House are too timid even to debate these 300.
    I believe this is a character test for us in the House. I look forward, whether it is here or in a public debate with members opposite, to meeting that test honourably and giving due consideration to people who have put themselves in our hands. They deserve an honest reply.

  (1150)  

[Translation]

    The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: No.
    The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin): All those in favour will please say yea.
    Some hon. members: Yea.
    The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin): All those opposed will please say nay.
    Some hon. members: Nay.
    The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin): In my opinion the nays have it.
    And five or more members having risen:

[English]

    The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin): Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, September 29, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

Suspension of Sitting 

     We will now suspend the House until government orders at noon.

     (The sitting of the House was suspended at 11:51 a.m.)

Sitting Resumed  

    (The House resumed at 12:01 p.m.)


Government Orders

[Government Orders]

  (1200)  

[Translation]

Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act

    Resuming debate. The hon. member for Richmond—Arthabaska has 14 minutes.
    Mr. Speaker, I began my first speech on this bill on March 29. It feels strange to spend the next 14 minutes talking about an issue that I discussed so long ago. However, I have done my homework, so I remember clearly what was going on with Bill C-8 on the Canada-Jordan free trade agreement.
    I will not repeat what I said when I began talking about this on March 29, but I will summarize. I started by saying that the Bloc Québécois supported this bill in principle. I raised a number of important points, including the fact that Jordan is currently modernizing its government and is relying heavily on international trade to support its economic growth. An agreement with Canada could really help this emerging economy.
    Canada has already signed a free trade agreement with Jordan's neighbour, Israel. By signing an international trade agreement with Jordan, Canada would demonstrate a degree of balance in our interests in that part of the world, given the strained political relationship between Israel and the rest of the Middle East, of which all hon. members are aware.
    Just today, I was reading that the resumption of talks was very tentative. Let us be positive and optimistic about what is happening there. Our thoughts are with the people who are suffering because of the problems arising from the conflicts in the Middle East.
    Such an agreement between Canada and Jordan could send a signal to other Middle Eastern countries that would like to expand their economic relations with the west.
    On a more technical note, potential trade would be mainly in the agricultural sector. I also mentioned this in the first part of my speech. As the Bloc Québécois agriculture critic, I carefully examined this aspect. As we know, agriculture is not very well developed in Jordan. It does not represent a threat to our agricultural producers. We checked with the Union des producteurs agricoles du Québec. Water is scarce in Jordan, and the climate is arid. That is not where most crops are grown. The same goes for livestock. However, we do import some products from Jordan.
    It would probably be more beneficial for us, especially in Quebec, to trade with this country. I joked that we will not sell much pork to Jordan. However, we might have some success with sales of other meats, cash crops and fruits and vegetables.
    There are also interesting opportunities for Quebec's pulp and paper industry, which has the largest share of exports to Jordan. According to 2008 statistics, Canada's trade with Jordan totalled $92 million, of which Quebec's share was $35 million, with $25 million in pulp and paper exports. This could be good for my riding, which is home to such companies as Domtar and Cascades. In Quebec especially, this industry needs to find new markets. I hope that will be possible.
    In Canada, Quebec is Jordan's largest trade partner. According to the most recent statistics, Quebec's share of Canadian exports to Jordan in 2008 was 45% or $35 million. Canada's total trade with Jordan reached $92 million. This is not a free trade agreement on the scale of the one being negotiated with the European Union or NAFTA. Jordan is a small country; however, a free trade agreement could open the door to some Middle Eastern markets.

  (1205)  

    I spoke about another point that I want to bring up again. Since we will vote to send this bill to committee, there is a chance that it will make it there. So I would like to talk about natural surface water and ground water, whether in a liquid, gaseous or solid state, which are excluded from the agreement by the enabling statute but not mentioned in the text of the agreement itself. That could be dangerous.
    I could compare this to the free trade agreement between Canada and the European Union, which is currently under negotiation. For the first time ever, Canada decided to leave the supply management system on the table. With other bilateral agreements, research was done, and Canada always excluded the supply management system from negotiations. That is worrisome, because even if the Conservative government gives us verbal assurances that it will protect the supply management system, the very fact that the system is among the issues on the negotiating table leaves us at the mercy of the European Union's negotiators, who could demand some compromises. I referred to surface and ground water because we would hate to see this resource traded with any country. We have to wonder why it was only included in the implementation bill, when it was not stated in the text of the agreement. That would be something to look into during the study in committee.
    Even though we are supposed to study each free trade agreement on its own merits, it is clear that the government has a tendency to drop the multilateral approach, just as it is tempted to do with foreign affairs. The government is negotiating free trade agreements with nearly 30 countries. The WTO agreements and the Doha agreement are not working very well. Multilateral agreements are on hold and there has been no effort on that front whatsoever. Now they are focusing on bilateral agreements.
    The Bloc Québécois does not feel that this is the way to go about improving the lot of those countries, particularly the developing ones. Officials in the Department of International Trade, like those in the industry department, have admitted to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology that no studies have been conducted to evaluate whether these agreements will be beneficial to our economy. Not that it matters; ever since these bilateral agreements have been introduced, the Liberal and Conservative members feel that the government must move ahead with them, whether an agreement is beneficial or not.
    One example of this is the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement. Only the Bloc Québécois and the NDP spoke out against this free trade agreement, simply on the grounds that Colombia does not respect human rights, environmental rights or labour rights.
    In a paternalistic manner, we offer to trade with Colombia and help it make money through the free trade agreement and then say that maybe the country should start considering human rights. I do not think this is the right way to go about it. I think such a country needs to know right away that it is unacceptable to treat its population the way it does, and that, as a penalty, we will not be doing business with them until they rectify the situation.
    As I said, both the Liberals and Conservatives believe that the government should pursue these bilateral agreements. At least, that is what has come out of the meetings of the Standing Committee on International Trade. Obviously, the Bloc Québécois voted against the report that was passed by the majority of the House committee.
     Even worse, the committee also recommended beginning all kinds of other bilateral negotiations, even though no studies have been done to determine whether these agreements will be beneficial for either Canada or Quebec. The committee even contemplated a free trade agreement with China. I would remind the House that in 2005, Canadian imports of Chinese goods totalled $32 billion and generated a $26 billion trade deficit in Canada, or $1,000 per capita. We definitely do not have the upper hand in our trade with China at this time. When trade with any given country generates five times more imports than exports, the top priority should be to make the terms more balanced, rather than more liberal.
    The Bloc Québécois will only support future bilateral free trade agreements if it believes they will benefit Quebec's economy.

  (1210)  

    Furthermore, the Bloc Québécois insists that new free trade agreements must contain clauses requiring that minimum standards on human rights—as I mentioned earlier—labour rights and respect for the environment be met.
    As I was saying, in order for trade to be mutually beneficial, it must first be fair. The absence of environmental or labour standards in trade agreements puts a great deal of pressure on our industries, especially our traditional industries. Earlier we were talking about pulp and paper and agriculture. Those are part of that reality. It is very difficult for them to compete with products that are made with no regard for basic social rights.
     We have been talking about this for quite some time. Before I was even elected to this House, when I was working for my colleague from Joliette who was the international trade critic, the Bloc Québécois had made many presentations and organized many meetings with citizens in civil society regarding this globalization and how we wanted it to have a human face. That is the terminology used at the time. Here we are in 2010, still referring to something we were talking about in the early 2000s.
     The absence of environmental or labour standards in trade agreements puts a great deal of pressure on our industries, as I was saying, our traditional industries in particular. The Bloc Québécois believes that child labour, forced labour and the denial of the fundamental rights of workers is a form of unfair competition, just like export subsidies and dumping.
     These examples are often cited in committee, in the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food for example, in relation to strong economic powers such as the European Union and the United States, which heavily subsidize their farm productions. An example that springs to mind is the cotton market in certain African countries that has been completely destroyed because the U.S. subsidizes its own cotton so much that African countries no longer produce any cotton, although they can grow it easily, because the market has simply been killed off. We see these examples.
    Here in Canada we were victims of dumping in the corn market when the United States simply decided to lower the price of corn and subsidize it heavily. It is this type of example that strikes us. And, obviously, there are other examples where civil rights are not respected in certain emerging countries.
    Trade agreements and trade laws do not protect our businesses and our workers from this social dumping. If a country wants to benefit from free trade, in return it has to accept a certain number of basic rules, with regard to civil and social rights in particular. Colombia is a good example.
     I am being signalled that my time is running out. I will wrap up by saying that the Bloc Québécois is urging the federal government to revise its positions in trade negotiations in order to ensure that trade agreements include clauses ensuring compliance with international labour standards as well as respect for human rights and the environment. In their current form, side agreements on minimum labour standards and environmental protection lack a binding mechanism that would make them truly effective.
    Let us move toward multilateral agreements, which is not to say that we would not be in favour of some bilateral agreements in certain cases, as with Jordan of course. We are in favour of sending this bill to committee.

  (1215)  

    Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to my colleague's speech on the bill before us, which is obviously connected to the free trade agreement negotiated between Canada and Jordan.
    A number of times, he mentioned that the Bloc Québécois was in favour of this bill because it would implement an agreement that was negotiated. It is still a bilateral agreement, though. It was clear from his speech, and we have seen on other occasions, that the government lacks an overall strategy when it comes to free trade agreements. In a way, the lack of an overall strategy when negotiating each agreement sometimes makes it difficult to have a vision that ensures that everyone comes out a winner.
    I would like him to comment on whether I understood what he was saying.
    Mr. Speaker, my colleague is very familiar with this issue, since he is the Bloc's international trade critic. He has examined this agreement, and he will no doubt do the same for any other agreement.
    Indeed, there is a way to civilize international trade. It is simply a matter of drawing upon past experiences. In general, multilateral agreements have always been better at ensuring that human rights are better respected, whether we are talking about labour rights, environmental rights, workers' right to unionize or other rights, because with these multilateral agreements, poor and emerging countries also have a voice; they also have the right to speak up. We as sovereignists are always concerned when agreements are signed and Quebec does not have a place at the negotiating table. That is one of our arguments, because Quebec would be much better off if it were able to sit at the negotiating table.
    In any event, today, Brazil and India, for example, as well as all emerging countries, can be much more demanding with multilateral agreements than with bilateral agreements.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the member from the Bloc mentioned a concern he has around this bilateral trend we see, with our government going off and negotiating these bilateral agreements seemingly everywhere, with any size of country. In this case, clauses 16 and 17 talk about how the Government of Canada will look at the effects of trade with Jordan on our economy.
    My question is very simple. Is he not concerned, as many are, that we are just layering so many different kinds of processes when we get into these agreements that it actually can cause the opposite of free trade of goods? We would get into these disputes and then we would have tribunals study them in a bilateral nature, not in a multilateral nature, and instead of having a free flow of goods and services, we could end up actually having a blocked-up process, because under clauses such as clause 17 we would actually inhibit the free flow of goods because we would be locked into these tribunals.

  (1220)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, it is clear, and I mentioned this in my speech, that we would have liked to see studies that very clearly demonstrate and prove that this type of bilateral agreement is profitable for our industries. I was talking about agriculture, the pulp and paper industry and so on, where we already know there are possibilities of opening the market. However, generally, there is no clear study on this.
    The same goes for the various clauses that will determine whether there are disputes between the two countries. In any event, these provisions are always included in every bilateral agreement. I do not necessarily think we are anticipating or that we should anticipate any specific problems with Jordan. However, we see the infamous chapter 11 of NAFTA also being used in other countries. I do not understand why the government keeps making this mistake that causes so much harm.

[English]

    I am pleased also to participate in a debate that, unusual for this House in recent times, should be relatively free of heated partisan rhetoric.
    The official opposition supports the passing of this bill for many of the same reasons that members sitting on the government side of the House support it. We should take advantage of these opportunities when they come along, as they do so rather rarely. However, before my government friends get too excited, I will be raising some real concerns about the government's lack of action on increasing U.S. protectionism and on the missing trade opportunities with China, South Korea and others.
    Canada is now experiencing the first trade deficits it has seen in 30 years. Indeed it set a record this July, not a record to be proud of, at a deficit of $2.7 billion. Something is going wrong. We must challenge the government hard on why that is and what we can do about it.
    Although we in the Liberal Party want to see continued work on the larger multilateral trade negotiations, and I note that two of my colleagues just now have spoken about the desire for greater multilateral negotiations, we would like to see Canada work even harder in promoting a multilateral approach. We recognize the practicalities and challenges we see happening in that regard. In the absence of progress on the multilateral level, we in the Liberal Party encourage Canada to work at the bilateral level to enhance our trade with as many other countries as possible.
    Canada is a nation that supports free trade. Our origins are those of a trading nation, starting with fur and wood and other natural resources. Trade accounts for a significantly greater proportion of our overall economic activity than many other nations. Indeed, 80% of our economy and millions of Canadian jobs depend on trade and our ability to access foreign markets.
    Canadian exporters benefit from the reduction and elimination of tariffs on their goods destined for other countries. Canadian manufacturers benefit from the reduction and elimination of tariffs at the Canadian border of the various materials that go into their products. Canadian consumers benefit from the lower prices of imported goods when tariffs on those goods are reduced and eliminated.
    Although there will always be debate about protectionism and what steps are best to foster and promote Canadian business success and therefore jobs, most Canadian businesses that look to domestic markets benefit from free trade, not only for all the reasons I have just given but also in being forced to innovate and compete with others from abroad, provided that those abroad comply with international rules of trade, tariff and non-tariff barriers. In the long run, Canadian businesses are more than capable of being strong, innovative and competitive when not hiding behind protectionist walls.

[Translation]

    I am proud to rise in the House today for this debate and to show my support, on behalf of the Liberal Party of Canada, for Bill C-8 on the Canada-Jordan free trade agreement, the Canada-Jordan agreement on labour cooperation and the Canada-Jordan agreement on the environment.
    The Harper government's careless handling of Canada's trade relations has led to trade deficits—

  (1225)  

[English]

    Order, please. I would ask members to refrain from referring to members by their names.

[Translation]

    The Conservative government has created trade deficits for the first time in more than 30 years. There needs to be more effort and a greater commitment to improve this situation by increasing international trade between Canada and other countries in the world.
    Canada relies on trade. Eighty per cent of our economy depends on access to export markets.
    The Liberal Party supports the principles of free trade as well as initiatives that improve access to foreign markets for Canada's businesses. Even though Jordan's economy is not that large and trade between Canada and Jordan is not extensive, we can make a comparison with what has happened in the United States.
    Since 2001, when the United States and Jordan signed their free trade agreement, their trade volume has increased tenfold. We hope to see similar results here.
    Like Canada's free trade agreements with Chile and Cost Rica as well as the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Canada-Jordan free trade agreement includes side agreements on labour co-operation and the environment.
    The Canada-Jordan labour co-operation agreement recognizes both countries' obligations under the International Labour Organization's Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, which requires that each country's national laws, regulations and practices protect the following rights: the right to freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining, the abolition of child labour, the elimination of forced or compulsory labour and the elimination of discrimination.
     Both the labour co-operation agreement and the agreement on the environment between Canada and Jordan include complaints and dispute resolution processes that enable members of the public to request an investigation into perceived failures of Canada or Jordan to comply with these agreements.

[English]

    The free trade agreement with Jordan is another opportunity to increase access to more markets for Canadian farmers and businesses. It will eliminate all non-agricultural tariffs and a majority of agricultural tariffs on our two-way trade.
    Canadian businesses that are particularly well placed to benefit from this greater access will be farmers of crops such as lentils, chickpeas and beans. Frozen french fries are included, as are animal feed and various prepared foods. The agreement should expand opportunities for Canadians in other sectors, such as forest products, industrial and electrical machinery, construction equipment and auto parts, because the agreement will eliminate tariffs on such Canadian products as forest products, Canadian manufacturing products and certain agriculture and agri-food products.
    Here are a few numbers: Canada's GDP was over $1.5 trillion in 2009. Jordan's was a little over $26 billion. Ten years ago, the value of trade from Canada to Jordan was approximately $22 million, and the value of trade from Jordan to Canada was about $3 million. Last year, the corresponding numbers were almost $66 million from Canada to Jordan and almost $17 million in the other direction.
    As noted earlier, these are not very large numbers in the grand scheme of Canada's trade. However, we are very hopeful that the experience in the United States since entering free trade with Jordan, where trade expanded tenfold, will be repeated here in Canada. The Jordanian economy, good news, is predicted to grow by 3% this year and by 3.7% in 2011.
    I will repeat that the experience of the U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement has been very encouraging. That agreement was signed only in 2001. Since then, trade between those two countries has increased tenfold. We are very hopeful of having a similar experience as a result of the agreement between Canada and Jordan.
    Jordan has also entered into free trade agreements with some of Canada's other important trading partners. Jordan's free trade agreement with the European Union went into effect in May 2002, and a free trade agreement with the European Free Trade Association went into effect in September 2002.
    From a political perspective, we support increased trade and engagement with Jordan because it further facilitates engagement with the country and encourages stability in the region. Canada has had a free trade agreement with Israel since 1997. This would be the first signed with an Arab country. It is appropriate that this agreement be with Jordan, as Jordan has shown considerable leadership in pursuit of peace in the Middle East, and indeed, has had a peace treaty with Israel since October 1994.
    Countries like Canada should take the opportunity to encourage those efforts and should support constructive efforts toward forging better, more engaged, more prosperous and more peaceful relationships in the region.
    This particular effort builds on the fact that Canada and Jordan already share a good and constructive relationship, as exemplified by our recent agreement on co-operation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, signed in February 2009.
    In addition, Canada and Jordan have a foreign investment promotion and protection agreement. It was signed at the same time as this free trade agreement but is already in force. It is based on the principle of national treatment from an investor's perspective: a Canadian investor in Jordan will be treated identically to a Jordanian investor in Jordan, and of course, vice versa in Canada. This principle of national treatment is a core component of free trade.
    Like most of Canada's free trade agreements, this free trade agreement includes agreements on the environment and on labour co-operation that will help promote sustainability and protect labour rights. The Canada-Jordan labour co-operation agreement recognizes both countries' obligations under the International Labour Organization Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, including the protection of the following rights: the right to freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining, the abolition of child labour, the elimination of forced or compulsory labour and the elimination of discrimination. Both the labour co-operation agreement and the agreement on the environment include complaints and dispute resolution processes that will enable members of the public to request an investigation into a perceived failure of Canada or Jordan to comply with these agreements.

  (1230)  

    I will say a few words on human rights. The question of human rights will always come up in the House when we debate free trade agreements, and rightly so. As I have said in the House a number of times, it is a good thing Canadian members of Parliament are concerned about international human rights. I have noted that we all, regardless of what party we sit for, want full human rights for everyone around the world. We do, however, from time to time, disagree on what Canada can do to further that goal and on how it can do it.
    Some of my colleagues will say that putting up walls and preventing more open trade and engagement will somehow help, that somehow, Canada, by wagging its finger at other states instead of fully engaging them, will miraculously be listened to. I am afraid that that is not how the world works. I believe that rather than building walls, freer trade opens windows through which light gets in and opens doors through which we Canadians can engage on all sorts of levels with others. If we isolate a country, our capacity to engage in human rights is reduced.
     Economic engagement increases our ability to engage in other areas, such as education and culture. All of that engagement increases the capacity to engage in the area of human rights. It gives us, as Canadians, a greater opportunity, through business people, customers, clients and others, to show by example, not with a paternalistic, finger-wagging, we know best attitude, how things work so well for us here in Canada. We can show that we are willing to share, on a friendly basis, those examples.
    As I have said many times, it is the citizens of a particular state, not Canada, who are responsible for improvements at home. Canadians have a wonderful opportunity to engage with those citizens to expose what works in other parts of the world and in particular here, where we are proud of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, our successfully pluralistic society, and our peace, order and good government approach to governance.
    In this regard, with respect to Jordan, we do not have the heightened level of concern we have had with Colombia, as witnessed by the significant debate in the House with regard to human rights in the free trade agreement with Colombia. That is not the issue in regard to the free trade agreement with Jordan.
     I want to take the opportunity here to commend my Liberal colleague, the member for Kings—Hants, my predecessor in the role of critic for international trade, for the excellent work he did on the human rights amendment to the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act. Under that Liberal-negotiated deal, Canada and Colombia must publicly measure the impact of free trade on human rights in both countries. It is the first trade deal in the world that requires ongoing human rights impact assessments. Again, I commend my colleague for Kings--Hants for his excellent work in this regard and for hearing the concerns of every member of the House with respect to improving human rights for others in other countries.
    All of this goes to my support and my party's support for Bill C-8 and for free trade with Jordan. Greater economic engagement helps us all economically, through more jobs and more prosperity, in both Canada and Jordan. Free trade is, in this case, a win-win opportunity. However, I wish at this point to highlight some real concerns about the Conservative government's approach to international trade generally.
    We are losing the concept of free trade with our biggest trading partner, the one to the south, the United States. When the recession hit, the U.S. government responded with protectionism by putting forth its buy American policy and tighter rules. The Conservative government stood by watching as if it did not know what hit it. It engaged in photo ops in Washington, not realizing that the battle needed to be fought all across the States at the state level.
    By the time a so-called exemption was worked out, which in and of itself required significant concessions by Canadian provinces, the protectionism in the United States had already hurt many Canadian businesses and had cost many Canadian jobs. Even the so-called exemption only covers 37 states, a great example of how it is not just Washington that must be engaged. Despite our vociferous efforts to get the Conservative government to engage much more forcefully at the state level, the government just did not seem to understand the whats of the negative effects on Canadian business nor the hows of fixing the problem. Now, here we are again.

  (1235)  

    The United States is threatening more protectionist legislation, the Foreign Manufacturers Legal Accountability Act, which, although not technically aimed at Canada, would significantly hurt many Canadian businesses and would affect Canadian jobs.
    What is the minister's response? There has been no action whatsoever. Instead, he said that it is too bad, that we are always collateral damage in the battle between the United States and China. Then he said that we are hoping that it does not reach the vote stage before the U.S. election. Then he said that if it passes, we will probably seek an exemption for Canadian companies.
    With all respect, it is simply not enough to, one, dismiss Canada as collateral damage, or two, to merely hope that it will not pass, just like the last time. We are urging the government to get on the ground, not only in Washington but across all of the states, to ensure that Canada is exempted from this very damaging proposed legislation before it happens. Canadian businesses need something done to prevent this from happening, not some day, and not with hopes and prayers.
    I also want to use this opportunity of debate on the merits of free trade to exhort this government to do much, much more in dealing with China, South Korea and others. I acknowledge the announcement and the production of the report this last week on Canada and India, and I encourage this as moving in the right direction. However, having just returned from China and Korea, I am overwhelmed by the growth, the size, the pace, and the scale of what is happening over there. I am in turn dismayed by how little the Canadian government is doing to capitalize on the extraordinary growth and scale that presents such fantastic opportunities for so many Canadians.
    There are incredible investments being made in infrastructure, water, sewage treatment, and public transit. We have been told repeatedly by the Chinese that they are looking for green technology, for forestry products, and for investments in the financial services industry. There are tremendous opportunities for trade and educational services and for cooperative engagement not just at the Canada-China level but at the provincial and municipal levels. My colleagues should understand that I do not suggest for a minute that the federal government impinge on those jurisdictions. Rather, I stress that we here in Canada could work much more cooperatively and productively by engaging all orders of government in a concerted effort to take much more advantage of the opportunities these extraordinary economies offer to Canadians.
    We in the Liberal Party have stressed and will continue to stress the importance of Canada in the world. In this we have proposed a concept of global networks. The concept of trade and commerce, the older assumptions of trade and commerce, should be expanded to include all forms of engagement: educational, cultural, people exchanges of all kinds. Canada should be taking advantage of the extraordinary opportunities that this government, so far, simply does not seem to understand.

  (1240)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak today to the bill concerning a free trade agreement between Jordan and Canada.
    Canada and Jordan have had a long and fruitful relationship over the years. Canada has welcomed a large number of Jordanian immigrants over the years. Canada and Jordan are consistent supporters of the UN's effort to promote peace and security. They were a founding member of the Human Security Network and, since 2000, has collaborated on the establishment of the Regional Human Security Centre in Amman, Jordan.
    In 1997, Jordan was one of the first parties to the Ottawa convention banning anti-personnel mines. Canada has supported Jordan's efforts to meet its commitment to rid itself of land mines, including through the contribution of $1.5 million worth of equipment to the Corps of Royal Engineers. Jordan hosted the conference of state parties to the convention against land mines in November 2007 and participated in the 10th anniversary of the Ottawa convention.
    Jordan and Canada signed a co-operation agreement In February 2009 covering the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Under the agreement, Canada will help Jordan construct a nuclear power plant to generate electricity and desalinate seawater. The understanding was signed between JAEC, SNC-Lavalin, and Atomic Energy of Canada.
    On the trade front, Canadian firms have achieved some success in Jordan. The total value of Canadian investments there is dominated by the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan's stake in the Arab Potash Company. The expanding Jordanian economy, which averaged approximately 6% growth per year over the past five years, and the country's growing importance as a regional, commercial and transportation hub, particularly for exports to Iraq, will provide opportunities for Canadian companies.
    Jordan also has had a peace treaty with Israel since 1994, and has been seen as an honest broker helping to keep lines of information and communication open between the Arab and western worlds.
    Freer trade between countries is more than just dollars and cents. Freer trade usually has, as a byproduct, a freer flow of ideas and information which leads to a greater understanding of the economic, societal and political situations facing each nation. These greater understandings go a long way in preventing conflict and disagreement in the future.
    As someone who has been propagating and promoting diversification in trade, I see this free trade agreement with a Middle Eastern country as a step in the right direction. However, we need to look at emerging markets. As someone who was born in Africa, Africa also has a great potential. Africa a population of 360 million people who are a potential market for the Canadian economy. As Canadians, we must be mindful that our overreliance on our friends to the south will not help us if there are any problems in the south, such as of the financial crisis we saw recently.
    The free trade agreement with Jordan would improve market access for both agricultural products and industrial goods and help ensure a level playing field for Canadian exporters vis-à-vis competitors who already have preferential access to Jordanian markets. Key agricultural export interests include pulses, frozen french fries, prepared foods and animal feed.

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    In 2009, Canadian agricultural exports to Jordan, which were mainly pulses, totalled $10.8 million, and agricultural imports from Jordan totalled $1.4 million.
    Upon implementation, the free trade agreement will eliminate tariffs on the vast majority of current Canadian agriculture and agrifood products, which will directly benefit Canadian exporters. Our supply managed sectors will stay protected under this agreement.
    This FTA would provide Canadian businesses greater access to not only the Jordanian markets but other markets by eliminating tariffs on most of Canada's exports to Jordan. This includes tariffs on Canadian manufacturing and forest products.
    In terms of numbers, last year Canada and Jordan traded over $82 million worth of goods. Almost $66 million of that, or 80% of the trade, was in the form of Canadian exports to Jordan. It is a fairly small number. The precedent set by the U.S.-Jordan free trade agreement is encouraging. It increased tenfold over a relatively short period of time so we would hope that the same could occur for Canada.
    Jordan is a stable market, albeit a relatively small market for Canadian exporters. Like most of Canada's free trade agreements, this free trade agreement includes an agreement on environment and labour co-operation that will help promote sustainability and protect and ensure labour rights. The labour co-operation agreement and the agreement on the environment include complaints and dispute resolution processes that enable members of the public to request an investigation into perceived failures of Canada or Jordan to comply with these agreements.
    The agreement would be the first Canada has signed with an Arab country, but hopefully not the last. There is a huge market that Canadians can access if this Jordan-Canada agreement is successful. Canada and Jordan share a long-standing, friendly and constructive relationship which I hope this agreement will help solidify.
    On the trade front, Jordan already has a free trade agreement with some of Canada's most important trading partners. The free trade agreement with the U.S. went into effect in December 2001. Jordan's free trade agreement with the European Union went into effect in May 2002. its free trade agreement with the European Free Trade Association went into effect in September 2002.
    This is an important agreement and I do hope that the current government is serious in passing the legislation. The last week has shown a dramatic increase in the rhetoric thrown around by government ministers, which, in the past, has been a precursor to either a prorogation or threats of an election.
    The government on the one hand tells Canadians that it wishes to govern but then, at the same time, does what it can to make the operations of Parliament dysfunctional, whether it be in the House or in committees. Therefore, Canadians need to be aware that those principles that block the passage of legislation should be avoided and that the government should be serious in ensuring that the free trade agreement is what it wants.
    Canada is a trading nation and, without international trade, our factories would close and our farms and mines would have no markets in which to sell their resources. The economic crisis in the United States and its slow recovery has reinforced the argument that Canada must diversify its trading partners so that it is no longer so reliant on one market for the success of its domestic industries. We must also put some focus on markets that will take our finished products rather than exporting raw natural resources, which result in an export of jobs from Canada.
     It is important that we look at the globe and the economic engines of the globe. It is also important to look at markets to see where we can export Canada's know-how, technology and value-added goods. The days of Canadians being hewers of wood and drawers of water are long gone. We are a sophisticated nation with an educated population and a good base for export and we should take maximum advantage of this.

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    As well, we have a multicultural population, which is our biggest advantage. It is through this population that we can enhance the trade ties, which is commerce through culture, or the phrase “multiculturalism means business” comes to mind.
    As we reflect on our country, our hopes and aspirations for the future, we need to be global thinkers. This first free trade agreement with a Middle Eastern country is, at first blush, an important first step. We would then have access a lot more surrounding countries that are secure and peaceful allies of Canada.
    We have been told that if we put all our eggs in one basket we cannot mitigate risks. We are advised all the time to diversify our portfolios. Canadian businesses need to deal with the fallout from the market meltdown that affected our neighbours to the south. Therefore, it is important to take into consideration different FTAs.
    The Governor of the Bank of Canada, Mr. Mark Carney, has been exhorting Canadian businesses to end their overreliance on the U.S. markets and adopt an aggressive approach to emerging markets. The governor has also joined a list of more than 350 groups, which represent hundreds of thousands of Canadians, opposing the scrapping of the long form census. Canadian businesses need accurate data; therefore, it is important that the government does the intelligent thing and not scrap the relevant data that businesses needs.
    The Conservative government cannot ask businesses to embrace emerging markets if the businesses do not have accurate data. The figures we have been quoting so far are from our reliable Statistics Canada's long form census data, which has been providing us with credible information.
    Therefore, while we talk FTAs, we must ensure that the way our government moves and the direction it takes should be in a logical and credible manner.
    The free trade agreement that we talked about with Jordan is necessary and once it is in the hands of the committee and we have heard from stakeholders and carefully examined this agreement to ensure that it is in Canada's best interests, I am sure it will receive a speedy passage from the House.
    Mr. Speaker, there is a lot of discussion in the House about bilateral agreements, but also about the need for a multilateral approach, particularly in places like the Asia-Pacific and certainly in the Middle East.
     I am sure my colleague is familiar with the greater Arab free trade agreement, which embraces about 18 states in the Arab world, that is breaking down barriers. This, I would suggest, might be an opportunity, once an agreement is reached with Jordan, for Canada to really push to be part of an agreement in which we would have access to a significant market, particularly in the Arab world, as diverse as from Qatar all the way to Algeria. It would seem that that might be an important approach to take.
     I would ask my colleague for her comments on a greater Arab free trade agreement arrangement with Canada.

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    Mr. Speaker, as the member mentioned, multi-trade agreements are very important, He mentioned the Asia-Pacific trade agreements.
    We need to think larger and bigger and stop our reliance on and stop doing one-on-one agreements. Access to Jordan will be fine but we have Egypt, Libya and so on. When I went to some of the Arab countries, France and Britain are there. Everybody is there taking full advantage of their markets. It is important because we have so much technology and educational interchange that we can offer.
    I think multilateral agreements will be the next step. I hope this will be the first of the agreements that we sign with an Arab country.
    Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed the speech and discussion from my colleague from Don Valley East. I was particularly interested in her discussion on the trade opportunities and the lack of trade that we have now, and therefore the lack of effort that the current government has taken to take advantage of the trade opportunities in Africa and with African countries. Perhaps she could elaborate on how the free trade agreement that is proposed with Jordan could set an example for increased trade with some of the African countries.
    I know we have talked a bit about the need for multilateral agreements, but in recognition that those are not achievable in the way that we would hope in the near future, that there are other opportunities. I would very much like my colleague to address that if she could.
    Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague from Willowdale on her position as critic.
     I will be able to give my colleague some interesting information. I was just in Africa. African communities from Cape Town to Cairo are unionizing and they are being helped by none other than our illustrious former prime minister, Paul Martin. He is helping the African unions get together to create an economic union. This will create a huge market of over 360 million consumers, who are wealthy individuals. Already, the French and the British are selling cellphones there. Almost every person in Africa, even in the remote areas, has a cellphone.
    It is important that Canada not just navel-gaze but that we expand our horizons and take the next step and consider Africa when it comes to our next free trade agreement.
    Mr. Speaker, we support sending the bill to committee, because as other members have mentioned, we think there is a lot to be discussed.
    When it comes to Bill C-8 in terms of the overall scheme of world trade, it is safe to say that Jordan is not our largest trading partner. That said, it is important that we examine closely what the trade agreement is about and its deficiencies and have some discussion and further study at committee.
    In August 2008 the government concluded the negotiations on what it called a comprehensive free trade agreement, and I will speak to that nomenclature later. It said that the agreement would take a look at side agreements on investment, labour co-operation and the environment. We have seen this pattern from the government on other free trade agreements, so called.
    On November 17 the government tabled what was then Bill C-57 for the enacting legislation. We have seen this pattern with the government. The government introduces bills and then interrupts its own action. Bill C-57 died on the order paper because of prorogation, but it was reintroduced on March 24 as Bill C-8. If the government had been in a hurry to pass the bill, it probably would not have prorogued the House. I have talked with people on the Jordanian side and I know they were a little frustrated with that.
    The agreement is the kind of model we have seen before with the foreign investment, promotion and protection agreement, FIPPA, which was concluded in June 2007. It takes the idea of the FTA and folds it into the body of this agreement, along with the side agreements that I mentioned.
    There are four main components to the bill: the free market access in goods and services; the investment protection side agreement; the labour protection side agreement; and the side agreement on the environment.
    In terms of trade between the two countries, as has already been mentioned by one of my colleagues, we are talking in the area of tens of millions of dollars, not hundreds of millions of dollars. We are talking about over $60 million in terms of our exports to Jordan and the reverse is roughly $20 million.
    Usually these bilateral free trade agreements favour the dominant economy and will ultimately facilitate a degree of predatory access to less powerful domestic economies. When we look at the multilateral trade agreements under the WTO, they would not necessarily allow that.
    I want to spend a moment on that point. Much has been said about bilateral versus multilateral. If we are looking at fair trade I think we have to acknowledge this as all parties and all members. People threw up their hands after Doha and said that it was not going to work so we should just have one-off and bilateral agreements. That is the Conservative government's strategy. That essentially says that dominant economies continue to dominate at the expense of the smaller developing economies, which do not have the capacity to protect their market interest and to protect their emerging economies.

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    Some would say that if we can expand our trade with Jordan and get our goods and services there, then fine. The concern is that Canada's role and reputation in the world matter. Our branding, if you will, matters. This is why we would like this bill to be examined at committee. If it is just seen as our gaining a couple more million dollars in exports, and I already mentioned the numbers and they are not significant, then the question is, to whose benefit is it? If it is just looking out for Canadians and for some niche markets, then we have to ask if it is really worth it.
    We on this side of the House have looked at previous trade agreements and said that if it is a matter of just gaining some access to the prices at the producer level, the people who are producing the goods and services not only that we export but that we import, we need to pay close attention to the effects. I will not go over it in great detail, but there is documented evidence of some concerns with respect to the garment industry in Jordan regarding the abuse of workers, particularly from places like Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. They were brought in as guest workers for fairly large companies with contracts with companies like J.C. Penny and Wal-Mart.
    The concern is that we might have this labour market access, but when we look at how those companies function on the ground and how labour is treated in this instance--I will talk about the environment in a minute--there are real concerns. Essentially we are tipping our hats and saying that we are not really concerned with how the products are made; we are just concerned about the access to markets and the cost, so we will bring down our tariffs on certain goods on which we agreed to trade and they will do the same and everything is fine.
    The government will say that we have a side agreement on labour. Most notably, the agreements on labour and the environment are side agreements; they are not embedded and entrenched. I have to respectfully critique our friend from the Liberal Party who talked about how progressive and important the labour and human rights side agreement in the Colombia free trade agreement is. It could be argued that it is better than what they had, but when we are looking at oversight, strong rules and ensuring there will be more than reporting, we do not see that here.
    It is fine to report that there has been human rights or labour abuses, but what really matters to the people who are affected, the guest workers I referenced, is that there be some regulation to ensure their protection so that they can enjoy some basic standards that we all enjoy. It is fine to have side agreements on labour and the environment, but if they are not strongly supported in terms of rules and capacity to follow those rules, they are nothing more than words.
    We have seen as an inoculation to any critique of trade agreements that we will always have a side agreement on labour, on the environment as opposed to what we see in the European Union where it is embedded in their rules and laws. Members of the European Union must follow certain labour standards. It is not about having a side agreement, investigating and maybe having a report. We all know what happens to reports around here; sometimes they are read, sometimes not and often the recommendations are never implemented. That is what we are talking about.
    If we are serious about trade that is fair, that it is not just predatory where we would gain access to markets that are not necessarily as strong as ours and that we can take “advantage” of that, we have to examine what that means, not just for our benefit, but for the reciprocal benefit of those with whom we trade. That is our concern when it comes to this or any other free trade agreement.
    In the bill it is also important to look at clause 26 which deals with section 42.4 and how we identify goods. This is something that has been an issue going back to the GATT. It certainly was a major issue with the WTO negotiations. That is to be careful as to nomenclature.

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    I say that because the meaning assigned to that expression is under 42.4 of the agreement in the section identical goods and the meaning assigned to that expression is in article 514 of NAFTA and article E-14 of the CCFTA. It goes through all the other agreements with which we have been engaged.
    Some have pointed out that if we do not have a clear understanding of nomenclature in our agreements with our trading partners, then we are susceptible to different kinds of abuse. If we do not agree that an apple is an apple, there are ways of changing that nomenclature. It could affect the Canadian economy and the reverse could be the same for Jordan. We could get into dumping and all sorts of other situations.
    I do not think enough attention is being paid to these issues to understand that when we get into a free trade agreement, that once the document is signed and the rules established, we need people who will follow the trade agreements. This goes back to our discussion earlier about the importance of having multilateral trade agreements with fair rules and people who can follow them.
    We are layering these bilateral agreements one upon the other. We are setting up dispute panels. At the same time, we see a phenomena in DFAIT where we do not increase our capacity in our trade missions overseas. In fact, we do the reverse.
    Who is minding the store? How many resources do we have? What would be required to enforce a trade agreement, as small as this one is with Jordan, or for that matter with other countries? How do we ensure that things like nomenclature are monitored, that there are no abuses in terms of labour practices and environmental practices?
    It is fair to say that anyone can report an abuse of a labour practice or environmental standards. However, when these things are actually implemented, it is not like someone can pick up the phone and express concern about a labour standard or an environmental practice. It requires people on the ground to monitor these things and that means Canadian resources on the ground.
    Many will say that we have to do the best with what we have. Doha broke down. Multilateralism for now is dead. Therefore, we can only do bilateral agreements. We must understand what that means. It is not just about signing agreements with Lichtenstein, Iceland and Jordan. It is about establishing fair rules and oversight. If we are to engage in this strategy, as the government is with bilateral agreements, then we need to have the necessary capacity to ensure that these agreements are followed and that there will be proper oversight.
    These things need to be brought up at committee. We need to hear from witnesses on some of the concerns around labour practices and other concerns when it comes to trade with Jordan. If we are to engage in trade with Jordan, we need to ask what the real advantage will be for Canada. Some of the products have already been enumerated by some other members and I will not repeat them. Let us see how much capacity we have in terms of trade with Jordan that will make a difference.
    Where does this agreement fit in? The government does not seem to look at how these trade agreements will fit in with our industrial policy. It is fine to sign off on these 50 agreements and say they are good because we can access more markets, but what will it mean to everyday people in Canada? That is important. Where is this going? How will this strategy benefit Canadians in terms of our economy and our economic development?
    I want to point to some other issues around Jordan and the Middle East. I refer to the fact that we seem to have some problems engaging other countries in the Middle East. We need to pay as much attention to them as we have to Jordan in terms of this free trade agreement. I am going to be very specific.

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    Right now the United Arab Emirates has some important issues that Canada is ignoring. I think of access it is trying to gain in terms of flights to Canada to increase mobility between the two countries. Accessing our post-secondary education system is a major issue for it. We have not paid much attention to that country. I do not have to tell members of the House about the important relationship we have with it, considering it is key in terms of our mission in Afghanistan and the flow of goods and services through that country.
    We need to understand that it is more than just than these trade agreements. It is about diplomatic relations. I will paraphrase Joe Clark, the former Conservative prime minister, when he came to our committee. He said that one of the things the government and Parliament should understand was trade agreements did not buy access to the world. He said that they would give some access to a market, but more important, we needed to invest in diplomacy and in our foreign affairs. The government has not done that.
    It is fine to have small trade agreements with certain countries, but he gave a very detailed overview in his intervention at the foreign affairs committee about two years ago. Joe Clark made the argument about the free trade agreements we signed onto versus investing in diplomacy. He said that it was more important to invest in diplomacy and in our embassies and our services within those embassies than it was to only look at trade agreements.
    The reason is this. When we look at what Canada's role in the world is, it is not about providing products to everyone in the world. We are just not big enough. We provide our fair share of raw materials. We need to do a better job of that by doing value added and enhancing our markets. However, what we did do well in the past was we were invaluable in terms of diplomacy so countries would ask us to be involved. That was more of a benefit to our economy as well as to our reputation than signing trade agreements.
    The opportunity cost here is that if we only have trade agreements bilaterally with certain countries and ignore our diplomatic relations and take away our Canadian advantage of being an invaluable partner for either peace and security issues, environmental standards, or looking at how we can enhance global relations, then we have lost in that deal. We would be better to enhance our presence overseas and our missions overseas. We would be wiser to ensure that the relationships we have in Asia, Africa and the Middle East and in Latin America will be sustained. The problem for many of us is the government seems to think that we should do trade at the cost of diplomacy and development. We lose in that equation.
    As I said at the beginning of my speech, many will say that free trade with Jordan is no big thing. We need to take a look at some of the issues I mentioned, but we also need to take a wider look at multilateralism, diplomacy, development and not just a one-dimensional kind of approach and these kinds of free trade agreements.

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    Mr. Speaker, there are two issues that my colleague brought up and I would like him elaborate on them. One is this ongoing concern about bilateral agreements instead of multilateral agreements. As my colleague acknowledged, the Doha round collapsed. We are not in a position now where multilateral agreements are being pursued with any real effectiveness, certainly not in the larger scale of Doha. Therefore, I would like my colleague to address the issue that bilateral agreements somehow will create a barrier to further multilateral agreements and negotiations. He might try to take an more positive view of bilateral agreements in addition to promoting trade. The pursuit of bilateral agreements may in fact provide stepping stones for future multilateral agreements and that they are not necessarily inconsistent.
    My second part of the second would be this continued concern about trade versus diplomacy. Freer trade allows freer exchange of information and ideas. How on earth could that possibly be inconsistent with pursuing diplomacy? I would really like my colleague to talk a bit about why he thinks trade and diplomacy are inconsistent. He might again look at the positive view of this and see increased trade as that opportunity to engage in the increased opportunity of communication so we can engage in further diplomacy.
    Mr. Speaker, just to clarify, I did not say one or the other. I said that what we saw was a government pattern of having trade at the expense of investing in diplomacy.
    As I said, Joe Clark said it best. One is better to invest robustly in diplomacy and in missions abroad than just to focus on free trade.
    We need to have a strong, robust investment in our diplomacy and ensure that our embassies abroad are fully functioning and reach around the globe. We do not see that. In fact, that would do us better than focusing on one-off bilateral trade agreements only.
    In terms of the bilateral/multilateral issue, it is difficult to understand, and we are not the only country to does this, why we are just pursuing bilateral agreements, saying that this is all we can do, that one day we will take all these pieces of the puzzle and it will make a multilateral, unison structure. I do not see that happening. Instead of pursuing these one-off agreements with small economies, where I am not sure the benefit is equal, we need to get back in the game of going toward the multilateral approach. That is where diplomacy comes in.
    If Canada is not in the game of multilateralism, and one sees the emergence of BRIC countries, we will be left behind. We can do both, but I do not see us doing that. I see us pursuing only bilateral agreements. I am not hearing anything at all about propositions toward multilateralism, which again comes back to having reach around the world and being able to have a voice that is heard. We do not have that now.

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[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise on behalf of the Bloc Québécois to speak to Bill C-8, currently before us. Like one of my colleagues who spoke earlier, I would like to begin by saying that the Bloc Québécois supports this bill, which is identical to Bill C-57 that was introduced before the House was prorogued.
    There is no doubt that in the case of a bill to implement a free trade agreement, it is important to assess both the scope and the quality of the trade that already exists between the two countries. Of course Jordan's market is small. Canada exports to Jordan and vice versa, but those exports are relatively minimal. It is important to bear in mind, however, that although people may also object given that this is, once again, a bilateral agreement—and I will come back to that in a moment—concluding an agreement like this one does send a message to other Middle Eastern countries that want to improve their trade relations with western countries. Canada and Quebec will benefit from this agreement. This sends a clear message that entering into agreements can improve trade. This also means that products subject to the free trade agreement can be introduced into and produced in each country.
    Jordan is in the process of modernizing its government apparatus and must rely on international trade to support its economic growth, especially since it has few natural resources.
    From Quebec's point of view, since we already export a lot of pulp and paper products, I think that this is an excellent opportunity because this free trade agreement will further facilitate trade by eliminating tariff barriers on most products.
    A free trade agreement with Canada may help this emerging economy. It will certainly help Canadian and Quebec businesses. The international relations aspect is also important. Establishing this relationship with Jordan will be beneficial.
    I heard yesterday on Tout le monde en parle that Denis Villeneuve's film Incendies, which will represent Canada at the Oscars, was filmed mostly in Jordan. While that does not necessarily prove anything, it is a sign that Jordan is a country worth setting up long-term, balanced trade relations with.
    Canada has already signed a free trade agreement with Jordan's neighbour, Israel. Signing an agreement with Jordan after signing one with Israel signals our interest in balancing our trade relations with countries experiencing political tension, such as that between Israel and its neighbours. Signing an agreement with another one of those countries after signing one with Israel balances power to an extent, or at least shows that we want to sign trade agreements and engage in trade with all Middle Eastern countries.

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    In free trade agreements, it is important to protect Canada's and Quebec's supply-managed agricultural production. Jordan's agriculture is not very well developed and poses no threat to Quebec producers. Jordan's forestry resources are also very limited. Therefore, this is a wonderful opportunity for our forestry industry, which is primarily located in Quebec. The pulp and paper industry is facing serious challenges because of the lack of support from the Conservative government, which did not want to provide the same support as it did to the automotive industry. Once again, had there been support for the forestry industry in Quebec, we could have avoided plant closures and maintained research and development in order to have the plants switch to new products. A free trade agreement with Jordan will make it possible, on a small scale initially, to increase our pulp and paper exports.
    I was listening earlier to the question and speech by my NDP colleague, who stated that Canada is unfortunately focusing on bilateral agreements. I will repeat that overlooking multilateral agreements narrows the overall vision of Canada's foreign trade policy. We enter into agreements with different countries and try to get the most out of them while supporting the countries with which we have signed agreements. The failure to consider a multilateral agreement for a number of sectors makes it impossible to establish broader principles. In fact, it forces us to sign individual agreements with given countries, without any interrelationship. A multilateral agreement, however, would provide an overall vision and make it possible to establish broad principles that would apply to all agreements.
    The free trade agreement between Canada and Jordan is a relatively small one. It could be divided into a few main parts, such as the elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers. What is interesting here is that the agreement on labour cooperation between Canada and Jordan is not integrated into the free trade agreement; it is not a separate chapter. There is an agreement on the environment and a foreign investment promotion and protection agreement between Canada and Jordan. The fact that these agreements are not included as chapters in the main agreement is somewhat irritating. The government is negotiating side agreements instead, and we know from experience that these are never as strong as ones that are integrated into the main free trade agreement. In a way, they show that the Canadian government is not as willing to truly protect the things addressed in these side agreements. These things are not completely neglected, but not including them in the full agreement diminishes their importance.

  (1330)  

    I would like to speak a little more about different side agreements. With respect to the agreement on labour co-operation, which is a side agreement, we know that the structure and design of this agreement between Canada and Jordan are rather similar to those of the agreements on labour co-operation between Canada and Colombia and Canada and Peru. I will not get into the agreement signed with Colombia that the Bloc Québécois was completely opposed to, for other reasons. But we can still see the similarities between the agreement we have in front of us today and the agreements that have been signed in the past.
    These agreements commit both countries to ensuring that their laws respect the International Labour Organization's 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. Regarding the agreement on labour cooperation between Canada and Jordan in particular, according to the assessment that was done, each party commits to respecting and enforcing internationally recognized labour principles and rights. The Bloc Québécois will be very vigilant in watching that Canada ensures that the principles of these agreements are respected.
    As I said earlier, the fact that these agreements are side agreements undermines their power. It is therefore especially important that we look at them through a very critical lens and analyze such side agreements regularly in order to ensure that they are being respected. When we speak of rights and principles, we mean the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining, the elimination of forced labour, the abolition of child labour, the elimination of discrimination in the workplace, and minimum acceptable employment standards including workplace safety and compensation for workers who are sick or are injured in accidents.
    Thus, as in the case of other labour co-operation agreements Canada has entered into, this agreement with Jordan contains a non-derogation clause whereby neither country may waive or lessen existing labour standards in the hope of attracting foreign investments. As I said earlier, we plan to be extremely vigilant in that regard, in order to ensure that these principles are respected from the very beginning, if this agreement is approved by Parliament.
    In addition, the Canada-Jordan labour cooperation agreement also includes a dispute resolution process that includes monetary penalties similar to the process included in the Canada-Peru and Canada-Colombia labour cooperation agreements. If a special review panel established through the dispute settlement mechanism determines that either of the parties is not complying with the labour co-operation agreement and the parties cannot agree on the correct course of action, or if the non-compliant country fails to implement the agreed-upon course of action, a monetary penalty can be imposed.
    According to our analysis, the text of the agreement provides that these financial penalties can be deposited in an interest-bearing fund, the profits of which will be earmarked for implementing the action plan or any appropriate compliance-related measure. The size of the financial penalty is one of the major differences between the Canada-Jordan agreement on labour cooperation and Canada's agreements with Colombia and Peru. The latter two agreements provide for a fine of up to $15 million U.S. per violation, but there is no maximum in the Canada-Jordan agreement. We think that this is still a good measure because the fact that there is no maximum penalty will provide an even greater incentive to respect this agreement on labour cooperation to the letter. We will keep an eye on how this plays out.

  (1335)  

    There is also a Canada-Jordan environment agreement. Once again, this is a side agreement, just like the Canada-Jordan agreement on labour cooperation. Its scope of application and content with respect to the environment are largely similar to what was in the agreements signed with Peru and Colombia.
    Under this agreement, both countries commit to ensuring a high level of environmental protection and to enforcing their environmental laws effectively. There are several provisions, but I will mention just a few of them.
    The countries, Canada and Jordan, cannot violate their federal environmental laws to encourage investment. According to the agreement—and we hope that both countries will comply—Canada and Jordan may not lower their standards to encourage foreign investment. For example, a company that wants to invest in Jordan may say that environmental standards prevent it from doing so. This provides good protection. The same would apply to a Jordanian company wishing to do something similar in Canada or Quebec.
    Information on environmental laws, rules and administrative decisions must be made available to the public. All information on the tools for monitoring environmental protection, in relation to the various investments, must be made public.
    Appropriate environmental assessment procedures must be implemented and must allow public involvement. We will not go so far as to say that there needs to be public consultation or a public hearing. We are saying that there must be public involvement. In other words, the environment ministry in each country or whosever is going to manage these agreements, whether in Canada or in Jordan, will find an appropriate way to ensure that the public is consulted and can have a say.
    Another important aspect of the agreement on the environment is that the parties have to ensure that procedures are in place to sanction or rectify environmental law violations. It is all well and good to say that we do not want to lower environmental standards to encourage new investment, but the appropriate measures need to be in place to oversee such regulations. Penalties also need to be in place. The parties are committing to implementing strict measures. The parties should also encourage the voluntary use of exemplary practices with regard to corporate social responsibility by the corporations in their respective countries.
    Earlier, a comparison was made of the free trade agreement between Canada and Peru and the one between Canada and Colombia. The Bloc Québécois completely disagreed with the free trade agreement between Canada and Colombia because of the lack of monitoring over corporate social responsibility, leaving the corporations to set strict standards to monitor and reduce the number of abuses of power that occur in Colombia. We expect the agreement on the environment between Canada and Jordan to respect the workers and the environment of both countries. There is no need to follow the bad example of the agreement with Colombia.
    I have a lot more to say about this, but I will stop here.

  (1340)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, many of us are dismayed by what is now taking place in the Middle East. Continuing to build settlements in the West Bank is, in my view, something that has to stop immediately, particularly now that peace talks are taking place. I beseech the Israeli government to stop all Israeli settlement in the West Bank.
    Water is a huge issue in the Middle East, particularly in Jordan. They have serious problems with the lack of potable water, which is a major infrastructural problem in that part of the world. I would ask my colleague whether he sees an enormous opportunity for Canada, through this free trade agreement, to work with Jordanians and other countries in the Middle East to help them access the potable water that their people need. Also, would this agreement give Canada an opportunity to develop an arrangement for transferring expertise between our universities and the post-secondary institutions in Jordan?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, at the beginning of my speech, I said that Canada has already negotiated and signed a free trade agreement with Israel and that signing an agreement with another of its neighbours in the Middle East could somewhat balance the decision or desire of both Quebec and Canada not to simply line up with either Israel or other Middle Eastern countries. I think that we need to maintain a balance. This agreement will allow us to diversify our trade agreements as well as demonstrate our desire to help all countries in the Middle East.
    Canada, and Quebec in particular, has significant expertise in terms of water. We have a lot of water and they have very little. We have expertise in terms of large quantities of water. Perhaps we could encourage trade that would allow these people, through various technologies and ideas submitted by universities in Quebec and Canada, to develop some concepts to improve their access to adequate quantities of water.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I was interested in my colleague's comments, particularly on the side agreements with respect to labour and the environment. I want to focus on the side-agreement on labour.
    It strikes me that we know Jordan already has in place a free trade agreement with the United States. That free trade agreement has a side-agreement on labour that is a very similar, if not identical, to the one that is before us in this House. We know that the labour policies in Jordan do not protect the collective bargaining rights of workers and leave the rights of migrant workers out of account. I know the member is well read on this issue and knows of the abuse of migrant workers, which is troubling. It has been well documented by UN agencies.
     I wonder if my colleague thinks that the Canadian side agreement that was just negotiated with Jordan will be effective in protecting labour laws. Is this not a key question in determining whether this free trade agreement should be allowed to proceed?

  (1345)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, it is important that these types of questions be answered in committee. We agree, it must be ensured that the side agreement on labour will protect all workers in Jordan, not just permanent residents and Jordanians. It is important that this issue be addressed.
    Earlier, I said that a side agreement is never as powerful as an integrated chapter within a trade agreement. We have some reservations and this only aggravates them.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague a simple question.
    Does he agree with our NDP colleague, who seems to be saying that international trade talks and efforts to enter into multilateral or bilateral agreements cause problems and that we should instead focus on diplomacy.
    I believe that engaging in foreign trade provides more opportunities to engage in diplomacy. I was somewhat troubled by what our NDP colleague said. He seemed to be saying that they may not necessarily be mutually exclusive but that they may not lend themselves to being carried out at the same time.
    I would like to know what my Bloc Québécois colleague has to say about that.
    Mr. Speaker, I would say to my colleague that I heard the point raised by the NDP member. He was contrasting the need for diplomacy in general and the fact that we enter into bilateral agreements. From what I understand, in terms of diplomatic efforts, Canada or any country that must come to an agreement with other countries must do so in a very general context.
    Diplomacy means that we can talk to more than one country at the same time and come to an agreement with them all. What he was pointing out is that entering into bilateral agreements sometimes perhaps creates—and I did say perhaps—some difficulties with a third country. In fact, we may sign an agreement with a country that is in conflict with another country with which we would like to sign a separate diplomatic agreement. That perhaps undermines—again, I said perhaps—some diplomatic efforts when the government focuses on entering into bilateral agreements even though multilateral agreements are probably more suited to diplomatic efforts.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I want to follow up quickly on the answer that the member gave to the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca. This was with respect to water.
    If I heard the member correctly, he said that he would be open to thinking about things like exporting water and arriving at bilateral arrangements between Quebec and Jordan.
    I want to quote a brief comment by his colleague from Sherbrooke, who is also a member for the Bloc Québécois. He said on March 29:
    We are saying that, despite the fact that natural surface and ground water in liquid, gaseous, or solid state is excluded from the agreement by the enabling statute, this exclusion is not spelled out in the agreement itself.
    He then asked:
    What assurances can the parliamentary secretary give us that Quebec's water will not be exported under this new free trade agreement?
    I would ask the member to clarify this. Is the BQ in favour of, or opposed to, exporting water.

  (1350)  

[Translation]

     Mr. Speaker, I will refer to the answer that I gave earlier. From what I understand, it was a matter of technological support—in Jordan, or perhaps other Middle Eastern countries—by Quebec and Canadian experts. They would help these countries find water. It was not a matter of exporting water from Canada or Quebec. That was never what I was referring to earlier. I said that we had people who had been working on this for a long time. There is research being done at universities. The expertise is there, and we could help other countries find water and conserve it over a longer period. But I never talked about exporting water.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate on Bill C-8. Let me first of all indicate that all countries are governed by their national interest, and certainly in Canada's interest, trade is absolutely paramount given the fact that 80% of our economy really needs access to foreign markets. Therefore, we are certainly concerned on this side of the House that for the first time in over 30 years we are now facing trade deficits, which obviously is something that needs to be addressed very quickly. Obviously this agreement is only one in a series of what we hope will be agreements, particularly on a multilateral basis, to push access not just for Canadian products, but obviously that helps business, cultural aspects and political aspects in terms of dealing with other countries.
    There is no question that this agreement gives us an opportunity to begin further inroads. Since 1997, we had the free trade agreement with Israel, but we really need to look at not just Jordan but the greater Arab free trade agreement that Jordan is a member of. Over 18 countries are members of that. It would give us hopefully, down the road, access from the United Arab Emirates all the way to Algeria. It would give us the opportunity to really expand in areas on environmental protection. It would deal with areas of communication, areas dealing with forest products, et cetera.
    The difficulty, of course, is that this is just one aspect. I had the privilege in July 1997, when I was parliamentary secretary to the minister of the environment, to meet with the minister and with King Abdullah II of Jordan to talk about environmental protection issues in particular. The king was very clear that he wanted to see more opportunities with Canada, and obviously the development of this agreement would give us opportunities to discuss and promote both environmental protection, labour protection and other issues with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
    We on this side of the House support sending the bill to committee. I assume it will address a number of the issues that some other colleagues have raised in the House today. In terms of access to trade, trade is really our lifeblood and we need to not only be only aggressive looking at what our neighbours are doing, for example, the United States which has an agreement with Jordan, but it is also very aggressive in Asia and the Asia-Pacific region. We do not have one agreement in Asia-Pacific. We have exploratory discussions right now with India, but the reality is that while the Americans have been moving forward with even a discussion on an Asia-Pacific agreement, we still sit back and have not been aggressive. We are in the ninth round with Singapore. We are still dealing with the Korean situation, particularly the issue of automotive access. But in terms of where the real action is, it is dealing with multilateral agreements, and this is where the United States and the EU, which also has an agreement with Jordan in this case, are taking a very proactive role.
    Although this is one step and we certainly welcome that, there are the larger issues that we need to deal with, particularly looking at the whole issue of an agreement with the Arab free trade zone. That would certainly be of benefit to us.
    There is no question that Canadian exports, although they were only worth $77 million in 2008, still are important in terms of forest products and in terms of some of the agri-food areas and obviously machinery. But again, that is simply one aspect. We import only about $15 million, as of 2008, but it is building those bridges. That is why, for this country in particular, given that we have over 85% of our trade with the United States and given the economic downturn being faced around the world, the impact it has on the Canadian economy is significant. If we put all our eggs in one basket, there is difficulty, obviously, when doors close. So we need to have these other areas.
    Canadian business has demonstrated very clearly that it can compete with the best in the world given the opportunities out there. This is obviously something that we on this side of the House will continue to push.
    The elimination of all of the Jordanian non-agricultural tariffs, which currently average around 10%, is small, but again an example of the need to promote Canadian agricultural products, which we know are the best in the world.

  (1355)  

    The need to promote and reduce tariff barriers in general means that this country will become much more competitive internationally. It will give us, again, a bridge in the Middle East. Jordan and Israel have a peace agreement since 1994, so there is obviously trade going on. We can continue to promote many of these aspects, which I think are important.
    Colleagues have mentioned environmental technology. One of the things about climate change, of course, is that Jordan is dealing with significant climate change issues, as are other countries, particularly in terms of desertification. Again, Canadian technology and expertise can be very helpful in terms of dealing with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. It is an opportunity to promote and expand our environmental goods in that part of the world. I think it is important. Hopefully, it will be a bridge later on for other countries in the Middle East.
    There is no question that, at this point, Canada is going to be able to take a leadership role, but we need to be able to evaluate some of the issues that have been raised. In terms of textiles, et cetera, there does not seem to be any concern raised in that area. Obviously, some members have asked about the nature of the labour agreement. It is similar to the one that the United States signed with Jordan. Again, we can certainly look into that at committee. If we look at where Jordan has come from, particularly since 2002, coming out of the IMF agreement it had in terms of its progress on banking, monetary reform, and in many sectors, Jordan certainly is a very good partner for Canada in this region.
    When we are examining those kinds of issues, we again want to be able to say to Jordan and to the rest of the world that Canada is open for business. It is obviously going to be a two-way opportunity both for the Jordanians and for Canadians, but also we will be clear that this is simply one aspect and that Canada continues to diversify. As the lifeblood in dealing with that trade deficit for the first time in over 30 years, we have to diversify. We also have to get our businesses to line up to compete in that area.
    Going back to the Asia-Pacific for a moment, the fact is that the Japanese concluded a free trade agreement with the Philippines, as well as with Mexico, a NAFTA partner. It is important because the Japanese were able to deal with agricultural issues, which traditionally they have always been very protectionist on. Yet they were able to get agreements with two countries that have large agricultural aspects.
    The fact is that we are still toiling away with Korea and Singapore. We need to look at what others are doing. Of course, the Americans have clearly demonstrated that they see the future there. An ASEAN agreement, with the 10 countries in ASEAN, will mean that a market of over 590 million people will open up with Australia, with the United States. We have to be there.
    Therefore, though we support the idea of a bilateral agreement in this case, the much larger picture is the trading blocs that are emerging, the ASEAN, the EU, and dealing with the Asia-Pacific. All those are really critical.
    If one looks at an example such as Vietnam, Vietnam is a market that now has a very strong foreign investment provision. It is welcoming Canadian companies that are there, such as Manulife. Again, we are missing the boat when we are not developing these kinds of strong free trade agreements. Because Vietnam is part of the ASEAN group, we need to have that.
    I know time is ticking down until after question period, but I want to point out that again these kinds of agreements will benefit Canadian manufacturers and Canadian labour. It will benefit many opportunities where we can in fact expand. I hope to add a little to that after question period.

  (1400)  

    The hon. member will have about ten and a half minutes in the time allotted for his remarks when debate is resumed.

STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS

[Statements by Members]

[English]

Red Deer Chamber of Commerce

    Mr. Speaker, today I would like to recognize the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce. Being 113 years young and 930 members strong, the Red Deer Chamber excels at keeping Red Deer businesses competitive and profitable.
    Committee volunteers tackle emerging business issues and make recommendations to government. The agriculture and environment committee has addressed market problems in the entire pork supply chain, effectively advocating for all producers across Canada.
    Staff are currently putting together what will be another hugely successful Agri-Trade in November, the largest agricultural trade show on the Prairies.
    The chamber is teamed up with the city and county in RDRED, the Red Deer Regional Economic Development partnership, which continues to attract investment to the region.
    Congratulations to the newly elected board of directors. I look forward to the counsel of their skilled directors, the remarkable staff and their fearless leader, Tim Creedon. The Red Deer Chamber of Commerce continues to be a pillar of sustainable economic development in the region.

Pioneer Park Stormwater Management Project

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to recognize the leadership that the Town of Richmond Hill has displayed in the areas of water management and sustainable infrastructure renewal.
    For several years our town had witnessed the decay of the Pioneer Park flood control site, which had lost its ability to safeguard the communities it was built to protect in 1985 and which no longer reflected modern standards of stormwater control.
    However, thanks to upgrades carried out under a recent rehabilitation project, the new Pioneer Park stormwater management system is not only capable of protecting the nearby hospital, roadways and communities, but will also help the town control water quality and soil erosion and will help stabilize and rehabilitate the East Don River waterway.
    For the town's exemplary work on this project, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Insurance Bureau of Canada have made Richmond Hill an inaugural recipient of a national Watershed Award. This award recognizes municipal governments that have demonstrated leadership in their efforts to adapt to climate change by reducing their vulnerability to flooding and water damage.
    I would like to congratulate the Town of Richmond Hill on its leadership.

[Translation]

Caseus Selection Awards

    Mr. Speaker, two companies in my riding distinguished themselves in the 12th annual competition for the Sélection Caseus awards, which recognize Quebec’s best fancy cheeses. The Fromagerie du Presbytère in Sainte-Élisabeth-de-Warwick was awarded the gold Caseus for the second time in as many years, this time for its Louis d'Or, an organic raw milk cheese. The Cendré de Lune and Cantonnier made by the Fromagerie 1860 DuVillage in Warwick also won awards in their categories.
    Cheese makers from across Quebec outdid themselves. The silver Caseus was awarded to the Laiterie Charlevoix in Baie-Saint-Paul for its Hercule de Charlevoix cheese. The bronze went to the Fromagerie Au gré des champs in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu for Le Monnoir. The judging panel also gave special honours to the Fromagerie Blackburn in Jonquière, in the category of new business established for five years or less, for its Mont-Jacob cheese.
    Quebec's cheeses are second to none in the world. The people who produce them do so with no shortage of passion and expertise.
    On behalf of my colleagues in the Bloc Québécois, I extend to them our sincere congratulations and encourage everyone to try their excellent products.

[English]

Hornepayne's Town Centre Complex

    Mr. Speaker, when the Liberal government sold CN, it refused to protect its investment in and responsibility to Hornepayne's town centre complex. As the centre prepares to close its doors for good on September 30, the ominous predictions of New Democrats have proven accurate.
    Tenants of the complex, such as the high school, post office and public library, have been struggling to relocate, and the people of Hornepayne will soon be without a gym, swimming pool and their only hotel.
    The Conservative government has been less than helpful in the fight to preserve the town centre. It would only offer money for marketing at the eleventh hour. It offered nothing from the stimulus spending that built rinks, gazebos and toilets in wealthy communities, but passed over Hornepayne in its hour of need.

  (1405)  

[Translation]

     The loss of the Hornepayne centre can be attributed in large part to the Government of Ontario. The half million dollars the provincial government gave the town to sever the apartments and close the centre could have been used to hold on to one of the investors. The province has certainly turned its back on this community.

[English]

    Residents of Hornepayne will never give up on their community and will work to recover what they have lost. They will never forget how the federal and provincial governments shrugged their shoulders and walked away when they needed them the most.

Governor General Designate

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to thank Canada's Governor General designate for his decade of leadership in Waterloo region.
    Canada's next Governor General, my friend David Johnston of Heidelberg, would tell us that Waterloo region is blessed with a barn-raising community spirit and a talent to reinvent its economy to adapt with changing times. Local citizens would tell us that David Johnston himself deserves much of the credit for our area's recent success.
    He brought world-leading hubs in nanotechnology and quantum computing to the university, a school of architecture to Cambridge, and a digital media campus to Stratford. The schools of pharmacy and medicine that opened under his watch are revitalizing downtown Kitchener. Johnston worked with our community to further his university, his province, his country and the entire world.
    On behalf of all citizens of Waterloo region, the students, faculty, staff and alumni at the University of Waterloo, I say to Canadians that one of the leaders who made Waterloo region so great will now be focusing his attention on all of Canada. We are proud to share him with the country.

[Translation]

Canadian Student Leadership Conference

    Mr. Speaker, the 2010 Canadian Student Leadership Conference was held from September 21 to 25. More than 850 young people from across Canada took part in this conference in my riding of Pierrefonds—Dollard. This event was orchestrated by volunteers from the Lester B. Pearson school board and the Pierrefonds Comprehensive High School who did exceptional work.
    The Canadian Student Leadership Conference encourages young people to develop their leadership skills through academic, extracurricular and cultural activities as well as sports.
    We can all be proud of these young people and grateful for their involvement, which will help them to become responsible citizens who are able to positively influence their surroundings.
    Our entire country benefits from the work done by the Canadian Student Leadership Conference and I believe that those responsible for the conference and all the young people who attend fully deserve the tributes I want to offer them today in this House.

[English]

Jean-Édouard Landry

    Mr. Speaker, for 400 years, trees have been vital to the economic success and social fabric of this country, and they continue to be.
    However, they are more than that. They help us to correct the environmental damage that each of us causes on this planet. In a lifetime, each of us produces enough carbon dioxide to feed 15 trees. The best way to even things out is to plant at least 15 trees. Our young Canadian scouts do it. We should all do it.
    So, each year to celebrate National Tree Day, I plant a tree in honour of a champion in our community.

[Translation]

    On Friday, October 1, at 3 p.m., I will be planting a maple tree in the seniors' park in Orléans, in memory of the late Jean-Édouard Landry, a humble servant of his community whose sense of duty continues to inspire the people of Orléans.
    He gave his all for those less fortunate than himself. He was a staunch champion of seniors. He and his spouse Jeannine are my friends.
    I wish to pay tribute to him on behalf of the community.

Police and Peace Officers

    Mr. Speaker, police and peace officers from Quebec and Canada gathered on Parliament Hill yesterday to pay tribute to their colleagues who have died in the line of duty.
    In memory of these men and women, we should remember that of the 16 police officers who have died while on the job in the past 12 years, 14 were killed with long guns. In their memory and to prevent other tragedies, it is time we gave full effect to the firearms registry by ending the amnesty, which has lasted too long, and implementing the firearms marking regulations, which were supposed to take effect in April 2006.
    On behalf of all my Bloc Québécois colleagues, I wish to pay tribute to these men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for their communities, and I would like to say to their surviving families that we will never forget them.

Canada's Economic Action Plan

    Mr. Speaker, today the government told Quebeckers and Canadians about the progress made through Canada's economic action plan.
    The plan is producing results: 98% of the funds have been committed, 22,000 projects have begun or have been completed across Canada, taxes have been reduced, and the list goes on. Thousands of new jobs have been created, which is good news for Canadian families and communities. In fact, in little more than a year, Canada has created 430,000 new jobs.
    However, the global economic recovery is fragile, which is why the government is focusing on the economy. That is why we are supporting Canada's economic recovery by delivering $22 billion in stimulus funding in 2010-11 and continuing to lower taxes for families and businesses that are creating jobs.
    Unlike the coalition, which would impose taxes and spending, we know that lowering taxes creates jobs and economic growth.
    That is why we are opposed to the coalition's plan to get rid of 400,000 jobs and significantly increase taxes. We remain focused on Canada's economic action plan.

  (1410)  

[English]

Newfoundland and Labrador

    Mr. Speaker, seeing images on TV of the destruction that hurricane Igor inflicted on Newfoundland and Labrador is one thing but seeing it first-hand, as I did this weekend, hits home the seriousness of the situation.
    As rivers and ponds overflowed and the rush of water could not be handled by the culverts, homes flooded, cars were submerged, roads disappeared, bridges collapsed and some people lost everything. We must learn from this tragedy.
    As people try to rebuild their lives and local governments replace infrastructure that failed the onslaught of the hurricane, it is crucial that all levels of government agree to put in place infrastructure that improves on what previously existed and failed.
    The issue is that, under the present cost-shared agreement with the province, should a municipality want to put back a larger culvert, for example, the agreement will only cover to have that culvert replaced to its pre-disaster condition. The municipality will be responsible for the cost of the upgrade.
    This needs to change. Rural communities, in particular, cannot afford this cost and cannot afford to replace failed infrastructure with more of the same.

Newfoundland and Labrador

     Mr. Speaker, Newfoundland and Labrador has been devastated by hurricane Igor: a death, roads and bridges washed away, loss of power, communities cut in half and shortages of food and gas in affected areas.
    We salute the community spirit of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians where neighbours help neighbours to rebuild following a storm described by Environment Canada as the worst to hit in modern times.
    Last Friday, the Prime Minister, Premier Williams and Senator Manning toured the hard-hit communities of Trouty and Britannia. The Prime Minister noted that he had never seen such damage and immediately offered the province the assistance of the Canadian military. By Friday evening, Canadian Forces dispatched three ships and several Sea King helicopters to affected areas, bringing equipment and supplies to help the hard-hit communities.
    Today, the Minister of National Defence and the chief of the defence staff join Canadian Forces members working in Newfoundland and Labrador to see first-hand the hard job of rebuilding these communities.
    The Government of Canada and all Canadians are standing in solidarity with our family and friends in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Peter Leibovitch

     Mr. Speaker, on September 18, the Canadian community lost a courageous fighter for social justice. Peter Leibovitch was a principled and determined man. He brought a message of hope that both collective and individual effort could change the world for the better, and his whole life was dedicated toward that end.
    Whether through his efforts with the labour movement, the NDP or a long list of social justice and community groups, Peter was unrelenting in the pursuit of fairness for all. He was a mentor to countless activists across Canada and an inspiration to all those with whom he came into contact.
    He never feared taking on an issue or backing away from challenges because they were unpopular. He was always ready to skilfully argue a point with anyone.
    Peter loved his six children and took great pride in them and their achievements.
    We express our sincerest condolences to Jacob, Joseph, Steven, Danielle, Michael and Samuel, as well as to his parents, siblings and grandchildren on their loss. We will miss him greatly.

Economic Action Plan

     Mr. Speaker, today, our government released the sixth report on Canada's economic action plan. This detailed report highlighted our government's aggressive response to the worst global recession since World War II.
    Our plan is working, with 98% of the funds committed and over 22,000 projects under way or completed.
    Canada's economic action plan is revitalizing Canada's aging roads and bridges, such as the blue bridge in West Vancouver, while supporting job creation across the country.
    Since July 2009, the plan itself has boosted our economy and has helped create 430,000 net new jobs.
    Provincial, local and aboriginal leaders share the success with our federal government, together setting priorities and leading our country out of the recession.
    However, the global economic recovery is still fragile. We are not out of the woods yet. We must stay on course. We must continue to implement the plan and we must lower the tax bill for Canadians. That is why we will stand up for taxpayers and against the tax and spend coalition's call for higher and higher taxes.

  (1415)  

[Translation]

Maclean's

    Mr. Speaker, on Friday, Maclean's published an amateur sociological analysis rife with intellectual shortcuts to justify its assertion that Quebec is “the most corrupt province in Canada”, claiming that nationalism is the cause.
    So why would the majority of Quebeckers call for a public inquiry into the construction sector and party financing, if not because they want greater transparency?
    As columnist Yves Boisvert said, it seems that Pierre Trudeau's old 1950s-era theories about the connection between nationalism, narrow-mindedness and corrupt political values are still alive and well. I should point out that Canada has had corruption scandals of its own.
    Is it not intellectually dishonest to condemn an entire nation for the actions of a handful of individuals? Should we conclude, based on this one article, that all of Canada is xenophobic? We will not play that game.

[English]

The Economy

     Mr. Speaker, today, the finance minister had another photo op that contained no new economic initiatives.
    After five years of Conservative government, this is the economic reality that Canadians are familiar with: household debt is at record levels; 150,000 high-paying full-time jobs have been lost; and the unemployment rate is 1.9% higher today.
    The Conservatives' imminent $13 billion employment insurance tax hike will cost Canada 220,000 jobs.
    The Conservatives put Canada into deficit even before the recession began by being the biggest spenders. Canada's deficit apparently stands at $54 billion, higher than it has ever been in the history of our country.
    If the Conservatives stay the course, they will bankrupt this country.

Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, wrapping up his just visiting express tour, the Liberal leader's recent actions raise questions with, as he calls us, “the Canadians”.
    The Liberal leader asked himself out loud if Canada deserves a seat on the Security Council. His answer was that he was not “convinced” Canada does. Columnist Norman Spector said that the Liberal leader's words “unmistakably ooze with his hope for Canada to fail”.
    Canada has more than earned its place on the world stage: we are a major foreign aid donor; we have led the way combatting AIDS and other diseases; we were most generous in response to the Haiti earthquake; and our troops in Afghanistan have fought and died heroically for freedom, justice, democracy and against terror. Tell them Canada has not earned its place.
    Why did the Liberal leader come back to Canada? Was it to attack us on the world stage and run us down? He could have stayed at Harvard to do that.
    The Liberal leader's effort to shame Canada shows that he is not in it for Canadians. He is only in it for himself.

ORAL QUESTIONS

[Oral Questions]

[English]

The Economy

    Mr. Speaker, between 2006 and 2008, while the world economy was still strong, the government increased federal spending by a whopping three times the rate of inflation. It cancelled contingency reserves and made this country more vulnerable. The Conservative deficit began before any recession and now the economy is slowing again with 150,000 full-time jobs lost and not recovered.
    Why does the government have nothing for ordinary families except bitter speeches and corporate tax cuts for the big and wealthy?
    Mr. Speaker, this government came forward with a comprehensive plan two years ago. Canada's economic action plan is a plan designed with one thing in mind: jobs. Jobs have been created right across the country from coast to coast to coast. Some 430,000 people got the call and the voice on the other end of the phone said, “You got the job.”
    We are working hard. We remain focused. The job is not done yet. This government has more work to do as long as there is a single Canadian looking for work.
    Mr. Speaker, Canada's large corporate tax rate has already been cut by 35%. It is already the lowest in the G7, except for that in the U.K. It is already 10 points lower than that in the U.S. All of that was accomplished affordably and sustainably while Canada ran a decade of Liberal surplus budgets.
    Times have changed. There is now a $50 billion Conservative deficit. The recession killed 150,000 full-time jobs. Families are using half their income to pay their mortgage. Why is there nothing to ease the cost of living for average Canadians?

  (1420)  

    Mr. Speaker, I say to my friend from Wascana, that was the initial focus of our government. We are right to work for hard-working middle-class families. That is why tax freedom day comes two weeks earlier than it did just five years ago.
    The first thing this government went to work on was to cut the GST, and the Liberals fought us tooth and nail. We cut it from 7% to 6%. We cut it from 6% to 5%. What did the Liberal Party say? The Liberals said that we had to raise it back to 7%.
    The Liberals talked about a plan to raise taxes that would hurt Canadian families. We are focused on making Canada a magnet for jobs, investment and opportunity.
    Mr. Speaker, make corporate tax cuts on borrowed money: $6 billion. Glow sticks, bug spray and fake lakes for the G20: $1.3 billion. Untendered contracts for stealth aircraft, but no job guarantees: $16 billion. Bigger jails to fight unreported crime: $10 billion. There is nothing for child care, nothing for access to university, nothing for home care, nothing for pensions and nothing to help make ends meet for ordinary families. Why not?
    Mr. Speaker, those of us on this side of the House know one thing the Liberal Party will never know and it is the dignity of a job. A job is the very best social program we can ensure that Canadian families have. That is why we are focused on cutting taxes. That is why we brought in a whole series of tax cuts targeted at Canadian families.
    We believe that Canadian families can make choices for themselves. That is the centrepiece of our government's economic policy. We initiated the $1,200 a year so that families will have more money in their pockets to help raise their children. That is why we are working to create jobs and opportunity.
    The job is not yet done. We are committed to going even further and creating even more jobs.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives' economic record has been disastrous. Examples of their wastefulness continue to accumulate. With their fake lakes and glow sticks, they have managed to create the biggest deficit in Canadian history: a Conservative deficit. Yet the Minister of Finance says he wants to stay the course, a course that promises to be dangerously reckless.
    When will he give up on this strategy, especially since we are already in the hole for $54 billion?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, our priority, of course, is Canadians. When we came to power we realized there was too large a debt facing Canadians. One of our priorities was to pay down the debt that the Liberals had run up.
    We have continued with cutting taxes. We have cut taxes in every way possible, over 100 taxes. The result is that an average family of four in this country pays $3,000 less in taxes.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, we have seen the debt go through the roof under the Conservatives. The government is up to its neck in red. The cost of living continues to rise.
    Yet the Conservatives waste money as if it were nothing: 71,000 chocolate bars for three days; 57,000 bottles of Coke; 42,500 bags of potato chips; all for a total cost of $85,000. And all that for three days, and all at taxpayers' expense.
    We can only imagine what that would have meant for the families of the workers laid off by AbitibiBowater. Where are the Conservatives' priorities?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, actually we are proud of our accomplishments at the G8 and G20 summits. Canada is leading the global economy and economic recovery as well as international efforts.
    I wonder why members opposite continue to put down Toronto. Its hockey team may disappoint from time to time, but a new study was released stating that of 90 cities around the world, Toronto is the most attractive place for employers. That is what we are focusing on, getting jobs for people in Toronto, instead of criticizing Toronto the way the member just did.

[Translation]

Infrastructure

    Mr. Speaker, in his progress report on the economic recovery plan, the Minister of Finance boasted that 97% of the infrastructure projects are underway or have been completed. However, in Quebec, one-third of the projects may not be completed by March 31, 2011. As a result, they will not receive the funding promised by the Conservative government.
    Does the Prime Minister realize that by refusing to extend the March 31 deadline, he is penalizing Quebec as a whole while the economic crisis marches on?

  (1425)  

    Mr. Speaker, our economic action plan is 97% complete, which means that projects are underway or approaching completion. That is good news.
    The economic recovery is still fragile, and that is why the Minister of Finance made it clear that our government will adopt a reasonable approach to this file.
    Mr. Speaker, administrative delays in evaluating infrastructure projects have led to increased demand for certain materials and higher labour costs. The deadline further complicates matters: everything must be done by March 31, 2011, or there will be no money.
    Why is the Prime Minister refusing to extend the deadline? The funds are already earmarked, so extending the deadline would cost nothing extra and would create jobs.
    Mr. Speaker, we have always said that our approach would be focused and timely so as not to create a deficit spiral, and that is how we will continue to operate. From the outset, the plan was to allocate funds, but the Bloc voted against that measure.
    The challenge now is to make sure that the projects are completed, and the Minister of Finance made it very clear that he would be reasonable in dealing with this file.
    Mr. Speaker, deadlines are threatening a number of infrastructure projects in Quebec. On Friday, the mayor of Huntingdon told us that it took 95 days to review his application to the federal Preco program. Yes, it took over three months to review his request. These delays risk causing major delays in the work.
    By maintaining the December 31 deadline for the Preco program, does the government realize that a number of projects are at risk and that Quebec could lose out on thousands of jobs and major projects?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we continue to work with our partners, the provinces and municipalities, on projects right across the country. The good news today is that the finance minister was able to table the sixth report. We saw that 22,000 projects are being started and completed across the country.
    In Halifax today the provincial government announced that all of its projects are going to get done. It just wants to know how to reinvest the surplus money, and we are going to work with it on that. That is more good news.
    We will continue to be reasonable and fair. I talked to my provincial counterpart. He is going to give me some more data on the status of those projects in Quebec. We are working closely together for the benefit of Canada and Quebec.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, apparently the minister did not understand the question in French.
    While there is a desperate need for infrastructure, the government insists on maintaining arbitrary deadlines. The RCM of Roussillon and the Town of Châteauguay recently passed resolutions calling on the government to extend the deadline for Preco, the pipeline renewal program.
    Will the government listen to this call from the municipalities who say they are unable to meet these deadlines?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the finance minister has said, I have said, we have said repeatedly in the House that we have been fair and reasonable all along and will continue to be fair and reasonable.
    I look forward to the report from the Quebec minister, who is going to give me an update within the next few days on the status of that.
    There is no confusion over here about the question. The confusion is on the vote that took place on these measures themselves. Why is the Bloc so concerned about the completion of the project when it voted against starting any project at all?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the economic recovery is stalling. Everyone except the Minister of Finance realizes that. There are 250,000 fewer jobs today than at the beginning of the crisis, and we have one of the weakest balance of payments in the OECD. At the start of the crisis, the minister denied that we were entering a recession. Now he claims that it is over, but how are we supposed to believe him? He is always wrong.
    Will he make the same mistakes or will he extend the deadline for investments in infrastructure programs beyond March 31, 2011?

  (1430)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance brought forward Canada's economic action plan. We have seen over the past 15 months the creation of some 430,000 net new jobs.
    There is a fragile recovery taking hold, but we are by no means out of the woods yet. We are very concerned by the situation in other industrialized countries, those countries whose economies have not performed as well as Canada's.
    We are going to continue to work hard with the provinces and territories. We are proud of the 12,000 intergovernmental projects that have been completed.
    We are going to work hard and stay focused and get the job done for Canadians.
    Mr. Speaker, the truth is there are 250,000 fewer full-time jobs today than at the beginning of the crisis. We need a full-time government looking after the creation of jobs in this country.
    We know that the Conservatives make these wild claims when the war room is writing their speeches. They say that stimulus cannot go on forever, but as was said today authoritatively that it is irresponsible to turn off stimulus when our shaky economy still needs help. Do you know who said that, Mr. Speaker? That left-wing hotbed, the Bank of Montreal.
     The Conservatives' only lasting economic legacy will be action plan billboards. Instead of some arbitrary deadline, will they keep the stimulus going?
    Mr. Speaker, I never thought I would see in this House the deputy leader of the New Democratic Party quoting the big banks.
    Let me say this. While our infrastructure stimulus investments were a two-year initiative, we will be fair and reasonable as the deadline approaches. There are still six months.
    The good news is there are other measures. We doubled the investment for the gas tax to municipalities. That will go on each and every year after March 31. We have brought in the building Canada program. Projects in every corner of this country are under way. They will create jobs long into the future. That is good news for Canadian families.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, if they put up enough signs, they can convince themselves that everything is going well and they have created jobs, but that is all that they have done. It is not hard to see that by investing in infrastructure, we create full-time jobs, not the part-time jobs on their signs. And these are the jobs that truly keep the economy going. But when the government cuts corporate taxes, that does not help create jobs.
    When will they start to see that we need a government that is dedicated full time to creating jobs, not signs?
     Mr. Speaker, in the last 15 months, we have seen the creation of 400,000 new jobs in Canada. That is a good result. The government's work is not done. We will continue to work hard with the provinces, territories and municipalities. We have given $2 billion to municipalities every year. That is something our government did that the NDP voted against.

[English]

G8 and G20 Summits

    Mr. Speaker, with rising interest rates, Canadians are struggling to pay their mortgages, yet for the G20 boondoggle the Conservatives wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars on luxury, high-end furniture and glow sticks, glow sticks that now shine a light on Conservative wasteful spending.
    Who in the Conservative government authorized this waste? How can the Conservatives be so wasteful with hard-earned tax dollars when ordinary Canadians are barely making ends meet?
    Mr. Speaker, I just want to continue the theme about why the Liberal Party is putting down Toronto.
    Just today a new study was released stating that of 90 cities around the world, Toronto is the most attractive place for employers, so we do not make apologies for highlighting Toronto.
     When will the opposition stop trying to score political points on the back of Canada's international reputation? The Liberals did it regarding the UN Security Council and they are doing it again with the G20 in Toronto.
    Mr. Speaker, the party in the House that has attacked Toronto is the Conservative Party. The party that has diminished Canada's role in the world is the Conservative Party.
    As part of their G20 billion dollar boondoggle, the Conservatives spent over $300,000 on bug spray. I guess their million dollar fake lake must have attracted a lot of bugs. Perhaps the Conservatives would tell the House who in their government authorized this waste.
    How can the Conservatives justify this outrageous waste of tax dollars when so many Canadians are having trouble just making ends meet?

  (1435)  

    Mr. Speaker, we are proud of our accomplishments at the G8 and the G20 summits. Canada is leading in the global economic recovery as well as in international efforts to aid developing countries.
    As we have said from the beginning, these were legitimate expenses, the majority of which were for security.
    It was good that we were able to highlight the city of Toronto. Of 90 cities around the world, Toronto is now recognized as the most attractive place for employers. That is what our government wants:more jobs in Toronto and more jobs in Canada.
    Mr. Speaker, last week Canadians learned how the Conservatives spent some of the $1.3 billion it cost to hold the G20: $5 million for car rentals; almost $100,000 for snacks; 22,000 bottles of sunscreen. The Conservatives went on a spending spree at a summit the Prime Minister promised would be about controlling spending.
    At a time when families are struggling with the high cost of living, how can the government justify spending almost 40 times more on security than the United States did?
    Mr. Speaker, as host nation of unprecedented back-to-back G8 and G20 summits, we are proud of their success.
    As we have said all along, the majority of these costs for the summit were security related. Approximately 20,000 security personnel were tasked with safeguarding both summits.
    In the course of this, we were able to highlight Toronto, to ensure that Toronto received the recognition that it does not get from members opposite. We believe Toronto is an important place for job growth and development.
    What is unprecedented, Mr. Speaker, is the amount of spending.
    So far the Conservatives have only revealed about 15% of the total G8 and G20 spending. They are not telling us how they spent the remainder of the $1.3 billion. Canadians have a right to see the rest of the receipts. Last week's documents showed the Minister of Foreign Affairs was refusing to disclose how his department spent its money.
    Will the Conservatives demonstrate true accountability and release the full details of what they bought with borrowed taxpayer money?
    Mr. Speaker, I have made it very clear that our government is prepared to release the costs of the summits, and we will do so. We have invited the Auditor General to examine all of our expenditures to ensure that those expenditures were appropriate.
    Canada was responsible for the safety and security of world leaders, delegates, visitors and Canadians living and working near where the summits took place. We took this responsibility seriously. We are proud of the men and women who ensured their protection.

[Translation]

Census

    Mr. Speaker, the government is justifying its decision to eliminate the long form census by saying that there is no question of imprisoning those who refuse to respond. However, no one has ever been put in jail and the opposition has already said that it agrees with eliminating the jail sentence.
    Does the government's ideological stubbornness not prove that these explanations are nothing but excuses that are simply meant to camouflage its contempt for science?
    Mr. Speaker, we have a fair and reasonable approach that aims to strike the right balance between collecting necessary information and respecting Canadians' privacy.
    We do not think it is appropriate to force Canadians to provide private, personal information under threat of sanctions.
    Mr. Speaker, despite the addition of two new questions to the survey, the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada is still not satisfied and is asking the courts to intervene because eliminating the long form census will deprive the government of information needed to ensure that the Official Languages Act is respected and federal services are provided in French.
    Why is the government not reversing its decision and reinstating the long form census?

  (1440)  

    Mr. Speaker, we have added two language-related questions to the short form in order to protect both official languages. The leader of the Bloc made another suggestion, which I will read from La Presse: “If citizens do not agree to participate in the census, Ottawa could refuse to grant them a passport or employment insurance benefits.”
    That is the Bloc's solution.

International Trade

    Mr. Speaker, UNESCO has adopted the principle of cultural exception, whereby cultural products are excluded from free trade commitments. The Minister of International Trade has not been very reassuring regarding his government's desire to maintain the principle of cultural exception in the Canada-European Union free trade agreement.
    Can the government assure us that it is making cultural exceptions a priority, because any compromise in that regard could give the United States the pretext to dispute our cultural protection measures?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, in this time of economic uncertainty the government is working to open new doors for Canadian businesses and to help create jobs in Canada.
    In particular, the comprehensive trade agreement with the European Union has the potential to boost the Canadian economy by $12 billion. The provinces and territories are participating directly in the negotiations in areas that fall in whole or in part under their jurisdiction.
    Canada and the EU had a positive and productive fourth round of negotiations in July. Canada will conduct its negotiations at the negotiating table, not in—
    The hon. member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, within the European Union, internal regulations allow countries to protect their government procurement and exceptions already exist in the areas of security and energy.
    Does the government plan to demand that the same exceptions apply to the future free trade agreement between Canada and Europe?

[English]

    Again, Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate the hon. member's interest in this subject.
    The free trade agreement with the European Union is an extremely important agreement. It is also a modern agreement, a very comprehensive agreement that we have signed with the European Union.
    The point is very clear. The provinces and the municipalities are involved in the negotiations. However, we will conduct the negotiations at the negotiating table, not on the floor of Parliament or on the front pages of newspapers or magazines.

[Translation]

Infrastructure

    Mr. Speaker, six weeks ago, the town of Stanstead asked for a three-month extension to complete the Pat Burns arena. As of today, Stanstead has received no answer.
    How can the government continue to threaten communities like Stanstead, saying it will hold back the millions of dollars promised by the Prime Minister himself?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I have said repeatedly in the House, since I took over a portfolio that was in excellent shape, that we have been fair and reasonable going into this. We have been helping to re-scope projects. We have been helping to identify other projects that some municipalities want into. We will continue to be fair and reasonable, working with proponents of projects as I identify particular problems along the way.
    However, we have six months to go until the March 31 deadline. In the meantime, project after project is coming in. Many times they are coming in below budget and ahead of schedule.
    Mr. Speaker, that is not an answer. Six weeks ago the town of Stanstead asked for a three month extension to complete the Pat Burns arena. As of today, Stanstead has received no answer.
    If funding for the Pat Burns arena, announced by the Prime Minister himself, is in jeopardy, then how can Canadians believe any of the commitments made in today's report?

  (1445)  

    Mr. Speaker, nothing is in jeopardy. The important thing is there are six months yet to go before the deadline, so there is lots of time.
    We are very interested to hear about particular projects like this. Provincial ministers are busy gathering data from across the country, sharing it with me over the next week or two so we can get a good picture of this.
    My department is talking to individual project proponents to ensure that if there are any details out there, any problems out there, we want to know about them. Information like this is in the system. We are well aware of it.
    However, there are six months to go. There is nothing in jeopardy. The people there should be very confident that this project will get built.

[Translation]

Census

    Mr. Speaker, Canadians do not understand why this government is attacking the census. Why jeopardize a valuable tool that allows us to make informed decisions? By partially backtracking when faced with the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne, the government is admitting it was wrong. What is more, the solution it is proposing in order to comply with the Official Languages Act is improvised and inadequate.
    Why do they want a less useful, more expensive census that plunges us into darkness?
    Mr. Speaker, that is not so. As I already said, we have added two questions to the short form census in order to better protect both official languages.

[English]

    We have been open. We have been reasonable. We have been honest. We have tried to find a reasonable balance between the coercion that the opposition loves to enforce on Canadians and getting the useful and usable data without having those threats of jail time and massive fines against our fellow Canadian citizens.
    That is why we are fair and reasonable.
    Mr. Speaker, did I hear the Minister of Industry say that he had been honest?
    The government should not fight the consensus on this. The census is important for bilingualism, but it is also crucial for the economy.
    If the Conservatives go forward, our central bank will have poor data on which to base its policies. This is no way to make Canada work. If the government goes forward, small businesses across the country will lose access to vital data that allows them to plan and grow. We may as well blindfold them.
    Is the government willing to jeopardize Canada's economic foundation by refusing—
    The hon. Minister of Industry.
    Mr. Speaker, let me be clear for the record. We still have the mandatory short form census. We still have the mandatory labour force survey, which goes to the economic information that the hon. member thinks is important and is indeed important. That is why it is still mandatory.
    However, we do not think it is wise or fair or reasonable to threaten our fellow Canadian citizens with jail time or fines to fill out the 40 page form.
    If the hon. member wants to talk about honesty, the one honest thing that has come out on the other side is that his leader is a tax and spend Liberal and he is proud of it.

The Economy

    Mr. Speaker, today our government gave Canadians an update on the progress we have made in protecting our economy by implementing Canada's economic action plan. Today we released the sixth report to Canadians. Even Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page has praised the thoroughness of reports saying, “It really puts Canada almost at the forefront in fiscal transparency and stimulus”.
    Could the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance inform parliamentarians on what was reported in this latest update on Canada's economic action plan?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his role in helping the economic action plan to be rolled out.
    Today we had more good news that the economic action plan is indeed working. The finance minister shared some facts and figures with us: 97% of the job-creating infrastructure projects are either under way or completed and $22 billion in federal stimulus is being injected into the economy this fiscal year. We have the lowest tax level in 50 years.
    More good news is, as I said before, there are $3,000 more in the pocket of a family of four.

[Translation]

Census

    Mr. Speaker, eliminating the mandatory long form census questionnaire shows that the government is not very concerned with finding solutions to Canadians' problems. Today, the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada is in court in an attempt to reinstate the long form. The data collected are necessary to ensure that linguistic minorities receive the services that meet their needs.
    When will the government acknowledge that it made a mistake and reinstate the long form questionnaire?

  (1450)  

    Mr. Speaker, as I have already said, we added two questions to the short form census to better protect the two official languages. We are using a fair and reasonable approach to striking the best balance between collecting necessary data and protecting Canadians' right to privacy. Our government will find the right balance for this and all situations.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, is this how we are going to get the census back, one court case at a time? Nunavut Tunngavik worries it will be impossible to decide where to best spend scarce housing dollars. The Métis National Council says the mandatory census is the only way the federal government can collect information on Métis.
    Without reliable information, first nations, Métis, and Inuit underfunding will just get worse.
    Will the government reverse its decision, or does every group in Canada have to protect its rights with individual court cases?
    Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member is not inclined to take my word for it, the member should take the word of the Chief Statistician at Statistics Canada, who said that the voluntary long form survey will provide useful and usable data for most users.
    That is why we have a fair balance between our need for this information and our means of collecting it. We will collect these data without forcing upon our fellow Canadians the threats of jail time and massive fines.
    The hon. member might be satisfied and happy with that kind of society; we are not.

[Translation]

Rights & Democracy

    Mr. Speaker, first the government took over Rights & Democracy by manufacturing a crisis and stacking the board of directors, and now a former Conservative candidate has just been hired. The president of the organization, a former Canadian Alliance organizer and candidate himself, will be making the announcement soon.
    Does the government simply see Rights & Democracy as a haven for Conservatives who appoint and hire other Conservatives?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, Rights & Democracy is an arm's-length organization, which, although government funded, is not run by the Government of Canada. Our government is committed to Rights & Democracy and to working with the president, Mr. Gérard Latulippe, to secure the organization's future. The president will be expected to deliver positive results on the governance and stewardship of the organization. He is also expected to resolve internal issues in collaboration with all the stakeholders.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, Rights & Democracy is an organization created by the government. It is supposed to be independent. But last year, the Conservatives took over, appointing their friends and imposing a radical ideological shift in favour of Israel.
    When will this government stop diverting government resources for its own partisan and ideological purposes?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the member is a member of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development. Recently she and her colleagues on that committee submitted a report to the government. The government is studying that report and will respond to it. But let me again point out that Rights & Democracy is an arm's-length organization, not a government one.

Veterans Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, veterans are still waiting. They have served this country with distinction all over the world and they have paid a heavy price for the dangerous work they do.
    We have asked five times if the proposed changes are going to be retroactive to 2006, but we have yet to receive an answer in the House. We have to assume that the answer is no, unless the minister can tell us otherwise right now.

  (1455)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, because of a technical problem with the Liberal-era charter, injuries received by veterans before 2006 were not taken into account in determining eligibility for the permanent allowance.
    Once the law is proclaimed, both types of injuries will be taken into account in determining eligibility for the permanent allowance. As a result, at least 3,500 people who were not eligible will now be entitled to receive between $536 and $1,609 per month.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the men and women of our armed forces and peacekeeping missions who put their lives at risk daily deserve a straight answer. Yet, for the fifth straight day, the Conservatives refuse to say whether the new veterans policy is being made retroactive to 2006, so that it will not ignore soldiers wounded in the last four years.
    Is he really telling us there will be two classes of veterans?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, once again, we are fixing the mistake the Liberals made when they adopted the new charter. Injuries received before 2006, which were not counted toward the permanent allowance, will be from now on. Some 3,500 veterans will now receive a monthly allowance of between $536 and $1,609. Some will even receive an additional $1,000. Of course, the law has to be passed first. This measure will be implemented once the law is passed.

Health

    Mr. Speaker, this government is doing absolutely nothing to respond to the need for a Canada-wide electronic health records system. Today, the Health Council of Canada called on the federal government to stop dragging its feet and to take a leadership role. We could save millions of dollars by electronically managing prescriptions and diagnostic imaging services for Canadians.
    When will this government finally make health a priority and create a Canada-wide electronic health records system?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, our government is committed to implementing the rollout of the $500 million that we invested in Canada Health Infoway. The economic action plan also provided $500 million.
     I would suggest that the member read page 106 of the report released today, which describes how we are rolling out the electronic health records Infoway project.
    Mr. Speaker, those promises were made years ago. The government is delaying the whole process by holding back $500 million. That is not leadership.
     We know that the costs for prescriptions and diagnostics are burdening the health system. We know that over-prescribing drugs and diagnostic tests can harm patients' health and compromise their treatment. We know that electronic health records would actually help solve this problem.
    When will the Conservative government stop playing games and stop delaying this important health care tool?
    Mr. Speaker, again, this government is supporting the rollout of the Infoway electronic health records across the country, which is why we invested $500 million in the economic action plan. The member really should read page 106 of our report; it will explain how the money is being rolled out across the country.

Firearms Registry

    Mr. Speaker, when the public safety committee considered the long gun registry, it heard from real front-line police officers who told them that the registry was wasteful, ineffective, and potentially dangerous to officers. Front-line officers at committee said the registry targets millions of law-abiding gun owners and can do nothing to prevent criminals from getting their hands on illegal firearms.
    Would the Minister of Public Safety tell the House why the NDP and the Liberals should have listened to their constituents instead of flip-flopping on this issue?
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank that member for his hard work on this file. I am glad that the member had the courage of his convictions to stand in this place and represent his constituents.
    Those 20 opposition MPs who flip-flopped will have to explain their coalition's actions to their constituents.
    In our caucus, we have front-line police officers and a former chief of police. They know that the long gun registry is wasteful and ineffective.
    We will continue to work to scrap the long gun registry.

  (1500)  

Food Safety

    Mr. Speaker, Canada's food safety inspection system is again under suspicion. This time the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's internal audit on imported products showed “deficiencies that represent multiple areas of risk exposure”.
    First, why has the minister again failed Canadians, with respect to food safety?
    Second, why does the minister not enforce the same standards on foreign production as he expects Canadian producers to meet?
    Mr. Speaker, I know the member opposite would never take our word for it, but the OECD ranks the Canadian food safety system as superior.
     Last year we increased the CFIA budget by 13%. Since the Conservative Party formed the government, it has put 538 more inspectors on the front line. And on this matter, I can quote someone here: “I personally believe that our food is safe in Canada”. Who said that? It was the member for Malpeque.

[Translation]

Veterans Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, in a book coming out this week, journalist Gilbert Lavoie recounts the distress of recent veterans of the Bosnia and Afghanistan campaigns who, too often, are left to fend for themselves. It is difficult to understand why this government, which says that it stands up for the military, insists on maintaining an unfair lump sum payment for those who have been injured in foreign conflicts.
    When will the government finally amend the veterans charter and restore the lifetime monthly pension for injured soldiers, as the ombudsman has called for?
    Mr. Speaker, my colleague is right to mention that mistakes were made when the new charter was implemented in 2006. We are addressing that now. Just last week, I announced three new measures to help our modern-day veterans. With regard to the lump-sum payment, I have clearly heard what our soldiers and our veterans have to say. We will be announcing some very attractive measures in that regard very soon.

[English]

Radioactive Waste

    Mr. Speaker, the current government is now considering a plan to allow the shipping of 1,600 tonnes of radioactive waste across the Great Lakes along the St. Lawrence Seaway. This dangerous plan will threaten our environment with the catastrophic nuclear contamination of our largest waterway. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission tried to get this through under the radar with no debate and no consultation. This plan will put more than 50 million people at risk. An accident under this plan could be Canada's Chernobyl.
    Will the minister demand a full environmental assessment, including public hearings, into this reckless plan?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has received an application by Bruce Power to ship 16 steam generators to Sweden. A public hearing will be held by the commission on September 28 and 29. The application will be subject to proper review.

Economic Action Plan

    Mr. Speaker, today the sixth report to Canadians was released, providing an update on the work completed as part of Canada's economic action plan.
    From sea to sea, we are building Canada's economy and providing Canadians with work.
    We are supporting economic recovery by lowering taxes and funding job-creating projects. According to the report, more than 22,500 projects funded through the economic action plan are under way or have been completed.
    Could the Minister of Natural Resources update the House on the progress thus far?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his excellent question. Unlike the opposition that wants to tax and spend, we are committed to growing Canada's economy.
    As highlighted in the sixth report to Canadians, our economic action plan is on the right track. The economy has been stimulated. More than 97% of the projects are under way and on track to being completed or have been completed. And although the recovery is still fragile, it seems that our economic action plan is working and is producing tangible results, notably by creating nearly 430,000 new jobs since July 2009, which is no small feat.

ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

[Routine Proceedings]

[English]

Commissioner of Lobbying

    I have the honour, pursuant to section 11 of the Lobbying Act, to lay upon the table the revised report of the Commissioner of Lobbying for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2010.

  (1505)  

Interparliamentary Delegations

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1), I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association respecting its participation at the subcommittee on east-west economic co-operation and convergence held in Sofia, Bulgaria from April 27 to 29, 2010.

Committees of the House

Procedure and House Affairs  

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Orders 104 and 114, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 13th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding membership of committees of the House.
    If the House gives its consent, I intend to move concurrence in the 13th report later this day.

Excise Tax Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, it is my great pleasure and honour to present this first piece of legislation that comes out of a contest that we run across northwestern B.C. called “Create Your Canada”, whereby we allow young people from grades 5 through 12 to write bills on any idea that would make Canada a better place. The students have joined us here on the Hill today to see their bills presented into law. We encourage members from all parties to look at this contest and consider taking it up in their own ridings.
    This legislation was put forward by a young man named Justin Steenhof who, after watching a life-threatening accident on a ski hill in northwestern B.C., realized that helmets must not simply be a voluntary exercise in this country when people of any age are skiing and snowboarding.
    He has also looked into this act which allows some tax incentive to ski hills that make it mandatory to have helmets on at all times when skiing. The Brain Injury Association of Canada and other groups have come onboard with this.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Income Tax Act

     He said: This specific bill, presented by Emily McCosker-Hobley, is an excellent piece of legislation. It recognizes our great fortune to live in a prosperous country like Canada which affords us the responsibility to be generous.
    The bill would amend the taxation act to allow Canadians to voluntarily donate some of their tax dollars directly to foreign aid through those international government agencies that exist within Canada. Canadians would respond to this.
    All parties must consider this excellent piece of legislation seriously because in the trying times in which we live now it is the responsibility and duty of countries like Canada to step up to the plate fully.
     I am so glad to have the guiding hand of these young people directing me rather than just me myself.
    We can learn from the vision and hope of these young people. They present to us the right course for this country, remove the cynicism and dire vision that we sometimes incorporate in this place and reach for something more inspirational for the great country of Canada.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

  (1510)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, during question period, when I asked the hon. Minister of Natural Resources a question, members of the Bloc Québécois amused themselves by shouting that I had voted against Canada's economic action plan.
    I would like to make it clear to the House and anyone interested in the matter that I voted in favour of Canada's economic action plan every time and I never miss a vote in this House. Also, I support Canada's economic action plan.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out that the member who just spoke was heckling members of the Bloc Québécois constantly while they were asking their questions.
    The Conservatives say we voted against government bills, but when they were in opposition, they also voted against government bills. It is only natural that we vote against any program that is not in line with our principles. However, once it is in place, it is up to us to improve it and return it to the House of Commons. When the Conservatives were in opposition, they voted against several Liberal Party bills and programs. That did not stop them from asking the government questions. That is what it means to respect the opposition.
    If the hon. members wish to have a debate on the matter, perhaps they could present a motion to that effect, but it is not a point of order. We can now move on to Routine Proceedings.

[English]

Committees of the House

    Mr. Speaker, if the House gives its consent, I move:
    That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of this House, the 13th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs be deemed concurred in provided that changes in the membership of the Standing Committee on Finance only take effect on Monday, October 4; that the Standing Committee on Finance meet as scheduled on Monday, September 27 and Wednesday, September 29; and that the Standing Committee on Finance be authorized to meet on Monday, October 4 for the purpose of electing a chair pursuant to Standing Order 106.
    Does the hon. member for Elgin—Middlesex—London have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The Speaker: The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    (Motion agreed to)

Sittings of the House

    Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations and I believe you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:
    That, notwithstanding any Standing Order, usual practices of the House or the order adopted Thursday, September 23, on Friday, October 1, the House shall meet at 8:30 a.m. and the order of business shall be as follows: private members' business from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.; oral questions from 9:30 a.m. to 10:15 a.m.; statements by members from 10:15 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.; daily routine of business at 10:30 a.m.; and that the House shall adjourn at the conclusion of routine proceedings or at 10:45 a.m., whichever is earlier.
    Does the hon. government House leader have the unanimous consent of the House to propose the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The Speaker: The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    (Motion agreed to)

  (1515)  

Petitions

Animal Welfare  

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to present a petition with 26 names on it.
    The petitioners call upon the House of Commons and Parliament assembled to bring forward and adopt into legislation Bill C-544, An Act to amend the Health of Animals Act and the Meat Inspection Act (slaughter of horses for human consumption).

Government of Israel  

    Mr. Speaker, I am tabling a petition today that calls for international investigation of Israeli attacks on the flotilla.
    Since 2007, the Israeli government has imposed a blockade upon the people of Gaza. This blockade has denied the importation by merchants of many goods that are basic to human health and well-being.
    At the end of May, an international flotilla of vessels was bringing relief supplies to Gaza with the intention of breaking the blockade. On May 31, Israeli military personnel stormed the flotilla while it was still in international waters. Nine of the volunteers on the flotilla were killed, many others wounded, while the rest were taken prisoner. The vessels were seized and towed to the Israeli port of Ashdod.
    The petitioners are calling for a full and open international investigation of the May 31 Israeli attack in international waters on the flotilla bringing aid to the people of Gaza.

Violence Against Women  

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I am pleased to present a petition signed in support of my private member's bill, Bill C-380.
    In Canadian hate law, propagation of violence based on race, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation is criminal. Incredibly, misogyny and the propagation of violence against women is legal. This bill would add sex, the legal term for gender, to the list of identifiable groups in relation to hate propaganda provisions in the Criminal Code.
    Half of Canadian women have experienced at least one incident of physical and sexual violence since the age of 16. This type of violence against women is often motivated by gender based hatred. For these reasons, the petitioners urge the government to adopt Bill C-380.

KAIROS  

    Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present.
    The first petition is about restoring the funding for KAIROS. Many listeners may not be aware that it is a faith based organization that promotes sustainable development, human rights and peace.
    This call for reinstatement of funding is because of the many important projects that KAIROS is involved with, including a legal clinic to assist women who are victims of the on-going violence in the Congo, African youth organizations, the women's organization protecting human rights abuses in Colombia, grassroots local support in peace and human rights work, and women in Israel and the Palestinian territories who work as partners for peace in the Middle East.
    The petitioners are calling upon the Government of Canada to immediately restore its funding relationship with KAIROS and fund the KAIROS overseas programs for the period 2010 to 2013.

Sisters in Spirit   

    Mr. Speaker, the second petition calls on the government to allocate funding for the Sisters in Spirit.
    Specifically, the petitioners call on the Parliament of Canada to ensure that the Native Women's Association of Canada receives sufficient funding to continue with very important work protecting women through its Sisters in Spirit initiative and to invest in initiatives recommended by the Native Women's Association of Canada to help prevent more women from disappearing.

Multiple Sclerosis  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition regarding chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency and the liberation procedure.
    Seventy-five thousand Canadians suffer from MS and over 1,500 people have been liberated worldwide, with researchers from Bulgaria, Italy, Kuwait and the United States, showing an improvement in brain fog, fatigue and motor skills. Dr. Zamboni, the pioneer of the technique, said that the procedure is safe and that clinical trials should proceed.
    The petitioners are asking that nation-wide clinical trials be implemented for evaluating venography and balloon venoplasty for the treatment of CCSVI in persons diagnosed with MS.

Passport Fees  

    Mr. Speaker, my petition calls on the Canadian government to negotiate with the U.S. government to reduce U.S. and Canadian passport fees.
    American tourists visiting Canada is at its lowest level since 1972. It has fallen by 5 million in the last seven years, from 16 million in 2002 to only 11 million in 2009.
    Passport fees for multiple member families are a significant barrier to traditional cross-border family vacations and the cost of passports for an American family of four can be over $500. While over a half of Canadians have passports, only a quarter of Americans have passports.
    At the mid-western legislative conference of the Council of State Governments, attended by myself and 500 other elected representatives from 11 border states and three provinces, a resolution was passed unanimously that reads, be it:
    RESOLVED, that [this] Conference calls on President Barack Obama and [the Canadian] Prime Minister to immediately examine a reduced fee for passports to facilitate cross-border tourism;
...we encourage the governments to examine the idea of a limited time two-for-one passport renewal or new application; and be it further
     RESOLVED, that this resolution be submitted to appropriate federal, state and provincial officials.
    To be a fair process, passport fees must be reduced on both sides of the border. Therefore, the petitioners call on the government to: (a) work the with the American government to examine a mutual reduction in passport fees to facilitate tourism; and finally, (b) promote a limited time two for one passport renewal or new application fee on a mutual basis with the United States.

  (1520)  

Questions on the Order Paper

    Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.
    Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

[Translation]


Government Orders

[Government Orders]

[English]

Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act

    When the matter was last before the House, the hon. member for Richmond Hill had the floor, and he has eleven minutes remaining in the time allotted for his remarks.
    I therefore call upon the hon. member for Richmond Hill.
    Mr. Speaker, as I indicated earlier, we are a nation of traders, and obviously, one of the issues that clearly comes to mind is the approach we take in terms of our trade relations with our neighbours, particularly when we have about 85% trade with the United States.
    Clearly what we need to have is a vision. We need to clearly have a plan as to what we need to be doing. I talked about the fact that although the Canada-Jordan free trade agreement is an interesting approach, there is a wider market in that area, in terms of the Arab free trade area, which, with 18 states, is very important. The fact is that a multilateral approach is absolutely critical. Given what has been happening in Doha, we need to really push multilateral agreements. We need to push multilateral agreements, in large part because our neighbours are clearly doing that: Australia, the United States, the EU and others. It is very important that we be a player.
     Jordan is a very good example of a country in which modernization in terms of banking and monetary infrastructure has been progressing. It is a good place to invest. Obviously, we recognize that, and we want to encourage Canadian business to recognize it by bringing on organizations such as the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, and organizations that will have an interest in participating in this type of agreement so that we can encourage the best and the brightest in this country to be on the leading edge.
    Without some kind of overall strategy, these kinds of agreements are simply one-offs. We need to hear from the government in terms of what overall approach we should be taking in terms of providing leadership to deal with our competitors.
    I go back to the Asian-Pacific again to say that in the Asia-Pacific, we are not a player, and we need to be, particularly in places such as Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Cambodia, and others. What do they all have in common? They are all part of ASEAN. While other countries are looking at doing free trade agreements with ASEAN and the 590 million people who live there, we are standing idly by. We cannot afford to do that.
    We need to be aggressive in these areas. If we are aggressive in these areas, we can compete, particularly on the environment. In the environmental area, we are experts on clean water, contaminated soils, and clean air. Environmental companies are very interested in participating there.
    When I referenced my meeting, with our Minister of the Environment, in July 2007, with King Abdullah of Jordan, I mentioned the fact that they were very interested in the environmental technology this country has. Agreements like this will hopefully give Canadians an opportunity to access those markets. These are things that we should have been doing. We need to do them in a broader context as well. Without that kind of push, we are going to be left behind. We continue to do these one-offs. They are not necessarily the most productive or the most useful.
    Speaking of the environment, in the agreement there are side agreements on labour co-operation and on the environment. I would point out that on the environment, one of the things I am pleased to see is that we are going to comply with and effectively enforce the domestic environmental laws and not weaken the environmental laws to encourage trade or investment. That is important. We are not going to weaken them; we are going to strengthen them.
    We are certainly going to ensure that provisions are available to remedy any violations of environmental laws and to promote public awareness, because the environment is extremely important not only for Canada and Jordan, but in general, in terms of what we can provide. Providing these kinds of safeguards is obviously going to be important. They are going to be important not only for those countries and the people in those countries, but again, because we can share that expertise and get our environmental companies involved, particularly on issues of desertification and irrigation, on which we can provide expertise. Particularly in an area of the world where water is in short supply, Canadian expertise and technology can be part of the solution.

  (1525)  

    We can be part of the solution only in Jordan in the Middle East. Yet we have a trading area of 18 nations. I again point out, whether it is with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, or the United Arab Emirates, that we need to be a player. I hope that the government will come back and look at the issue of expanding this in terms of a multilateral approach, which would give us more access and opportunities for Canadian business. Standing still is obviously not appropriate.
    We also have the side arrangement, on the issue of labour, to guarantee freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining, the abolition of child labour, the elimination of compulsory labour, et cetera. A colleague in the New Democratic Party raised this issue. I would suggest that this is where the Standing Committee on International Trade could bring witnesses forward to make sure that if there are areas of concern, they are addressed. Any agreement can be strengthened. It is absolutely important, for the protection of workers, to make sure that they have the ability to organize and carry out their activities free from fear, discrimination, and pressure. That is one of the aspects of this agreement. If there are opportunities to strengthen any of these, then we need to do so. They are basic human rights, and we want to make sure that they are enshrined.
     Jordan has a high degree of internal security and stability. It is a free-market-oriented economy. That is something we encourage not only for Jordan but in other areas of the Middle East where we could continue to promote free-trade opportunities. In a free market, we can be a major player. Jordan has a well-developed banking and communication system. We can take advantage of that, given the expertise we have in those areas.
    There is no question, in looking at tax rates for Jordanian and Canadian companies, that there are opportunities where Canada could play a role. However, we have to go back to the issue of developing a more regional approach, because other countries are doing that. Other countries are saying that in a very competitive global environment, given the economic situation around the world, we cannot sit at home; we have to be there. That is what we are hearing from the business community. I hear that from small- and medium-sized businesses all the time.
     I appreciate that when we are looking at these issues and bringing those witnesses forth at committee, we will be approving simply one agreement. How do we strengthen our role internationally and competitively in a manner that really addresses Canada's strengths, whether that be the environment and dealing with climate change or telecommunications, two particular areas in which Canada is very strong.
    We talked about agriculture. We have seen that it deals with subsidy issues. Agriculture is very important because we export so much. In looking at those opportunities, I mentioned the Japanese, who are able to sign agriculture agreements with countries we never would have thought of, such as Mexico or the Philippines. I think that if we really put our minds to it, we can do more. This particular agreement gives us an opportunity to say that if, in fact, we are not going to be successful at the Doha Round on the issue, we need to deal with it in a multilateral way. I know that there are colleagues here who clearly see that as an opportunity.
     I hope that the Government of Canada will continue to show leadership, because our American friends, the EU, and others are not standing still. They are being very aggressive. As with the experience in Korea, we know the importance of accessing those kinds of markets, because those countries are clearly looking well beyond their shores.
    We have talked about a free trade agreement with Japan. Again, the larger issue is an Asia-Pacific agreement. If we are not a player in that part of the world, if we are not a player in a larger sense in the Middle East, we are going to be left behind.

  (1530)  

    I know that my time is coming to an end. I urge colleagues to support sending it to the committee. It is important that we examine not only this bill, but again, the broader picture of where we want to be in the 21st century in terms of our trading relations. How will they strengthen our own domestic economy so that Canadians are at work and so that we can provide leadership on the world stage.
    Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to my colleague's comments. I know that he has been an active participant in all of the debates on free trade agreements. One of the things that has been a commonality among the trade agreements that have come before the House, at least since I have been elected, is that labour issues have always been part of a side agreement.
    I welcome the member's comments. He said that we could take this to committee. It is imperative that we strengthen sections that are of real concern, not just to people in the labour movement here in Canada but indeed, in Jordan, and in the case of other free trade agreements, right around the world.
    I wonder if the member could speak briefly to whether there has ever been any success at the international trade committee in actually amending these labour agreements and whether his support, ultimately, for this free trade agreement will be conditional on the strengthening of those labour provisions.
    Mr. Speaker, to my knowledge, there has not been, but that does not mean that there could not be. First of all, we need to make sure that the strongest teeth are in an agreement in terms of labour practices with respect to the issues I raised, such as the collective right to negotiate and unionize, et cetera.
    At the same time, we need to be that beacon. We need to be able to continue to push. What we would expect at home we would also expect internationally when dealing with other countries. Obviously, even in the case of Colombia, provisions were put in the agreement, particularly in the area of human rights. Obviously it is not perfect, but we should not demand anything that we would not demand at home in terms of the issues the member has raised. Again, we need to collectively push that issue at committee and going forward.
    Mr. Speaker, here we go again. It is another sitting of Parliament and we are debating yet another free trade agreement. As I understand it, we will be debating two this week, with the Canada-Panama free trade agreement scheduled to be considered in a few days.
     It strikes me as a case of serial bilateralism, something for which I would encourage the government to hurry up and find a cure. So far, such agreements have neither enriched Canadians nor led to a coherent or wise industrial and trade policy framework for our country's future prosperity. On the contrary, since the first Canada-U.S. trade agreement was signed, the rich have been getting richer, while the rest of us are falling farther and farther behind. The middle-class, as has been well-documented over and over again, is shrinking and the poor are getting poorer.
     However, perhaps that is okay for the Conservative government as long as its friends and the wealthiest corporations are doing all right, not much else seems to matter to it. How else do we explain that the government can find over $1 billion to spend on the G8/G20 without batting an eye, while it keeps saying it simply does not have the money to spend the $700 million necessary to lift all Canadian seniors out of poverty? It simply defies logic, unless the government really does not care.
    Instead of debating yet another free trade agreement in the House, we should go back to basics. Let us talk about the kind of Canada we want to leave for our children and grandchildren. When it comes to trade, let us talk about creating a comprehensive, principled trade strategy for our country. That trade policy has to be an integral part of an overall national economic strategy that delivers on the promise of good jobs at home and shared prosperity abroad.
    Instead of laying out such a trade policy, the Conservative government keeps pushing its patchwork approach, where our country's global competitiveness is determined based on the profitability of Canadian multinational corporations operating abroad rather than on the ability of Canadian-based producers to compete and thrive on Canadian soil in a dynamic global economy. Surely it is the latter that ought to be our goal.
    However, the Canada-Jordan free trade agreement does not meet that goal, just like the softwood sellout did not meet that goal, the shipbuilding sellout did not meet that goal and the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement did not meet that goal.
    Let us take a quick look at the agreement. It is, as I said earlier, yet another one in a series of bilateral agreements that the government is busily signing around the world. However, bilateral agreements usually favour the dominant economy and ultimately facilitate a degree of predatory access to the less powerful domestic economies, which multilateral trade negotiations under the WTO would not necessarily allow.
     That is why my NDP colleagues and I have consistently opposed NAFTA-style trade arrangements that put the interests of multinational corporations before workers and the environment and that have increased inequality and decreased the quality of life for the majority of working families.
    It is precisely the shortsightedness of the so-called free trade model that results in the rejection of fair and sustainable trade and that generates the discontent, which ultimately leads to protectionism and increases the wealth gap between the rich and the poor. The NAFTA model has shown unparalleled efficiency in driving and entrenching the political and economic domination of large transnational corporations and it is currently at the heart of the ongoing drive for bilateral FTAs.
    Let me focus the majority of my time today by talking about labour issues. As the NDP labour critic, I am sure most members in the House would expect me to do so.
     Although Jordanian law recognizes some trade union rights, those remain limited. Union activity is tightly controlled and the right to collective bargaining is not recognized. There is a chapter on collective agreements in the labour code, but the right to strike is heavily curtailed as government permission must be obtained in order to call a lawful strike.
    Many of the labour violations are laid out in a recent report by the UN Refugee Agency. I would commend members of the House to read the 2010 annual survey of violations of trade union rights in Jordan. What is without a doubt the most striking part of that report is the section that deals with the continuing abuse of migrant workers. Despite amendments to the labour law in 2008, which stated that domestic workers were to be treated on an equal footing with Jordanian workers in terms of medical care, timely payment of wages and subscription to the social security corporation, nothing much has changed in the day-to-day lives of migrant workers.
    The 2009 official figures showed that more than 322,000 migrants were working in Jordan, but that unofficial estimates put unregistered migrant workers at 100,000 to 150,000. Many are employed without the proper permits, have their passports taken and are forced to work extremely long hours.

  (1535)  

     Let me give an example. The Israeli owner of the DK Factory in Irbid QIZ abandoned 17 Jordanian and 151 Bengali workers without any pay or benefits. According to the textile union, the problem began when a supervisor had beaten a worker on January 22 in a dispute over a vacation and a financial request. Ninety-three Bangladeshi workers staged a work stoppage that day in protest.
    The next day workers returned to work to find the factory gates closed and to learn that the owner had fled the country. The government took nearly one month to respond to the union's complaint, finally beginning to provide some food and shelter for the abandoned workers. An investigation revealed that the employer had been preparing to leave the country for several months and had deliberately provoked the workers to strike.
    Here is another example. Some 130 Sri Lankan female workers from the Al.Masader/Mediterranean factory in the Al Dulayl QIZ (EPZ) went on strike on March 1 in protest against being forced to live without heat, hot water or electricity. As management had refused to solve the problem, a local union set up a team of 10 representatives to resolve the dispute. However, a group of organized men beat one of the union activists, threatening to throw him from the dormitory roof unless he agreed to not meet with the female workers again. A complaint was made against the gang, but police refused to intervene. The union has finally arranged a resolution and workers returned to work on March 8.
    There have been similar reports of organized gangs that threaten workers and try to destabilize relations between the union and the workers.
     I could go on. Reports of forced overtime, beatings, insufficient food, the illegal withholding of passports and other abuses amounting to conditions of forced labour are rampant in Jordan. All too frequently, when workers protested, they were beaten by police, arrested and then deported to their home countries. Some remain in prison still.
    The United States already has a free trade agreement with Jordan, but clearly that has not helped. A trade agreement in and of itself does nothing to stop the abuse of labour laws. On the contrary, what this throws into clear relief is that the much touted labour side agreements that are part of every trade agreement are toothless and the one before the House today is no exception.
    Yes, I want this trade agreement to be studied in committee. I am not suggesting that Jordan is like Colombia, where paramilitary thugs and drug pushers are connected to the government. In fact, Jordan continues to be a relatively stable country in the Middle East, with some democratic structures. The country has been hard hit by the economic crisis and faces rising unemployment and debt. In an act reminiscent of the Conservative government's prorogation of Parliament, King Abdullah of Jordan dissolved Parliament in mid-2009 in order to push through new economic reforms.
    Clearly not all of the country's problems are solved. A U.S. state department report that was referenced earlier in this debate by my colleague, the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster, gives further proof of that.
    Therefore, no, I do not think it is unreasonable to expect this trade agreement to be scrutinized further. In fact, I would argue that the international trade committee has an obligation to investigate further. We must hear from women's groups, human rights organizations, business and labour groups, all of which have an interest in addressing the impacts of this agreement.
     To ask for such hearings is not being obstructionist. It is simply a matter of due diligence, which ought to be at the heart of how all of us in the House do our work. It is even more important on a file where so little evidence has been presented to verify its success.
     Over the years, under both Liberal and Conservative governments, we have heard a lot of cheerleading about how wonderful the various bilateral trade agreements will be for our country, but there has been no hard evidence that their promise has been fulfilled.
    I remember during the first free trade agreement that Canada signed with the U.S., Stelco, which is a steel manufacturer in my home town of Hamilton, sent a letter to all steel workers in the plant, telling them that in the upcoming federal election they should vote for parties that supported free trade because their jobs were at stake. That trade agreement has been in place for decades now and I would defy the government to find a single steel worker who would say that it has been good for his or her job. On the contrary, decent family sustaining jobs are disappearing and are being replaced by precarious and part-time work.
    It is time to stop celebrating trade agreements when there is not a shred of evidence that they will benefit Canada or Canadians. It is time to develop a meaningful industrial and trade policy that will ensure jobs for Canadians. It is time to focus on policies that will lead to middle-class recovery.

  (1540)  

    Mr. Speaker, my colleague's comments on the bill were insightful. She talked about migrant workers and the fact that the government would have to recognize a labour dispute as being a strike. She raised some serious concerns.
    With regard to human rights, we understand that it is not worse than the Colombia issues we brought forth. However, there are some issues and perhaps she could elaborate a little more on what the impact would be with regard to migrant workers.
    Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to address this a bit further. The hon. member is quite right. We have seen in trade agreements, like the one with Colombia, where the remedy for having ignored human rights laws or labour laws is simply to pay a fine. In Colombia's case, many people heard many of us on this side of the House say, “Kill a worker; pay a fine”, because really that was all that was in the labour side agreement. It is never okay to engage in labour abuses. It is never okay to abuse migrant workers.
    The contention I would have with respect to this free trade agreement in particular is that once again we have a side agreement that deals with labour issues. It is not part of the central document that governs this free trade agreement. When we look at the provisions of remedies available to ensure labour rights and the rights of migrant workers are respected, one will find it is nothing more than a toothless tiger.
    For that reason, it is imperative we review the Canada-Jordan free trade agreement, that we do due diligence and make absolutely certain that we also protect around the world the kinds of labour standards we want to see for Canadian workers.

  (1545)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-8, which is the legislation to implement the Canada-Jordan free trade agreement, and to lend my support in sending this bill to the trade committee.
    As many members know, I have been on the trade committee for some time. The committee has had an opportunity to deal with a variety of issues, some of them contentious, some less so. The committee does good work in providing a forum for people to present their views and concerns on trade and the different trade agreements with the possibility of amending some of the legislation. The committee has had some success in doing so.
    The trade committee is now considering the agreement with Panama and the agreement with Jordan, which is before the House. After members have spoken to this bill, we hope that the committee will have an opportunity to hear from the different sectors about their concerns as well as the positive aspects of this legislation, and how they would like the legislation to be implemented.
    Canada and Jordan enjoy good economic and trade relations. We are good friends and good partners. Jordan has shown itself to be a country that we can deal with not just on trade and economic issues, but also on issues regarding peace and prosperity in the region.
    Following a visit of His Highness King Abdullah II to Canada in July 2007, Canada and Jordan committed to explore the possibility of a free trade agreement. At the conclusion of King Abdullah's visit, a foreign investment promotion and protection agreement and a new air services agreement were announced. Canada has a bilateral air services agreement and a nuclear co-operation agreement as well as the FIPPA, which was signed at the same time as the FTA.
    To give some background on this free trade agreement legislation that we are embarking to send to committee, on March 24, 2010 the Government of Canada introduced legislation in Parliament to implement the free trade agreement on goods only, and parallel agreements on labour co-operation and the environment. Free trade agreement negotiations were concluded in August 2008 and the parties formally signed the agreement and made it public on June 28, 2009.
    Upon implementation of this legislation, we will see the immediate elimination of tariffs on over 99% of recent Canadian exports to Jordan. This will directly benefit Canadian exporters. Jordan will eliminate all non-agricultural tariffs and the vast majority of agricultural tariffs as well.
    Once the free trade agreement comes into force, Jordan will immediately eliminate tariffs in the 10% to 30% range on many key Canadian exports, including pulse crops, frozen french fries, animal feed, various prepared foods, certain forestry products and machinery. These are sectors in which Canadian companies are world leaders.
    Once the agreement comes into force, Canada will eliminate all tariffs on Jordanian goods, with the exception of over-quota tariffs on dairy, poultry and eggs, which are excluded from tariff reductions.
    Canada and Jordan will commit to ensure that their laws respect the International Labour Organization's 1998 Declaration of Fundamental Principles of Rights at Work, which covers the right to freedom of association, collective bargaining, elimination of child labour, forced labour and workplace discrimination.
    Canada and Jordan will also commit to protect occupational health and safety, maintain acceptable minimum employment standards and provide compensation for occupational injuries and illness. Migrant workers will have the same legal protections as nationals in respect to working conditions.
    Many members in this House have raised the issue of human rights and the importance of making sure it is not overlooked but very much integrated into discussions and negotiations within our free trade agreements.

  (1550)  

    When we look at this legislation at committee, we will have an opportunity to hear from the business sector and also from the human rights community.
    Our party has a very strong view on labour and human rights issues. We have done everything we can to ensure that labour legislation that is put forward in this House has the widest respect from all the communities and specifically addresses human rights issues.
    The labour co-operation agreements also include effective enforcement mechanisms. Failure to respect International Labour Organization principles and domestic laws could result in an independent review panel assessing a monetary penalty as a last resort. Any such assessment would accrue to a special co-operative fund. The funds will be used to support the implementation of an action plan to ensure that identified problems are rectified. There will be a mechanism in place to look at labour law, human rights conditions and workplace safety. Health and safety and respect for human dignity are key components in this legislation and the trade committee will ensure that all those important key elements are part of the agreement.
    The agreement also has a component that deals with the environment. It will commit Canada and Jordan to pursue high levels of environmental protection and to develop and improve environmental laws and policies. The agreement will also oblige the two countries to enforce the domestic environment laws to ensure trade and investments are not encouraged at the expense of those laws.
    Canada has a golden opportunity to work as a partner not just with Jordan, but with other countries on environmental protection and stewardship. Canada is a country of rich resources, natural resources in terms of the very large mining and petroleum sectors, but also its abundance of water. We have very large and vast water resources. Water management is very important. Respect for the environment is something that we in Canada cherish. We have to ensure it is always at the forefront of these agreements.
    Canada and Jordan will also ensure that environmental assessment processes are in place and will provide remedies for violations of environmental laws. The two countries also agree to encourage corporate social responsibility and to promote public awareness of engagement in environmental issues.
    The agreement focuses on consultation and co-operation to address any matter arising under the agreement with access to an independent review panel as the last resort. Again, as I stated, the same type of process is in place for the labour laws that we hope to be part of the agreement.
    In 2009 two-way merchandise trade totalled $82.5 million with the value of Canadian exports reaching about $65.8 million. This is not very large when we compare it to some other countries with which Canada trades. Our largest trading partner is the U.S., and there is the European Union as well. Our trade with Jordan is still significant in the sense that it is a partner we very much are trying to reach out to, and a partner which for many years has had very good relations with Canada. This is not just an act of friendship; we also hope that our trading relationship will grow over the course of a number of years once this bill has passed.

  (1555)  

    Top exports between the two countries include vehicles, forestry products, machinery, pulse crops, mainly lentils and chickpeas, ships and boats, and plastics. Imports from Jordan totalled about $16.6 million in 2009, led by apparel, jewels, vegetables and inorganic chemicals.
    The Minister of International Trade has said that the Canada-Jordan free trade agreement, once implemented, will open doors to the growing economy and give Canadian businesses a real advantage in the broader Middle East and North African markets. This is an important gateway to many of those countries. As pointed out, this agreement will open doors to those particular markets in the Middle East and Africa.
    Upon implementation, the free trade agreement will eliminate tariffs on over 99% by value of recent Canadian exports to Jordan, thereby directly benefiting Canadian exporters and workers. Two-way merchandise trade between Canada and Jordan was about $2.5 million but there is a great potential for growth in the future.
    Mr. David Hutton, director general of the Canada-Arab Business Council, stated:
    The potential for expanding that network across North Africa and throughout the Arab peninsula is exceptional. I certainly believe that the potential for Canada in that part of the world is as great as it is anywhere, if not greater.
    The parallel agreements on labour and the environment will ensure progress on labour rights and environmental protection.
    The agreement is part of a broader international trade strategy that the trade committee has been looking at. I am very much a part of that. In the past we have been successful in many of our trade agreements with Chile, Costa Rica, Israel and Peru, and the European free trade agreement. The agreement with the U.S. and Mexico is one that is well known to most Canadians.
    Canada is continuing trade talks with other members of the European Union as well as the Caribbean community, Central American countries, the Dominican Republic, Korea, Sweden, as well as pursuing closer trade relations with India, Morocco and Ukraine.
    India is an important emerging market. The BRIC countries, Brazil, Russia, India and China, dominate the markets. India, as the largest democracy in the world, has played a major role in that region in terms of expanding its trade.
    As the vice-chair of the Canada-India friendship committee, I will take this opportunity to congratulate India and wish it all the best as it hosts the Commonwealth Games. Notwithstanding some of the negativity that we hear in the news, I think India will showcase its best to the world. I have had the pleasure of visiting India twice. It is an incredibly beautiful country with lots of history and wonderful sights to see and great people as well. It is a true partner with Canada.
    The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is a relatively small country. Unlike India, which is one of the largest countries in the world with over 1.5 billion people, Jordan only has about six million people.
    We need partners large and small, because Canada is a trading country. We are a small country as well with only about 33 million people. We have to make sure that we have partners in the right places.
    Jordan has been a committed, dedicated partner with Canada and a dedicated partner in the Middle East peace talks. Many of us in the west have a better understanding of the relationship with the Arab world.

  (1600)  

    It is also an emerging country. It is a small country that actually pulls beyond its weight in many ways, especially on issues of peace and leadership in the Middle East. It is certainly a country with which, justly so, Canada should be pursing free trade, notwithstanding the fact that I believe this still has to go to committee and we still have to hear from the public.
    However, from what I have been able to read from this agreement and what I have seen thus far, I think it is something to which we should lend our support. Certainly we as a party have taken the position that we support that this go to the committee and at the committee we would have an opportunity to take a look at this.
    With everything that is going on, I have to say that it was an incredible summer where I had an opportunity to speak with many of my constituents and attend many events. The issue at hand for them, of course, is jobs and the economy. Unlike some parties, we do not fear trade agreements. We believe trade agreements can be a very important component in job creation and we can see different sectors that have, over time, developed thanks to free trade agreements and the opening of markets. We have to ensure that Canada as a free trade country aligns itself with different partners in order to allow access to our goods and services and to allow our companies to grow.
    When my constituents, at their doors, spoke about jobs and job creation and their concerns about the economy, we have to ensure that we respect and address those issues. We as parliamentarians have an obligation to ensure that we are constantly fighting for Canadians, for our people and for all our constituencies across the country. Opening markets is certainly one way of doing it, and opening ourselves to a market that is growing and is a good friend and partner of Canada makes a lot of sense. So I will be lending my support for this initiative to go before committee.

[Translation]

     Is the House ready for the question?
    Some hon. members: Question.
    The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin): The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: On division.
    The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin): I declare the motion carried on division. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on International Trade.

    (Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

  (1605)  

[English]

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act

    He said: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to begin the second reading of Bill C-28, Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act.
    Hon. members will no doubt recall that this bill was debated extensively in this House and the other place in the last session as Bill C-27. Now it is Bill C-28, so we have moved up at least one notch in the world, anyway.
    I should inform members that this bill has not changed substantially since the last session and remains as it was following its review by the House industry committee at that time.
    At the outset I would like members to consider the bill in a larger context, as part of an overall plan to help put Canada at the forefront of the digital economy, in part through modernizing our framework of laws for the digital age.
    Soon we expect to bring up to date other important legislation, including the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, and of course, the Copyright Act. Together these bills will contribute to improving cyber security practices by consumers and industry, to promote trust and confidence in online commerce.
    As we know, the Internet has become the central nervous system for the digital economy. It provides a common global platform for communication and commerce. Its use by businesses and consumers has led to the emergence of a borderless international marketplace.

[Translation]

    Since 2000, online sales for Canadian companies have increased nearly tenfold. Ten years ago, online sales in our country were less than $7.2 billion. In 2007, sales reached almost $63 billion.

[English]

    Businesses and consumers have grown to depend on the Internet. They count on it to be safe and reliable. Online security threats can erode the degree of trust and confidence in the Internet as a safe and reliable environment for electronic commerce.

[Translation]

    Our government is committed to building the necessary confidence. We understand what a harmful economic impact spam and other online threats can have on the online economy. We know that the government has an important role to play through legislative measures.

[English]

    Threats to the online economy include more than just spam. They include spyware, malware, computer viruses, phishing, viral attachments, false or misleading emails, the use of fraudulent websites, and the harvesting of electronic addresses.
    These threats are not just nuisances. Some are fraudulent, some invade privacy, and some are used to infect and gain control over computers. It is estimated that spam costs the worldwide economy $130 billion a year.

[Translation]

    The bill before us contains important provisions that will protect Canadian businesses and consumers from the most harmful and misleading forms of online threats. It improves the privacy and economic security of Canadians in the electronic environment. It offers a host of clear rules that all Canadians will benefit from. It will promote confidence in online communication and electronic commerce.

  (1610)  

[English]

    The bill before us stakes out new ground in Canada. Currently we are the only G8 country and one of only four OECD countries without legislation dealing with spam. This bill will rectify that situation.
    In developing the bill, we have been able to incorporate the best practices of other countries that have launched similar efforts.
    We have seen, for example, how effective the private right of action has been in combatting spam in the United States. Under the bill before us, businesses will be able to sue spammers who use their brand to lure unsuspecting customers to divulge private information online as a result of unsolicited email. The bill enables class action suits by individuals who have been spammed or whose computers have been subjected to spyware or botnets.
    We have learned from approaches taken elsewhere that a civil administrative regime is more responsive and therefore more effective than using the criminal law to combat spam. Other countries such as Australia, the United States and Japan use regulatory authorities rather than law enforcement to enforce anti-spam legislation. With this bill, Canada will have a comprehensive enforcement regime enforced by existing specialized agencies rather than the police.
    What enforcement agencies will be involved? The new law will be enforced by the CRTC as Canada's communications authority, by the Competition Bureau as the federal agency that deals with false or misleading commercial messages, and by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, the agency tasked with the administration of PIPEDA. The bill specifically enables these agencies to work and share information with each other, as well as work with and share information with their international counterparts.
    The CRTC will enforce the provisions against sending unsolicited commercial messages. It will also have responsibility for the provisions that prohibit the altering of transmission data without authorization and the unauthorized installation of computer programs.
    The Competition Bureau will address false or misleading representations online and deceptive marketplace practices such as false headers and website content.
    The Office of the Privacy Commissioner will address the collection of personal information without consent through unauthorized access to computer systems and the unauthorized compiling or supplying of lists of electronic addresses, commonly referred to as address harvesting.
    The bill provides that both the CRTC and the Competition Bureau can seek what we call “administrative monetary penalties”, AMPs, against violators. The maximum AMP for the CRTC is up to $1 million per violation for individuals, and up to $10 million for businesses.
    The Competition Bureau, through application of the Competition Tribunal, may seek AMPs under the current AMPs regime in the Competition Act. That regime specifies AMPs of up to $750,000 for the first violation and up to $1 million per subsequent violation in the case of individuals, up to $10 million for an initial violation by a business and up to $15 million per subsequent violation.
    These AMP regimes demonstrate that we are serious about driving spammers out of Canada.
    Industry Canada will have oversight responsibilities and will ensure that the work of the three agencies is coordinated. A spam reporting centre will be established to help the three enforcement agencies in their investigations and to give businesses and consumers a one-stop shop where they can report spam and other online threats.
    I would remind hon. members that after wide-ranging discussions in this place and in the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology we were able to pass the predecessor, Bill C-27, as amended, with unanimous consent at third reading during the last session.
    The amendments that have been incorporated into this bill, based on the thorough review done at committee for the previous bill, fine-tune this legislation so it strikes the right balance between protecting consumers and giving them control over their inboxes, while effectively enabling online commerce.
    Hon. members may recall that we took a careful look at how to ensure that companies that use email to keep in touch with customers do not inadvertently find themselves in violation of the law. The purpose of the bill, after all, is not to limit legitimate online business. It is to promote electronic commerce by increasing confidence in the use of the Internet to carry out business transactions.

  (1615)  

    The implied consent provisions were expanded to include the conspicuous publication of an electronic address such as a website or a print advertisement, provided that the sender's message relates to the business or office held by the recipient. This is consistent with provisions under PIPEDA and accepted in the current code of ethics of the Canadian Marketing Association.
    Under the bill, no commercial electronic message can be sent without some form of expressed or implied consent. Implied consent is also extended to existing business and non-business relationships. We have, I believe, preserved the ability to extend by regulation the situations in which it is reasonable to believe that consent to receive commercial emails is to be implied.

[Translation]

    Hon. members will also remember that after the committee hearings, the bill was amended by the committee to ensure that legitimate businesses can periodically install updates to their software and that businesses and consumers can continue to use navigation features on the web.

[English]

    The effect of these amendments was to make a good bill even better. Each of these provisions has been brought forward in the bill before us.

[Translation]

    Nonetheless, I want to point out that in addition to these changes made at third reading during the last session, we also incorporated a number of technical changes and clarifications to the bill before us today. Two changes in particular are worth going over in greater detail because they are more important.

[English]

    The first deals with the order of precedence of two laws that affect privacy: the bill before us; and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, PIPEDA. Hon. members may be aware that PIPEDA contains a primacy clause that otherwise ensures its provisions take precedence over subsequently enacted bills when dealing with personal information or consent. This primacy provision ensures that the efficacy of PIPEDA is not undermined by other legislation with weaker consent requirements.
    Compared with PIPEDA, the bill before us has stricter rules regarding consent when dealing with personal information respecting email addresses. Its rules are also more strict when dealing with consent to the receipt of commercial messages. This bill must take precedence.
    Accordingly, a new clause 3 clarifies that in the event of a conflict between the provision of this bill and a provision of Part 1 of PIPEDA, the provision of this bill, the Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act, would take precedence. Hon. members, I should add that the Office of the Privacy Commissioner supports this amendment.
    The second amendment I wish to discuss responds to an issue raised concerning the former Bill C-27. An amendment was added before the bill went to the committee in the other place, but Parliament was prorogued before it could be discussed there. It involves provisions of PIPEDA that prohibit the collection and use of personal information through unauthorized access to a computer system.
    Our goal is to increase the protection of personal information stored on personal computers or private business networks. The bill requires private sector firms and investigators to obtain consent to collect that information. It includes a provision that private enterprises do not have the right to collect personal information through access to a computer system “without authorization”. The main focus of the amendment is the term “without authorization”.
    In drafting the bill, it was never our intent to limit the ability of private investigators and search engines to access and collect personal information that is already available to the public on the World Wide Web or other similar networks.
    Several witnesses have expressed concern that the term “without authorization” clouds the issue. It leaves a great deal to interpretation by the courts. For example, persons who post terms of use on a website could easily render the collection of information from that site “unauthorized”. This could leave industry at risk of civil lawsuits by those seeking statutory damages under the private right of action contained in this bill.
    We have consulted with privacy advocates, telecommunications carriers, search engine companies, copyright-dependent industries, and other stakeholders. They agree that an amendment is necessary. As a result, we have changed the wording so that instead of “without authorization”, the bill now reads, “in contravention of an Act of Parliament”. That is, there will be no exception to PIPEDA's consent requirements for: “the collection of personal information, through any means of telecommunication, if the collection is made by accessing a computer system or causing a computer system to be accessed in contravention of an Act of Parliament”.
    I believe hon. members will agree that this amendment respects the spirit of the bill as originally passed in this House in the last session, and improves upon it.
    Finally, we have travelled a long journey toward bringing anti-spam legislation to Canada. From the work of Senators Oliver and Goldstein to the recommendations of the Task Force on Spam, there have been many different sources of inspiration for this bill. It was very close to receiving royal assent in the last session, and I hope we can move it through this session quickly.
    This is a bill that will benefit all Canadians who use the Internet, but it is also a major piece of a much bigger agenda to put Canada in the forefront of the digital economy. If we get this right, we will do more than simplify participation in the digital economy; Canada will be a leader.
    I urge hon. members to join me in supporting this bill.

  (1620)  

    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister for his speech today. I think even he admits that this bill is about 10 years overdue. However, if it incorporates the best practices of all the other legislation in the jurisdiction, then perhaps the wait might be worth it.
    I am sure the minister will not be surprised that the passing of this bill will be a big surprise to a lot of small businesses in this country. No matter how much we know about things, there are thousands and thousands of small businesses that are not really in tune to what is happening in Parliament.
    I would like to know what the minister's rollout plans are. Is the minister planning a soft rollout or a tough one? I know the penalties under this act are substantial, so I would not want to see great disruptions and burdens on small businesses as a result of the government's actions. Once the minister gets this legislation through, what plans does he have for the rollout?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his thoughtful intervention and question.
     Indeed, it is important that we get the message out. We have been in constant consultation with a number of stakeholders, like the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the various organizations involved in information and communication technologies. I assure the hon. member that we will continue to consult them.
    We will continue to get the message out. The fact of the matter is that we have a number of ways in which we communicate with the business world. That is one of things that Industry Canada does for Canadians. We will continue to get this message out.
    If the hon. member has some specific suggestions, I would certainly take them under advisement.

[Translation]

    It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Yukon, The Environment; the hon. member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, Pensions; the hon. member for Mississauga—Brampton South, Government Programs.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, sometimes it is not a pleasure to rise and speak to bills, but it is a pleasure to speak to this bill as it will make Canadians very happy.
    All of us are bombarded with annoying spam on our computers. The side effects can be dangerous to our computer system. It slows down legitimate commercial businesses in Canada. It is amazing that we have not yet dealt with this issue because it is an annoying and costly problem to Canadians and people all over the world. I am sure there will be support on all sides of the House to deal with this aggravating and at some times dangerous problem that essential computer systems face.
    Twenty years ago a computer was not essential in carrying on daily life, but now it is involved in many things. It is even more important to people in the area I come from for things like distance education and health because they do not live in a big city so they do not have access to these specialties. Computers are essential. People need their computers for all sorts of things, like banking and personal communication. A fly in the ointment or a wrench in the works could gum the whole thing up. All of us would like this problem fixed as spam is distressing and dangerous.
    I am excited about speaking to the bill. I am also excited about Parliament taking action on spam, which is unsolicited electronic email.
     Many of us with computers know how dangerous and how much of a problem this is for Canadian consumers and businesses. In 2003 it was estimated that spam cost the economy over $27 billion worldwide. That is half the Canadian deficit. It is a monumental amount of money.
    Since then, the problem has only grown worse. I am sure each of us in the House has thousands of these unsolicited emails gumming up the work of Parliament. I am sure that businesses across the country have this problem, as do individuals. More updated information will be forthcoming on how devastating spam actually is, and it is becoming worse all the time.
    We are now looking at a far more serious problem, which would be corrected by the bill, and that relates to the issues of identity theft, phishing and spyware, all of which give concern to Canadians and to the world. We have to deal with this in legislation, both locally and internationally.
    In the early 2000s the Liberal Party recognized the problem that spam created. In 2003 the Liberal member for Pickering—Scarborough East tabled a private member's bill to make spam illegal. Unfortunately, the bill never made it to second reading.
    However, based on the strength of Bill C-460, introduced in mid-2003 in the 37th Parliament, the Liberal minister of industry struck a committee to examine the issue of spam and to report to the minister about how the government could most effectively stop this obvious and seriously growing problem.
    That report entitled “Stopping Spam: Creating a Stronger, Safer Internet ”, was released in May 2005. The report was created by a committee of 10 experts on information technology and Internet law. The task force also worked with dozens of stakeholders in the technology industry to develop sound proposals and to look at the best practices at the time.
    The primary recommendations of the task force were that the government legislate prohibitions on the following: the sending of unsolicited email; the use of false or misleading statements that disguise the origin and the true intent of the email, those emails we get with the funny titles that make it look like it is for us, or something critical or important, but it has nothing to do with that at all. The same product is being sold to us all over again.
    The task force also recommended prohibitions on the unauthorized collection of personal information and email addresses, particularly by using fake websites through the selling of lists where those on the list were not told the list would be sold to a third, unknown party.

  (1625)  

    The committee recommended all these very important changes and I cannot imagine anyone in the House disagrees with those changes. The official opposition supports the bill as it follows through on the recommendations of the committee created by the Liberal government. Also the industry committee did such good work in the last Parliament before prorogation on Bill C-27. It made some very good changes to the bill to make it acceptable to more members of Parliament and a much better bill. However, much more needs to be done.
     As I described earlier, as the world is changing, it is changing for businesses too and it is changing the way businesses do business and earn their revenue. They depend more on the Internet and computers. The bill would protect them and it would be a big enhancement to industry and small business in Canada. However, it also has to be careful not to deter the legitimate work and communication with consumers about their business products and services.
    The minister talked about the consultation being done with business organizations and the fact that the committee and MPs can hear from those organizations and see whether more amendments need to be made other than the good amendments there were made on Bill C-27 to make it now into this new bill, Bill C-28.
    Much needs to be done. The committee highlighted the need for the government to play a central role in coordinating the actions of both government and the private sector. All actors agreed that spam needed to be stopped. Internet service providers, web hosts and online marketing agencies need a set of best practices for email solicitation.
    The government must work in coordination with industry partners to establish a strong code of practice that prevents the proliferation of electronic emails that are unsolicited, unwanted and constitute spam.
    These days spam is no longer a problem exclusive to email. In 2004 and 2005, when the committee was writing the report, spam was starting to move to other electronic platforms. Today Canadians must contend with cellphone spam, either by means of text message or something we may not all be familiar with, robo calling.
    It is important that the act recognize the facts and is technologically neutral, encompassing all forms of commercial electronic communication.
    The legislation must meet the test to ensure there is proper, effective and adaptable application to current, existing and future modalities that may be able to circumvent not only technologies to prevent and protect consumers in business, but also to remain faithful to the act.
    That is why some hope the act can be revisited on a yearly basis as technology evolves. It is something the Liberal Party may look to see the government amend or to look into at committee.
    Moreover, the issue of text message spam is being aggravated obviously by yet another announcement of a major cellular service provider recently to start charging for received text messages. There has been plenty of discussion among members of Parliament. It is obvious to everyone that it is unfair, to say the least, that consumers are charged for something they had no choice whatsoever in receiving.
    Spam is not just a Canadian problem, as I indicated earlier. Given the borderless nature of the Internet, it means that spam can originate from anywhere and be delivered anywhere. It will not help a lot if we just do the controls here because then we will be flooded by people sending spam to Canadians, gumming up Canadian businesses. They will start sending it from an out of Canada site.
    I strongly point out that the legislation takes measures in Canada. There has to be an attempt to work internationally with other partners so we can also go after those companies and organizations that do this remotely from other countries, which do not have the same level of proposed enforcement or legislation. We have to do a lot of work on the international scene, assign the resources to do that work so the good work that is before us now, brought to us by the industry committee, does not dissolve in a flood of spam from 180 other countries around the world.

  (1630)  

    As a result, because of the international nature of this problem, any government that is serious about combatting spam must be willing to engage other governments around the world in an international strategy to reduce this ongoing problem.
    The government's ability to combat spam is not simply about legislation. My party calls on the government to show its concern by raising this internationally at all international fora and working with other governments to produce a coordinated international anti-spam and anti-counterfeit strategy.
    The effectiveness of this law will be measured by the government's commitment to enforcement. I take the comments that have already been raised in the past, that we have to ensure there is adequate support for the enforcement of the legislation, which is being complimented and being recommended here. That is a tall order.
     Some members are probably aware about all the fraudulent emails people get. If they send them off to the place to deals with them, they get a message saying that they cannot give them an answer because they are so busy, they are so inundated. If there are not enough resources to deal with enforcing this, and the minister mentioned the agencies where those resources would be needed, then the legislation is not going to have much effect.
    There is no point in bringing forth legislation if there is a reasonable chance the legislation will not have the intended impact of deterring, stopping, correcting and preventing what is continuously more than just a nuisance, but a very costly one at that.
    Policing Internet traffic is incredibly difficult because any Internet crimes crosses jurisdictions and borders, territorial, provincial and federal. That is why in an attempt to control or stop spam, the report called on the government to create a central office that would coordinate anti-spam activities.
    I hope the government will move diligently on that if speedy passage is given to this legislation.
    Industry Canada is being designated as the official coordinating body. I would like to ask, perhaps in subsequent interventions from the government side, what kind of resources Industry Canada is being given to coordinate the other agencies that have responsibilities under this act such as the Privacy Commissioner, the CRTC and the Competition Bureau, as mentioned by the minister. When we talk about billions of emails, we need the resources for these agencies to deal with them and enforce the legislation.
    What resources can we see coming from the government with respect to these offices so we can see spam corrected in our country?
    It is extremely important that everywhere in Canada we can have confidence in legislation proposed by the government. I expect the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology will deal quickly with the issues before us because it has already reviewed the bill and improved it substantially, and I congratulate the committee for that.
    Central to this issue is if the government passes legislation and walks away from the issue, all these proposed initiatives, well-intended, well-researched and up to date, will fail.
    I believe legislation to be correctly brought forward must ensure that we have proper resources and effective coordination so it is understood how this will take place.
    The more rapid response we can have to correct this problem will ensure that those who see Canada as an opportunity and a target will find another place.
    However, we also want to ensure that the other place is blocked. We simply want to put an end, where possible, to those practices which have as their origins the sense of undermining the credibility and the integrity of communicating and the effectiveness of the legitimate use of the Internet, which belongs to us all.
    As many members know, spam emails also contain viruses, various dangerous bugs, that can turn people's private home computers, people who perhaps do not understand computers that much, into very dangerous machines that then send out all sorts of emails, disrupting businesses and other Canadians, their friends and the people they deal with on a business basis, ultimately costing millions of dollars.

  (1635)  

    It is simply fraud when they send emails and disguise them so one will open it. Once again, it could have the unwanted effect of having to deal with an email that was unsolicited and businesses and individuals have to buy more expensive equipment, perhaps try to use spam filters which, as we all know, does not work on everything. One needs to have bigger storage because there are more emails on the machine and it leads to many more problems than simply getting an unwanted email. One's name and information can then be sent to all sorts of other sources who will then start sending these unsolicited emails.
    It is just a pyramid scheme that is very bad for everyone. It can also lead to the exposure of one's personal information. Every member of Parliament knows from a previous bill how dangerous and how proliferating this is in the world. With very little personal information, one can become a victim of crime, Many thousands of Canadians have already become victims of crime when their information has been provided.
    These types of emails can ultimately be used by installing unwanted illegal software on one's computer without one knowing it when one of these emails is opened.
    In 1993 and 1994, the Industry minister at the time, John Manley, talked about the great opportunities of the Internet as the super highway, as it was called at the time because it was the wonderful dawning of a new age. Unfortunately, that super highway has become badly clogged to the point where I think it is fair to say that there have been serious traffic jams, if not serious accidents along the way.
    Therefore, the legislation is timely, necessary and has a very reasonable opportunity to pass.
    In the rural and northern areas, our access is sometimes through limited pipes, whether it be hard wire or through satellite. Expanding the usage by these huge amounts of unwanted, wasteful, almost illegal emails makes it so people do not get access or have very slow access and it can shut down the access that other people have in rural and northern areas.
     The government must follow up on the legislation with real action and real enforcement resources. It must actively engage all partners everywhere in industry internationally. It must continue the consultation process and develop longer term opportunities to combat spam.
    What plan does the government have in moving forward to engage industry partners and building strong codes of this practice? We will have to ensure that it is not just based on a blue ribbon panel that was struck some years ago but, in fact, that we have an ongoing ability to ensure that partners, stakeholders and consumers, those who have been tremendously affected by this, will be able to benchmark and give us feedback as to how effectively the legislation would be, particularly from the point of enforcement.
    What plan does the government have to work with international partners in building a strong international effort to combat spam? Spam can be incredibly destructive. Besides consuming time and band width, spam is a delivery vehicle for malware, programs that access one's computer without authorization and can do a number of dangerous things. Malware includes viruses and spyware, which attack the individual user. However, some of these programs turn the user's computer into a zombie on a botnet which then can be used to attack major websites on the Internet.
    This is something we could not have contemplated three, four, five years ago but it is currently taking place. Many consumers and many constituents have talked to me about this and talked to other members of the House. We need to ensure that we have a pragmatic policy, a pragmatic document that is capable of changing with the times as the Internet and electronic information becomes more sophisticated.
    All these attacks have serious economic impacts when websites like Google and other information websites are brought down. Even for a few hours billions of dollars can be lost. Spyware can be used for identity theft which is a constantly growing threat in the Internet age.

  (1640)  

    Therefore, I call upon all members to support the bill to go to committee and get it through. I am sure all Canadians and businesses will be very happy to remove this aggravating and dangerous problem.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for again representing the issues of folks in the north. I had the privilege of working with him on the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development and it was a pleasure.
    In terms of committee process, I am sure the member received a briefing, but what were the stakeholders saying about this issue and how important do they feel it is that this process move along? I was wondering if he could answer.

  (1645)  

    Mr. Speaker, I used to be on the industry committee, which I quite enjoyed, but I am no longer on it and I was not on it when the bill went through.
    However, the minister made it quite clear that there was good consultation with industry, which is very important, and which is what I tried to emphasize in my speech. We do not want, as a bad byproduct of the bill, an unexpected consequence to hurt small business, to hurt industry, when they do much more business on valid methods these days.
     I have had all sorts of input from his constituents about how annoying and how dangerous SPAM can be. People's computers are getting shut down. People's identities have been stolen. For people like myself who are not as familiar with what can be done by someone who is very technically astute, this can be very dangerous.
    I am sure the member is supporting what is being said by the stakeholders I have heard from.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I, too, would like to thank the member for his speech.
    I heard the member talk about spam. We know that it is a real problem on the Internet. I would like to hear the member's thoughts about the effects of spam on e-commerce.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the consequences of emails for electronic trade can be both good and bad. Of course, if it is destructive emails, such as spam, not being used properly, it eats up the time of the employees of a business and makes them much more wary of doing business on the Internet because of the dangers of the fraudulent uses. Whereas effective and efficient trade can proliferate on the Internet and it can really help businesses in the world, help our small businesses and help our big businesses.
    However, when we have spam gumming up the system or shutting down businesses, huge massive networks of their business, then it can be very destructive to a business when it should be a useful asset. The illegitimate use of email can cost billions of dollars to the Canadian economy.
    Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the member regarding implied consent in terms of the business relationship vis-à-vis a non-business relationship.
    I can understand that perhaps in a business relationship, the implied consent rule being two years is probably reasonable in most cases, but in the case of implied consent in terms of a non-business relationship, I am wondering about the member's views on the two year rule. For example, if a recipient made a donation or gift to an organization two years before the message was sent, and it was a registered charity, political party organization or candidate, it would qualify.
    Also, if the recipient performed volunteer work for an organization or attended a meeting organized by it within the last two years, if it is a registered charity, a political party organization or a candidate, I am just wondering if we are being a little too tight with the two year rule for, essentially, non-business relationships. We get into the whole area of the political parties and the charities.
    I wonder if the member has any observations about that. I know this bill has been to committee before. I am assuming that members of the registered charities, members of political parties or their representatives have made presentations, although I cannot be sure about that point. I would ask the member for any observations he would have and any comments about that point.

  (1650)  

    Mr. Speaker, the member raises a very good point. Hopefully he will have his member on the industry committee raise that at committee if it has not already been raised. As I said, I am not on that committee and have not delved into that but I am sure we have all sent emails within two years to people from whom we have not had consent.
    Mr. Speaker, the member has given an excellent overview of the bill. I am sure all parties in the House will support this bill. It has been reported that 60% to 80% of email transactions are spam. Therefore, we know the extent of the issue of cross-boundaries and so on.
    The member also indicated a coordinated approach that the government has put forward in terms of the privacy commissioner, the ministry and other parts of the federal organization.
    In view of the fact that the member said that legislation alone was not enough, and we are looking at a very heavy fine regimen in this bill, how can the House be assured that, when this goes to committee, the resources will be invested in policing, law enforcement agencies and in business agencies that are taking a huge toll as a result of spam being perpetrated not only on individual email accounts but on business at a tremendous cost?
    What assurances do we have that the House committee will report back on a regimen that would ensure that the resources will be invested to really put our money where our mouth is in terms of fighting span?
    Mr. Speaker, I have emphasized that the legislation will not work without the resources for the privacy commissioner, the CRTC and the Competition Bureau, and I suppose one of the ways would be to ask some of the questions that I asked in my speech, if they are not answered here during the debate at second reading, or ask the minister and the departmental staff when they come to committee. Ask them how many resources and ask them how they will deal with the problem of billions of emails. It is not a simple enforcement regime. What resources will be put before it?
    It is good that the member emphasized that question. Hopefully, people at the committee will ask these types of questions of the minister and department to find out how they are planning to enforce this. As the minister said, Canada could be world leading in the usage of the Internet, which is now so important to all of us.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, this bill is the former Bill C-27. What strikes me is that it took four long years to come up with a bill, and the work is not over. We can see that technology is evolving at an alarming rate and that the legislative framework often lags behind. How can we counter this?
    I would like to ask the member a question. When we talk about the web or the Internet, we cannot ignore its international aspect. How can we ensure that international agreements will be signed to make sure this bill remains useful?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the member raised two very important points.
     Since 2003, when a private member's bill was brought forward by the member for Pickering—Scarborough East, all sorts of new technologies have come on board. The member mentions that we are now getting fraud in all sorts of other ways as well.
    We need some type of annual review or at least the legislation be open to deal with all those technologies. As the member mentioned, we need to have an ongoing discussion and a coordinated effort with international partners. We need to invest in that to ensure we stop this from happening in other countries that are close to us and where emails originate for all of us.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, this is the third time in a year that I have risen in the House of Commons to discuss the bill on electronic commerce, known as Bill C-28 this time around.
    The former Bill C-27 sparked a lot of public interest, and a number of witnesses who testified before the committee essentially told us that we needed to move forward in order to provide better protection for email users.
    The new Bill C-28 specifically targets unsolicited commercial electronic messages. People have been demanding such a bill for some time, and it is sorely needed. Governments, service providers and network operators are all affected by spam. We must create safeguards for legitimate electronic commerce, and we must do so now. Commercial emails are also essential to the development of the online economy.
    Bill C-28 was inspired primarily by the final report of the task force on spam, which was set up in 2004 to examine the issue and to find ways to eliminate spam.
    Some groups had reservations about the former Bill C-27 and made suggestions for amendments. The main concerns and questions from these groups had to do with the enforcement of the legislation.
    Parliamentary committee members had to examine a number of issues. Even now, this bill amends the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission Act, the Competition Act, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act and the Telecommunications Act.
    As a result, government officials in each of these sectors came to tell us why and especially how the amendments would apply and how we could be certain the changes would be useful.
    We supported the former Bill C-27 as amended by the committee. Therefore, we will support Bill C-28, whose contents are more or less the same, so that the committee can study it.
    We are aware of the need to legislate quickly, but we must also proceed carefully in light of the many witnesses the committee has already heard from.
    I hope that the work the committee has already done will prove useful and that we will be able to proceed more quickly.
    Let us not forget that we first started talking about spam in 2004 and that six years on, we still do not have legislation to get rid of spam.
    I would like to expand on one point. The government accused the committee of taking its time when studying this bill and of holding up the electronic commerce bill's progress.
    I want to make one thing clear: Bill C-28 is not a back-of-the-napkin affair. It covers a number of complex issues and clauses. It is to be expected that committee members and our research teams be given the time to study the content of the bill. I am sure that this electronic commerce protection bill would be in force by now had the Conservative government not prorogued Parliament. We lost a lot of time because of that.
    I want to reiterate that the Bloc Québécois and the other parties worked well on this. I can vouch for the fact that my party, the Bloc Québécois, and the members of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology worked constructively together.
    I sincerely believe that during the committee's hearings, all of the members worked hard to find a solution to the spam problem while taking into account the needs of companies that shared their concerns.

  (1655)  

    Anyone with an email address receives spam, emails that try to sell us products and offer us prizes and many other annoying things.
    I do not know if anyone has noticed, but in recent months, there seems to have been a significant increase in the amount of spam. It makes me wonder whether companies have made changes to how they contact consumers.
    Obviously, some businesses are concerned about how legitimate businesses will continue to contact consumers if Bill C-28 is adopted.
    Bill C-28 clearly states that organizations will not require the express consent of their own clients to communicate with them in what can be deemed “existing business relationships”. However, to contact potential clients in order to market a good or service or to expand their activities, businesses may not directly contact a client by email without their prior consent.
    Unsolicited electronic messages have become a significant social and economic problem that undermines the individual productivity of Quebeckers. Spam is a threat to the growth of legitimate electronic commerce.
    Spam accounts for more than 80% of global electronic traffic, which results in considerable expenses for businesses and consumers. In light of this situation, legislation to protect electronic commerce is reasonable and appropriate.
    On another note, some clauses of the bill are still problematic for the Bloc Québécois. We would like further information about the national do not call list.
    A number of parallels may be drawn between the system proposed by Bill C-28 and the existing system for telephone calls.
    The Bloc Québécois feels that the current list is doing the job, and it is used by millions of people. Compliance with the national do not call list required many companies to reorganize their resources and make a large financial outlay.
    We realize that the Minister of Industry wants to keep the door open in order to replace the list with a new system. However, for the time being, it is a proven system that has been successful since it was implemented in 2008. At the committee hearings on Bill C-28 regarding electronic commerce, we were given verbal assurances by officials that it would not be abolished without public hearings.
    Let us come back to Bill C-28. I believe we are all concerned about the way businesses obtain consumers' consent to transfer or pass on their contact information or email addresses to other organizations. The new legislation will enable us to reduce spam and go after unsolicited commercial emails.
    To the Bloc Québécois, there is no doubt that the bill aims at protecting the integrity of transmission data by prohibiting practices related to the installation of computer programs without consent. It makes sense to avoid the use of consumers' personal information to send them spam.
    Bill C-28 prohibits the collection of personal information via access to computer systems without consent and the unauthorized compiling or supplying of lists of electronic addresses.
    We can hardly be against motherhood and apple pie. The Bloc Québécois feels that companies that want to send consumers information by email should get their consent first. It is a matter of principle.

  (1700)  

    This bill has a noble objective, but it will be a complex law to apply. I know the government wants to attack spam, and I agree with that. In my previous speeches and having had the chance to be part of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, I personally have been convinced of the need to pass such a bill.
     A number of countries have already passed measures similar to those in Bill C-28 and seem to have had positive results. The various laws passed in Australia, the United States and Great Britain to combat spam have apparently been quite successful.
     Bill C-28 will make it possible to develop measures to dissuade as many people and businesses as possible from sending spam involving false representation, unauthorized software and exchanges of email address information.
     This bill will help resolve many of the problems our constituents have raised and will further protect their privacy. Unsolicited commercial electronic messages have become, over time, a major social and economic problem that undermines the individual and commercial productivity of Quebeckers.
    Spam is a real nuisance. It damages computers and networks, contributes to deceptive marketing scams, and invades people's privacy. Spam directly threatens the viability of the Internet. In fact, spam accounts for over 80% of all global Internet communications. Thus, spam directly threatens the viability of the Internet as an effective means of communication. It undermines consumer confidence in legitimate e-businesses and hinders electronic transactions.
    Basically, this electronic commerce protection act governs the sending of messages by email, text messaging or instant messaging without consent. Transmission of spam to an electronic mail account, telephone account or other similar accounts would be prohibited.
    The only time spam may be sent is when the person to whom the message is sent has consented to receiving it, whether the consent is express or implied. This is what we mean by “prior consent”.
    I would like to close by reiterating that the Bloc Québécois supports Bill C-28. This proposed legislation has already been examined by a parliamentary committee, and it will help to increase the protection of computer systems and people's personal information.
    As a final point, the Bloc Québécois is pleased to see that Bill C-28 takes into account most of the recommendations in the final report of the task force on spam, created in 2004. However, it is unfortunate that the legislative process took several years to produce this long-awaited bill to protect electronic commerce.

  (1705)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I am rising to speak on behalf of New Democrats on Bill C-28.
    I want to start by acknowledging the good work the hon. member for Windsor West has done on the anti-spam legislation, both the current piece and the previous piece of legislation that was before the House.
    New Democrats will be supporting Bill C-28 at second reading to get it to committee. Of course, as always, I know that the members of the industry committee will do their due diligence in reviewing the bill thoroughly to make sure that there are no clauses of the bill that could have unintended consequences.
    I want to speak briefly. I spoke to this bill back in May 2009 when it was Bill C-27. I was fortunate enough to sit in on some of the industry committee's hearings on the anti-spam legislation. I want to start by reading into the record a definition of spam. I think most of us in the House know what spam is, but not all the Canadians who may be listening to this debate may be aware of what it is.
    Spam is identified as the “abuse of electronic messaging systems, including most broadcast media digital delivery systems, to send unsolicited bulk messages indiscriminately. While the most widely recognized form of spam is email spam, the term applies to similar abuses in other media: instant messaging, Usenet newsgroups spam, web search engine spam, spam in blogs, wiki spam, online classified ads spam, mobile phone messaging spam, Internet forum spam, junk fax transmissions...and file sharing networks.”
    Spam seems to infiltrate every single aspect of our lives these days, and it is extremely important for the Canadian government to take this on.
    I want to read a brief statistic from an article by Peter Nowak on July 14. He wrote that New Brunswick is hardest hit in Canada. It reads:
    New Brunswick receives the most spam email of the Canadian provinces while nearby Newfoundland and Labrador gets the least, according to a report from security firm Symantec. About 92.5 per cent of email in New Brunswick qualified as spam over a 10-month period.
    It goes on to say:
    That was the worst rate in the country and the only province to exceed the global average of 89.3 per cent.
    New Brunswick, British Columbia and Saskatchewan exceeded the Canadian average of 88 per cent. Newfoundland and Labrador fared best with only 86 per cent of email considered spam, followed by Quebec, Nova Scotia and Manitoba at 87 per cent, Ontario at 87.5 per cent and Alberta at 87.6 per cent.
    I know that the hon. member for Windsor West has identified this before, but we need to recognize that Canada is actually in the top 10 in the world. We are the only G8 country that does not have this type of legislation.
    When one starts thinking about the fact that a province like New Brunswick, where 92.5% of all email in the province is spam, one can see that we have a very serious problem facing us.
    I want to turn briefly to the legislative summary, because there are a couple of aspects of this bill that I think are important to note. Other members have pointed this out, but I would like to highlight the fact that we have been talking about anti-spam legislation for a number of years.
    In fact, the legislative summary says that this act is a culmination of a process that began with the anti-spam action plan for Canada launched by the Government of Canada in 2004, which established a private sector task force, chaired by Industry Canada, to examine the issue of unsolicited commercial email, or spam. By the end of 2004, spam, which is in many ways the electronic equivalent of junk mail, had grown to encompass 80% of all global email traffic.
    It goes on to talk about the fact that the task force issued a report in May 2005 examining the spam situation in Canada and recommended, among other measures, that legislation specifically aimed at combatting spam be created.
    That was 2004, and here we are in 2010. We are once again debating legislation. The initial legislation, Bill C-27, was lost when the House prorogued. So we again have lost time dealing with an issue that is extremely important to businesses, consumers, and ordinary citizens in this country.
    This is a complex piece of legislation. It is many pages long and it impacts on a number of different agencies.

  (1710)  

    The agencies that are involved in the regulation of spam include the Competition Bureau, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner and the CRTC. In addition to setting up a regulatory scheme to deal with spam in Canada, the bill gives these agencies the power to share information and evidence with international counterparts in order to deal with spam coming from outside the country. It goes on again to emphasize the fact that Canada is the last of the G8 countries to introduce anti-spam legislation.
    One of the points raised in this legislative summary is the fact that Canada, in some respects, is seen on the international market as a haven for some of these spammers from outside the country because of our lack of legislation. The legislative summary goes on to say that the act:
will provide a clear regulatory scheme including administrative monetary penalties, with respect to both spam and related threats from unsolicited electronic contact, including identity theft, phishing, spyware, viruses, and botnets. It will also grant an additional right of civil action to businesses and consumers targeted by the perpetrators of such activities.
    At the very end of the Bill C-27 legislation, when it was introduced, were a couple of clauses that dealt with the do not call list. Again, Bill C-28 has the same inclusion in the legislation. It says that they
would give the government the power to repeal legislation for the relatively new Do Not Call List for telemarketers. Since it was introduced in 2008, the Do Not Call List has been subject to much criticism owing to telemarketer misuse of the names on the list.
    I want to refer to another aspect of that. It says that:
    The delayed set of amendments provides the framework for replacing the do not call list with a new scheme at a future date, as described earlier in the summary. The powers to be restored with the delayed amendments include the power to regulate the hours during which such communications can be made, the contact information that must be provided by the communicator and the way in which it must be provided, and the use of automated telephone calls.
    The reason I raise this in the context of Bill C-28 is that this inclusion of the ability to amend the do not call list legislation is important to note, because the do not call list legislation actually was flawed. That is why it is important that the House refer the bill back to the industry committee for a thorough review.
    Now I know that we had hearings on Bill C-27, and there have been some amendments to this legislation as a result of those hearings, but it is important that we reconsider this legislation and make sure that there are not any unintended consequences such as we saw with the do not call list.
    There are a couple of other aspects of this legislation that are important to note as a result of industry hearings and the input that was heard. Clause 66 in Bill C-28 now allows for a review three years after the day on which the section comes into force.
[A] review of the provisions and operation of this Act must be undertaken by any committee of the Senate, of the House of Commons, or of both Houses of Parliament that is designated or established for that purpose.
    It is very important that the mandate to review the legislation three years after coming into force is in place again so that we can determine if there have been further changes in the whole electronic media that would require some further amendments. We can determine whether the piece of legislation is effective. We can determine if adequate resources have been put in place in order to make sure that the agencies involved have what they need to oversee and enforce the legislation.
    I think others have referred to the very substantial fines that are now in place to make sure that there are some teeth to this piece of legislation.
    There are a couple of aspects of the legislation that came up when it was under study when it was Bill C-27. I want to turn to an analysis that was done by a law firm called McCarthy Tétrault that pointed out a couple of aspects that raised some concerns. I want to outline the summary of a couple of these aspects. One of these was about consent. It says that the legislation contains certain exceptions to the rule about consent. It says that consent is not required
to send a commercial electronic message, the purpose of which is to provide a quote or an estimate; facilitate, complete or confirm an existing commercial transaction; provide warranty information; provide information related to an ongoing subscription, membership, account or loan; provide information related to an employment relationship; or deliver a product, goods or a service, including product updates and upgrades.

  (1715)  

    It goes on to say that the list is not exhaustive, and that other purposes may be specified in the regulations.
    I am bringing this up because business has raised concerns. Some in the business community think that this legislation is too onerous, that it would not allow businesspeople to communicate with their customers or potential customers.
    Clearly, the legislation has made some attempt to recognize that there is an ongoing business relationship that needs to be maintained, and it has outlined situations in which that consent would not be required.
    It goes on to say:
    The bill also provides for certain situations where consent can be implied, including where:
- the sender has an existing business relationship with a recipient (provided the relationship is entered into within the specified time frames);
- the recipient has “conspicuously published” its electronic address and has not indicated a desire to not receive unsolicited commercial electronic messages, and the message is relevant to the recipient's business role; or
- the recipient has provided its electronic address to the sender without indicating a wish not to receive unsolicited commercial and electronic messages.
    When requesting express consent to send unsolicited commercial messages, an organization would have to set out “clearly and simply” the purpose(s) for which the consent is being sought, information identifying the organization that is seeking the consent, and any other information that may be prescribed.
    The [act] also stipulates the electronic message must:
- identify the sender;
- provide contact information for the sender; and
- include an “unsubscribe” mechanism....
    I think what is required of businesses is clear, as are the references to the protection for consumers. It does not appear that these are going to be onerous.
    I want to touch on a couple of other aspects that are important when we are talking about the viability of business.
    When it was Bill C-27, Professor Michael Geist appeared before the industry committee. I know he was talking about Bill C-27, but I think some of his comments are applicable to Bill C-28. He stated:
    The introduction of Bill C-27 represents the culmination of years of effort to address concerns that Canada is rapidly emerging as a spam haven. I don't think I have to convince you that spam is a problem, whether it's the cost borne by consumers, schools, businesses, and hospitals in dealing with unwanted e-mail, or the shaken confidence of online banking customers who received phished email. There is a real need to address the problem.
    Professor Geist identified that there was an impact on businesses. Many times in this House we have heard concerns raised about Canadian productivity in the workplace. When we understand the volume of spam that is coming in, whether it is via email, text messaging, or electronic media that businesses are using, we can understand the concern about the impact on business productivity.
    There are varying statistics about the amount of time it takes for workers to recover when they are interrupted in a task. Many of us in this House can attest that, even though we have a good filter on our email system, we are still occasionally bothered by spam.
    Imagine in a regular workplace where up to 90% of emails may be spam if there are not adequate filters in place. Every time they have to go through their email box and clear emails, or they are interrupted in their work, it affects the business's productivity, its quality, its performance. I saw a statistic that every time workers were interrupted at a task, it took them up to seven minutes to get back to where they had left off. So we can see that this has a definite impact on workers' ability to perform well in their jobs.
    The other aspect of this, and it can be quite troubling, is the effect on seniors. Despite the unfair stereotype, I believe many seniors are absolutely email literate. They rely on email to communicate with loved ones, to do business, and to do all the things that Canadians under the age of 65 do.

  (1720)  

    One of the real concerns about spam is that seniors and other unsuspecting people end up being fraudulently sold goods or services.
    Another important purpose of the bill is to protect vulnerable citizens from spam, whether it is banking fraud or investment fraud. I think many of us have received those unfortunate emails from overseas that tell us to send money to get somebody out of jail. It is sad that unsuspecting Canadians have sent money, only to learn that their money has gone down the tubes. That is an important aspect of the bill.
    Professor Geist also raised another issue when he did his presentation to the committee. He said:
    Let me conclude with a warning against what I see as some lobbying efforts to water down what I see as reasonable standards found in this legislation. I note that we have seen this before. It is what took place with the do-not-call list. The bill started with good principles, faced intense lobbying, and I think some scare tactics, and by the end of the process Canadians were left with a system that I think is now widely recognized as a failure, with some estimates saying that more than 80% of the calls that used to come, continue to come, and with security breeches around the do-not-call list itself.
     I think we must avoid a similar occurrence with respect to the anti-spam legislation. Changes in some business practices might be scary to some, but we cannot allow scare tactics to persuade you from moving forward with this much-needed legislation.
    In that context, when businesses are looking at the potential costs of complying with the legislation, getting the appropriate consent, and doing all the things that are laid out in the legislation, it is important to encourage them to consider the costs of dealing with the amount of spam that is out there.
    In conclusion, New Democrats will be supporting Bill C-28 to go to committee for further review, and we are optimistic that perhaps this time it will actually get through the House.

  (1725)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am sure that the House has been convinced by the insightful arguments in support of the bill that have been put forward by the member.
    The member made reference to the national do not call list and the experience that has been gained from it. I wonder if she could expand on this a bit. From other speakers, there has been some suggestion that the experience has not been as successful as it could have been. She mentioned a number of spam issues, including the vulnerability of seniors and the huge cost to businesses. I know that at the beginning the chamber of commerce had some concerns with respect to the national do not call list. I wonder if she could expand a bit on what that experience has been, what we have learned from it, and how we could make the anti-spam legislation more substantive and effective.
    Mr. Speaker, there were many problems with the do not call list. One was that industry ended up regulating itself in this matter. The departments involved with the do not call list had few resources for enforcement and oversight, and the original do not call list legislation was much stronger than what ended up being passed, because it was eventually watered down.
    There were a number of challenges, including lists that were accessed by organizations that had no entitlement to them. As I pointed out, roughly 80% of the calls that were being made before the do not call list continued to be made. That is an ineffective piece of legislation, which is why we have additions in Bill C-28 to deal with the do not call list, and why the bill gives the government an opportunity to deal with the list.
    If the government ends up amending regulations affecting the do not call list, it is important that the House oversees these amendments, so that we do not end up in the same quagmire that we experienced in the original legislation.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech. This bill contains some very important measures that the public has been waiting for to regulate electronic commerce.
    A task force was created by the Liberal government in 2004. Can the member tell me why it has taken so long to arrive at Bill C-28?
    Six years have passed since 2004. I would like to hear what my colleague has to say about that.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, this is an enormous problem that affects business productivity and the safety and security of our citizens. Yet it has been six years and we still do not have the legislation in place. That speaks to the challenges in this place. First, there is a lack of political will. Spam is not a problem that has risen just in the last couple of years. Second, we had a bill before the House that could have dealt with the problem, but the Conservative government chose to prorogue the House, so once again a needed piece of legislation was shelved.
    I hope that people will now become seized of this issue and we will be able to get the bill to committee, do the necessary review, and get it passed in the House to protect businesses and our citizens.

  (1730)  

    Mr. Speaker, my colleague reflected on the unfortunate delays surrounding this issue. I would like to hear her comments on what it means to our position in the world when it comes to taking a leadership role and supporting not just individuals but businesses as they look to the future. Our government has a duty to protect Canadian businesses and individuals. The younger generation of Canadians who use technology to a much greater extent is calling on the government to provide leadership.
    I would be interested in hearing my colleague's thoughts on what has happened so far and why we are not where we need to be.
    Mr. Speaker, the member for Churchill raised the point that electronic media, particularly social media, is changing so quickly that it feels as though we are always behind in attempting to regulate it, in attempting to use it.
    It is important that the legislation before us be flexible enough to deal with the changing electronic market. It must also be rigorous enough to impose penalties. The agencies responsible for it must have the necessary resources for enforcement. When I spoke about the do-not-call list, I mentioned that oversight was largely left up to industry. That is like leaving the fox in charge of the henhouse. We support this legislation, but we need to make sure that the mechanisms to enforce it will be there.
    The member also asked why this legislation has been delayed. Sadly, we had more than one prorogation. For this reason, we were not able to deal with some of the critical issues facing our businesses and citizens, and anti-spam legislation was one of those.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I have a comment and a question. Last week, the Conservatives said in this House that Bloc Québécois members could not co-operate to help get bills passed. If they were looking for co-operation last week, we have a perfect example today. The Bloc Québécois is co-operating by supporting this anti-spam bill.
    A bill can always be improved. What changes would the member like to see?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, there were two aspects of the member's question.
    I want to touch on the matter of co-operation for one moment. It is always interesting to me that members in the House are criticized for doing due diligence, for taking the time to study a bill thoroughly, taking the time to ensure that there are no unintended consequences and that Canadians are being well served by the legislation.
    I would argue that it is part of our responsibility as elected representatives to ensure that the legislation that comes before us is solid legislation that we can support, legislation that we can go home and talk to our constituents about.
    With respect to Bill C-28, I would agree with the member that it sounds as if the House is co-operating to get the bill to committee for further review, but I also think it is incumbent upon us to study the bill thoroughly and make sure that it is a good piece of legislation for Canada.
    On the second aspect of the member's a question, in respect of the changes that we might want to see in this piece of legislation, we need to look at how the three-year parliamentary review might affect the bill. I raise this because my understanding of this practice is that it requires a three-year review, after coming into force, of all aspects of the legislation. If the bill is phased in, we might want to take a look at the effects of this time frame.

  (1735)  

    Mr. Speaker, I believe it was the minister in his address to the bill who said that we were looking at $130 billion in losses throughout the world economy.
    I would be interested in knowing how he came up with that figure and what Canada's portion of that loss would be.
    The fact of the matter is that the government has waited for six years to get this legislation through. Yet the House could resolve the Karla Homolka pardon issue in a day and a half.
    The question is, if the government is so concerned about this, then why has it not done something before now?
    Mr. Speaker, I am not in a position to speak to the government's motives or its priorities, but it is clearly an urgent priority for businesses and for citizens in this country.
    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in today's debate on second reading of Bill C-28, Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act, or FIWSA.
    The online marketplace represents a major segment of Canada's economy, with some $62.7 billion in sales in 2007. That same year, the Information Society Index report published by the International Data Corporation projected that worldwide electronic commerce would exceed $9.6 trillion by 2010.
     We have now reached the year projected by the Information Society Index and we must think in terms of a digital economy that will soon surpass $10 trillion in revenue. Let me put this in context. That is over six times the size of the Canadian economy and it continues to grow. Those economies that do not tap into the phenomenal growth of online commerce will miss out on opportunities for prosperity and quality of life in the 21st century.
    While the digital economy is growing, so also grow the threats that can undermine it. In 2009, the annual security report released by MessageLabs Intelligence estimated that nearly 90% of worldwide email traffic was spam. These unsolicited commercial electronic messages impose costs on consumers and businesses. They tie up bandwidth, they tie up time, and when they contain malware they impose real threats on consumer confidence in the digital economy.
    Canada is one of only four countries in the OECD that does not have laws governing spam. We are the only country in the G7 not to have regulations fighting the problems associated with spam, but we are about to change that. In fact, with this bill, Canada will move from laggard to leader. We will be at the forefront of global efforts to fight spam and related online problems.
    The bill before us addresses unsolicited commercial electronic messages as well as installation of malware and interference with electronic transmissions. It contains safeguards for consumers and businesses against illegitimate electronic marketing practices. This bill takes a multi-faceted approach to protect consumers and businesses. It implements a clear regulatory enforcement regime that is consistent with international best practices.
     When passed into law, this bill would be enforced by three organizations.
     First, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the CRTC, would be able to investigate and take action against the sending of unsolicited commercial electronic messages, the altering of transmission data and the installation of computer programs on computer systems and networks without consent.
    The second organization tasked with enforcing this bill is the Competition Bureau, which would address deceptive practices and representations online. This includes false or misleading headers and website content.
    Finally, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner would be able to take measures against the unauthorized collection of personal information by access to a computer found to be contrary to an act of Parliament and the unauthorized compiling or supplying of lists of electronic addresses.
     Further, both the CRTC and the Competition Tribunal would be given authority to impose administrative monetary penalties, or AMPS, on those who violate the respective provisions of this bill.
    These AMPS are significant. The CRTC would be able to impose fines of up to $1 million per violation for individuals and $10 million for businesses. The Competition Bureau would apply to the Competition Tribunal to seek AMPS under the current regime in the Competition Act. That regime allows for penalties of up to $750,000 for individuals, with $1 million for subsequent violations, and up to $10 million for businesses, with $15 million for subsequent violations.
    When it comes to stopping spam through these kinds of penalties it is clear that these government agencies will have very sharp teeth. Indeed, where penalties of this nature have been applied in other countries, the amount of spam originating from those countries dropped significantly.
    The point I would like to emphasize is that we do not need to turn to police forces to put a stop to spam and other related online problems. We can very effectively use the existing specialized agencies.
    The Office of the Privacy Commissioner would use its existing tools and enforcement framework to enforce the provisions of this legislation. The Privacy Commissioner's powers to cooperate and exchange information with her international counterparts under the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act would be expanded. The enforcement bodies would be able to share information and evidence with their international colleagues so that together international partners would be able to pursue spammers.

  (1740)  

    In addition to the work of the three regulatory agencies, businesses and individuals would do their part to put an end to spam and related online nuisances. Under this bill, they would have the private right of action against those who have violated the law.
    Finally, let me say a few words about the importance of education and awareness to ensuring that individuals and businesses take the right steps to combat spam. In support of this bill, the government will promote education and awareness through the efforts of a national coordinating body.
    We will also create a spam reporting centre, which consumers and businesses may contact to report spam and related threats. The spam reporting centre would collect evidence and gather intelligence to help the three enforcement agencies with their investigations. Also, the spam reporting centre would track and analyze statistics and trends in spam and other related online threats.
    To conclude, Bill C-28 would make Canada a world leader in anti-spam legislation by providing a more secure online environment for both consumers and businesses. I hope that the House will move quickly to send this bill through the system. I urge hon. members from all parties to join me in supporting it.
    Mr. Speaker, it is wonderful to be able to hear that there is actually some intent to move along and get some legislation in place.
    I am looking for how these mechanisms that the parliamentary secretary is speaking about are actually going to work. By my count, he has about another 12 minutes to go in his elaboration of the merits of this bill. I wonder whether he will use up the rest of the time available in order to convince the House that he actually does have the magic wand that is going to make things work.
    I know he has the support of the opposition members. He certainly has our support if he wants the bill to go to second reading and get the items in detail. I wonder if he could give us a flavour of just how this is going to work so that we can applaud him as we go along. Otherwise we are just going to have to be critical and see if we can get to the meat of the matter.
    Mr. Speaker, that was an interesting question. I am not exactly sure what the question was.
    I assume that the hon. member does not really have a real question, because of course, the bill went before committee and went through a rigorous committee hearing. Members from all parties had the opportunity to hear from witnesses. Of course, we passed the bill through the committee stage and again at third reading here in the House.
    My hope is that we will be able to move this bill along. Based on the statement the hon. member made, I assume that we will have the cooperation of his party.
    I can speak a little about the impact of the bill. Of course, as has been mentioned in the hearings before, the cost of spam to Canadian businesses and consumers is tremendous. We are talking about $3 billion a year in terms of lost productivity and all the various effects of spam, malware, spyware, and all the different things associated with spam. It is an area where Canada unfortunately is actually a world leader, so to speak.
    Other countries that have implemented measures similar to what we are implementing here have seen a significant and immediate drop in their rankings in terms of spam originating from their countries.
    For example, Australia was rated in the top 10 in terms of spam origination. Almost immediately after passing legislation, it dropped to, I believe, number 17 in the world.
    I think we can agree that this is a significant problem. We hope to have the cooperation of all parties of the House.

  (1745)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to follow up on the question and train of thought from the hon. member for the Liberal Party.
    The fact of the matter is that it has not been since demise of the Liberal government that we have seen any clear initiatives in the whole area of government online programs or any sort of initiatives in that vein from the government.
    England is a very good example of a case where the prime minister took control of the agenda and set up the government website announcing a list of all the government programs that were going to be online over the next five to 10 years.
    When Reg Alcock was here in Parliament and Paul Martin was the Prime Minister, we saw some real developments in government online programs. What have we seen since the Conservatives have come into power? We have seen nothing.
    We have seen a secure channel that was being developed basically shutdown or put to bed. There are no clear national objectives or directions being given by the government.
    I think that is what the previous member was alluding to when he was asking a question of the minister.
    The government is trying to deal in isolation on one piece of albeit important legislation, 10 years past its prime, but it does not tie into an overall plan that the public is looking for on the part of the government.
    So I would ask the member, when is he going to talk to his Prime Minister about the idea of getting a national vision enunciated by the Prime Minister to set up government online programs? The electronic health records of the country should be well advanced right now and they are not, as well as other areas to complement what we are doing here tonight.
    Mr. Speaker, I do not think there was much about the actual anti-spam legislation in that statement. We learned that he was a big fan of Reg Alcock, on which he may stand alone in the House, but I am not sure.
    He called me a minister, which I really appreciate, but I am actually not at this point.
    With regard to the bill and the comments he was making regarding the digital economy, I would assume that his statement means he will stand with the government as we continue to move forward on a digital economy strategy.
    His party, of course, has not stood with the government on any of the successful economic initiatives we have moved forward in this Parliament over the last several years. However, we do look forward to a change in direction from the New Democrats. Perhaps they are embracing a new economic agenda, which would be new certainly for them, as it relates to the digital economy.
    As it relates to this bill, I will use the opportunity while I am on my feet to talk about a few things that the bill will actually accomplish. It will address the issue of identity theft, where we are seeing the theft of personal data and bank information from computers. It will address the issue of phishing, which has been talked about by several members in the House today, where we see online fraud, luring individuals to counterfeit websites. It will address the issue of spyware, where we get things implanted on our computer that we do not want that are looking into our personal information on our computer.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the member knows that the national do not call list already exists, and it can be compared to the electronic commerce system being addressed in Bill C-28. The national do not call list works very well, and the public very much appreciates it, judging by the number of people who have signed up in the past few years.
    Can the member guarantee that Bill C-28 will not have an impact on the maintenance of the national do not call list?

  (1750)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is referring to Bill C-28 in which there is small mention of the do not call list.
    I will concur with the hon. member's comments about the do not call list in the sense that a great number of Canadians have signed up for it. I believe 33% have registered their land lines. A smaller percentage have registered their mobile phones.
    I point out that notwithstanding comments by other members of the House in regard to the do not call list, surveys have pointed out that a majority of the people who have signed up have indicated that they have received less marketing calls as a result of doing that.
    I hope we will have the support of that hon. colleague.
    There are differences in the legislation to the do not call list. In putting this legislation forward, we studied some of the things that have or have not worked in other countries. We have built the legislation by taking the best legislation from other countries in the knowledge that this will make a significant impact on the amount of spam coming out of Canada and make us a world leader in a good way in that regard.
    Mr. Speaker, is all the dedication and energy that we are going to put into discussing Bill C-28 going to go the same way as Bill C-27? Is the government going to prorogue before we actually realize some of the claims that he thinks the bill is going to put forward?
    Mr. Speaker, as this will be the last time I will be on my feet for a question, I will reiterate what I have said.
     It sounds like the other parties in the House support the legislation. We have gone through the committee process. There is very little difference in this legislation from what was in the previous legislation. We have heard commentators from all three parties over the last few weeks talking about trying to make things work in the House. This is the perfect opportunity for that. We have discussed the legislation. We have expedited the process through committee to get the legislation passed for the benefit of all Canadians.
    Mr. Speaker, like other members on this side of the House, I am pleased the government has finally brought forward legislation that we hope will be implemented before there is either a prorogation or the House rises yet again. This is only second reading and the bill is going to go to committee. I am pleased there are elements in the bill that the Liberal Party is absolutely delighted to support.
    As other members have indicated from all three opposition parties already, the bill contains a series of recommendations that flow from a task force that was initiated by the then Liberal government in 2004-05. Five and a half years ago the government of the day said that it recognized there was a series of difficulties, problems, impediments to development of a true Internet economy and Internet communication system. It said that we needed to bring all the stakeholders, all the experts, all the legal experts as well, given all the ramifications of any of the changes that might be proposed, together to the table and see what they had to say to the government of the day. We wanted to present legislation that would not only have us catch up to other countries, not only catch up to all those people who have made the Internet their means of communication, whether it is communications for personal use or for commercial use, but go beyond that and make us a leader in the new economy of the day.
    Government and opposition members have pointed out that this is not an insignificant element of economic activity worldwide. In Canada we like to throw these numbers around in the trillions because they are the significant digits today, but the Canadian economy has been estimated by experts to be dependent to the tune of about $27 billion per annum in Canada.
    For those who are watching and who are not expert in the Internet society, the Internet commercial world, what that really means is about $850 per person per year. That is not bad. That is every person who is alive and well in Canada. They realize there is an impact of some $27 billion in costs. That is not just an economic activity. That is in the amount it is costing every Canadian, every man, woman and child, simply because somebody is scamming the system, introducing a culture of deceit and a culture that in a different marketplace might well border on the criminal. In other words, it is fraudulent and it invades privacy. It invades commerce. It invades the free flow of communication that leads to productive activity. That was the significance of what that task force underscored. The task force noted that the penalties translated themselves into costs, immediate, perceived, or forgone. It said we needed to put in place a framework that legislators and other organizations could ensure would function for the better of the Canadian public.
    It is little wonder then to find that the official opposition would support these initiatives, at least until they go to committee and we bring forward all those experts and they are numerous. They are legion. They are younger and younger. As one of my colleagues from the NDP indicated, there is a particular generational divide. Those who are expert are expert at a very young age. They develop that expertise as the communication system, the knowledge base is growing not in leaps and bounds, but exponentially with every new innovation as we get greater and greater opportunity to relate to each other not only on a social basis, but on a commercial basis as well.

  (1755)  

    It was not long ago that the only thing societies aspired to do was to develop the art of speaking, the art of writing and the art of arithmetic. It was the three Rs all over again. All we wanted to do was facilitate the communications required in order to make societies much more productive.
    Today we are no longer talking about those simple items. We are talking about an entirely different economy that is making everything grow, as I said, exponentially. We owe it to ourselves. The parliamentary secretary can no longer say that we will go from laggards to leaders. We are laggards.
    Forgive this partisan shot but it is in part because for five and a half years the government refused to do anything that came out the task force. It refused to do anything because it was something that came out of another government. The Conservatives have squandered the opportunities presented to them by the Canadian bureaucracy, previous legislators in the Liberal Party, contributors from the NDP and the Bloc Québécois, who have wanted to move our society along.
    The Conservatives have refused to accept those suggestions, in part because they are afraid of a coalition of knowledgeable people. They are afraid of people who actually work together and who want to move the country forward. They are afraid of anybody who voices a vision. A vision was expressed five and a half years ago. It is almost pitiable that here we are today discussing something that should have been implemented very early on in the government's mandate.
    The Conservatives have the support of all the members of Parliament on this side of the House. Everyone said, “Let's get working”. Even though Bill C-27, its predecessor, was fraught with some difficulties, everybody wanted to move forward. Instead they prorogued Parliament.
    Today we are not proroguing. We are taking a look at Bill C-28. It is a complex system. I do not pretend to be the expert and I am not going to even suggest that anybody should come close to thinking of me or any other member in this place as anything other than someone who is presenting issues for the discussion of a committee that is going to bring in stakeholders and experts to ensure that we get the best possible legislation.
    I do not know how thoroughly you have looked at this, Mr. Speaker. You have a reputation for studying every bill. I know you will have noted that there are some implications for other legislative items here. I want to draw them to the attention of the House for no other reason than that the general public wants to understand that we as legislators in the House have an appreciation of the comprehensiveness of the task that is at hand.
    For example, when the parliamentary secretary says that we can use the mechanisms already available that are vested in the CRTC, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, we have to go to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission Act in order to make the appropriate changes so it can be vested with the authorities to provide appropriate vigilance and to do the appropriate prosecutorial work required to get enforcement.
    I know the committee will be the master of its own agenda, but it will bring forward people who will illustrate for it how the prosecution of infringements will be handled and how the CRTC can do that more quickly and to greater satisfaction than, say, the RCMP or any other police forces.
    I note the parliamentary secretary said that we did not need to go to the police, that we did not need to go the criminal route. We have these specialized agencies. Another one of these specialized agencies is the Privacy Commissioner's office. The Privacy Commissioner has the task of ensuring that privacy is very properly vested in all Canadians, not only their personal privacy but their commercial privacy, everything about them that they want to maintain as part of their identity.

  (1800)  

    When we think about identity, we talk about our names. I am the member of Parliament for Eglinton—Lawrence. I am a whole series of other things associated with that identity but that identity belongs to me unless I relinquish any portion of it for purposes that I agree are appropriate. We have spammers and scammers today, and sometimes they are one and the same thing, who will take advantage of that identity and use it for their own purpose that has nothing to do with the legitimacy of the identity of the current member of Parliament for Eglinton—Lawrence or, indeed, even the Speaker, I dare say. We are all at the mercy of those who are utilizing the communication systems that are made available. They are abusing it and they are using it for their own purposes. What we need to do is vest authority in the CRTC and the privacy commission that is appropriate to the task at hand. I note that Bill C-28 attempts to do that and I am looking forward to the committee's analysis of whether they will have the tools appropriate to the task.
    We need to take a look at the Competition Act. As in every business, we need to at least provide a playing field that treats every competitor equitably and equally.
    I noted today that there was a list of cities around the world that were ranked according to their ability to provide a secure investment climate and business climate. I am pleased to say, in case it missed anybody from this House, that my own native city, my home city of Toronto, the city by Lake Ontario, was ranked number one, not in Canada but in the world. It means that some things that governments prior to this one put in place actually did work.
    Sometimes we tend to forget that people who preceded us actually had a contribution to make to national development. For at least as far as Toronto goes, despite all of its faults, it is still ranked number one in the world. Can we imagine, if we can say that, despite all of its faults, it is ranked number one that it has faults and the bill had better accept those? Can we imagine what the other cities around the world are like? I note that there are only two other cities in Canada that ranked in the top 20. I leave it for members from the other caucuses to highlight and trumpet their cities. However, the important thing is that a Canadian city is ranked number one, and that happens to be mine, but it is because there was legislation in the past that provided for a competitive environment that bred good commercial practices and, in fact, attracted business investment.
    We need to go to the Competition Act and ensure that Bill C-28 establishes a continuation of just that type of a climate. We must remember that we are moving in a world that is Internet based, that is much more speedy, much more attuned to changes, literally like that. We can no longer rest on our laurels. We need to be able to say that the commercial climate, the investor climate, the privacy climate and the social climate that we attempt to provide an ambience for here in the House meets the test.
    We have the Telecommunications Act. It is no longer simply about telephones and faxes. Some colleagues from both sides of the House have talked about a do not call list as the protection of privacy, stopping harassment and eliminating all the irritants. Whether that worked or did not work, we made an effort to do it when I was in government. Again, not to be partisan, but the current government has attempted to do something with a little less success than had been anticipated.
    We cannot simply stand here and say that it will achieve this. How will it do that? That is an expression of an objective, a goal. It is not necessarily an indication of how that goal will be achieved. This needs to go to committee so that we can get the experts to tell us just what path we will take to ensure that we can achieve those goals. When it comes into force, we need to be able to say that there will be resources in place to ensure that all of the mechanisms that we do put in place are actually supportive of that overall, long-term goal and objective.

  (1805)  

    Otherwise, this is nothing more than an exercise in trying to keep us occupied because the government has finally come to its senses and said, “We have been here for five and a half years. There was a task force that laid out a road map for us and we did not do anything about it”.
     In fact, the parliamentary secretary said a moment ago that there should be a sense of urgency because we are the laggards of the western world and because the OECD countries rank us last. However, we are not moving at all. That cannot be the fault of anybody else other than those members who are currently at the helm. It is not the Liberal Party. It is not the NDP, although it is responsible for having those people on that side of the House. It cannot be the Bloc. It must be the Conservatives who have squandered an opportunity to do something with the levers of power that have been granted to them as the result of an electoral outcome.
    The parliamentary secretary said that we need to have sharp teeth for those agencies and commissions that will actually do the work of ferreting out all of those spammers, scammers and all of those who pry into our lives and distort our businesses. If those resources are not put in place, then we will not get those sharp teeth.
    What are the consequences? Yes, $1 million per person is great and $10 million for business sounds impressive, but I want to know whether the mechanisms are in place to get them before a court of law, act expeditiously and actually be able to fine them, seize their assets and ensure that the stated penalty is reflected in reality. I have asked the parliamentary secretary for an indication of how this will work. The public does not want to know what anymore. They understand the why but they want to know the how and the how always includes the resources that will be put in place.
    If one can acknowledge that there is a $27 billion cost on an annual basis, about $850 out of everybody's pocket every year, surely one ought to be able to put in some resources to ensure that does not happen. I am not sure the government has done that.
    It might be instructive for everybody to understand what it was that the Liberal Party offered as an alternative. Everybody is always looking for an alternative to the government. The government says that there is no alternative to it because it is good. However, it has been lazy for five and a half years and it has squandered opportunity. It has wasted a chance to make Canada a leader. Now the Conservative government stands in the House and says that it is a laggard and that it will try to make us a leader. Trying is nice, it is an expression of a desire, but it is not a road map.
    I want to explain what the road map was five and a half years ago that this bill purports to follow. It said that we would prohibit the sending of spam without the prior consent of recipients. Who the heck wants spam? There was a proactive measure on the part of those who hook up to the Internet and who were willing to accept virtually anything that came in because they were knowledgeable, did not care if the anti-virus system was in place, did not care if somebody wanted to fish into their system, and so on.
    Clearly, there is no protection against those who want to break the law, but if there is no law, there is no breaking the law, no breaking of convention. We need to be able to put it in place.
    Since we do not accept the use of false and misleading statements in regular advertising, why would accept it on the Internet? As I said earlier, the installation of unauthorized programs needs to be absolutely prohibited, as, for example, the unauthorized collection of personal information or email addresses. Unless someone gives the okay, why should we allow that to happen?
    In fact, over the course of the last several years we did put in the no call list, although it has not worked all that well, but we did put in something that worked a bit more effectively and that was removing names from facsimile lists. Paper was constantly being burned up at home or at work with people sending information that was not wanted or needed.
    Bill C-28 finally introduces some key elements that tap into that task force. I want to compliment the people who did the work on that task force. I want to compliment the former Liberal government for actually providing a mechanism. I want to encourage the current government for having done a Rip Van Winkle and finally awakened after five and a half years. I hope the committee will do the work for the government and that the House will be able to give its stamp of approval.

  (1810)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his presentation and speech.
    The public has been waiting for Bill C-28 for a long time. In his speech this afternoon, one of his colleagues spoke about how important it is for the government to make the means available to implement Bill C-28.
    What consequences does the member think there would be for implementing Bill C-28 if the government provided only limited resources?
    Mr. Speaker, my colleague is quite right. In my opinion, if they do not do what needs to be done and do not allocate the resources needed to make this bill effective, it would show that the government is not serious.
    If the government is not serious, we cannot expect the bill to succeed and produce the results needed to reduce costs, as we have pointed out from this side of the House and the other side. I am talking about the $27 billion lost in the commerce and in public productivity each year.
    If the government does not recognize the need to make the financial resources and means available, it is because it is not serious and this implies that this bill will take the same path that Bill C-27 took—the path to nowhere.

  (1815)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Eglinton—Lawrence for some insight. The last time he spoke, Stefano was having a birthday. He always talks about family.
    In talking about family, there is the issue of the harm that is being done already and the problem that we are trying to address and why this is also a public safety and security issue, as well as a nuisance issue that we are dealing with.
    Would the member care to comment on the dimensions of the problem and why it is so important that we get this legislation in place.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for recognizing that in this place we can talk about human things and family, as well as the important things of legislation because the two are very often intertwined.
     I spoke about Stefano last time. This time let me talk about Matteo. Matteo is only about 20 months old but he is celebrating, in the culture that I come from, his name day. His name day is, of course, St. Matthew. I do not know whether he is watching. He is probably missing his grandfather, I hope. However, as the member said, it is important to mix together the evolution of our society.
    As I said a few moments ago, our society has moved in leaps and bounds. There is exponential growth in a commercial activity associated with Internet usage, there is exponential growth in the dissemination of knowledge and there is exponential growth in the use of that knowledge for the realization of one's personal ambition and, because we are in this place, of our collective and national ambition.
    We are so far behind from a legislative perspective that some people could say that Canada, which I think the parliamentary secretary acknowledged, is still the wild west of the western world in terms of Internet usage, Internet regulation, the protection of privacy, the protection of commerce and the establishment of an environment for productive and competitive businesses and relationships.
    One of our NDP colleagues talked about online governments. That is one of the initiatives that was begun by members of the Liberal caucus. I think the member for Mississauga South was a part of that, just a few short years ago. All of his work and the work of that caucus went to nil because the current government decided to go to sleep for the last five and a half years.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I have a very simple question. One can always criticize the government for being so slow regarding a bill like this one. The task force was created in 2004 and the final report was released in 2005. Here we are in 2010 and spam has been around for quite some time.
    We have a task force that has presented interesting ideas and possible solutions. We would really like the Minister of Finance to build on the work already done on this file. Consultations have been done, but we have to wonder how reliable they are. Consultations are currently underway for the next budget.
    Should creating task forces like that one, which focus on very specific issues, not be the way to go, as well as using new technology, in order to allow the general public to share their opinions on things like transport, fisheries, local and regional development, and any other issues?
    This example shows that when the government takes an issue seriously, participates in the process and moves more swiftly than it has in this case, we can really achieve something.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for once again explaining to us the challenge inherent in any government bill.
    Six or seven years ago, the working group was tasked with finding ways to implement a bill that would have achieved something our colleague believes is desirable for Canadians. In other words, the Minister of Finance should have received a call from the then-minister of Industry giving him the funding to carry out the project. The minister at the time was responsible for establishing a timeline and conducting the necessary analysis to justify costs. The Industry minister at the time, like the current Minister of Industry, always had to work with other ministers to convince the Minister of Finance, who was responsible for allocating financial resources.
    I do not know if the current minister is inspired enough to do this. He is always talking about the problem of the coalitions of knowledgeable people. I find it uninspiring when I see that he has had several opportunities to supply the resources our colleague was talking about a few minutes ago.