Mr. Speaker, co-operatives are businesses that are driven by democratic values and principles. They employ over 155,000 Canadians. They pay taxes on more than $50 billion in revenues, and they create jobs and offer goods and services in all regions.
The difference between the co-operative model and other business models is how the profits are used and that their focus is on long-term strategic planning, growth, and success. Co-operatives are more durable, and research has shown that new co-operatives are more likely to remain in business than any other new enterprises and are more resilient in economic downturns.
I am proud to be a supporter of the Canadian co-operatives industry, and I look forward to working with them to create even more jobs in our communities.
Tonight, please join me and my colleagues from Ottawa—Vanier and LaSalle—Émard in celebrating co-operatives at their annual reception at the Parliament Pub. I will see everyone there.
The hon. member for LaSalle—Émard.
Order, please. There is too much noise in the chamber. I would ask hon. members, if they wish to carry on conversations, to keep them really hushed or to go to their respective lobbies.
The hon. member for LaSalle—Émard.
Mr. Speaker, I do appreciate the opportunity to work with my colleague from LaSalle—Émard on the industry, science and technology committee. Whether we are doing a committee study on intellectual property, on digital technology or reviewing legislation, as we will do with this piece of legislation, it is a committee that deals with its work in a very open and thoughtful way.
We did a very comprehensive study on the issue of intellectual property. We heard from a range of businesses on this issue of counterfeit goods. When the time comes, we can consider much of that testimony we have already heard as we deliberate on this important piece of legislation that is important for families, businesses and consumers in Canada.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this moment to thank my hon. colleague from LaSalle—Émard for the fine work that she does in the House and for her contributions to the debate, which are always of very high quality and perceptive.
What the question really raises is the fact that in an increasingly interconnected global world, what Canadian companies do abroad matters. It has always mattered, but never has it been so fundamentally important to Canada's reputation on the world stage that our corporations act above reproach, that we set a standard on the world stage for conducting business in a legal and ethical manner. It is only by doing that, by showing an example here in the Canadian Parliament, by requiring high standards for Canadian corporations acting abroad, that we can legitimately urge other countries to carry the same standards in their jurisdictions as well.
What we all want in the House is for the standards of ethics and legality to improve in Canada and around the world. I think we can start by passing laws like this and by putting some teeth into these laws as well.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my hon. colleague from LaSalle—Émard.
I am pleased to speak to Bill S-14, An Act to amend the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act.
In looking at this bill, and given the record of the government, I find myself yearning to have a companion bill introduced in the House that would be entitled, “an act to amend the corruption of domestic public officials act”. There is a whole host of things we could be dealing with.
In terms of domestic corruption, we could be trying to deal with $90,000 payments to senators made by officials in the Prime Minister's Office allegedly to cover up illegal activity. We could be investigating Canadian senators fraudulently claiming housing and living expenses. We could be looking into people like Arthur Porter, another Conservative and a former appointment made by the Prime Minister to the CSIS oversight board, who apparently helped himself to millions of taxpayer dollars in Montreal and fled to South America. We could be looking into Conservative candidates like Peter Penashue, who spent over the election limits and effectively bought his seat by cheating. We could be looking into robocalls where the Conservative database was used to commit election fraud. Then we watched the Conservative Party try to obscure things and fight against any attempt to bring transparency into that procedure.
There is domestic corruption of public officials galore with the Conservative government. I look forward to the government introducing a bill that would attack corruption and finally clean up politics in this House for Canadians, but unfortunately, that is not the bill before us. We are dealing with foreign public officials.
The NDP, being a party that stands for ethics and transparency in Canadian politics, is proud to support this bill for referral to committee.
This bill makes four main changes to the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act. First, it increases the maximum sentence of imprisonment applicable to the offence of bribing a foreign public official from 5 to 14 years. Second, it eliminates an exception for so-called facilitation payments—there is a euphemism if I have ever seen one—where a foreign official is paid to expedite the execution of their responsibilities. The government calls it a facilitation payment, but I call it a bribe. Third, the bill creates a new offence for falsifying or concealing books or records in order to bribe or conceal bribery of a foreign official. Fourth, it establishes a nationality jurisdiction that would apply to all of the offences under the act, such that Canadian nationals could be prosecuted for offences committed overseas.
Again, New Democrats have long supported clear rules requiring transparency and accountability by Canadian individuals and corporations overseas, which usually have been opposed by the Conservatives, unfortunately. This bill complements legislative efforts by New Democrat MPs to encourage responsible, sustainable, and transparent management practices.
In Canada, our inability to enforce anti-corruption laws is a source of embarrassment to the country. We are pleased that the government is finally looking into these problems, but it is deplorable that it has taken so much time and that Canada had to be condemned and discredited before the government took any action.
Canadians want Canadian companies to be successful and responsible representatives of Canada. We want Canadian companies to have clear and consistent standards for international business. Enforced loophole-free regulations would create a level playing field for all companies while ensuring environmental, labour and human rights protection of which we all can be proud.
In a 2011 report, Transparency International ranked Canada as the worst of all G7 countries with regarding to international bribery, with “little or no enforcement” of the scant legislation that exists. Since then the government has been responding to this national embarrassment. However, there have only been three convictions since 1999, two of which were in the last two years. I would like the government to get tough on corruption. When there have been only three convictions since 1999, that is hardly being tough.
By repealing the facilitations exception, this bill would bring Canada into line with the practices in 36 of 39 other OECD countries. However, while the rest of the bill would come into effect at royal assent, the rules on facilitation payments would take effect at an unknown future date at the will of cabinet.
The books and records rule is already being enforced in the United States at the civil level by the Securities and Exchange Commission, but Canada has no equivalent regulator. While criminal law achieves the same effect, we should be increasing our efforts in this regard.
This bill is particularly relevant to the extractive industry, where the NDP has been and remains the strongest advocate for accountability in the House. Examples include my hon. colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster's Bill C-323 as it then was, which would allow lawsuits in Canadian courts by non-Canadians for violations of international obligations; and my colleague from Ottawa Centre's Bill C-486, requiring public due diligence by companies using minerals from the Great Lakes Region of Africa.
I point out that the mining bill was opposed by the Conservative government and 13 Liberals failed to show up for the vote, which led to the narrow defeat of that bill by six votes. Again, Canadians can only count on the New Democrats to bring corporate social responsibility of Canadian mining companies into international normative standards in the House.
The political elites that profit from corruption, particularly in those countries and sectors where corruption is most problematic, consist mainly of men. At the same time, it is primarily women who lack government protection.
While we support the bill for referral to committee, we do have some concerns. It would amend the definition of a “business” to include not-for-profit organizations. The New Democrats believe this clause should be carefully studied at committee, in relation to its impact on charitable and aid organizations, which may, in the world we live in, have to make occasional payments in order to expedite or achieve delivery of essential assistance. We must take great care around that.
The committee should also study the consequences of establishing an indictable offence, punishable by up to 14 years in prison, as this is the threshold at which conditional or absolute discharges or conditional sentences become impossible.
Finally, the committee should study whether the rule on facilitation payment should take effect at the whim of cabinet, as is in the current text of the bill, rather than when ordered by Parliament.
Here are some key facts and figures to consider.
There have been three convictions, as I have mentioned, under Canada's foreign bribery law since it took effect in 1999: Hydro Kleen Group was fined $25,000 in 2005 for bribing a U.S. immigration officer at the Calgary airport; Niko Resources was fined $9.5 million in June 2011 because its subsidiary in Bangladesh paid for a vehicle and travel expenses for the former Blangladeshi state minister for energy and mineral resources; and, Griffiths Energy International was fined $10 million in January of this year, after it agreed to pay $2 million to the wife of Chad's ambassador to Canada and allowed her and two others to buy shares at discounted prices in exchange for supporting an oil and gas project in Chad.
We all are watching the newspapers as we see the difficulties that SNC-Lavalin has got itself into in terms of allegedly paying bribes to foreign officials to secure contracts abroad, in the millions of dollars.
The Transparency International Bribe Payers Index in 2011 ranked the oil and gas and mining industries as the fourth and fifth most likely sectors to issue bribes. This should be of great concern to Canadians because Canada is a world centre for mining and oil and gas industries and companies. These companies, among all sectors as stakeholders, should want to establish very clean, high-level regulations and rules regarding acceptable corporate conduct. Moreover, the mining and oil and gas industries are the second and third most likely to engage in grand bribery targeting of high-ranking officials and politicians. This makes a bill like Bill S-14 especially important in these sectors.
The fact that the government does not enforce the anti-corruption laws is a national shame. We are pleased that it is finally paying attention to these problems. It is nevertheless deplorable that it has taken so much time, and that Canada had to be condemned and discredited before the government took any action.
For business, for the environment and labour and for Canada's international reputation, we urge that this bill go through Parliament and I urge the Conservatives to make the amendments necessary to get the support of all parties in the House.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill S-7, which is before us.
Before I get into my comments, I want to mention that I will be sharing my time with the member for LaSalle—Émard.
What happened last week in Boston was a heinous crime. It was a horrible situation that affected real people. It terrorized a community. We were all moved by it when we saw the images on TV.
As someone who likes to run and who takes part in running, I can personally say that it is normally a place of celebration. If members have never seen a marathon run, I would recommend that they go. It is a magical place where people of ages, sizes and genders come to celebrate participation and civic action. It is one of the most wonderful expressions of civic participation, because it involves not only the people participating in the race but also those who are on the sidelines cheering people on. When people come to Ottawa during a race weekend, they see people by the canal cheering on people they do not even know. It is a magical thing to see. That is why it was so difficult to witness this heinous assault on a public space.
Boston is known for its friendly citizens. The Boston Marathon is world renowned, and we were all moved. None of the members in the House have the licence to say they were moved or more concerned than another member. Let us start with that premise, the premise that everyone in the House thought what happened last week was horrific and that we need to do things to make sure that we prevent those kinds of occurrences from happening again. Let us make that point, because sometimes the debate gets heated and people become passionate. I think we have to avoid being personal and partisan when it comes to this issue.
However, when it comes to the application of this bill and the agenda, it is very important that we underline what appears to be the motive of the government. As members know, this has been stated, and it needs to be restated: it was on last Friday at the last minute that the government decided to put this bill in front of the House. Let us remember that it has been around since 2007. In 2001, there were provisions brought in by the previous government, with a sunset clause in 2007. In 2007 a bill was brought forward, and since 2006 we have had a government that has had the opportunity since 2007 to pass it.
It works against the logic of the Conservatives when they say they have to do this right now, because they have had the ability to pass the bill for years, not only with a majority government but before that, because the Liberals were supporting them when we had a minority Parliament.
Let us be clear about where everyone stands on this. The Liberals support the bill, notwithstanding the fact that there are concerns around civil liberties. We have concerns mainly because since 2001 and 2007, the provisions that were put in place by the Liberal government were never used. If we look at some of the concerns we have had in this country with respect to terrorism, such as the infamous Toronto 18, that was not dealt with by using these provisions but rather through good old-fashioned investigative police work and coordination. That was how it was dealt with.
The Liberals want to support the Conservatives on this bill, and that is fine. However, the point is that the Conservatives could have passed this measure even when they had a minority Parliament. They have had a majority Parliament, yet last Friday they claimed they had to pass it immediately because it is urgent. The government has no credibility on that—zero.
Some members get angry when they think about what is being done here, but I will say it is unfortunate. It is with deep sadness and regret that we see a government using this issue and this bill in the way it is today.
We heard the parliamentary secretary say that this is very important and that they wanted to hear from everyone. I am not seeing that so far from the other side today while we are debating this bill. I am not seeing the opportunities to ask questions and the opportunities for senior ministers to get up and speak. I will leave it to citizens to figure out what it is all about.
What is so incredibly unnerving is to see what happened last week being used in this way. Canadians really have to understand what the agenda of the government is. If it was on this issue, it would have passed this law back in 2007. It could have. It had the support of the Liberals. The Conservatives have had a majority since 2011. Did they pass the bill? No. How many bills have the Conservatives rammed through this place? If it was so important, they could have had this done. They have had time allocation and they have had omnibus bills and they could have done it.
For the government to stand and say that this is urgent and we have to pass it in light of what happened in Boston lacks credibility, to put it mildly. If the government is seriously concerned about this issue and wants to see results, then it has to put its money where its mouth is.
To that end, what we do have is a government that has actually done the opposite. It has cut border services, the people who are responsible for being our eyes and ears when it comes to threats of terrorism. It has cut RCMP budgets as well.
We have to ask ourselves what is at play here. We have heard from experts, as members on the committee would have heard, who have deep concerns around how the bill could be misapplied. Giving up rights—which, let us be clear, is what we are talking about in this bill—has to have a premise and there has to be evidence for it.
The evidence to date has been that we have never used these provisions when they were available and that we have been able to prevent terrorism by using the tools we have available to us. I mentioned the Toronto 18 case, and there are others. If the government is going to take away rights, then it has to make the argument and it has to have the evidence. We do not believe an argument has been made that is cogent enough to actually undermine civil liberties.
As has been mentioned a couple of times, The Globe and Mail did say in its editorial today that there are a lot of questions around the timing, but there is also another a key question. I will quote from the editorial today:
More worrying is the fact that there are aspects of the proposed bill that raise questions about balancing civil liberties with the need to protect citizens. A wise course of action would be to postpone the bill’s final reading so that any emotional fallout from the Boston bombings doesn’t colour an important debate about public safety in Canada.
I could not agree more, regardless of whether members think this is the way to go or not. The time to push this through, ram this through, is not immediately after an incident like this, because it will have made no difference to the incident we are talking about, which is in the United States. To date we have not seen any evidence that it was connected to Canada. Certainly these provisions would not have helped.
Again, it really is up to the government to explain why it is doing this now and for my friends in the Liberal Party to explain why they support it.
We heard about the importance of the charter last week from Liberals. I have to say we are proud as a party to have stood against the War Measures Act. We stand against this bill, but most of all we stand for being clear and honest about the reasons and the rationale for actions one takes in this Parliament.
Today we stand with the victims of the horrific terrorism case in Boston and we stand with all victims of extremism, but we stand against cynicism and we stand against political gains when it comes to protecting citizens no matter where they are. That is the position of our party, and I say it proudly.
I am sorry, we are out of time.
Resuming debate. The hon. member for LaSalle—Émard.
Before we resume debate, I noticed there is a great interest today in participating in the period allocated for questions and comments, as is normally the case with most speakers. We only have five minutes for these questions and comments and with a greater amount of interest in participating, I will ask members and those who respond to questions to keep their comments as concise as possible so more members will have the opportunity to participate.
The hon. member for LaSalle—Émard.
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 member for Vancouver Kingsway, Foreign Investment; the member for LaSalle—Émard, Foreign Investment.
Resuming debate. The member for Châteauguay—Saint-Constant.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to say right at the outset that I am very honoured to be sharing my time with the very talented and eloquent member for LaSalle—Émard, who will be speaking in just a few minutes.
Where to begin? I think all Canadians were profoundly stunned and disappointed on Friday evening when, in a very hastily convened press conference, thrown together at the last minute with very little advanced notice, we had the Prime Minister telling all of Canada, including the three-quarters of Canadians who have been profoundly concerned about the CNOOC takeover of Nexen, that the government would simply rubber-stamp it and push it through.
Following the comments from Canadians flowing into Conservative members of Parliament, flowing into members of the opposition, such as the NDP, and on news websites, we can see that well over 90% of the comments that have been coming out have been wholly negative, given the government's completely irresponsible decision of Friday night.
I want to go into a little bit of the background and I know my colleague from LaSalle—Émard will follow up as well. I say with profound dismay that when we have the Prime Minister standing up at a press conference and saying the CNOOC takeover of Nexen is a bad thing and then approving it in the same breath, that is a logical contradiction that Canadians will not swallow.
The Prime Minister had a few tough words, basically saying that next time they will have some kind of excuse to approve these kinds of takeovers, but what the Prime Minister signalled on Friday was that Canada is for sale. When we look at the evolution of the government over the last six years, when we see that two-thirds of oil sands production is by foreign companies, whether they are state-owned or not, what we see is the very clear intent of the government to sell off Canada, regardless of the consequences.
We can say on this side of the House that the New Democratic Party, the official opposition, consulted with Calgarians. I went out, as well as my colleagues from LaSalle—Émard, Scarborough and Vaudreuil-Soulanges, and we talked with Canadians. We said that it was not in the best interests of Canada. There was no net benefit to Canadians. We do not believe that this takeover should have been rubber-stamped by the government and we profoundly believe that Canadians deserve better than what the government has been doing over the past few years.
New Democrats have always done the heavy lifting on the Investment Canada Act. We are the ones who raised concerns about the sellout of the Canadarm. We were the ones who raised concerns in the House around potash. We are the ones who fought in minority parliaments because we saw that those takeovers were not in Canada's interest. We were able, successfully, with the support of millions of Canadians across the country, to stop what would have been egregious sellouts.
Since the government has become a majority government, it has, at no time, despite weird and amateurish decisions often taken at midnight, not disapproved a single takeover. That is a fact. That is an undeniable reality of the government. I think that is why so many Canadians look forward to 2015 when they will finally have a government that takes a responsible approach to foreign investment and a responsible approach to looking at these kinds of takeovers—
The hon. member for LaSalle—Émard on a point of order.
The hon. member for LaSalle—Émard.
The electoral district of LaSalle--Émard (Quebec) has a population of 100,327 with 74,505 registered voters and 195 polling divisions.
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