June 9, 1993

LIB

Joseph Frank (Joe) Fontana

Liberal

Mr. Joe Fontana (London East):

Mr. Speaker, I look forward to the debate on third reading of Bill C-62.

Back in 1984 a call went out to a new government that had promised so much to this country. It took nine years for it to answer the call. This bill is about telecommunications-communicating with one another.

It has taken, as some of my colleagues have mentioned, nine long years to have a new telecommunications bill. I am sure we all would agree that telecommunications, advancing as quickly as it does, has made waiting nine years to put your house in order unfair to the consumers, to the industry and all the stakeholders in this great industry. Until two or three years ago, fax machines, cellular telephones and the new innovations have come forward in terms of interactive telecommunications and will soon come to our homes.

I want to talk about two things. I want to congratulate our critic, the member for Mount Royal, who has done an absolutely stalwart job for us during the committee hearings, at second reading stage and even before that. She has been very involved in the telecommunications debate and has asked this government on numerous occasions since 1984 to get on with getting this country

June 9, 1993

up to the 21st century in telecommunications. I want to applaud her great effort and her hard work.

Having participated somewhat in the committee hearings myself I want to congratulate all the stakeholders who were at the table trying to help in their own way the country to have a modern telecommunications industry.

I also want to congratulate the member for Okanagan- Shuswap for his fine effort and that of his party in trying to improve the bill.

I will also congratulate the government for finally bringing forward a bill. The process-and a lot of people have alluded to the process-that this government has put us through is really repugnant and unacceptable. The purpose of Parliament and elected representation is to give Canadians a clear opportunity and chance to hear all sides of the issue so that they can make informed decisions whether or not this bill is a good one or a bad one.

I applaud the efforts of the government finally getting a telecommunications bill in before the next election which is only two or three months away, maybe even sooner depending on who wins the convention this weekend. However it is the process, and this is typical of what this government has done at least since I have been here in 1988, it believes that this place is irrelevant. The government uses closure too often and I think it is repugnant. People should not be expected to have to suffer this kind of abuse from a democratically-elected government.

Telecommunications is really the electronic highway of a country. In our homes and businesses it touches everyone's life because we cannot communicate with one another without answering that telephone or without receiving a signal or without a fax machine. Everything we do in life needs communication. Therefore this telecommunications bill is very important to the lifeblood of a country, not only because it is an important industry that employs 100,000 people, but it brings an awful lot of revenue to this countiy directly and indirectly through our trade. It is one of the things at which we excel. We are able to export telecommunications. It is an important industry throughout the country. [DOT]

More important, other businesses cannot operate effectively and competitively without the telecommuni-

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cations industry or policy that allows each and every one of those businesses to employ a lot more people, create wealth and entrepreneurship. They could not exist without a dynamic telecommunications framework. I think Bill C-62 does that.

We also have to remember that Canada has to compete in the world. I know this government likes to speak often about competitiveness and other matters that are very important for exports. If we are to become truly competitive so that we can compete in a very mean world out there where everybody is trying to achieve the same standard of living as we have, then we have to make sure we are at the forefront of telecommunications.

While this bill is not perfect, admittedly so because some amendments have been put forward by our side and those of the NDP, the fact is that we are not prepared to throw it out, start from scratch and wait another nine years, another four years, another year or what have you. That is why the Liberal Party will be supporting Bill C-62 enthusiastically, even though we have some reservations. It could have been improved upon a lot more. Perhaps our commitment will be that when we form the next government in the next number of months, we will not wait nine years in order to bring in the improvements.

What is important is that Bill C-62, the telecommunications bill, must essentially balance competing interests. The competing interests of the industry would be the public interest, the public which is served by telecommunications. This bill tries to balance competition with the regulatory authority that is necessary to ensure there is a good, managed telecommunications industry.

That is why we put forward some positive amendments that have made the decision-making through Order in Council more transparent, more even, more fair, and has taken some powers away from the minister and essentially put them in the hands of the CRTC. That body can review and look at these substantive issues that will come up because telecommunications is changing each and every day.

We have asked that it be mandatory to have a sunset clause or a review clause. I know the minister responded to my question a number of days ago when he said that a committee could review any bill at any time. It is a commitment that would have been very positive.

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We could have said that in five years, four years-we proposed five-that it be mandatory for Parliament to review our telecommunications bill to ensure we do not cause what happened the last time, a wait at least nine years for the changes to be made.

Industry, telecommunications industry, other businesses, people, require that the government lead and not follow in these areas. That is what has happened and that is where we failed as a Parliament and as a government. We have followed and not lead in the telecommunications forefront.

It is important that in this recessionary time-I do not think we have come out of the recession-we look for tremendous opportunities for this country. One of the things that telecommunications bring to this country is high technology and skilled workers. It is an industry that has unlimited potential growth. Canada ought to make as its objective to become the best in the world in telecommunications. We have that infrastructure already.

With the support of the government and the stakeholders and with everyone working together co-operatively we can make this the best industry for Canada so that we can export the technology and expertise we have and not only build a great telecommunications industry domestically but one for other countries of the world.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
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PC

Henry Perrin Beatty (Minister of Communications)

Progressive Conservative

Hon. Perrin Beatty (Minister of Communications):

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my friend with a great deal of interest. I listened earlier to my friend from Okanagan- Shuswap with similar interest as he made a very circular argument. It was essentially that because the government now has the ability to time allocate and put an end through time allocation to a filibuster that a filibuster is impossible and therefore it is unnecessary to use time allocation. It is an intriguing argument but is not one that holds up to very close scrutiny.

I listened with great interest to my friend from London when he referred to the use of time allocation as something that is repugnant. He said that at least twice. We see speaker after speaker on the opposition side denying that they would ever dream of anything like a filibuster and saying how shocked they are that the

government would put an end to their attempts to have an interminable debate.

I have a very simple question for my friend. Is he aware of this statement that was made by his colleague from Mount Royal, the Liberal critic, as recorded in the committee transcript from May 27, 1993? The transcript reads: "Mrs. Finestone: If you pull culture out I forewarn you that you will have a filibuster in this House that you will not believe and that you will not get this bill without calling closure again and demonstrating once again what an undemocratic government you are".

Is my friend aware of that statement? Does he believe that the member for Mount Royal was telling the truth when she said that? Does he deny that it was the intention of the Liberal Party to act on this commitment and filibuster this piece of legislation?

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Subtopic:   TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
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LIB

Joseph Frank (Joe) Fontana

Liberal

Mr. Fontana:

Mr. Speaker, the member for Mount Royal always tells the truth.

I do not know why this minister displays this kind of arrogance or elitism. I know that he is supporting one of the candidates who displays that kind of characteristic. I do not know if it is rubbing off on every one of these ministers.

We are all here to serve our country. We are all here to do exactly the same thing, to try to do the best job we possibly can. I was part of that committee. I want to applaud the chairman of that committee who happens to be a member of the minister's party. At least he respected the people around and it did not matter what party they were a member of. We were all trying to do the best job we could.

The question is not whether we were prepared to or whether we threatened to filibuster. The fact remains that this minister only brought this bill at second reading in April of this year. At second reading he gave us two days to discuss the principle of the bill.

When the bill went into committee it was the minister's own department that introduced 150 amendments. Thlk about a filibuster. Why did the minister not do his work right in the first place? The minister took more time with his amendments than the committee and this Parliament took in debating the whole issue.

June 9, 1993

This has absolutely nothing to do with a filibuster. It is the incompetence of this government that is the issue.

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Subtopic:   TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
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NDP

William Alexander (Bill) Blaikie (N.D.P. Deputy House Leader)

New Democratic Party

Mr. Bill Blaikie (Winnipeg TVanscona):

Mr. Speaker, we must have come a long way in order for anybody in their right mind to regard this as a filibuster. This is hardly a filibuster. The minister, as someone who spent many years in opposition before his last nine years in government, participated in many a long debate that was far more qualified to be described as a filibuster than what we have today.

I wonder what the Minister of Communications called those 16 days of bell ringing. Yet he has the nerve, on an afternoon when we are considering third reading of a major restructuring of the telecommunications industry in this country, to get up and accuse anyone of filibustering.

It may be that the Liberal critic threatened to filibuster. However it is obvious that it was an empty threat because this is not a filibuster. No one here this afternoon claims to be engaging in a filibuster but simply in an attempt to outline our concerns about this bill.

The ongoing conversation across the floor of the House of Commons between the Liberals and Conservatives is evidence of something that is worth pointing out when it comes to this bill, and that is, the Official Opposition intends to vote with the government on the bill.

The minister is perfectly able to get up and leave the House if he does not like what I am saying. Once again we see evidence of the real confluence of ideas and interests between the Liberals and Conservatives when it comes to major issues on the corporate agenda.

This bill concerns deregulation. The Liberals are saying that it is not exactly what they want but they are going to vote for it anyway, even though the objection they threatened to filibuster around in committee still stands. That is their objection with respect to the removal by the government of culture as an element of this bill.

When push comes to shove there is not that much fight over there when it comes to this kind of thing

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because basically they are of the same mind. It was the Liberal Party that began the deregulation of the transportation industry in 1984 when the current member for Winnipeg South Centre was the Minister of Transport.

We heard the same kind of facile optimism then about the benefits of deregulation and how we had to bring our transportation system into the 21st century. We heard how we could not resist the modem trends and that we had to be with it.

We have been with it now in the transportation industry for nine years. It was not long after the Liberals started deregulating the transportation system that the Conservatives came into power and carried forward the same corporate agenda on behalf of the same people who had been asking the Liberals to do the very same thing.

Now we see history repeating itself. The member for Winnipeg-St. James was up there saying: "We hope the competition goes well. We hope this happens. We hope that happens". In this case there is no willingness to leam from history. They might have had an excuse in 1984, although they could have looked at what happened in the United States and drawn some lessons from there.

Now they at least have the Canadian experience in deregulation of transportation to look at. There is still no real learning on the part of the Liberal Party when it comes to deregulation. Deregulation will not serve Canadian industry, interests or culture or the integrity of the country very well at all. I feel I should be mystified by the position of the Liberal Party on this bill but I am not.

It points out something that has happened time and time again in this House. Most recently it happened on Bill C-106, an energy bill that eliminated the last vestiges of the National Energy Program. Those vestiges concerned the requirement for Canadian ownership in petroleum development on the Canada Lands.

In the same week the hon. Leader of the Official Opposition spoke about how he felt about the North American free trade agreement and what a shame it was that Mexico had struck a much harder and more independent deal with respect to its energy resources with the United States than Canada had done with NAFTA. He talked about how it would be the goal of the Liberal

June 9, 1993

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Party if it was in government to reclaim energy sovereignty for Canada.

In that same week, within 48 hours of that speech, the Liberal caucus rose en masse in the House of Commons and voted with the government to eliminate the Canadian ownership requirement for the Canada Lands. Why was the government in a hurry to do this? It is because it is all part of the same agenda. In this case it is part of the North American free trade agreement agenda. That is what Bill C-106 was about because there actually was a provision in the North American free trade agreement that would have protected the particular provision that Bill C-106 eliminated but only if it existed at the time of the implementation of the agreement.

There was an opportunity there to protect Canadian energy sovereignty that was removed by the government with the collaboration of the Liberal Party in the same week that we had to suffer through speeches by the Leader of the Official Opposition about how the Liberals were so very interested in reclaiming energy sovereignty for Canada in whatever talks they might have with the Americans after they form the government in the fall of this year, or so they hope.

What is happening today is all part of that same package. It is the nervy and quiet, and they do not make a big deal out of it, collaboration between the Liberals and the Conservatives when it comes to matters pertaining to the corporate agenda of deregulation, privatization and free trade. That is what is before us in this bill.

In the early eighties, when there was concern about deregulation of the telecommunications industry, the minister of communications for the Manitoba government at that time came down here and met with members of Parliament from Manitoba, of all political stripes. He expressed concern to them about the effect of deregulation on the ability of publicly owned utilities like the Manitoba Telephone System to provide affordable phone service to Manitobans.

Although affordable phone service is listed in this particular legislation as one of the goals of the bill there are no measures to guarantee that affordable service will be maintained. We all know that the end result of deregulation, and this is the legislative complement to what the CRTC has already made possible in terms of telephone competition, despite all the denials and arguments to the contrary will be that the relatively cheap phone service that ordinary Canadians have enjoyed for a long time will eventually disappear.

The ability of public utilities like the Manitoba Telephone System or other telephone companies to cross-subsidize and make possible the kind of affordable phone service that so many people have enjoyed will eventually be destroyed by the kind of competition that we are now seeing in the long distance telephone industry and in telecommunications generally.

It is a question of jobs and sovereignty and it is a question of whether we want to be part and parcel of this over-all agenda that I am sure the minister knows only too well. We are not for it. The minister says he is. He has his own reasons which are internally coherent, ideologically speaking. Our reasons for not supporting this kind of agenda are also internally coherent, ideologically speaking.

It bothers me that there are two different approaches coming out of the same political party. We constantly get rhetoric from the Liberal Party on this issue with respect to culture, sovereignty and independence. When push comes to shove it means eliminating the last vestiges of requirements for Canadian ownership of Canada Lands, voting with the government on deregulation of the telecommunications industry and being the party that actually started deregulation of the transportation industry in the first place.

These are the kinds of things Canadians should be aware of if they want to register their objection to these policies in the next election. They should be clear about just where everybody stands.

The matter of jobs is one of the big issues here because there are upwards of 100,000 jobs in Canada involved in this industry. These jobs are the backbone of many Canadian communities. In B.C. alone 820 jobs have just been lost. B.C. Tel said that these job losses are the direct result of deregulation and competition.

We see this so often. We see the industries themselves saying that the job losses in their particular sector are the result of deregulation. These companies are often quoted by the government as sources of reliable information and yet when they attribute job losses in their industry to deregulation, free trade or whatever the case

June 9, 1993

may be, these analyses are not taken seriously by the government.

Many times CN, for instance, has attributed what is happening in the rail sector in terms of job losses and down-sizing or rationalization, to free trade and deregulation. This is not something we are simply manufacturing out of nothing and attributing to these agreements because we do not like them. This is something the industries that are involved in this and know the ins and outs of their particular industries are saying about deregulation. B.C. Tel has said that these 820 job losses are the direct result of deregulation and competition.

Canadians will have an opportunity when the election is called to say whether or not they like this brave new world of deregulation in telecommunications, transportation or free trade. They will have an opportunity to say whether they want to continue with that or whether they want to choose an alternative.

God help them if they are trying to sort out where the Liberal Party stands on this. They will not be able to make sense of what Liberals say, do or how they vote in the House of Commons because they have been very inconsistent lately. They talked about energy sovereignty and yet voted against Canadian ownership in the Canada Lands. They talked against the government agenda in general and yet refused to see that deregulation is part and parcel of the whole corporate agenda that this government has been advancing.

Maybe I am wrong to say they refuse to see it. Maybe they do see it. I believe that when it comes to the corporate agenda there is very little difference between the Liberals and the Conservatives. There may be some other policy differences. They are not identical twins but they are certainly fraternal twins and when it comes to things like deregulation there is very little difference indeed.

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Subtopic:   TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
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NDP

Lyle Dean MacWilliam

New Democratic Party

Mr. Lyle Dean MacWilliam (Okanagan -Shuswap):

Mr. Speaker, I would just like to make a few comments directed to my colleague regarding the particular arguments he has just made.

As the critic for the New Democrats in the telecommunications area and one who saw this bill through its

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passage, it is somewhat confusing to see the level of criticism that was levelled at the legislation from our Liberal colleagues when I just found out a short while ago that they will be supporting the legislation.

I do not know how they can have their cake and eat it too. The opposition critic during committee stage and other members in the House today have been so critical of the various components of the legislation, yet when push comes to shove they say they do not like it but are going to vote for it.

We have taken the position that we do not like the bill. There are many weaknesses in the bill and we feel that although it will pass because the government has the majority it is a matter of principle. The bill is fundamentally flawed and we should oppose that legislation for the record and fight for stronger legislation in the future.

My colleague was talking about the whole problem of deregulation. The major thrust of this bill is to drive forward the deregulatory process. We have seen Unitel apply for application to the long-distance market. The CRTC has passed that and is now skimming the cream off the profitable long-distance market. As a result of that the cost of long-distance telephone calls has dropped substantially.

Traditionally the profits from long-distance telephone calls would be used to offset the high cost of local services and keep those costs low so all Canadians had access to those services. Mr. Ronald Lipert, a spokesman for AGT, the Alberta Government Telephone, said in February of this year that long-distance rates have decreased by 40 per cent and increases in local rates are the other side of it. As long-distance rates come down, local rates can only go up.

I want to ask my colleague, when local rates go up does that not endanger the very principle of universality and affordable access that has been held dear in terms of our past telecommunications policy?

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Subtopic:   TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
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NDP

William Alexander (Bill) Blaikie (N.D.P. Deputy House Leader)

New Democratic Party

Mr. Blaikie:

Mr. Speaker, I would submit to my hon. friend that it does endanger the principle of universality and affordable access and this is the case in so many other areas as well.

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In Canada we have had a practice which has been systematically destroyed and the telecommunications industry is one of the last areas in which this principle is to be destroyed. Cross-subsidization within industry and using the profits for instance that are made in some transportation corridors to subsidize other transportation corridors that are not as fruitful or profitable has gone by the board. It is also going by the board here in telecommunications.

Eventually this, user pay the full cost, kind of thinking will end up destroying the country because the principle of equalization which is in our Constitution is part of the same philosophy. We do not simply say to Manitoba, Saskatchewan or P.E.I. that they are on their own. We use the wealth that is created in more wealthy areas of the country to make a certain standard of living available for everyone.

It is the same principle when it comes to telephones. We would take the money we made in long-distance telephone calls to make it possible for everyone including the pensioner on a meagre fixed income to have inexpensive phone service. That is not going to happen.

Two separate reports have indicated that charges for local calls have increased world-wide when governments have attempted to reduce long-distance rates through competition. According to the Brussels-based European consumers organization the gap in the cost of service is widening between small and large users in most nations. This report released in early 1992 said that Canada was one of the most successful models of competition, that is to say before this bill. It is important to note this was completed before the CRTC announced its decision to deregulate the long distance market before the bill was passed. [DOT]

working system and they could not get their hands on any of the money.

We have restructured the whole country so that these people could get a piece of the action. While they get a piece of the action the average Canadian who used to be served well by a regulated transportation industry, a regulated telecommunications industry, a mixed economy, Crown corporations and all other things that used to work right in the country, is not being served well at all. That particular kind of Canada has been systematically dismantled by the government.

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Subtopic:   TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
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LIB

Ronald MacDonald

Liberal

Mr. Ron MacDonald (Dartmouth):

Mr. Speaker, I listened attentively and it is unfortunate the member got into so much faulty rhetoric. Much of what he says concerning some of the flaws in the bill is correct. If he had taken the time to read minutes of the hearings of the committee in their entirety, or even appear at some of the committees, he would know the motions put forward by the Liberal Party and by the New Democratic Party were in an interest not of getting everything we want or we would take our marbles and go home, but in trying to have a palatable bill go through the House after nine years of promises by the government.

Some of the work done by his party's critic, and most important the work done by the member for Mount Royal, was instrumental in correcting this far too late, tardy, death-bed legislation. It had some flaws that were inherent in the original piece of legislation, flaws that were seen by the Senate, the other place, when it studied it.

I do not live in a world of rose coloured glasses. I understand after five years in this place that the bunch opposite because they had the numbers would force through the most unpalatable legislation without blinking an eye.

In other words we used to do things right in the As reasonable individuals sitting in the opposition we country. There were a lot of things we used to do right in fight like hell and we get as much good put in bills as we the country. I do not understand the ideological obses- can. We do not always say that unless we get everything sion of the government, helped at times by the Liberals, we are going to go home, which is what the hon. member to destroy the way we used to do things. It worked well, seems to be saying. His party and his colleague did

incredibly good work on the bill.

What was the problem? The problem was that people

were excluded from the system who wanted to get in I want to ask a question of the member. He made a lot there and make money. That was the problem. The of references to some type of collusion between the Unitels of this world did not like the fact there was a Liberal Party and the tired old Tories opposite on free

June 9, 1993

trade and other legislation. His rhetoric was far too dangerous today.

When he gets up in the House is it possible that for once he could speak to some of the good things that happen with all three parties? Is it possible for once to acknowledge people like the member for Mount Royal who is an expert on communications and culture in the House? She has probably forgotten more about communications and culture than I will ever know or he or most members of the House.

When he speaks on a bill as important as this one, is it not possible for him to keep to the issue and to talk about some of the positive things that have been done by members on the Liberal side and indeed his own critic instead of getting away with reckless abandon on the rhetoric he foisted upon the House?

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Subtopic:   TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
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PC

Douglas Fee

Progressive Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Fee):

Could I ask the hon. member for Winnipeg Transcona to please be brief? We have one minute and a half left in the time allocated.

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Subtopic:   TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
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NDP

William Alexander (Bill) Blaikie (N.D.P. Deputy House Leader)

New Democratic Party

Mr. Blaikie:

Mr. Speaker, it is not a question of going home. I have not asked the Liberals to go home. I have asked why they are not voting against the bill.

They vote against all kinds of things here. They vote against almost everything routinely. I have pointed out that there is a strange coincidence between the government's corporate agenda with respect to deregulation and NAFTA and the times they choose to vote with the government. That is what I tried to point out.

Many times we have worked in committee. I acknowledge the good work done by the hon. member for Mount Royal and by my own colleague, the member for Okanagan-Shuswap. We cannot make a bad idea good with good legislation. I am suggesting the whole notion of deregulation in this case is unacceptable to us. That is why we vote against it. That is why the Liberals vote for it. In the final analysis they are of the same mind as the government when it comes to things like deregulation. That is the point I was trying to make.

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Subtopic:   TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
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PC

Douglas Fee

Progressive Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Fee):

Questions and comments have elapsed. On debate, the hon. member for B roadview-Greenwood.

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Subtopic:   TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT
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LIB

Dennis Joseph Mills

Liberal

Mr. Dennis Mills (Broadview-Greenwood):

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin my remarks by saying to the member of the New Democratic Party that all afternoon our colleague from Mount Royal was pointing out the flaws in the particular piece of legislation. I wanted to repeat that because in his remarks he suggested somehow we were co-operating with the government.

We are not co-operating with the government. We would co-operate with the government if we felt it was doing something constructive, but my colleague from Mount Royal was very specific about the major flaws in this piece of legislation.

At the same time a very important Canadian industry with world class technology is crying out for some rationalization or some modernization in terms of legislation. We are trying to make the best out of a bad situation. Because we are doing that, I do not want him to leave in the minds of Canadians that Liberals have abandoned our traditional principles.

We are a party that has stated in the House for many years that we believe in a strong national government and national programs. It is with national programs that we create national will.

In the last campaign I ran for a very specific reason. I opposed the Meech Lake accord. I could see the Prime Minister's agenda of breaking down or dismantling national institutions, national programs that were galvanizing and holding the country together, programs whereby stronger regions of the country were able to help disadvantaged regions, programs whereby profits for services in stronger urban areas could be used to make sure rural areas or disadvantaged areas could get the same service from coast to coast, region to region.

As Liberals we believe in the point the member of the New Democratic Party made about there being sufficient regulation in the legislation to ensure standard access and affordability across the country. We will continue to fight for it.

I can think of some of the damage the government has foisted upon the Canadian people. I remember in my own city what the government did to the Pearson International Airport, the most profitable airport in North America. In 1984 that airport with terminals 1 and 2 generated a profit before depreciation of close to $140 million. The profit made by the Crown on that airport

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was used to look after disadvantaged airports or smaller airports in remote regions of the country.

What has the government done now? It has privatized it. It has basically given that profit centre to the corporate agenda, the private sector. Now in order to maintain our smaller regional airports we have to come up with taxpayers' funds. We can no longer use the profit from Pearson International because it has been privatized. Therefore we have to go to the taxpayer. That is one reason this government has exacerbated the tax burden of Canadians.

In the face of deficit and debt reduction the government chopped the country into many different spirits and pieces. This is why this whole institution is not functioning right now. It has weakened the national government to a point where it no longer has the strength in times of economic crisis to unfold a solid national program. It is frustrated by the provinces because it has turned the provinces into stronger units than the national government.

This piece of legislation is important. This is an industry in which we hold a tremendous edge in terms of talent and technology. There is no way we can walk away from doing our best to support the expertise of the industry. It employs over 100,000 people. It is a $20 billion industry. We have to make the best of it.

The bottom line is that three to four months from now the actions, the agenda and the policies of the government will be put to the Canadian people. It is going to be held accountable for all those policies. Do people want a national government that has basically been dismantled? It has been penny-wise and pound-foolish on all kinds of services. Turning to the notion of contracting out, there used to be a situation where government provided all kinds of-

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Subtopic:   TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
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NDP

William Alexander (Bill) Blaikie (N.D.P. Deputy House Leader)

New Democratic Party

Mr. Blaikie:

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I thought the member was in the last few seconds if not minutes of a question and comment. I was asked to be brief in my previous response. The member has now gone on for almost the entire length of a question and comment period. Is he in debate or is he on a question and comment?

When you recognized the member, Mr. Speaker, you recognized him on a brief comment and question. I have been waiting to answer.

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Subtopic:   TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT
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PC

Douglas Fee

Progressive Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Fee):

In response to the member's point of order, following the response he made to a previous question I called for debate.

The member is now participating in debate. This is not question or comment.

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LIB

Dennis Joseph Mills

Liberal

Mr. Mills:

Mr. Speaker, I was actually trying to pick up on some of the points the member made in his remarks that I thought were actually quite constructive. I reassure him that the Liberal Party has not abandoned its traditional approach to making sure that we have a strong national government.

With a strong national government we are in a position to develop policy and ideas. When the conditions are such that the national government must step in to make sure people get back to work it then has the instruments in place to do it. It should not have to go cap in hand or begging to provinces to co-operate on every little piece of law or legislation developed in the House.

When we face the people in the next three to four months I am confident they will vote back the party, the team, that will stand and say we must have a strong national government. That is the only way we can attend to some of the things the member from the New Democratic Party talked about in this particular telecommunications bill.

My colleague from Mount Royal covered all pertinent aspects of the bill that were deficient. She brought forward many constructive amendments. Obviously all of them were not accepted. The point is that in opposition with this government we are lucky to get any kind of amendment at all. As most people in the country now know, when the government decides the way it is going to be, the whole notion of debate or exchange or making a piece of legislation better is something foreign to most of the thought processes on the other side of the House.

I found it really interesting when I listened to the minister earlier. I have known this minister for many years and I have a lot of respect for him. As I was listening to his remarks he talked about a strong national telecommunications policy. I noticed the emphasis on the words "a national" telecommunications policy.

June 9, 1993

I am sure when he reflects back on these nine years in government he will see that the general trend, the pattern, the approach has been just the exact opposite. This has not been a government of strong national programs. This has been a government of dismantling national programs and selling off Crown corporations, many of which could have been used to good public policy objectives in terms of keeping people working.

The government always uses the excuse of the deficit and the debt but many Canadians will find as we review some of the things that it has dismantled that in fact it has been a greater cost to the national treasury by the fact that it has dismantled them.

This is one of the last weeks in this Parliament. My colleague from the town of Mount Royal, our critic for culture and communications, has stated clearly and emphatically that if we are given the trust in the fall to govern this country then the necessary amendments to this legislation will be dealt with.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
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LIB

Ronald MacDonald

Liberal

Mr. Ron MacDonald (Dartmouth):

Mr. Speaker, I made some brief comments earlier but I am compelled to speak again concerning this bill.

First I want to commend the Liberal critic for culture and communication, the member for Mount Royal. If we could strip down some of the partisanship in the House I do not think that we would have many people, on all sides of the House including the government side, who would not agree that the member for Mount Royal is one of the most diligent and hard-working members in this Chamber.

Indeed, the zeal with which she approaches her work lends herself to an unusual degree of consensus from members all over this place about the level of contribution that she makes to the debate, to the policy process and to the committee work in this place.

When we came in here today we talked a lot. She stood up and gave her speech in response to the minister who almost broke both elbows patting himself on the back during his speech at this reading. I thought that the member for Mount Royal did an extremely good job of explaining what was good about this bill. She also talked about the things that were missing from this bill. She talked about process.

I would like to talk about process for a little longer. One of the things that the member has clearly done and something that the New Democrats opposite could learn

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from is that she understands that the policy process in this place here is a game of give and take. Clearly we do not like everything down to the final word that is in the bill. Clearly there are things that we argued should be in the bill but are not.

However, because we in our party take our jobs seriously, we understand that not everything is a vote in favour of the government or its legislation or against it. We are supporting this legislation as my colleague from Broadview-Greenwood just said because we support the industry. It is clearly necessaiy, after nine solid years of dithering by a whole host of ministers, all of whom were full of vim and vigour to identify the regulatory problems and the need to come in with comprehensive legislation to streamline it, but none of them seemed to have the political clout I guess to pilot it through the House.

Yes, we are supporting this bill but with a lot of qualifications. Yes, we are saying that we support the industry. We commend the minister albeit somewhat qualified for his late arrival on the scene to fix the regulatory environment. He should have done it a lot sooner.

There are things that should be in this bill that are not. Clearly it would be our hope that after the next election with a Liberal government on that side those things will be addressed. The Minister of the Environment knows that.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
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PC

Pauline Browes (Minister of State (Employment and Immigration))

Progressive Conservative

Mrs. Browes:

You're dreaming.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
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LIB

Ronald MacDonald

Liberal

Mr. MacDonald (Dartmouth):

We dare to dream on this side. We do not snuff out those flickers of ingenuity which all too often happens on the other side. I have even seen the minister's flicker of ingenuity be lessened in its brightness and brilliance lately.

I want to talk about the process on this bill. The minister opposite, for whom I have deep respect as a colleague, has been here a long time. Surely to goodness something happened on the way to the store with the minister.

In in 1992 he indicated clearly that it was his priority to fix the regulatory regime and to bring in a piece of legislation. After the fullness of debate and committee hearings and allowing all interested parties to have an input, hopefully we would have come up with a bill that was supportable not just by the Tories who have a

June 9, 1993

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majority or just by the Liberals but by all parliamentarians in this House.

Something happened on the way to the races with this minister. I could not quite figure it out. In 1992 he bought this bill in with a great deal of urgency and fanfare. He probably did a good speech and a good press conference on the whole issue and got a lot of people in the industry excited.

Finally after all those years, eight years at that time, the Conservative government was going to put its money where its mouth is and reform the regulatory environment. Those members had heard the same thing in 1984.

The minister at that time, the present Minister for International Trade, made it very clear that this was a top priority of this government. It was not a middle level priority. It was a top priority. He said in November 1984 in his economic statement: "There is a clear need for a national telecommunications policy to take advantage of the opportunities presented by rapidly advancing technology and the growing demand by Canadians for new telecommunication services". Nothing at all happened.

Then we get another minister, the hon. member for Frontenac. In a speech to the Canadian Bar Association on February 12, 1986 he said basically the same thing. The clock was ticking. There was a need for reform and they certainly knew how to say it in speeches. They singularly were unimpressive in their ability to bring those changes by way of legislation to the floor of the House.

The then minister said: "The fundamental revision of the policy and regulatory framework which allows the telecommunications industry to realize its potential has thus become a priority for me and for the government. I tackled reforms head-on while establishing the basic principles that should inspire it". That was in 1986.

It was seven or eight years after that before anything happened. It seems every time a minister wanted to impress somebody in the industry about their ability to grapple with complex matters they gave a speech and made a promise. Like all Tory promises, it was written in invisible ink.

As soon as it was said, the cameras were turned off, the microphones were put away and so were the intentions to come in with a solid piece of regulatory reform.

Flora MacDonald, the former member for Kingston and the Islands, came in with great fanfare and a paper that dealt with this very subject matter. Even the great Flora MacDonald who hailed originally from Cape Breton Island did not have the clout at that time to bring forward a piece of legislation and convince her cabinet colleagues that this was an important matter to have put on the agenda.

Then in 1992, after eight solid years of promises but no action, this minister tabled a bill. I will tell you, Mr. Speaker, that those who are experts in the field and who study this for a living in Parliament said: "Finally we have a piece of legislation that we can work on. If the process is allowed to unfold as it should we will have significant consultation with the interested Canadians and parties in the Canadian economy so that we can do this thing right". Like with a lot of the promises that are made on the opposite side, they stalled, sputtered and just did not go forward.

I tried to figure this out. My colleague from Winnipeg says that they dithered. I could not figure this out because the minister who has introduced this bill has a long history in this place and I think is respected by most members of Parliament.

This minister came in with a great promise. I can remember the press conference. I could not figure out what in the name of goodness would have dampened his tenacity and his resolve to get this thing through the process properly. I underline properly because properly means that we allow for reasonable and full debate. It means that members go to committee and allow all interested parties to appear and to put their points of view on the record dealing with the legislation. It means that it comes back here for report stage after that thorough examination at committee and that at report stage there is full debate. Then it goes on for third reading. Then it goes to the other place, to the Senate of Canada to go through a similar process.

How naive I was to think that the government that has used closure and time allocation more than any other

June 9, 1993

government in the history of the country would treat this bill any differently. How naive I was to think that the minister opposite was going to have the resolve, the tenacity and the commitment to go through a full process.

I am going to spend the rest of my time talking about the process because it stinks, it sucks big time. It is the type of process that the bunch opposite go through all the time which has led Canadians to be cynical at best about what we all do in this place, and at worst to condemn us all for what we do or do not do on their behalf in this place, the highest court in the land.

We waited. The bill was pre-studied. The Senate felt that it was such an important bill it wanted to pre-study it. It pre-studied it in June of last year and came forward I am told by my colleague from Mount Royal with a number of substantive changes to the legislation. That was what it was recommending. We did not see that piece of legislation coming back to the House of Commons.

This legislation has 138 or 139 clauses. It is a large technical piece of legislation, dealing with a very cumbersome and difficult to understand regulatory environment. The Senate did its job. It pre-studied it and came in with recommendations. When we did not see this bill back before the House we thought one of two things: either it no longer was a priority, that it had slipped off the list, off the agenda, as it had from all the previous ministers including the Minister of Finance, who gave nice flowery speeches but produced no solid piece of legislation; or the government was re-writing it, that it had looked at the Senate report and said there are a lot of things it has to do so it had better come back in with a new and substantially altered bill.

We did not get it. Ten months later, April 19 1993, the bill came in for second reading and there was time allocation. This minister had 14 or 15 months to put it before the Chamber. Either he did not think it was a priority or he had other personal priorities at the time, such as deciding whether or not to run for the leadership of his party, so he was preoccupied, or the House leader would not listen to him. I do not know which is worse.

What I do know is that we had 14 months in order to put this through the process without a shotgun at anybody's temple and allow the bill and the process to proceed. But the government was not satisfied and used time allocation at second reading.

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It was sent to committee. I am not on the committee and I am not an expert in this field, but I am told that when it went to committee not everybody could be heard. There were hearings over a period of two weeks. They were not hearings that went from morning through noon and night. They were not non-stop hearings so every interested party could be heard. They were regular committee hearings with the government majority saying: "Two weeks she's up. You can get x number of people here and the rest. They will have to append it, they will have to send it in, because we are simply not going to hear them". After 14 months of doing nothing, the committee was told on this very complex bill that it only had two weeks to hear all the witnesses. Can you imagine Mr. Speaker? It is the same type of thing the government has done with us time and time again on other pieces of legislation that have come through this place. If it does not like what it hears and its political agenda is otherwise, it just throws caution to the wind and says: "To heck with the process and the priorities in this House". It forgets the rights of members of this place to speak on behalf of their constituents and the rights of all Canadians when this type of legislation comes forward to be heard. The government does not care about that.

The government came back June 1 at report stage with an hour and a half of debate. The minister was sitting there and told me: "We are going to have to have time allocation. We simply cannot allow the opposition parties to debate this bill. My goodness, it is a filibuster". He would not know a filibuster from a filly.

I asked him before exactly what his definition of filibuster was. He got so flustered he could not even talk about filibuster. The minister asked my colleague from London a question: "Is it not true that the member for Mount Royal said she would filibuster?" The member for Mount Royal is probably one of the most productive members of this place. She takes her job seriously and fights hard. If the minister was honest and up front he would indicate that this bill that is going through this place today is a better bill because of the input she and other members like the New Democratic Party member made during the committee hearings.

When the bill came back from committee at report stage after truncated committee hearings the minister, on behalf of the government, introduced over 50 motions which my legal people tell me if they had been properly

June 9, 1993

Government Orders

worded would have meant about 100 amendments to a bill that has only 138 or 139 clauses.

Think about it. If the alarm bells were not ringing by that point they should have rung for him that the bill that was brought in originally 14 months before was in shambles. Either the premises that the bill was based on were wrong or the drafters were drunk when they did it. It was unconscionable.

The opposition parties came in with nearly 50 proposed amendments but life goes on. The Tories are having a leadership convention. They want to get as much legislation barrelled through this place as they possibly can so they can change leaders mid-stream. They could not care less about the legislative process so once again we have time allocation.

These members opposite use time allocation like some people use laxatives. Every time they get stuck they take a time allocation pill. They have used time allocation 30 times in this Parliament. They have used closure 15 times. They have thwarted the rights of parliamentarians and Canadians 45 times. They have used that bloody blunt instrument, tyranny of the majority called time allocation and closure. Then they have the nerve to say it is the opposition parties that are trying to hold up this "important" piece of legislation. Perhaps the thought of a new Prime Minister has forced this minister to go on bended knee to try to get the House leader to allow this piece of legislation to come forth.

In closing I think this is the type of bill that should be passed. There are a lot of flaws and things we do not like in it but we understand that the industry must be supported. We also understand that if we left this industry to the devices of the bunch opposite, particularly the Minister of Communications, I do not know where in the name of goodness they would go. This minister did nothing but dither for 14 months. In the final analysis the bill that is before us is not a perfect bill but it seeks to try to streamline the regulatory environment.

My reason for standing today is to speak to the process part of this bill. I think Canadians have a right to know and remember just how this government approaches legislation and just how this government approaches the

rights of parliamentarians and the Canadians they represent.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
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PC

Murray Dorin

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Murray W. Dorin (Edmonton Northwest):

Mr. Speaker, I would like to comment on the previous hon. member's speech.

He complained about the process but that seems to be a rather hollow complaint. We are trying to determine here whether or not this legislation is positive for Canada and the Canadian economy and whether or not it will improve the economy and create jobs among other things.

I think the suggestion that somehow the process should have been different can be refuted very simply by the comment of the hon. member for Mount Royal who made this statement in committee: "I forewarn you that you will have a filibuster in this House that you will not believe and you will not get this bill without calling closure". That is on the record and I do not think I have to repeat it. Let us deal with the substance of the bill.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
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?

An hon. member:

You call that a filibuster?

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
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PC

Murray Dorin

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Dorin:

Earlier today the legislation to implement the North American free trade agreement was passed through committee. I would like to talk about what this bill can do for the telecommunications industry in Canada and particularly the province of Alberta where you, Mr. Speaker, and I come from because I think we want to talk about the positive aspects of this bill.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
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June 9, 1993