Philip EDMONSTON

EDMONSTON, Philip, B.A.

Parliamentary Career

February 12, 1990 - September 8, 1993
NDP
  Chambly (Quebec)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 1 of 68)


May 25, 1993

Mr. Edmonston:

What was that number?

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
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May 25, 1993

Mr. Edmonston:

Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, what we have even greater need of here in Canada is a domestic free trade agreement between our provinces, rather than a free trade agreement between Canada, the United States and Mexico. I refer to that because I worked on the committee along with my Liberal colleague who has so much experience with cultural groups in Quebec. I recall that we heard representations from several Quebec cultural groups who claimed that with Bill C-115, Quebec song writers, film makers and producers would be forced to accept less than they had already obtained under the Berne convention signed in 1971.

The Berne convention awards Quebec and Canadian artists a certain amount of protection. Following their death, their works retain a certain value and are bequeathed to their heirs.

Under the NAFTA, which we are discussing this evening, Quebec and Canadian artists will have less

protection. This is a very important point because when I speak of less protection, it means that when, for example, we speak of Quebec as a distinct society, Bill C-115 will make Quebec less distinct. Artists all across Canada will be less protected. That is unfortunate because that which they have already acquired under the Berne convention will no longer exist.

We were astonished to learn this in the course of the committee meetings into this question. This is not merely a question of vested rights. Today, as the United States wonders whether it can accept the NAFTA without sanctions, and until now, the United States has determined that it cannot endorse the NAFTA without provisions respecting the environment and worker protection, we here in Canada are not even asking ourselves the same question. We here in Quebec, in Canada and in this House are being forced to speak now at one o'clock in the morning on draft legislation which is being bulldozed through Parliament. We are being forced to vote on this bill whereas the United States has decided to apply the brakes.

As a Canadian citizen and as the member for Chambly, I am truly uncomfortable with this bill because when I chose Canada 25 years ago, I did not want to choose a country like the United States. I wanted a country that was better than the United States, a country that appreciated its artists and appreciated the value of their works.

Unfortunately, tonight, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, if we fail to stop or to substantially amend this bill, it is clear that Canada will be significantly changed in several years' time or over the next few decades, that is 20, 30 or 40 years down the road. How will Canada have changed? Canada will resemble the United States, it will be carried along by U.S. policies.

One thing about this bill surprised me. When European countries engaged in negotiations with the European Economic Community over the past 13 years, they engaged in a dispassionate, comprehensive and open debate of the various aspects of the proposed legislation before them. They wanted to achieve unity and to have as many participants and as many different viewpoints as possible to ultimately determine where everyone stood on the proposed legislation respecting the European Economic Community.

May 25, 1993

Unfortunately, the problem we have today is that we are dealing with a government that wants to accomplish in three days what it took the European Economic Community 13 years to accomplish-three days as compared to 13 years. How then can we have a dispassionate, rational, effective, intelligent debate as parliamentarians when we are being bulldozed into taking part in it? An intelligent debate is impossible under these kinds of conditions.

You can understand then why I find this process, this debating climate, unhealthy. Furthermore, given the reluctance on the part of the U.S. government to endorse NAFTA as it now stands, without sanctions and without parallel agreements on environmental protection, without parallel agreements on U.S. worker protection, I wonder why are we in such a hurry. I remind you that 24 members of the U.S. House of Representatives have already made it known-I repeat that that these Americans, these members of the U.S. House of Representatives-have already made it known that they will not endorse NAFTA, even if it contained parallel agreements on the environment and on worker protection.

I must also say that after listening to the fisheries minister, who was quoted in several newspaper articles, state that the opposition to and the dissatisfaction with NAFTA, the North American free trade agreement, came only from unions and their membership, I am truly disgusted with such a statement, because I know for a fact that many other people, not just unions and their members, are opposed to the agreement.

I would like to quote from an article published in Le Devoir because it mentions the fisheries minister and also because I find it most interesting. The article states the following: "Mr. Crosbie notes that unions in Canada have voiced their staunch opposition'' to NAFTA. The minister pointed out that unions are opposed to everything, including NAFTA. Said the minister jokingly: "Every time the unions get a pimple on their nose, they blame it on NAFTA."

NAFTA is no joking matter. It is not merely a matter for the unions or for fringe groups. Almost two thirds of the Canadian population are opposed to the agreement. Unfortunately, they are not here today, but we as parliamentarians represent them. We realize just how

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arrogant the government is when it claims that only a small, marginal group is opposed to NAFTA when in reality more than two thirds of all Canadians are opposed to this agreement and to signing it. The government is making the same stupid mistake it made in the past with the Constitution. You recall, Mr. Speaker, what they said at the time: "Come on, only marginal groups are against the Charlottetown agreement".

In conclusion, let me say that most Canadians are opposed to this bill respecting NAFTA because they are far more intelligent than this government.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
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May 25, 1993

Mr. Edmonston:

An economic guru.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
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May 25, 1993

Mr. Phillip Edmonston (Chambly):

Mr. Speaker, I too support the motion to which my hon. colleague was just speaking.

I sat in on the committee and I am very disappointed in not having the minister here today in order to get the answers we have been seeking at committee. I was in committee and I was assured that he would be here.

We are dealing with a bill of such importance that it can affect every part, every element of Canada for centuries to come. The consequences of this bill are huge. The thing that concerns us is this: Why are we rushing it through?

We said previously to Madam Speaker that we felt it was important, because we have five or six other bills today, that we deal with those bills first in order to get them through and, with the consent of the House, to debate them. I see other ministers here who are concerned about those bills. We could have in a serene, competent, efficient manner dealt with those other bills

May 25, 1993

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and allowed the government to put up the competent people that it has, including the minister, to deal with Bill C-115 dealing with the application of the North American free trade agreement.

That is not what is happening. What is happening, as my colleague said earlier, is a type of treaty, a type of agreement that the European Economic Community took 13 years of compromise and discussion to negotiate. We are rolling up those 13 years into three days. That is a mockery of Parliament. That is a mockery of the parliamentary system. We were elected to represent our constituents.

I do not want to polarize the debate. I see that the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans has already said it is only the unions that are against Bill C-115. In my riding of Chambly I have heard very little from the unions against this bill. I have heard a lot from average nonunionized Canadians. In Quebec the workers in the cultural industries, particularly the composers, the authors and those who are writing computer programs are very concerned about what this bill does to the rights they have already acquired.

I see some of my friends on the other side. When we mention acquired rights in Quebec, we really touch a number of nerves. One of the nerves we touch is cultural rights because in Quebec authors or song writers will have less protection. After going through this bill in the next three days with this marathon legislation, if we pass it, artists will actually have less protection than they had from the 1971 Berne convention. That gave them and their estates protection so they could continue to sell their books, their songs and their screenplays.

If this bill becomes law in this marathon three day event, we are actually taking away acquired rights from Quebecers, from Ontarians, from artists all over this country. It is going to hit the artistic community right between the eyes. I think that is unpardonable.

It is not a union idea. It is not a union problem. It is a problem of basic common sense. When we talk about basic common sense and this government, it is an oxymoron. I am not calling this government a moron. I am saying essentially that when it comes to common sense and anything involving trade with the United States we seem to throw common sense out the window.

All the New Democratic Party is asking is that we behave as parliamentarians. Let us go through Bill C-115 with the minister present, with a serene debate on the issues so that we can know what is happening with this moving target with which we are dealing.

From day one the United States has had problems with the NAFTA. Right now it is teetering on the edge because it is seriously held up by the whole question of the side agreements that have to be passed. The Americans are saying that before they touch the NAFTA they want side agreements on the environment and on worker protection.

We in Canada are not saying that. We are saying: "We cover our eyes, Mr. Clinton. Give it to us and we will sign anything". That is not parliamentary. That is not even common sense. We should be dealing with this with our eyes open, with the minister here to help us, because it is a moving target. The whole question of sanctions has opened up a Pandora's box of definitions.

Speaking of definitions, we still do not know what is a subsidy. We have been hit hard by the question of subsidies. In Quebec our industries are concerned about what Americans call subsidies because we have a proud history of working hand in hand with our industries to help them out and to help our people out in order to create jobs. However, subsidies are not touched. Let us touch them. Let us define them.

Let us move ahead. Let us not just move sideways. Let us not start each side calling the other side a purveyor of actions which are only used to slow down the process. We are not doing that. We want the process to be meaningful. We want to be meaningful parliamentarians on this bill. As you yourself noted, Mr. Speaker, this bill has 27 individual motions, amendments, changes. On each one of those we have something to say but we need feedback from the other side. We do not want to talk in a vacuum. We want members on the other side who have studied this to tell us where we are wrong and also to have the presence of mind and the honesty to tell us where we are right. I will be darned if all 27 motions are wrong.

However, if we are going to do our job right and if the artists in Quebec, the artists in Kamloops, the artists in Ontario and the artists throughout the country are going to be protected then we need that free flow of informa-

May 25, 1993

tion. We need what we in the House of Commons call debate. I know that the idea may seem foreign to my friends on the other side, particularly when we do not have the minister with us to debate, but doggone it, it is not fair to come here prepared to argue a case as parliamentarians and then find we do not have anyone to argue with.

This is not some academic exercise. This is not where we simply make a show for our friends at home. They are vitally interested in both sides of the question. I will be darned if I will accept the minister of fisheries saying it is a union question. It is a Canadian question. It has nothing to do with unionism per se. It has to do with our sovereignty. It has to do with how we are going to live in the future. I am sorry to say again to my friends on the other side who have not understood it in the past that it has to do with jobs.

We are suffering right now a recovery which is called a jobless recovery. Why is it a jobless recovery? Where did those jobs go? Well, Mr. Speaker, I can only tell you a little bit of a modification on Horace Greely: "Go south, young man". That is where the jobs are going. The problem is that when we have an opportunity which we have not had in the past, to really go through the different motions on each side and debate in a free and open encounter, we cannot do so. I think that stinks.

I think both sides of the House should get down to business, look at each one of these motions and have the members on the other side give us the latest information that they have because, as I said, we are shooting at a moving target. The Americans are not going to give in. We are talking about parallel agreements which are substantial and the Americans are not going to sign a thing until they get those substantial side agreements. We should not touch or sign anything until we get the same.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
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May 25, 1993

Mr. Phillip Edmonston (Chambly):

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to rise tonight at this late hour to speak on the motions that are before us.

This is the second time that I have had a chance to speak on the motions. As one knows we are dealing with the second grouping of motions. The first dealt primarily with the environment. Now we are dealing with questions of predominance of Canadian law and Bill C-115.

May 25, 1993

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I rise to push for the amendments to Bill C-115 that have been put forward by my party as well as by my colleagues, amendments that are intended to amend the bill to implement NAFTA.

For the people who are watching and listening to us tonight and who are wondering what NAFTA is, it is the North American free trade agreement. The reason why we are supporting the amendments proposed by our Liberal colleagues, as well as the ones from our party, is that we know that the bill as it now stands is imperfect. It is a bill that we cannot accept and that we thought worth while to amend, at least in substance, in order to make it less cumbersome and more acceptable for Canada.

The problem with this bill is a fundamental one. I would like to ask you to intervene-Excuse me, Mr. Speaker, but-

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
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