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
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