Ms. Libby Davies
Mr. Speaker, thank you for those words. In fact, the background of the free trade agreement is very relevant to the bill before us today. In my discussion I will be moving right into the bill itself.
The point that we wish to emphasize is that the real story of the NAFTA, when we look at this bill, has not been a success for the Canadian people.
Going to the background of the bill before us today, we know that on February 15 of this year at the World Trade Organization Canada and 68 other countries concluded a multilateral agreement to liberalize trade and investment in telecommunications services.
The GATS agreement on basic telecommunications followed the conclusion of the information technology agreement which liberalized trade in information technology equipment.
Under the GATS the federal government has said that it is committed to eliminating the two remaining areas now closed to competition, overseas telephone service and fixed satellite services. As a result, Teleglobe's monopoly will end on October 1, 1998 and Telesat's monopoly will end on March 1, 2000.
Canada, as part of this agreement, has also agreed to remove foreign ownership restrictions in satellite earth stations and the landing of international submarine cables.
The key elements of Canada's offer under the GATS agreement on basic telecommunications are the elimination of the remaining monopolies of Teleglobe and Telesat, the liberalization of traffic routing restrictions, the elimination of minimum Canadian equity requirements for mobile satellite systems, the elimination of the special foreign ownership limits applicable to Teleglobe Canada, the elimination of the foreign ownership limits for international submarine cables and the adoption of a regulatory reference paper which sets out principles of regulations for all the signatory countries.
What is the government's position on this? We have been told by the industry minister that the changes contemplated in the bill before the House today, along with the GATT agreement, will lead to increased business opportunities for Canada's telecommunications industry at home and abroad.
We are told that Canada's telecommunications firms will have easier access to a more competitive international market and will capture a larger share of the $880 billion global telecommunications industry. Those are the same old arguments that were put before the people of Canada under FTA and under NAFTA. I would suggest that what we are really experiencing, instead of the benefits that we have been told that we will get, is the Americanization of all aspects of Canadian life as a result of these trade deals and now as a result of this bill if it is passed by the House.
I would like to spend a moment to look at what that experience has been for some Canadian companies. Think about the company CN, the railroad which once linked our country together and pioneered public broadcasting and our national airline. What happened to that company? It was sacrificed as a result of free trade. CN was sold for half of what it was worth and it is now owned 70% by Americans. It is now busy selling off parts of the rail network which, I might add, was built at public expense. It is being sold to other U.S. companies. All of the lines of northern Manitoba, including the port of Churchill plus two Saskatchewan lines, have been sold to Omnitrax of Denver, U.S.A.
It is now virtually impossible for Canadians to buy Canadian if they want to do so because whole sectors of our economy, such as pulp and paper and advertising, have been taken over by U.S. corporations. Now we are facing the same thing in the bill that is before us today. That is the real history of free trade.
Instead of getting out of these agreements and defending Canadian business interests and public interests, the Liberals ratified Mulroney's NAFTA and are now currently negotiating to extend NAFTA's investment section into a large new agreement called the multilateral agreement on investment. However, they do not have a public mandate to go ahead with the program under the MAI.
Regrettably, we all know that unless there is massive opposition by the public that the Liberals are prepared to sign the multilateral agreement on investment. They will be egged on to do so by the Reform and the Conservative parties, pushed and aided by corporations and their CEOs, to whom these parties are best friends.
It is absolutely necessary that these trade agreements and the bill that is before us today be advanced in terms of the public interest and not just corporate interests. They have to be advanced in terms of what will benefit Canadians. Trade liberalization should help improve wages and working conditions, not drive them down to the levels that exist in developing parts of the world.
We should be working for trade agreements that will help Canadian families and will include the introduction of real, enforceable and progressive social, labour and environmental standards.
We need to be working for stricter measures to prevent corporate tax evasion and stronger financial reporting requirements for large corporations that are not publicly traded.
The government should be working with its trading partners to develop international standards for taxation of income from capital to counter tax avoidance and evasion by corporations and the super wealthy.
That is what the government should be focusing on instead of opening up the flood gates and saying that under trade liberalization that we are going to somehow benefit. The contrary is true.
We also need the introduction of an international tax to control speculative currency trading. In recent years, such speculation has undermined some national economies, forcing up interest rates and throwing people out of work.
The NDP caucus speaks against Bill C-17 because it is part and parcel of the free trade agreement and the North American Free Trade Agreement and is now part of the globalization we are seeing under the multilateral agreement on investment.
I challenge the House of Commons and this Liberal government to protect the interests of ordinary working Canadians when signing any further trade agreements. It is time we had agreements that worked for Canada and Canadians, not against them.
Topic: Government Orders
Subtopic: Telecommunications Act