Hon. Paul Hellyer (Trinity):
Mr. Speaker, this bill is received with somewhat mixed emotions. It gives to the government a very substantial increase in its arbitrary powers, which has in fact the potential for consequences which are far beyond those that might appear inevitable in the short-run or on cursory examination. Curiously enough, the vehicle for this new broad range of powers is the Export and Import Permits Act, envisaged primarily as an act to protect the vital interests of Canadian security from a defence and security standpoint. One wonders if it is a sign of the times, based perhaps on the experience of the Arab world in using a resource, namely oil, as a strategic weapon, that we now consider raw materials in that sense or is it merely a question of expediency that an existing act is being used for the purpose of obtaining new powers with objectives far removed from those associated with the main purport of the original act.
April 23, 1974
Export and Import Permits
The proposed amendments have the effect of introducing economic dirigisme with somewhat nationalistic overtones. Clause one will permit the cabinet to restrict the export of any natural resource produced in Canada if national policy requires the further processing of the product in this country. In addition, the cabinet would be permitted to restrict the export of raw or processed material other than agricultural products in circumstances of surplus supply and depressed prices.
On the agricultural side the cabinet, in addition to the powers already explicitly provided in the act, will be able to limit the import of any article under the Farm Products Marketing Agencies Act similar to articles produced or marketed in Canada where the quantities are fixed or determined under the act. With the general objective of increasing the extent of processing of Canadian raw materials in Canada it is difficult to argue. This is a view which is widely held. I think Canadians are tired of being hewers of wood and drawers of water. They feel we should have a greater participation in the processing of our own raw materials. This is a perfectly legitimate aspiration of Canadians. There are many examples one can think of.
Uranium, for instance, is a natural resource which obviously will come into increased demand around the world. It is a rare commodity in the sense that it has such a vast power potential. It is, in fact, one of the great resources of the world. It can be used as a trade-off to other power sources. It will have a profound effect not only as an alternative to the burning of fossil fuels, for example, but consequently as an economic limitation of a sort to the pricing of other energy sources. It has often been suggested that we should enrich uranium in this country and take advantage of the tremendous increase in value added that that would entail. It has also been suggested we should refine more of our oil in Canada and should export, to the extent that we do export oil from this country, a higher proportion of refined and finished products, thereby ensuring a greater return to Canadian industry and greater opportunities for Canadians to participate and thereby benefit from the higher technology and techniques involved.
Some of our entrepreneurs are doing the same thing in respect of lumber. We are now developing at a very rapid rate trade in pre-fabricated houses which are being exported to France, Japan and elsewhere. One could make a case for the encouragement of a greater degree of processing of these materials, including Canadian lumber, in this country. Of course, another example where we have long complained that United States markets were not available to us to the extent they should be, is in the field of fine papers from our forest products. These are merely indicative of the types of processing opportunities which are available to us as Canadians.
There is a long list. I have not attempted to enumerate in any exhaustive way the wide variety and scope which is available to us, but have merely indicated that there are areas where we could increase the extent of processing in Canada, and consequently benefit in a very material way from the availability in this country of the vast natural resources we have. I suggest this is an area which deserves perhaps more study than we have given it, and that we
should undertake as a matter of urgency a study of the areas in which Canadian value added could be achieved, with a minimum of capital investment and a maximum return to Canadians. The whole question of resource development is a very controversial one, in respect of our renewable resources less so than when one discusses the non-renewable resources. When it comes to renewable resources I think the principles are fairly widely accepted. The principle of course is that we should manage our forests, our fisheries and our farms in such a way that we are able to optimize the yield on a sustainable basis. It is just a matter of common sense that we introduce policies that will give us, on a long term projection, the maximum yield which can be obtained without destroying the basis of the annual harvest.
We have much to learn in these areas. Our forest management techniques although quite excellent in some areas are perhaps not as good as they could be. I am sure that hon. members who are particularly interested in the fishery would say we have much to achieve in this area, including the development of international agreements which will not only enable but require our partners in the world to use the discretion necessary in order to maximize the yield on a long-term basis. But in these areas there are some established principles. The principles are really those I have stated, a maximization of the long-term sustainable yield.
When it comes to the question of non-renewable resources the determination of what one might call the best interest is not so easily made. Extreme positions range all the way from a full-speed ahead type of unlimited exploitation on the one hand, to an attitude of leave the resources in the ground for future generations and only use what is immediately required in Canada by Canadians, on the other hand. These are the extreme positions. I would suspect, as is ordinarily the case, that some middle ground would make the most sense for Canada. I urge the government once again to consider the desirability of cost-benefit studies in these areas. Seldom have I heard- as a matter of fact I have never heard-a discussion of this very important question based on sufficient information as would answer the question whether it is in Canada's long-term interest to accelerate exploitation of certain resources and to use the yield from those resources to repatriate the ownership of Canadian equities in many areas, including manufacturing facilities, as against the inevitable appreciated value of the resources if left for exploitation at some future time. I do not say that the answer to this question will be a categorical one but I do say that any good manager-and certainly this would apply in the present case in so far as a government of Canada is concerned-in order to make the decisions which are in the best interests of Canada should have that information available to him.
So, it would be very worthwhile without any further delay to have some top notch economist work out the long term benefits of Canadian equity ownership of industry, for example, and to compare what the yield would be to Canadians as consumers and as taxpayers by following different courses, whether they would realize the most benefit from an accelerated exploitation of some limited
April 23, 1974
April 23, 1974
Export and Import Permits
apply pressure, direct or indirect, to extend the scope of the Farm Products Marketing Agencies Act beyond that which is required or determined by the farmers themselves. They should not be subject to subtle pressure from the government or the civil service which may have its own ideas as to how things should be done.
Finally, I think the minister has made an acceptable case for the deletion of the expiry date of the act. I think its original inclusion was related to the cold war and the hope the day would come when it would not be necessary to have this kind of legislation on the books. In those circumstances, it should have a periodic review by parliament. With the kinds of powers now being asked for, and the extension of the scope of the act as to what is really an economic dirigisme, it would seem proper that the act be accepted as a permanent piece of legislation and given a fair trail. It should of course be subject to amendment at any time in the normal way, but without the consequent problems that arise from statutes with a specific expiry date.
We will support this bill, Mr. Speaker, notwithstanding the far-reaching consequences. We reserve the right in committee to examine in detail some of the more profound and possibly far-reaching consequences that are difficult to really come to grips with at first glance. At the same time, we think these powers are probably a legitimate extension of government in the present context and we will go along through second reading to the committee stage.
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: EXPORT AND IMPORT PERMITS ACT