IN THE HOUSE ~ Speaking on Bill C-47 - The Olympic and Paralympic Marks Act

39th Parliament, 1st Session
Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP):

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise on behalf of the NDP caucus to speak in support of Bill C-47 as amended by the NDP. We raised some concerns when the initial bill was brought forward in this House. I will come back to that in a moment.

Subsequent to that we had yeoman's work done by our industry critic, the member of Parliament for Windsor West. As a result of that, some of the issues that were dealt with in the bill have been addressed. The bill has certainly been improved through the intervention of the NDP and the adoption of most amendments in committee.

Bill C-47 is something that touches people from British Columbia, but also touches people from coast to coast to coast across Canada. We are all impressed with the principles of the Olympic movement, the athletes that we see who train for many years through extenuating circumstances, often impoverished while working to attain that ideal in sport is something that all of us in this House respect.

We have seen from the Olympic movement the principle of athletes driving themselves to perform at their maximum. This is something that all members of this House can admire. I would particularly like to say that one of the improvements of the Olympic movement in the past few years has been the involvement of paralympic athletes.

We now increasingly see people with disabilities who have in a very real sense shown their competitive spirit and shown to what extent they can push themselves to excel. The Olympic movement has clearly been improved by the inclusion of people with disabilities in the paralympic movement. That is something that over the last few years has deepened the respect that people have around the world and across Canada for the principles of the Olympic movement.

We believe in the principles of the Olympic movement. We believe in the principles of the Olympic movement as expressed by paralympians. We believe in the principles of the Olympic movement that we see expressed through athletes pushing themselves to be the best possible. We are extremely proud of the athletes from Canada from coast to coast to coast who have excelled in the winter Olympics and the summer Olympics. We have much to be proud of in Canada, particularly our Olympic athletes who prove through every Olympic Games to what extent they are willing to push themselves to their maximum to excel for their country.

We support those principles, but our role as New Democratic Party members in this House is also to closely scrutinize legislation and to make sure that what is proposed is actually achieved. That has been the role of the NDP historically since the foundation of our party. We have always been the party of sober second thought. That is why when Bill C-47 came forward we supported the principle of course for reasons I will come back to later.

We had concerns about Olympic cost overruns, but we wanted to see clear improvements made to the legislation itself. We believe that the legislation should have exempted electronic media for example. We also believe that a sunset clause had to be very clear about the extent of the number of terms that are used. The Vancouver Olympics, the 2010 marks, are quite extensive. Seventy-five terms are included within that very broad use of copyright terms. We wanted to make sure as well that there is a very clear sunset clause that would take effect at the end of the year 2010.

We also wanted to make sure that aboriginal and not for profit groups would have an opportunity to have no cost licences through the Olympic movement. In that way they would be able to contribute in some way and receive some benefit from the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games. We also wanted to make sure there was an appeal process in place.

We brought forward those amendments, more than all other parties put together. We closely scrutinized the legislation and my colleague from Windsor West, very eloquently as he always is, brought forward those amendments in committee.

We were able to achieve two of the four improvements that we wanted to see in this legislation as a result of the NDP's interventions in the industry committee. Now as we bring this NDP improved legislation into this House we see that electronic media is exempted from the act.

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We also have achieved the sunset clause for December 31, 2010 to make sure the protections that are offered through Bill C-47 are temporary in nature only.

We are hoping as well, and we certainly directed the VANOC committee to do this, that the regulations take into consideration the fact that we have many local businesses that have existed for many years in the lower mainland and throughout British Columbia. We anticipate from VANOC, Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee, that they will respect those historic trademarks and those historic presences through the regulations that will be drafted after the act is passed into law. We expect that will happen.

We are disappointed that the amendment regarding aboriginal groups and not-for-profit groups that was co-authored by the NDP was not accepted by other parties in the House. We certainly believe it would have been an improvement to Bill C-47. We offered it and, unfortunately, it is not before us today.

We also wanted to see an appeal system to make sure that individuals and small businesses were not caught in the kind of bureaucratic machinery that we often see as members of Parliament. What we have from Bill C-47 is some real improvements brought forward by the NDP.

Let me get back to the principle, because this is an important element. We believe that there must be some copyright protection because we are concerned about the extent of Olympic cost overruns. The auditor general of B.C. spoke to this just a few months ago, September 2006. I will read into the record the CanWest news service article on the B.C. auditor general's report into Olympic spending.

It is very relevant and pertinent that we seek to ensure that VANOC has the ability to go out there and get the sponsorships that will reduce the taxpayers' burden on these Olympic Games. The NDP in the B.C. legislature, Harry Bains, who is the provincial B.C. NDP Olympics critic, has been front and centre in ensuring that we do have that accountability and that we try to reduce what could be a substantial taxpayers' burden if things are not handled with due diligence.

As we all know, the NDP has the best fiscal management record of any party in Canada. I am not the one saying that, it is the federal Ministry of Finance. It did a 20 year study and compared how Conservatives managed money from actual fiscal year end returns, how Liberals managed money, how the Parti Quebecois in Quebec and Social Credit managed money and how NDP provincial governments managed money.

It came up, after 20 years, with the conclusion that the worst fiscal managers were actually the Liberal Party. Most of the time Liberals governments actually finished their year end, regardless of what their projections were, with a deficit.

The second worst were actually Conservative administration, provincial and federal. Two-thirds of the time Conservative administrations actually show up in deficits.

The best by far were NDP administrations. Most of the time when surpluses or balanced budgets were projected, they actually came out as balanced budgets or surpluses in the year end fiscal returns.

The NDP has a proud history of being the best financial managers in the country. That is understandable. We are a party composed of ordinary working families and working Canadians who have to manage with fewer resources. As a result of that, they are much better at managing resources than anybody else. If we talked to a single mother who is trying to raise children, that Canadian woman knows how to manage with very few resources. As a result of being a party of ordinary Canadians, we have achieved what is undoubtedly, accordingly to the federal Ministry of Finance, which is certainly not an NDP affiliated organization, the best record of financial accountability.

We are providing that same oversight that we do in this Parliament and in provincial legislatures across the country to the issue of the Olympic Games.

I will come back to the CanWest news service article. It is dated September 15, 2006 and it states:

The 2010 Olympic Games will cost B.C. taxpayers nearly $1 billion more than the provincial government previously indicated, according to the province's acting auditor general. In a hard-hitting report released Thursday, Arn Van Urso pegs the true cost of the Olympics at a minimum $2.5 billion, of which $1.5 billion will come from the province.

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The B.C. government insists its total commitment to the games in $600 million but then Van Ursel says that figure ignores key Olympic related costs.

The government, he said, needs to come clean with the public.Given the province has the ultimate responsibility for the financial outcome of the games we feel that there should be regular and complete reporting of the total games cost to the taxpayers, the report states.To date the province has only reported to taxpayers on a $600 million envelope that is established. However there are many other games

The 65 page report, and I have it here, also highlights significant problems with the management and marketing of the Olympics and warns that costs could go even higher. Van Ursel found for instance that the province lost $150 million in projected revenue from broadcasting and international sponsorships by failing to adopt a routine hedging strategy that would have protected it against fluctuations in the dollar.

He found too that the government will have to wait six years longer than expected to launch a marketing campaign because it did not realize the International Olympic Committee restricts such campaigns until the previous Olympics are over. B.C. had planned to start its campaign in 2003 but now will have to postpone it until after the 2008 Olympic Summer Games in Beijing.

Van Ursel said: The delay could hurt the province's plan to reap some economic spin-offs.

The auditor's report also notes that the Vancouver Organizing Committee has transferred construction risks for many of the venues to other partners. But if rising costs make it impossible or those partners to finish the job there is a risk the province will have to contribute more funding through VANOC to get the projects completed, the report says.The provinces has set aside $76 million for such unexpected costs but the auditor general also questions whether that emergency fund will be enough.NDP critic Harry Bains said the report shows B.C. risking a financial disaster on part with the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. All you have to do is go back to what happened in Montreal and then go back to what happened in Athens, he said. We do not want to see that kind of stuff happening here, but the way this government is going, the direction this management is going, I think there is a real risk of going in that direction if we do not stop it now.

Escalation continues to run rampant in British Columbia as a result of higher material and labour costs and the lack of competitive bids and skilled tradespeople especially in the lower mainland.

That comes from a Victoria Times columnist but it underscores our concerns. We are profoundly supportive of the ideals and the principles of the Olympic movement and Paralympic movement. We are profoundly supportive of our athletes. In fact the NDP throughout its history has called for more support for Canadian athletes. There is no doubt about that. However we balance that off with real concerns about the cost overruns that are apprehended with these Olympic Games and both at the provincial legislature in Victoria and here in the federal Parliament we are raising those issues on a regular basis.

We saw Bill C-47 as a bill that would help to address in part those apprehended Olympic cost overruns and we want to make sure that the Vancouver Olympic Committee can do what it needs to do to ensure that there are as few obligations imposed on taxpayers as possible.

In fact, we would like to make sure that the B.C. provincial government does its job to ensure that there is not additional funds required. However we are generally concerned as is B.C.'s auditor general with the direction the provincial government is taking. So we support in principle Bill C-47 and we constructively brought forward amendments that improve the bill, so that the bill actually does address some of the concerns that people have raised about it perhaps going too far.

The sunset clause will make a difference, there is no doubt. The exemption on electronic media will make a difference, there is no doubt about that. We have certainly sent I think a very clear message to the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee that we want to make sure the regulations keep with the spirit of what the NDP has offered at the industry committee and what we are saying here in the House.

We want to make sure that these games proceed smoothly and that in the end all Canadians and all British Columbians will be happy and will be content with how the games actually came about and will feel some sense of pride that we in the Vancouver-Whistler area about the 2010 Olympic Games that really shows the ideals of the Olympic movement and also the ideals that we all have as Canadians.