This previous post highlighted proposed amendments to Canada’s Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act.

Last week, Canada’s House of Commons held this debate on the bill, S-14.

The debate is very interesting on so many levels and touches upon the following issues I frequently explore on this website and in my other writings (see here for instance) including:

* how civil society organizations and other well-intentioned groups and persons help facilitate, what seems at times, a new “global arms race” in which bringing the highest quantity of bribery-related enforcement actions appears to be more important than the quality of actions

* how the crackdown on “foreign” corruption often exposes glaring double standards when it comes to “domestic” corruption

* how everyone likes to talk about getting tough on bribery and corruption without really defining what it means

Below are excerpts from the House of Commons debate, with the name of the member making the statement.

John McKay (Scarborough—Guildwood, ON)

“In my previous remarks I talked about how aggressive the Americans are with respect to prosecutions in corruption. The numbers are something in the order of, for the same period of time, 277 prosecutions in the United States for corruption whereas in Canada we only had two. In this respect, the Americans are world leaders and not only world leaders in terms of the aggressiveness with which they prosecute companies that engage in corrupt activities. They do not shy away from prosecuting some of the most recognized companies in the world that trade on U.S. stock exchanges. Therefore, not only is their prosecution aggressive but their legislative agenda is also aggressive.”

[...]

“Sometimes we just have to bring the hammer down and the government has thus far declined to do that. The United States has brought the hammer down. The U.K. is in the process of bringing the hammer down. The EU has brought the hammer down. Australia is in the process.”

[Dear Mr. McKay, as highlighted in this previous post, the U.S. has most certainly not brought 277 FCPA enforcement actions since 1999.  One can only arrive at numbers like that with creative counting methods.  Also, resolving FCPA inquiries with non-prosecution and deferred prosecution agreements, the typical way such inquiries are resolved here in the U.S., is not exactly bringing the hammer down.  But then again, if you are interested in inflating Canada’s enforcement statistics (see here for a prior post highlighting comments from a former U.S. Attorney General), and thereby earning the praise of such groups like Transparency International, you too may be interested in NPAs and DPAs.  Perhaps you’ve heard the British are going down this road]

Alex Atamanenko (British Columbia Southern Interior, BC)

“In a report released in 2011, Transparency International ranked Canada as the worst of all the G7 countries with respect to international bribery. I say this is disgraceful. The organization pointed out that Canada rarely, if ever, enforces its negligible anti-corruption legislation.”

“Since then, the government has started trying to address this national embarrassment. However, since 1999, there have only been three convictions, two of them in the past two years. When I read that, I was surprised. It seems that we should be in first place with regard to corruption and our fight against corruption.”

Ève Péclet (La Pointe-de-l’Île, QC)

“It is important to note that, in its report, Transparency International ranked Canada last among the G7 countries in combating corruption. It is important to say that. The government needs to realize that it is time to take action. Since 1999, there have been only three convictions under acts passed to combat corruption. It is true that the legislation was in force, but it was barely complied with and barely enforced. This bill is therefore extremely important. It is time for the government to open its eyes and do something to combat corruption.”

Jonathan Tremblay (Montmorency Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC)

“Mr. Speaker, I believe that with this bill the government is trying to capitalize on events in the news without really thinking about what should be done to remedy the situation.”

[...]

“Mr. Speaker, I have this lasting feeling that the bill is yet another attempt by the government to use current issues to score political points, without really thinking about what should be done to solve this problem.”

Dave Van Kesteren (Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON)

“Since its introduction on February 5, the proposed changes have given Canada good marks both from domestic stakeholders and from the OECD working group on bribery. These positive comments from groups such as Transparency International were given with the strong caveat that proposed amendments be adopted. Canada has invested a lot of credibility in getting this bill tabled, and we are to report back to the OECD in the near future regarding its adoption.”

Julian Fantino (Minister of International Cooperation)

“Despite our commitment to this issue, over the last number of years, international anti-corruption bodies and Canadian stakeholders have urged us to strengthen our laws. The OECD working group on bribery issued a report in March 2011 that raised specific concerns with regard to the strength of Canada’s current legislation. As I have previously stated, we were pleased to submit a report to them earlier this year highlighting Bill S-14, which shows distinct progress.

Another important stakeholder in the fight against corruption is Transparency International, which also recently came forward to make the case that Canada could do more. I am pleased to tell the House that, following the introduction of Bill S-14, Janet Keeping, chair and president of Transparency International, said that Transparency International Canada was delighted that the federal government is moving to strengthen the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act in accordance with Canada’s international obligations, and encourages the government to ensure that the RCMP have the resources necessary to enforce the particular act effectively. She also said that legal changes of the kind proposed are only as good as the government’s commitment to making the law meaningful on the ground.”

Joy Smith Kildonan (St. Paul, MB)

“I would like the minister to comment on an example of what corruption would be. I think this is very important because I think members opposite are confused about what real corruption is.”

Don Davies (Vancouver Kingsway, BC)

“In looking at this bill, and given the record of the government, I find myself yearning to have a companion bill introduced in the House that would be entitled, “an act to amend the corruption of domestic public officials act”. There is a whole host of things we could be dealing with.

In terms of domestic corruption, we could be trying to deal with $90,000 payments to senators made by officials in the Prime Minister’s Office allegedly to cover up illegal activity. We could be investigating Canadian senators fraudulently claiming housing and living expenses. We could be looking into people like Arthur Porter, another Conservative and a former appointment made by the Prime Minister to the CSIS oversight board, who apparently helped himself to millions of taxpayer dollars in Montreal and fled to South America. We could be looking into Conservative candidates like Peter Penashue, who spent over the election limits and effectively bought his seat by cheating. We could be looking into robocalls where the Conservative database was used to commit election fraud. Then we watched the Conservative Party try to obscure things and fight against any attempt to bring transparency into that procedure.

There is domestic corruption of public officials galore with the Conservative government. I look forward to the government introducing a bill that would attack corruption and finally clean up politics in this House for Canadians, but unfortunately, that is not the bill before us. We are dealing with foreign public officials.”

Paulina Ayala (Honoré-Mercier, QC)

“We talk about corruption elsewhere without looking in our own back yard. For example, there are Canadian public servants who receive bribes. Turn on the television and you might be shocked to see what is happening here in Canada.”