Evidence of meeting #5 for Foreign Affairs and International Development in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was energy.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

4 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

Thank you, Mr. d'Aquino.

We'll move to our next questioner. But before I do, I want to advise the committee that the guest who was to appear in the second hour went in for emergency surgery last night, and so he will be unable to be here. We're going to reschedule him at a later date. This means that we can have extra time here, so everyone will have ample opportunity to ask other questions and have a second and maybe a third round.

Monsieur Crête.

4 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Plourde, you have a name that is very well known in Rivière-du-Loup. My Conservative political opponent, whom I've beaten twice, had your name, but I won't hold it against you.

With the incredible lag that Canada has developed on the environment with Mr. Bush in the United States and Mr. Howard in Australia, will we be able to get enough of a kick start to meet the target that Mr. Obama put on the table last week, that is to arrive in Copenhagen in December with a position demonstrating that we will be making up the lost ground?

How are we going to ensure that efforts previously made will be recognized on both sides? For example, Quebec has made significant efforts in recent years, as have a number of American states. They'll want those efforts to be recognized. Without going too much into the details of the targets set, such as 1990 or 2006, how do you view matters? Is it possible to make up this lag?

4 p.m.

André Plourde

Since my ancestors were originally from Rivière-Ouelle, it is possible that my namesake is related to me.

As regards lost ground, we can take an optimistic view of the next few years. U.S. policy will evolve differently and Canadian reaction to the potential outcome of the climate change policy has been broadly influenced by the U.S. reaction. Over the next few years, it will be possible to do a great deal to make up the lost ground. However, we'll have to consider the fact that we've lost a great deal of ground on our approach to the negotiations in Copenhagen.

We'll have to review our position that we're going to Copenhagen because of commitments made in Kyoto. As Mr. d'Aquino mentioned, it will definitely be important for Canada and the United States to have a common approach and position on climate change, if they want to have an international impact. Will we have enough time to do that? That's another question. Both countries are federations, and there has to be cooperation between the provinces and the states, but some time is needed in order to do that. I believe we should be able to reach an agreement on the main points and have a common approach when we get to Copenhagen.

Previous efforts are important in certain regions of the country and vary considerably from one region to the next. We have to develop a Canadian or North American approach to these issues, and it must include efforts previously made to address policy aspects. It is probably too soon to draw any specific conclusions, but this is clearly an important factor in the structure of the resulting approach.

4:05 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. d'Aquino, you said that Kofi Annan believed that the poor were poor not because of too much globalization, but because of too little. If Mr. Annan were here today, he might add “and because of too little intelligent regulation”. No one is opposed to globalization, but we are all feeling all the major consequences of unregulated globalization.

I'd like to know, from your members, whether we have moved away from the idea that economic development is at variance with environmental requirements. Are we really headed toward a perspective of sustainable development and consideration of the opportunities afforded by sustainable development as an instrument of economic development? We're really having a lot of trouble getting it into the government's head that this isn't a contradiction, but rather an opportunity. And moreover Mr. Obama very clearly expressed that.

4:05 p.m.

Chief Executive and President, Canadian Council of Chief Executives

Thomas d'Aquino

Thank you, that's a very good question.

We have argued from the time of the Brundtland report.... And that's why I say, with great pride, that we were the first business organization in the world to endorse the concept of sustainable development. What do we mean by sustainable development? Obviously it's the coming to terms on this planet with the need to create jobs and allow for growth at the same time as respecting the environment.

Now, fast forward. We created in 2007 a task force made up of 33 chief executives, representing all areas of both production and consumption, from the largest companies in Canada. And we called for something very bold. We said that we believed Canada should be an environmental superpower as well as an energy superpower.

One of the components of that was our very strong belief that the concepts of economic development and respect for the environment are not in fact inconsistent, and that the creativity of men and women has to be put to work to ensure that where there are frictions between those two goals, they are reconciled.

This can be done in a variety of ways. The first, obviously, is through conservation. We know how incredibly important conservation is. Another one would be through the effective use of technology. Another one would be to ensure that new forms of production in a consumer-driven world are much more respectful of the environment. Another one was that we will only solve this problem if we come at it from a planetary point of view.

We took issue with those who said that the developed world must do its thing without any commitment from the developing world. The reality is that we will not solve the problem of global climate change, nor will we come to terms with major environmental challenges, unless China, India, Mexico, Brazil, and others are engaged as well.

This does not mean that we should not show leadership; by all means, we should. But we did say--and I said this in a speech in 1989--that the reconciliation of the economy and the environment is the single most important challenge facing the planet. I haven't changed my views. And many of our members—certainly the members of our task force on environmental leadership—are of that view as well.

4:05 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

I'd like to talk about an issue of great concern to Canadian businesses to which U.S. businesses say they have decided to do business with an American supplier because they've been asked to do so. Mr. Obama told us that he would comply with international agreements, but he nevertheless said in an interview that he couldn't prevent a state governor or a mayor of a large city from making certain choices.

What specific efforts should Canada make to ensure that the idea of free trade and the rejection of protectionism can penetrate all decision-making levels responsible for corporate decisions and that we don't just have the words of a head of state, but an actual situation that ensures the benefits of the Free Trade Agreement willlast?

4:10 p.m.

Chief Executive and President, Canadian Council of Chief Executives

Thomas d'Aquino

That's a very good question.

In my view, the issue of how we recapitalize our banks and deal with the very issue that's started today, the stress-testing of financial institutions of the larger than $100 billion size, is of critical importance. You have to think of the financial system as getting it whole, as getting the blood flowing again in the arteries so that the parts of the body can come back to life. This is the problem that has to be dealt with, and it is being dealt with. I predict that it will not be easy to deal with, but it will be dealt with.

The greatest menace facing us all, which may sink us all, is protectionism. I acknowledge to every member of this committee that protectionism is a very human thing. When people are out of jobs and you see unemployment spiking and businesses being lost and shutting down, people become very afraid. When taxpayers' money in large quantities is being used to bail out industries or when responsibility for those tax dollars is being taken onto the shoulders of the government, then I think it's very, very important that when individuals say, “Look, if it's my taxpayer money that's going to be used to bail out industry X, I don't want industry X sourcing in Canada or sourcing in Mexico”, we have to speak out strongly against that, especially in the case of Canada and the United States. In the case of Canada and the United States, the level of integration is so high that by insisting you shut out Canada in industry X, Y or Z, ultimately you'll be shooting yourself in the foot.

I know that's raised this issue: what if the United States, under its reconstruction and recovery act, were to offer Canada a waiver? In principle, we should be opposed to any form of protectionism. If we accept the waiver, which some people argue would be in our national interest to do, because much of that money is being spent at the state level, I would say that we would be compromising our principles. Either you're for protectionism or you're against it. I think we have to be against it. It has to begin up here. That's why I was so very pleased to see President Obama and Prime Minister Harper speaking out against it.

The G20 leaders met in Washington last November. What did they promise? They promised they would try to fix the system and they also promised that they would resist any new form of protectionism. They were hardly home, in some cases, when they started endorsing protectionist actions. These have to be resisted. It requires political courage. It's not easy. We acknowledge that.

Then, on the way down, we have to say what we all say within our own councils: don't go to Ottawa, don't go to Quebec City, and don't go to Queen's Park and say, “Protect me, but at the same time keep everybody else out.” The moment you start to do that, you're on the slippery slope.

This has to be done at the very top, but I think it has to be said again and again. When these buffoons like Lou Dobbs get on CNN every night, throwing out all of this stuff about jobs being lost, suggesting that most of them are being lost to Mexico when in fact they're being lost to China or elsewhere, it's people like that who have to be rebutted. Frankly, we've been concerned that at the political level, not to mention the business leaders level, we haven't been nearly strong enough at rebutting the assumption that somehow protectionism will save us.

Here's one little statistic. Maybe you've heard it and maybe you haven't. When the Smoot-Hawley act was introduced and tariffs were put on 22,000 items in the United States, within an 18-month period the total amount of world trade had dropped by two-thirds. We don't need any lessons from the past to teach us how dangerous protectionism is.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

Thank you, Mr. d'Aquino.

We'll move to the government side, with Mr. Lunney.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

James Lunney Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you for leading us in a very interesting discussion so far.

I want to first pick up on the comments from our CEOs and Mr. d'Aquino. I appreciate that you outlined three main concerns--energy, economy, defence and security--very appropriately and adroitly. We've had a good discussion about those. I want to pick up on the defence and security aspect that was discussed.

I noticed in your report that you talked about joint management of borders, a full NORAD mission. I think we've missed some opportunities there, and we're revisiting that. In terms of protecting our own huge borders, we're a little skinny on our own defences. It makes perfect sense to work on our perimeter of North American defences.

I think one of our sticking points really is the border. We had some discussions earlier about the thickening of the border, and we talked about the huge apparatus in the U.S. on homeland security, which is said to be bigger perhaps than our whole Canadian public service.

My concern would be this. You mentioned the US, with 9/11, and how that drastically changed our border. There was a remark about maybe 300,000 or 400,000 people a day crossing that border and that we're looking for maybe three to five potential threats. That single one--that's the whole problem with terrorism--actually has tremendous power, even though they don't succeed in interfering with our normal society's functioning. We had a very close incident with Ahmed Ressam. He was caught at the border with weapons that were headed for L.A. airport.

The challenge is how we deal with this border between us. We've been pretty skinny in our own monitoring of the border and probably very under-represented in terms of any serious protection there. With 9/11, the U.S. obviously has its own immigration challenges with people coming across that border. What do we do in terms of beefing that up? We're making efforts to arm our border guards and to establish more border infrastructure; those things were mentioned. How do we address that issue to facilitate trade and still maintain our sovereignty?

Mr. Chair, by the way, I'm sharing my time with Lois.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

We will have lots of time for two or three rounds.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

James Lunney Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. d'Aquino, please.

4:15 p.m.

Chief Executive and President, Canadian Council of Chief Executives

Thomas d'Aquino

First, I come back to the issue of perception. I know many of us in this room were probably offended, not once but sometimes twice or three times, by people who should know better, not only by the assertions in the United States--not to mention what was carried on the talk shows--that the perpetrators of 9/11 were people who came from Canada or across the border, but that even when this was pointed out to be clearly incorrect, some people in very high office right now repeated it.

What is deeply disconcerting about that is that these perceptions, once established, can really begin to run. And how do you get at it? In those particular cases, our ambassador and other officials went to see them and said this was not the case, that these were the facts, and they said they understood. But we're dealing here with a big country, where talk shows...and Americans, I think, are even more obsessed about sovereignty than we are. That's always been my argument. So unless the word goes out to the contrary again and again, we're going to have difficulty winning that battle.

Secondly, there is a perception that Canada historically has been a little looser in its treatment of refugees, in its treatment of immigration, and so on, and this perception has sort of gone out. I always like to shock our American friends by saying, “Hey, just stop in your tracks. Government figures estimate that you have roughly 15 million individuals that you know to be in the country, but you have no idea where they are, who they are, or what they're doing.” I say, “You know, when I go to bed at night, I should be a lot more worried about people coming north than you should be worried about people coming south.” I know that sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, and sometimes they look at me in total disbelief. And I think Prime Minister Harper, in his joint conference with President Obama, very strongly emphasized the point, which is often lost on Americans and some Canadians, that the security of the United States is as important to us as it is to Americans, and vice versa.

So I think trying to get that across, but doing it intensively, constantly, has to be done.

I think the second thing that has to be done is this. Where we do have obstacles to cooperation, we have to be really sensible about them. One that has really befuddled us is the argument over privacy, where we had almost reached an agreement on how to deal with individuals who are identified as suspect--that coupled with the issue of who carries guns, who does not carry guns.

The way I tend to look at these things is that these are different times. And as long as the civil rights protocols can be respected on both sides of the border, surely coming to terms with who can carry weapons and who can't carry weapons, who might come to a border point and then decide to walk away, the Americans insisting that that person may be a terrorist and we saying we really have no hold on that individual.... We came up with an idea that said, why not simply take that individual aside, ask him who he is, what he does, where he is, draw your own conclusions, and give a report to the Americans? Anyway, all that came apart, Homeland Security withdrew the opportunity to do some serious cooperation on that, and it continues. To my knowledge, unless my colleagues know otherwise, it continues to be unresolved.

So I think there are some very practical things we can do where, if we apply common sense, we're going to be okay.

And then finally there is the answer of technology. Technology, to me, is the big answer, because you cannot have a 4,000-mile-plus border, huge empty expanses, without using technology. We don't have enough people, nor do the Americans, to police that border all the way across. Now, they've got Predators up in the sky—fortunately, they don't have missiles on them—looking down. But the use of technology, in one way or another.... I'm not offended by the Predators, as long as they're looking on both sides of the border.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

Thank you, Mr. d'Aquino.

Do you have another question, Mr. Lunney? In fairness, I'll give you the same time as I gave the others and come back to Ms. Brown.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

James Lunney Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Yes, thank you. I just want to make a quick comment about Canada's energy footprint and pick up on that.

While we have a large energy consumption and output for a small population, when you consider the size of our country and the actual factors, I don't know why we apologize for the fact that we are big energy consumers. On a per capita basis, that is the nature of our country. We're just a large country, huge. So we have transportation concerns. Members of Parliaments here have these concerns, just coming to our Parliament, unlike most of our colleagues around the world. The U.S. of course has challenges that way, but other parts of the world are not travelling multiple time zones just to come to Parliament. So we have the huge transportation concerns in Canada. Also, we have a cold climate in the winter and warm in the summer.

So by nature of who and where we are, we are large consumers. Having said that, I think we need to be perhaps a little less apologetic for the fact that it's part of our life—not that we can't be responsible and still recognize that the world is changing.

Coming around to the question of the models with climate change, I want to ask you this thing. With anything with a scientific background around it, and when you're dealing with models and you don't have all the information, models are always only as good as the assumptions. I'm sure in the business world they have to consider assumptions all the time. It's a challenge making economic forecasts today.

It's just an issue we want to throw out there. Recent information has come out on underwater sub-Arctic volcanos, for example, that wasn't considered when these models were established in the international committees that were discussing these things. A huge range of volcanos in the Gakkel Ridge there, reported recently in December 2008 in Nature magazine—a 17-kilometre range and eruptions going up two kilometres under the Arctic ice, scattering shards of rocks for kilometres around there—could affect huge volumes of carbon dioxide associated with that, starting with eruptions in 1999, coincidentally when Arctic ice had accelerated melt.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

Thank you, Mr. Lunney.

Maybe we'll come back to it in the second round.