Evidence of meeting #15 for Foreign Affairs and International Development in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was zinc.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Yvon Bernier  Vice-President, Consulting Expertise, Développement international Desjardins
  • Christina Dendys  Director, External Relations, Micronutrient Initiative
  • Doug Horswill  Senior Vice-President, Sustainability and External Affairs, Teck Resources Limited

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Are we doing anything about that?

9:35 a.m.

Senior Vice-President, Sustainability and External Affairs, Teck Resources Limited

Doug Horswill

That's where, as I explained, there's a continuum, from children who are suffering from diarrhea through to fortifying fertilizers with zinc in order to be able to improve the quality and quantity of the grains grown in now zinc-sufficient, rather than zinc-deficient, soils.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

So if I understand this correctly, the fertilizers are providing this to the plants so that we no longer have to give supplements. That is the goal.

9:35 a.m.

Senior Vice-President, Sustainability and External Affairs, Teck Resources Limited

Doug Horswill

Fertilizer is a multitude of chemicals. The basic ones are what they call NPK fertilizers. But what agriculturalists understand as they've learned more is that there are also micronutrients that are important in fertilizers. Zinc is one of them, and barium is another one. I'm not a soil scientist, but I think there are other components that are often added.

Today in India there is a very extensive program of adding zinc and other micronutrients to fertilizers. I think there are something like eight or ten different fertilizer companies in India that are selling zinc-enriched fertilizers.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

You've answered my question. That's very important, because that was a little puzzling.

Mr. Bernier, did you state that your micromanagement outreach in third-world countries is non-profit?

9:35 a.m.

Vice-President, Consulting Expertise, Développement international Desjardins

Yvon Bernier

Développement international Desjardins is, first of all, a non-profit organization attached to the Mouvement Desjardins. There are two action areas. The first is consulting, that is technical assistance to financial institutions, mainly of a cooperative nature. That is currently under way in about 30 countries. The second action area or activity sector is investment. It also makes it possible to—

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Yes, I have that. Sorry, I'm going to interrupt. I just wanted to understand.

What's in it for Desjardins? Does this give you an opportunity to get into the third world at the ground floor, so that as these countries develop you have an opportunity to develop banking in those third-world countries?

9:35 a.m.

Vice-President, Consulting Expertise, Développement international Desjardins

Yvon Bernier

Not at all. Currently, the Mouvement Desjardins—or the Desjardins banking sector—is conducting no commercial operations in any developing countries. I repeat, Développement international Desjardins is an NGO that is engaged solely in development-related activities and activities related to public development assistance programs, whether those of CIDA, the World Bank, the UN or the International Fund for Agricultural Development. It always associates with a local partner, which is generally a financial cooperative belonging to the local population. We assist local populations when they develop their own financial institutions and we provide them with necessary instruments.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

I understand that, but I think you said you have loaned out a quarter of a billion dollars. Where does that money come from? Does it come from your shareholders, the corporation of Desjardins? Where does that money come from that you loan out to the third-world countries?

9:35 a.m.

Vice-President, Consulting Expertise, Développement international Desjardins

Yvon Bernier

Earlier I mentioned that there were assets of more than CAN$1 billion in West Africa. That value has essentially been created through the mobilization of local resources. That means that all the financial institutions that DID is assisting are mobilizing national savings. They are mobilizing small savings, and it is small savings that are subsequently transformed into credit for their members and clients. So this isn't money that belongs to Desjardins: it still belongs to local users, to the local populations. The value is created from their own resources.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

I'm just a little confused. You are a public company, and this has a cost. You must have a balance sheet that shows what your costs are. Where do the moneys come from to operate Desjardins development?

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

Dave, we'll answer the question, but that's all the time we have for your round.

Mr. Bernier.

9:40 a.m.

Vice-President, Consulting Expertise, Développement international Desjardins

Yvon Bernier

Développement international Desjardins is a non-profit corporation whose board of directors consists of Desjardins members from the Mouvement Desjardins. That non-profit corporation has a gift of $20 million from the Mouvement Desjardins that enables it to mobilize the Canadian partnership. We've invested $5 million in order to receive $20 million. DID submits projects to the Canadian International Development Agency either through spontaneous proposals or calls for competitive bids in the markets.

DID works with the World Bank in the context of calls for competitive tenders at the international level and with the Mexican government in the context of calls for tender at the world level. So our revenue sources are diversified. Our total revenue associated with Canadian projects represents approximately 50% of our turnover. The rest is allocated among other international funding agencies and governments.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

Thank you very much.

Mr. Eyking, for seven minutes.

December 6th, 2011 / 9:40 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Sydney—Victoria, NS

Thank you, Chair.

I thank the witnesses for coming this morning.

As a vegetable farmer, I worked a lot in Central America with small farmers in setting up co-ops, so your testimonies are very dear to me, and I'm learning more as I hear from you.

In my experience, once you get rid of the strongmen, the dictators, and people have rights to land and some individual rights, much can be done with small, strategic investments. You have mentioned some of them.

Your testimonies are different, but they all link together in a whole-community approach. You are well aware of the millennium goals and the work that's been done.

I also did some work with the Gates and Rockefeller foundations on this community approach, more or less. I guess that's where I'm coming from. Of course it starts when you get into these communities. You do the soil tests concerning the deficiency in the soils, which has an impact on grains and livestock and humans and water and various things. Sometimes I think we have different organizations out there but maybe they're working in different silos. That's why I like the millennium goals of the Gates Foundation. I'm not saying they were doing a perfect job, but they had that whole-community approach.

In your experience, do you see enough of that? Should there be more of that? Should we, as governments, encourage more of that to set up the parameters? If we have clean drinking water close at hand, the kids don't have to haul it. They are going to school, so there is a whole-community approach. Does there have to be more of that? Are other countries doing that? Should we, as a government, be encouraging that kind of thing?

Anybody can answer.