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

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Sydney—Victoria, NS

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

A recent article in The Economist stated that international aid is going to be hitting rough water. It talked about the European Union financial crisis, the U.S. crisis, and the cutbacks to the U.S. budget. We even see it with CIDA; we have sporadic funding.

So when you look at that side of the scale--that it's going to be harder to get funding or potentially harder--and then on the other side you see the need.... When we talk about some of these countries that are getting out of dictatorships, they're going to need our aid to help set up proper governance structures. Also, we have climate change and we have the population increase. So you have the demand side, with the supply side getting shorter.

Doug, you're in the business world, of course. That could create a bit of a problem. You stated in one of your comments that we have to mobilize the private sector. There's an article in The Globe and Mail today saying that just with Canadians alone, the average age of a donor who donates to various organizations has changed from the age of 45 to an average of 55 now. There's a concern out there about these individuals, which is that as these people are getting older, they're going to fall off the scale. There seems to be a lack of younger people--I'd call “younger people” those who are between the ages of 30 or 35 and 45--who should be getting in there.

That said, I guess the question is for you, Doug. Going back to your statement, how can we mobilize the private sector? How can we get this generation more into funding? We've had some successes. When we had the Somalia and Haiti initiatives, people stepped up to the plate to match the funds. But my concern is about going forward. When you see those numbers, how are we going to keep that age group seeing the benefits not only as a tax receipt but seeing the whole benefit of funding...? As you said in your statement, how do we mobilize that private sector? But also, how can we mobilize that age group?

10:30 a.m.

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

Doug Horswill

I'll go with my colleague's answer. It's a good question without a good answer.

I'll kick it over to your side of the table. In some respects, the politicians are going to have to do something with leadership. It is interesting. I noticed that article and there's been a series before about the fact that donor ages are rising. In other words, the young are not coming in behind.

I do a lot of work with St. Paul's Hospital Foundation and a couple of others locally in Vancouver, and we're noticing the same thing.

Is it pressure on the purse for young people, or somehow there's been a change in ethics? What was it that a generation or two ago made people, in a sense, in their own lives, more charitable than maybe some of the young people coming through today? How do we establish and engender those values? Those are big political questions, and any one opinion is just one among many.

In terms of mobilizing the private sector, in specific terms what I was talking about were companies who have, as in our business, a need for social licence on a world stage and global citizenship-type initiatives are part of the package of things we do, whether it's in a small town in northern Chile where we're providing school support or health support or a global initiative that really has nothing to do with our business. We're operating in Peru and one of the UNICEF programs is there, but it wasn't put there because of that; it was put there because Peru was ready and they had the requisite health system in place. It's the same thing in Senegal. It's not a country of interest to us from a business point of view; it's part of that global citizenship.

I know many of our peer companies like Rio Tinto and BHP are doing the same sort of thing, and that's good, but it's not enough. Getting down to the citizens around the world, particularly the western world--western Europe, the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand--and making sure that young people coming through realize that development aid is crucial, that a lot of people are worse off than they are, and how do they help make the world a better place.... I don't know the answer, Mark. It would be....

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Sydney—Victoria, NS

I have one more comment.

As you see all these budgets around the world, it's interesting that Britain has made major cuts to their budgets, but I think there are two things: in two departments they're freezing their help, but the only one they're increasing is their aid. So they're not going to say they'll rely on the private sector; they're going to maintain the goals they're achieving for the amount of percentage. If you don't get it on one side, if you believe in maintaining your percentages....

Did you have a short comment?

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

He may have a short comment, but we may be out of time.

Mr. Bernier, go ahead with a short comment.

10:35 a.m.

Vice-President, Consulting Expertise, Développement international Desjardins

Yvon Bernier

I have a suggestion.

Earlier we talked about the Desjardins fund for inclusive finance, and I believe similar initiatives could be introduced to attract investors. This would involve small amounts invested in funds mainly intended for development—the finance or microfinance sector is definitely still a priority for us—and that would entail tax benefits so that young people and the general population can save tax points.

I believe these funds could be generated by professionals and be intended strictly for projects with a good internal return. We could create value so that those funds can become increasingly large and permanent.

Initiatives of this kind will perhaps be more appropriate in a future context. They could also supplement public support for traditional development.

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

Madame Laverdière, and then we'll finish with Mr. Wallace.

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Thanks to the witnesses.

Thank you to all.

I'm going to continue in French. I often speak English, so let's go with French this morning.

I must admit that one thing fascinated me. The idea of working together emerges from all your presentations. You talked about working with the communities themselves, as Desjardins is doing, or about working with grandmothers in the context of a number of your projects. There was also what Mr. Horswill mentioned about mobilizing private sector money and then ensuring coordination. Various players are at the table, various points of view are being discussed to bring about a certain efficiency, as are the essential issues of follow-up, evaluation and so on. So it's really a kind of contribution to a broader, more comprehensive effort. That's one of the lessons I have drawn from your three presentations.

I have a brief question for you. In the case of Desjardins' microcredit programs, I was wondering whether, as is elsewhere the case, women were generally better payers than men, as we see in other microcredit programs. Is that the case?

10:40 a.m.

Vice-President, Consulting Expertise, Développement international Desjardins

Yvon Bernier

Yes, definitely, but first I would like to correct one point. We don't really call it microcredit at Desjardins. We call it microfinance instead. A number of financial services may be small but accessible to everyone. That's part of the overall financial sector. It's regulated and supervised and so on, like any financial instrument in various countries.

However, historically, and even today, women are better at discharging their obligations than men in most of the countries where we work. Recovery rates for women are always higher: 98%, whereas it's quite different for men. However, women generally have smaller loans. So the amounts are smaller. The amounts are larger, riskier, for men. Other factors are in play.

However, in overall terms, the way women manage their financial affairs is distinctly superior to that of men in all developing countries. Whether it be Vietnam, Africa, Latin America or Mexico, the framework of reference is the same everywhere. Yes, there is more discipline in that regard.

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé Saint-Lambert, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I'd like to make a brief comment before asking my question. I'm going to talk more about the African continent, with which I'm more particularly familiar. In terms of development, I believe we've moved out of the development era and into the sustainable development era. I think that aspect is very important. It will have much finer, much more strategic implications. At the last meeting, one of the witnesses, whose name I forget, told us about smart investments. I believe we have fundamentally adopted that smart investment principle.

My question is for Mr. Bernier. With regard to the offer of diversified financial services, I am somewhat familiar with virtually all aspects of the cooperative financial model. I know from what you've told us that it is having very positive effects, particularly in Africa, since all investments are reinvested within the community. That same community benefits from them. I find that principle absolutely positive.

However, with regard to the diversification of access to various financial services, what guidelines are you implementing to protect people from overindebtedness, to prevent people from becoming indebted or overindebted?

10:40 a.m.

Vice-President, Consulting Expertise, Développement international Desjardins

Yvon Bernier

I believe there are two parts to that question.

As regards the first part, the idea is to provide technical and technological support to financial institutions so that they can offer financial services appropriate to riskier or more complex problems.

Let's consider the example of agricultural financing. Our partner organizations were doing a lot of financing in rural areas, but were making very few loans directly related to agriculture, in view of the risks inherent in that type of production. What is needed is to propose methodologies, a way of mitigating the risks of their network at the national level, more diversified portfolios, in other words a series of mechanisms. Sometimes we're lucky and we work together with political authorities to provide guarantees or additional funding.

The purpose of that is to reinforce capacities and to develop agricultural financing expertise. Credit training is often offered to agronomists who know the subsidiaries, the sectoral risks and the costs. The same is true of housing and microinsurance. The idea is to include expertise in the institutions to master these new niches. That's where our contribution lies.

As for the other part of the question, there's a lot of awareness and transparency about interest rates. We must ensure that our interest rates are known. When we conduct credit analysis, we must also take information on indebtedness into consideration. If there's no obvious ability to repay, we must deny loans. A lot of financial education is being done in the networks. I say "a lot", but to be frank, it's not the same everywhere. There is a lack of investment in that area. That's an objective that should be achieved in order to avoid leveraging...

I will conclude by saying that this is the problem with microfinance in a number of countries because there is no information. Here there is a credit office, which has information on a borrower's borrowing history, whether that borrower does business with a number of financial institutions. We have no access to that information in those countries. We don't know whether the person has borrowed money from a financial institution. We have to do more research and document our loans. That's why this approach is lengthy and costly. However, it is essential and even mandatory.

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

Thank you very much.

Mr. Wallace, we started a little late today. Do you have any final thoughts?

December 6th, 2011 / 10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Burlington, ON

I figure we're out of time. I have to be back on House duty. I only want to say to Madame that I'm married with two daughters and heavily invested in women in my house. I haven't seen any return yet, but I'm sure it will come.

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Chair, if I may, and speaking of women, I promise it's my last point of order. I would like to remind all members that today is the national day of remembrance and action on violence against women. As an MP representing a riding from Montreal, I know particularly well how important it is to remember and to work toward ending violence against women.

We were unable to attend the vigil today, since we were here in committee, but I would like to take this opportunity to urge all my colleagues, including my colleagues across the way, to reverse their position on the long-gun registry and to do what is right for the women of Canada.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

Okay, thank you.

To our witnesses, thank you very much for being here today. We appreciate your time and your answers. It was very helpful for the discussion today. Thank you.

The meeting is adjourned.