Debates of Oct. 29th, 2001
House of Commons Hansard #104 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was aid.
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Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC
Mr. Speaker, Canada has increased its international aid budget since 1990.
In 1989-90 Canada spent $2.8 billion and in 2000-01 it spent $3.002 billion. It is an increase, and as I have already said, the government intends to keep on increasing the amount spent.
Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak on the motion brought forward by the Bloc about international aid. International aid is an important part of Canada's contribution to the international community. The Bloc motion asks for an increase in CIDA's, or international development, aid to respond to the immediate humanitarian crisis and, in particular, for a more effective response to the crisis in Afghanistan.
The Canadian Alliance fully supports this portion of the Bloc motion. The official opposition has long been calling for more aid for the innocent people of Afghanistan. Unfortunately Canada's contribution to this effort has been disgracefully small. We must be thoughtful about finding solutions for this complicated humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.
The bombing campaign is in its fourth week and the minister for international development, as has been alluded to by the parliamentary secretary on many occasions, has travelled to Africa and Europe, but has not found time to go to Pakistan to figure out the solution to the refugee problem. The former minister of foreign affairs has already done this with Oxfam. I have also learned that CIDA still has only three field offices in Pakistan.
The Bloc motion also calls for an increase in the international aid budget from .25% to 0.7% of the GDP as recommended by the United Nations. Let us be realistic. I have listened to my colleagues from the Bloc and to the replies given by the government. What I have found is an absolutely vague concept. They both agree to 0.7% as recommended by the United Nations but apparently there is absolutely no plan.
The government agrees and very nicely says that it is committed to this goal when it has the resources. Whether it will be in 10 or 15 years, as the Bloc just asked, we do not know. It is nice for the government to say that it likes this target, that the target has been there for many years and that it will probably be there for many more but there is absolutely no plan on how the money will be raised or when it will be available.
The Bloc is requesting immediate funds in the next budget as there are major important issues facing the country, national security being number one.
This would amount to an increase of 280% or approximately $4 billion. The nation is currently in a state of war and we have a primary responsibility to enhance the national security for Canadians, not to mention the ensuring physical responsibility.
The Alliance is calling for a balanced budget and will not accept another deficit. Even the Canadian Council for International Cooperation, a respected group of NGOs that understands international development, is only asking for an increase of .25% to .35% over four years. That is the plan.
We must be thoughtful and recognize that any increase would need to coincide with fundamental CIDA re-prioritization of its reform. Why do I talk about CIDA? Because all the money will be channelled through CIDA. We need therefore to re-tool CIDA for effective humanitarian assistance and development aid for the benefit of the poor countries of the world.
This development aid should promote sound investment plans, good governance and adherence to the rules of law. We have come full circle from the 1970s when there was government to government aid, then from the 1980s when aid had been given through the NGOs for more effective accountability. Now we look for other means.
Let me point at this time to a study by the Australian government on globalization that provides very interesting data on how much world poverty has been reduced. According to this study, up to 1.2 billion of the developing world's 4.8 billion people still live in extreme poverty, but the proportion of world population living in poverty has been steadily declining. Since 1980, the absolute number of poor people has stopped rising and appears to have fallen in recent years, despite strong population growth in poor countries. If the proportion living in poverty had not fallen since 1987, a further 215 million people would be living in extreme poverty today.
The very poorest countries now represent less than 8% of the world's population, compared with just over 45% in 1970. That is quite amazing. In countries that have embraced the opportunities created by global economic integration, strong economic growth has been the result, which of course decreases poverty.
Indeed, most progress has taken place in developing countries that have refined their policies, institutions and infrastructure and opened the doors to create investment. During the 1990s their growth in GDP per person was 5% a year compared with 2% for rich countries. This is amazing.
The fact is that globalization is leading to an economic boom or what economists call convergent growth, where the growth in developing countries that have embraced globalization is fast enough to narrow the gap with the leading economies. If we want to find an innovative solution for the international development corporation, I suggest that it would be crucial for us to recreate CIDA, with sound private investment policies being the key to its development purposes.
To do this, we need to be thoughtful about re-mandating CIDA, not throwing more money to an institution that is having marginal success. The mandate of CIDA must be fundamentally reformed. First, CIDA must function effectively as a conventional humanitarian relief agency, working with international and non-governmental organizations to deliver immediate assistance. Let me acknowledge the excellent work NGOs are doing in addressing the immediate humanitarian and social problems arising in the short term. I am of course talking about the AIDS issue and food shortages and, in the case of Afghanistan, the victims of the brutal regime and war.
Sadly, much of CIDA's social engineering priorities are preventing the agency from delivering effective and functional aid. Even the Minister for International Cooperation has admitted that CIDA has only a 20% success rate with its functions. This must change.
The October 2000 report of the auditor general was critical of CIDA's bureaucratic programs. He reported that CIDA did not comply with treasury board contracting policy or the government's contracting relations. He went on to state:
The terms and conditions for grants and contributions related to the Geographic programs are very general and provide no direction on how and when to use contribution agreements...CIDA's use of contribution agreements to select executing agencies often varied from its stated internal policies or practices.
This is of considerable concern since the geographic programs, which include Africa, constitute about 40% of CIDA's total budget.
The only effective solution before us to increase the private capital flow to the developing world is through a continuous promotion of globalization at this particular juncture. That is why I have been vocal for the opening of new development around the world trade negotiations next month in Qatar.
The Canadian Alliance feels it is Canada's responsibility to support international development and we agree with this concept, but we think it is irresponsible at this stage to call for a 0.7% increase when there is a need for expenditure in other areas at this given time. We feel this is a vague goal with no precise, laid out timelines or anything so it is difficult for us to support.
Marlene Jennings Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Cooperation
Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member whether or not he is aware of Canada's assistance in other areas that do not fall directly under what we call the international assistance envelope, such as debt forgiveness to some of the poorer countries in the world or to Pakistan, for instance.
Is the hon. member aware of this and is he supportive of Canada forgiving debt to 11 of the 17 poorest countries in the world and the $700 million that it represents? Is the hon. member supportive of Canada forgiving $447 million of debt to Pakistan? What that would represent is that it frees up $16 million per year, that instead of Pakistan reimbursing $16 million a year, it is forgiven if it uses that money for social development within the country, whether it be for basic human needs or education, health and those kinds of things. Is he aware of that and is he supportive of that?
Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB
Mr. Speaker, yes, I am very well aware of that. What I find funny about this is that this was in response to a humanitarian crisis that was taking place. While the member very proudly talks about the Pakistan issue, it just happened and was a reflection of the Afghanistan issue. It was not a well thought out or well laid out plan. Of course maybe she is also aware that under the IMF there are certain conditions that countries have to meet for debt forgiveness. The conditions are laid out. The responsibility under those conditions has been thrown onto the governments that need to pay these debts. They have to come up and show responsibility. We cannot write blank cheques.
Therefore, yes, I am supportive of the programs that the IMF has come out with and that have laid down quite clearly the conditions. I must tell my colleague from the other side that there are very few countries that at this point have actually met those conditions, because they have to go through a structural change. The idea behind the structural change is that they take the responsibility for their nation of governing.
We know that in the past government to government aid has been very ineffective, especially in those countries, so we need to be very careful when we are throwing this money around. In reference to Pakistan, which I did not say, that is not a long thought out plan. That has just happened because of the Afghanistan war. We have been calling for a comprehensive package and that is one step forward in going in that direction.
Stéphan Tremblay Lac-Saint-Jean—Saguenay, QC
Mr. Speaker, I have two questions for my colleague, the Canadian Alliance member.
First, I am convinced he will support this issue just like Mike Moore did. The WTO official said “If only northern countries would open up their commercial borders, they would generate increased wealth in the southern countries.”
Does the member agree with that? Also, does he not agree that this could distribute wealth more evenly but also concentrate it further?
Second, is my colleague aware of the fact that other countries like Denmark and the Netherlands have reached the 0.7% objective? In Denmark alone, international aid stands at 1.06% of GDP, whereas in Canada it is 0.25%. Is this not reason enough for the member to support the motion?
Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB
Mr. Speaker, I was with my colleague in Brussels for the least developed poor countries conference and both of us heard quite clearly the call of the developing countries for more access to being part of the world trade system. I have alluded to that in my speech. That is one of the most important routes to the long term sustainability of development in those countries. Yes, in the long term I think that is what has been proven to take so many people out of poverty, as the report in Australia has indicated. I agree very much that this would be the key route for this issue.
While the member says that it would be more concentrated, I think he means that it would not trickle down to the general populace. In my opinion the more we open the free trade market the more equal a distribution of money will take place because at the end of the day the money will not fall into the hands of the government or into the areas where it is misused but will hopefully trickle down to where it can be distributed among more regions of the populace, as has been proven in China and in India.
Svend Robinson Burnaby—Douglas, BC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of my colleagues in the New Democratic Party caucus to strongly support the motion which has been put forward in the House today by my colleagues from the Bloc Quebecois.
I would like to congratulate the members of the Bloc Quebecois for bringing forward this important motion.
September 11 was a day of unbelievable tragedy and anguish as we saw over 6,000 people die in the crimes against humanity involved in the terrorist attacks on New York, on Washington and in Pennsylvania. We in the New Democratic Party continue to mourn the tragic loss of those victims, to pay tribute to the people involved in the rescue effort and of course to do everything we can to bring to justice the perpetrators of these crimes against humanity.
As well, September 11 was a day on which 30,000 children around this planet died of preventable disease and hunger. UNICEF has reminded us that each and every day on this planet 30,000 children are dying of preventable disease and hunger, on September 11, on September 12, on September 13 and on every single day since then. There is no CNN, no publicity, but there is death, despair, famine and hopelessness. Five thousand children died in Iraq last month because of the impact of sanctions on that country.
Today we, along with the Bloc Quebecois, are calling upon the government to increase significantly the level of Canada's commitment to international aid. Certainly when we look at the current levels of aid, Canada's performance has been nothing short of shameful. Not that many years ago when the Liberals first took office in 1993, Canada was number 5 or 6 among the 22 nations of the OECD. By 1999, after years of savage cuts by the Liberals, we had dropped to number 12. Last year we were number 17 out of 22 countries in the OECD.
As Roy Culpeper, the president of the North-South Institute, said very clearly just this month in a document he submitted to the Standing Committee on Finance for the prebudget consultations:
Mr. Chairman, I will reiterate my remarks to (the Minister for International Cooperation) at her consultations last week on CIDA's new directions. I said to her that Canada should be ashamed of this abysmal performance. Certainly, if they were still alive and with us today, prime ministers Pearson and Trudeau would both be astonished and terribly disappointed at the state of affairs.
Our commitment as Canadians should be to meet the target of 0.7% for the ODA/GNP ratio, which was established, by the way, by Prime Minister Pearson. In order to meet that we should be working to get to the halfway mark of 0.35% within the next five years. The parliamentary secretary has said that they are increasing the level of aid and there will be more coming, but the fact of the matter is that the Canadian Council for International Cooperation has made it very clear that if we are to meet that target of 0.35%, which is after all only halfway to the goal we have committed ourselves to, it will require an annual increase of $400 million in each of the next five years.
That is what we are calling for as a minimum in order to get us on the road to meeting those commitments. Other countries can and have done far better, as others have pointed out. The Scandinavian countries, for example, Sweden, Norway and Denmark along with the Netherlands, have all consistently exceeded the UN target of 0.7% of GNP: Sweden at 0.7%, Norway at 0.91%, Denmark at 1% and the Netherlands at 0.8%.
Until recently we were actually falling further and further behind every year. If it was imperative that we increase our aid before September 11, it is even more so today.
As has been pointed out by the World Bank recently, we risk a dramatic increase in the level of poverty in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. These terrorist attacks will hurt economic growth in developing countries worldwide this year and next year. As many as 10 million more people will be condemned to live in poverty next year. It will hamper the fight against childhood diseases and malnutrition. This is all in a preliminary economic assessment that was released by the World Bank on October 1 this year. Even before September 11 the bank had predicted an economic slowdown, that growth in developing countries would fall as a result of slowdowns in the United States, Japan and Europe.
We know of course that the impact of September 11 on wealthier countries means that there will be a decline in their level of spending as well.
The worst hit area will be Africa where, in addition to the possible increases in poverty of two to three million people as a result of lower growth and incomes, a further two million people may be condemned to live on below a dollar a day due to the effects of falling commodity prices. The 300 million poor people in sub-Saharan Africa are particularly vulnerable because most countries there have absolutely no safety nets whatsoever. Poor households certainly do not have any savings to cushion bad times. Half the additional child deaths worldwide are likely to be in Africa. That is the area which has already been hardest hit by the epidemic of HIV-AIDS.
Again, in the aftermath of September 11 we must do far, far more. Gerry Barr on behalf of the Canadian Council for International Co-operation pointed out just this week that it is imperative that there be a significant increase in Canadian aid spending following the events of September 11. He points out that the shock waves of September 11 are likely to devastate the global south.
Foreign direct investment is down and is likely to go even lower. Export commodity prices, on which the economies of many developing countries depend, are anticipated to fall further. Recession in the markets of the developed world, including in Canada, means fewer sales for the developing world and declining revenues for them as well.
We are also very concerned that with the focus in the budget on security measures, international aid and other anti-poverty measures not be squeezed out as a result. We do not want to see Canada's aid spending become yet another casualty of the war on terrorism.
It would be a shame to see the Canadian aid budget fall victim to the war on terrorism. War, conflicts and emergency situations are threats to global security.
The end of hostilities must lead to the first steps towards peace. Peace will only be possible through development, the even distribution of resources and social agreements which, beyond the military action, allow the people to establish security for all those who live on this planet.
I would like to mention the constant efforts of the member for Lac-Saint-Jean—Saguenay, who has worked relentlessly in favour of more justice, more fairness and a better distribution of wealth between rich countries and poor countries. Since the beginning, he has spoken about the terrible impact of co-operative globalization. I want to thank him for his work on this important issue, which led to this motion by the Bloc Quebecois.
The motion of my friends in the Bloc also speaks about the importance of increasing the level of Canada's humanitarian aid in Afghanistan.
The situation in Afghanistan is absolutely devastating. It is a humanitarian crisis. Already more than 20 years of war have devastated Afghanistan, destroyed its economy and displaced huge numbers of civilians, including children. Already before September 11 Afghanistan was facing its most severe drought in years. The situation is only going to continue to deteriorate.
Aid delivery is hampered due to this terrible political situation and, I might add, due to the bombing by the United States. We have seen that a number of bombs have already hit Red Cross warehouses. We have seen that too many innocent civilians are dying as a result of the bombing campaign. In a country which is already facing massive challenges of de-mining, one of the countries that already has more mines than anywhere else in the world, we have seen that shamefully, the United States is continuing to use cluster bombs in its bombing campaign.
Six million people are dependent on food and emergency aid already in Afghanistan. Chronic instability and conflict have already displaced much of the population. They are fleeing the terror of the Taliban regime but they are also fleeing from the bombing. With winter months approaching, children in particular are going to be susceptible to the harsh climate without the necessary provisions for warmth. This five million or six million people is the equivalent of the entire population of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba that are fleeing as refugees. As Nadine Grant, the director of programs for Save the Children Canada, said recently, “The crisis looming in Afghanistan has the potential to become the worst humanitarian situation in the world”.
The Afghan people are already suffering the devastating effects of a three year drought. The emergency crisis for Afghani children is overwhelming. Three million Afghanis are already dependent on NGOs for food. It is estimated that an additional three million people will also need food assistance this winter. Two hundred and fifty-seven children out of every one thousand die before their fifth birthday. It is one of the worst levels of infant mortality in the world. There are currently 900,000 internally displaced people living in Afghanistan. There are approximately 50,000 children working in Kabul to support their families. In the north, as I mentioned earlier, there has been near total crop failure in 1999 and 2000. An estimated 10 million live mines are still buried in Afghanistan, placing children in most danger.
We join today in pleading with our government to do far more than it has already done to respond to this humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. So far, Canada's contribution has been approximately $16 million Canadian. Norway, a country of under five million people, has contributed over $80 million. Sweden has contributed over $60 million. The Netherlands has contributed over $50 million. We as Canadians can and should do far more.
It is also important that we recognize that in tackling global poverty it is not good enough simply to increase levels of aid. We have also to do far more to cancel the debts of the poorest countries of the world. In fact, the proposal of the Canadian Ecumenical Jubilee Initiative to have the debt of the world's poorest countries cancelled has been one of the most important priorities for some time. Canada has not done nearly enough in this regard. We cancelled the debt of some of the poorest countries but we have not gone far enough.
This debt is a crushing burden on developing countries. It is the most obvious expression of their poverty. The indebtedness of the south condemns millions of people to lives of destitution. In fact the debt load of the heavily indebted poor countries is such that they have to use their meagre financial resources to make payments on their debts and they can no longer spend that money to meet the basic needs of their populations.
We join in calling for the objective of CIDA to be not just poverty reduction, but poverty eradication. It would not take a lot. In fact it has been estimated by the UN secretary general that some $40 billion worldwide would be what it would take to meet the needs of the world's poorest citizens.
Debt reduction and opening up the markets of developed countries to the products of the poorest countries is also essential, particularly agricultural products, textiles and clothing. These are the products that they depend upon for their survival, their economic self-sufficiency. Too often our doors are slammed shut. We could get rid of these tariff barriers at a minimal cost to Canadians but this would mean a huge difference in the lives of the poorest around this planet.
I would like to take a moment as well, because the WTO meeting in Doha is coming up, to appeal to our government to recognize that we have to be doing a lot more within the context of the trade agenda to respond to global poverty. Structural adjustment programs which have been forced on developing countries by the World Bank, the IMF and other international financial institutions has simply increased the gap between rich and poor in those countries. It has added to the level of poverty in those countries.
The WTO agenda and the agenda of the FTAA would exacerbate poverty and would drive more peasants and small farmers off their land. They simply cannot compete against the heavily subsidized agricultural products which are flooding their countries from wealthy countries like the United States and elsewhere.
We have to put poverty and its elimination front and centre on the global trade agenda. That means also that we have to look at the impact of TRIPS agreements. These are the agreements that give huge powers to multinational pharmaceutical companies.
I would hope that the Bloc, in addition to calling for an increase in the level of aid, would recognize that we have to stop pandering to the multinational pharmaceutical companies which are holding the poorest of the poor up to ransom for their patent rights. In South Africa, Brazil, India and elsewhere these pharmaceutical companies are demanding that they have the right to protect their patents even if it means additional tens of thousands of millions of lives lost in the fight against HIV-AIDS, malaria and other preventable diseases.
Canada should be playing a far more active role in speaking out against the current TRIPS agreement. Instead, the Minister for International Trade says that he supports that agreement.
There are many areas in which the battle against poverty can be fought. It can be fought within the context of trade deals and not moving ahead on a new round for the WTO. Developing countries have said they want to deal with some outstanding implementation issues of the existing WTO before we even consider moving ahead on new deals. It means challenging corporate powers within existing trade deals such as the powers given under chapter 11 of NAFTA which the government seems to want to extend throughout the hemisphere in the FTAA.
Nelson Mandela has said that security for a few is insecurity for all. Today, on behalf of my colleagues in the New Democratic Party, we want to support this motion.
We appeal to the government to significantly increase levels of aid to work toward meeting that target of 0.7% of GDP, to meeting the interim target of 0.35% within the next three to five years, making far more aid available immediately to meet the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, ending the destructive and illegal U.S. led bombing campaign in Afghanistan, and forgiving the debts of the poorest countries and restructuring global trading schemes to ensure that they put people, the environment and tackling poverty against corporate profit.
Winnipeg North—St. Paul
Rey D. Pagtakhan Secretary of State (Asia-Pacific)
Mr. Speaker, I was listening intently to the speech of the hon. member who started by alluding to the unprecedented tragedy in New York. Of course we lament the loss of innocent lives which will forever remain silent. That silence can never be broken. We lament the absence of smiles in the families of the bereaved, smiles we know will take a long time to come back. Yet at the end the member spoke about ending the war against terrorism.
The tool we have chosen to go after terrorists in that part of the world is a coalition of nations. If the member could suggest another avenue other than a military approach at this time, let him say it. The terrorists will not surrender. They will not come out and say here we are, put us in jail, execute us. We must make a distinction. We must pursue the terrorists even if it means using military might because in the end it will mean peace, security and stability in that part of the world.
To the issue of the negotiations at Doha, may it please the House to know that I have just returned from the meeting of APEC, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation group of countries, in Shanghai. We announced there that Canada has donated $9 million to help developing countries participate meaningfully so they will know their rights as they negotiate their agenda at the Doha conference. It has been agreed by all APEC economies that the agenda will be on growth and development.
In addition to international aid and debt relief, the promotion of fairer trade in the world would be an additional pillar to help sustainable development in developing countries.
Svend Robinson Burnaby—Douglas, BC
Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague, the Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific, has raised two important questions. He asked what the alternative is to fighting against terrorism in the aftermath of September 11.
Of course every member of the House agrees that those responsible for these crimes against humanity must be brought to justice. However it was the parents of a young man killed in one of the World Trade Centre towers who asked how on earth we would bring about justice by killing more innocent victims in Afghanistan. They asked how many more innocent people must die before we recognize that the U.S. led military strike is a disastrous failure.
Bombs are hitting hospitals. Bombs are hitting Red Cross warehouses. Bombs are hitting villages and killing many more innocent victims including children. How is this bringing the perpetrators of those terrible terrorist attacks to justice? It is not. It is creating more innocent victims.
Humanitarian agencies and the global community have called for at least a pause in the bombing to enable us to get desperately needed humanitarian supplies into Afghanistan. The United States has refused. It has said the bombing must go ahead.
We have seen this movie before. We have seen it in Iraq. The U.S. was to go after Iraq and Saddam Hussein. Ten years later Saddam Hussein is still very much in power in that repressive regime. What about the people of Iraq? What about the innocent children of Iraq who are the victims of the inhumane and genocidal sanctions? How many hundreds of thousands of people must die? How many more innocent civilians in Afghanistan must die in this misguided, destructive and illegal war?
The member asks what the alternatives are. The alternatives are to work within the framework of the United Nations to establish an international tribunal similar to the tribunals established for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. Evidence must be placed before the independent tribunal for those responsible to be brought to justice. If it is necessary to have a focused enforcement action under the framework of the United Nations to bring them to justice, so be it.
Surely we must recognize that the approach taken so far is neither bringing the terrorists to justice nor sparing more innocent lives.
I will say a word regarding the second part of my hon. friend's question. He asks about Doha, Qatar and the WTO agenda. He suggests Canada is promoting a development agenda and that it is prepared to listen to the poorest countries. The leaders of those countries said in their declaration in Zanzibar earlier this year that they do not want a new round of the WTO. They said they want to deal with a number of outstanding critical problems under the existing provisions of the WTO.
First and foremost among these is the issue of access to pharmaceutical drugs under the TRIPS agreement. The leaders of these countries want to see significant changes to that. The Canadian government has refused to accept any changes at all.
We have a lot of work to do to transform the existing inequitable terms of trade into fair trade. Rather than proceeding with a new round on investment, procurement and other areas, let us listen to the poorest countries in the world. Let us take steps to redistribute wealth and power from the wealthy to the poorest as the Bloc Quebecois motion is proposing.
Stéphan Tremblay Lac-Saint-Jean—Saguenay, QC
Mr. Speaker, my question is for my NDP colleague and relates to solutions needed to ensure a better distribution of wealth.
Does he feel that a tax like the Tobin tax could be another way to achieve global equalization?
Svend Robinson Burnaby—Douglas, BC
Mr. Speaker, the answer is yes, absolutely. We have long been supporters of the Tobin tax.
My hon. colleague from Regina--Qu'Appelle brought forward a motion to the House in support of the Tobin tax. That motion was passed by the House a few months ago.
In principle we definitely support that tax and we are making every possible effort in various international tribunals to promote that tax in order, once again, to share wealth more fairly.
André Bachand Richmond—Arthabaska, QC
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by raising two points. First, I want to inform the Chair that I will share my time with my colleague from Fundy—Royal and, second, I want to point out the quality of the motion by my Bloc colleague from Lac-Saint-Jean—Saguenay.
I want to say from the outset that over the last few weeks, since September 11, we have talked a lot about the military aspect and the military involvement. I will not refer to the pills, but we did talk a lot about arms.
Today, the Bloc's motion proposes fresh approach to the problem that arose on September 11. It takes on a human aspect. It is in reference to that that I would like to commend my Bloc Quebecois colleague.
This is not the first time we have a debate in the House on international aid or on increasing the level of humanitarian aid. During the 1993 election campaign, it will be remembered, the red book stated that if the government party were elected, it would accept to increase international aid to bring it up to the level recommended by the United Nations.
Members in the House will not be surprised that this did not happen. There were other elections, other speeches from the throne, and the government kept saying that it would increase international aid. If we look at two other examples, besides the 1993 elections, the 1999 throne speech said that the government was committed to increasing the level of foreign aid, developing new innovative policies, improving the lot of the poorest countries and enhancing the standard of life of their citizens. Perhaps this was not clear enough.
After the following elections, the House was reconvened on January 30, 2001. About 10 months ago the government committed once again to increase the level of foreign aid and to use these new investments to reduce the poverty level and encourage the development of democracy.
This was the third time that the governing party talked about this: in the 1993 red book and in two speeches of the throne. I hope this bodes well. On average, the government introduces a bill three times before it gets passed. It has said three times that it would increase humanitarian aid. I remember that, when the bill on young offenders or other bills were introduced, the first time this did not work, the government withdrew them. The second time, it said the time was right. There were elections, the House was prorogued and a new session was started. After the elections, it introduced the bill once again. Is this a lack of vision? Perhaps. I hope that, after talking at least three times about increasing international aid, the government will now do it.
That said, it must be understood that it is a huge jump from 0.25% to 0.7%. As most of my colleagues on this side of the floor have said, however, we do have to start looking for the light at the end of the tunnel, start looking at an increase. My colleague from the NDP has referred to a middle of the road solution, of 0.35%, 0.40% or 0.46%. That is where we were in 1992. With all the talk of battling the deficit, we need to realize that the humanitarian aid program has been slashed more than all other items in the government's budget. Canada sees itself as a figurehead on the international level, but it is not even preaching by example.
Today's motion proposes a new aspect to this, to ensure that, on the eve of a budget which is coming within a few weeks—and it is important to point that out, as has been said—the House and the government must make an official commitment to step up international aid. One of the effects of this, just between ourselves, moreover, would be to enhance our credibility with other countries.
As several of my colleagues have pointed out, Canada is lagging behind the other OECD countries. Every year, the gap increases. When we realize that we are lagging behind the other OECD countries as far as international aid is concerned, we have to accept that there is a very clear consequence to this. Canada has lost some of its clout on the international scene. If it really wants to resume its place in the international community, as a leader for peace, sustainable development and assistance to the most disadvantaged countries and to those faced with problems, whether natural disasters or other problems, then we have to put our money where our mouth is. Humanitarian aid is very important.
Faced with deficit problems, most countries have cut their budgets. But Canada has made the deepest cuts of all G-7 countries in humanitarian aid. Yes, other countries made cuts, because there were problems. Unfortunately, although I hope I am wrong, this government will probably experience its first recession. I am anxious to see how it will handle it, but I think it will shoot itself in the foot. After enjoying a fairly prosperous stretch in the years since 1993, it will have to face the music, although, of course, it is not music we would wish on it.
The House should know that countries such as Denmark are contributing 1.06%; the Netherlands, 0.82%; Sweden, 0.81%, and so on.
There are therefore examples. The surprising thing is that these countries are not seeking to be leaders on the military or peacekeeping scene. They are countries which have decided to contribute in proportion to their collective wealth.
We want to be a leader everywhere but a look at our humanitarian aid figures shows that we are lagging behind other countries.
Foreign aid contributes to stability. Coupled with debt forgiveness and liberalization of trade, it can significantly reduce poverty in developing countries, paving the way as it does for sustained economic development.
What is more, if countries are able to crawl out from under an unbelievable level of poverty and infant mortality, there are strong chances that civil wars can be averted or brought to an end. There are strong chances that these countries will really become democratic allies internationally.
We urge the government to get with it, to support these initiatives. As I said, the Prime Minister openly recommended at the G-8 in Japan that industrialized countries collectively increase their foreign aid contributions by 10%. We have yet to see this here.
We therefore hope that in the upcoming budget the motion by the Bloc Quebecois member will have an impact, that people will listen. If we are contributing hundreds of millions of dollars toward the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan, we should be able to take a look at the more global issue of humanitarian aid and ensure that Canada's contribution is officially increased.
In conclusion, I wish to say that the internationalism and compassion that characterized the Pearson government are a distant memory. We are accustomed to governments of all stripes providing more support for international development.
I hope the government will adopt this philosophy and take the action sought by the motion.
John Herron Fundy Royal, NB
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to take the floor today in support of the Bloc motion brought forth in the aftermath of September 11 and related to the ongoing war effort against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
I send a very clear message to our military personnel that parliament supports the valuable role Canadian soldiers are playing in the conflict against the draconian Taliban regime. We owe our military personnel a huge debt of gratitude. The heinous crime which took place on September 11, complete with its disrespect for human life and high degree of premeditation, cannot go unchecked.
Humanitarian agencies are also gearing up for a crisis of immense proportions that is unfolding along the borders of Afghanistan. As of July 1, 2000, before the tragedy of September 11, Afghanis were the largest single refugee population in the world of concern to the UN high commission for refugees. They comprised approximately 30% of the global refugee population. In the wake of the military strikes that began after October 7, worst case scenarios suggest that between 5 million and 7.5 million people may flee that country and set up camps along the borders.
Mark Leger, an editorialist in Saint John, New Brunswick, recently wrote:
With no end in sight to the U.S.-led attack on Afghanistan, about 7.5 million Afghans lack the basic necessities to survive the coming winter. To make matters worse, they have no government to care for them, no countrymen with deep-enough pockets to help them through the crisis. The families of the U.S. victims have been the recipients of incredible generosity.
We should be very grateful for the generous spirit we have had with respect to looking after our American cousins in that regard. He continued:
Afghan victims have not been so lucky. The UN has collected about $150 million. Trouble is, they figure they need $650 million to get the people through the winter.
In the aftermath of September 11 our focus has been on the American victims for very understandable reasons. We feel a very genuine kinship with the Americans because they are our closest friends. Our economies are intertwined. We travel there. We work there and families quite often intermarry. Afghanistan is an alien place for most of us. It is rugged and impoverished. We do not feel the same natural connectedness we have with the Americans.
Afghanistan has endured a 22 year long civil war. It has recorded record drought and famine during the last four years. Most of us on this continent have been oblivious of that fact. After September 11 many people probably opened up their atlas just to find out exactly where Afghanistan was located and its proximity in terms of its borders and neighbours.
Insufficient humanitarian aid is being given to Afghani refugees along the borders and to suffering Afghanis still inside the country. Thousands upon thousands of individuals will lose their lives from cold and starvation. We have a moral obligation to assist and to ensure we do not read in the history books that we allowed hundreds of thousands of individuals to die in the midst of this conflict through no fault of their own.
Humanitarian aid is needed to provide stability in Afghanistan. It is necessary to demonstrate that this conflict is against the Taliban regime and not against the Afghani people. If we let people starve or freeze to death, the Afghani people will not understand that our problem is with the Taliban and not with them.
Prime Minister Tony Blair stated in the aftermath of September 11:
On the humanitarian front, we are assembling a coalition of support for refugees in and outside Afghanistan, which is as vital as the military coalition. We have to act for humanitarian reasons to alleviate the appalling suffering of the Afghan people and to deliver stability so that people from that region stay in that region.
Canada has a vital role to play in the humanitarian coalition just as it occupies a key place in the military coalition. We must ensure that we reflect the same sentiments expressed by Prime Minister Blair with respect to our role in the humanitarian reaction as well.
Where is our Canadian leadership on this pressing matter? At its worst it has been mute; at its best it has been feeble. I challenge the government and our Prime Minister to step up to the plate and lead by example. They should show the world the best of our Canadian humanitarian tradition and reputation. Canada and the Liberal government could do more by leading by example.
In 1993, under a Progressive Conservative government, Canada could boast of the highest level of international aid among G-7 countries as a percentage of its GDP.
Today, after seven years of Liberal government, Canada ranks last.
Other governments in the west had to deal with the same deficit problems as Canada in the early 1990s. They also had to make cuts. Of all G-7 countries, Canada has reduced the most its international aid, unloading its deficit problem on the back of the poorest countries in the world.
Canada must provide foreign aid, which is a necessary component to any foreign policy, if it wishes to be a participant in the global economy. Foreign aid promotes stability and when used with debt forgiveness and trade liberalization can have a real impact on poverty reduction in the third world.
Humanitarian aid encourages sustained economic development and helps countries realize the objective of becoming economically self-sufficient in their own right. It introduces Canada to millions of potential future consumers of Canadian products and helps us merge our economies.
Foreign aid can be provided in a myriad of ways. I have spoken out before in support of debt forgiveness programs like Jubilee 2000. Debt forgiveness is a great idea. It removes pressures from governments and allows them to invest in people and stop paying interest on debt that we know they will never have the capacity to pay back.
As it increases its aid, as the motion calls for today, Canada should look at other ways to better and more effectively take part in these programs. For example, Canada should and must tie debt forgiveness to countries that spend more on education and health programs than they would on issues such as defence.
In the same way in which Canada aids Afghanistan, we must ensure that we learn from mistakes that we have made in the past with respect to foreign aid.
International efforts to prepare for the post-Taliban Afghanistan are necessary. Once the battle is won against the Taliban, we need a long term plan and commitment in the same sentiment that we had with respect to the Marshall plan and as we had in the aftermath of World War II.
Canada and its allies have a responsibility to ensure that the U.S. led Afghan campaign does not decimate a population already tortured by decades of war, poverty and misery. If we are to avert the entrenchment of hate against the west, which could remain in perpetuity, we must have a solid commitment.
Western nations, including Canada, need to ensure that refugee camps are adequately supported but these must be seen as temporary solutions. The long term objective must be to return these refugees back to their homes. This long term assistance, as we all know, will be expensive but we need to continue our help long after the conflict ends and the headlines run out. There must be sustained financial and political assistance. This includes help with developing infrastructure, education and fighting against diseases.
There has never been a more important time to increase our aid contribution. Canada can afford it given its projected surplus for this year. More than that, boosting aid in this time of global upheaval and war will send a very clear signal that when we talk about the long term need to address the poverty that breeds helplessness, anger and sometimes even terrorism, we mean it. That is why the Progressive Conservative/DR coalition is pleased to support the initiative brought forth by the member for Lac-Saint-Jean--Saguenay.
Statements By Members
October 29th, 2001 / 1:55 p.m.
Carole-Marie Allard Laval East, QC
Mr. Speaker, last night the ADISQ gala was held, honouring Quebec's top leading recording, performance and video artists.
The gala, hosted by the lively and unpredictable Guy A. Lepage, was an emotion packed evening for audience and artists alike. Singers Garou and Isabelle Boulay each came away with awards in several categories, male and female singer of the year in particular. There was also a very fine tribute to Claude Dubois.
I would also like to extend my congratulations to the Laval symphony orchestra, which received the Album of the year award for its album Mozart in the non-broadcast segment of the gala, which was held on October 22.
These hard-working artists not only entertain us but also express the joys and values of life. As well, they are cultural ambassadors outside of Canada.
We have every reason to congratulate these performers and to encourage them to continue to share their exceptional talents.
Statements By Members
Jim Abbott Kootenay—Columbia, BC
Mr. Speaker, the 1991 Broadcasting Act will be reviewed and it is about time. Today we have rules to give our musicians exposure on our radios that can disqualify Canadians when they become international stars. We have no incentives for local programming that would build bridges between citizens especially in rural Canada.
We have the CRTC denying access to French language programming in Quebec cable networks if the programs originate outside Quebec. Any review of the Broadcasting Act without a serious examination of the CRTC will be ignoring the elephant in the living room.
When the CRTC was created in 1968 only 13% of Canadian households had cable. Even the writers of Buck Rogers could not have dreamed up the satellites and Internet we use in the 21st century. I am concerned with the committee decision to have minimal time for the CRTC cross-media ownership and resulting convergence issues. The review may be like doing carpentry while wearing boxing gloves.