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 afghanistan.

Topics

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have a brief comment on this point. I commend not only the person who raised the question of privilege but also the minister for coming here and defending himself, which is somewhat unusual. Normally defending the indefensible is left to the government House leader.

The point is well taken and I hope it would be with the Chair. Particularly seeing as we have had the report of the modernization committee, every opportunity should be taken by the government to follow those recommendations and use the House to make announcements.

I regret that the Minister of Transport is one of the first to get caught up on this because I will vouch for the fact that he was a member of the Lefebvre special committee on standing orders and procedure in 1982-83. I served with him on that House of Commons committee. I believe him when he says he would like to see this kind of procedure used more often. I would encourage him to do so and then we could use him as an example of how other ministers ought to behave.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

The Chair has heard the arguments advanced by all hon. members on this point. The Chair has had occasion to rule previously on items of this kind. The hon. member for Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough has raised these kinds of matters when ministers have made statements outside the House that he wishes had been made in the House.

I know that many members from both sides of the House are always making the same suggestion to the Chair, that is to do something about this situation which they think is terrible.

I am somewhat constrained because, as the minister has pointed out, there has been a string of decisions on this matter that it is not for the Chair to intervene and not a breach of the privileges of the House for ministers to make statements concerning government policy outside the House. That position has been maintained for a very long time.

The hon. House leader of the official opposition in his very capable argument suggested that the report of the committee on modernization recently adopted by the House had somehow changed that.

While I recognize that there are words in the report that would be of solace to any member making the argument he was advancing, I question whether the report has changed the situation such that failure to make a statement in the House has become a question of breach of privileges of the House. This after all is a very grave matter and one which has to be treated with the utmost seriousness.

I recognize there is some frustration that the report has perhaps not been followed in its spirit and intent. Hon. members in making their question of privilege today have drawn that to the attention of the government House leader who, I have no doubt, will probably be reading the arguments over again for several nights running with great interest given his concern to see that the modernization report is implemented. I believe he was a member of the committee that helped come up with the recommendations so I know his interest in it will be substantial.

I find there is no question of privilege here but I have one other matter that I want to draw the attention of hon. members while I am on my feet. I would remind all hon. members that apart from the one hour notice requirement for questions of privilege there are other rules governing notice of intention to raise a question of privilege. House of Commons Procedure and Practice , the Marleau and Montpetit book we all read so rigorously, at pages 123 and 124 describes them as follows:

The notice submitted to the Speaker should contain four elements:

  1. It should indicate that the Member is writing to give notice of his or her intention to raise a question of privilege.

  2. It should state that the matter is being raised at the earliest opportunity.

  3. It should indicate the substance of the matter that the Member proposes to raise by way of a question of privilege.

  4. It should include the text of the motion which the Member must be ready to propose to the House should the Speaker rule that the matter is a prima facie question of privilege.

The letters I have been receiving lately have been deficient in respect of these matters. I draw them to the attention of the hon. members in case some time I fire the letter back and say I will not hear it today and you will have to send me proper notice. Notice has been accordingly given. Of course we all want to comply with the rules.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I will add briefly to that point. I have great concerns about the issue, as do members of the House. I have concerns about the way it has evolved and the practice of ministers making statements outside this place.

The minister has acknowledged the circumstances around the issue. He has pointed out the timeliness and importance of getting the issue forward and bringing it to the House.

The minister would also be aware that there is nothing stopping a minister of the crown, after having made the announcement due to pressing concerns about the stock market and the security of the industry, from coming back to the House of Commons the next day, availing himself of the opportunity to inform the House, and subjecting himself at that time to a few questions about such an important issue.

Divorce Act
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-406, an act to amend the Divorce Act (custody of grandchildren)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to table a private member's bill that deals with an amendment to the Divorce Act particularly pertaining to the custody of grandchildren.

The enactment would amend the Divorce Act to allow a grandparent to apply for custody of his or her grandchildren without the leave of the court. This is an important move to allow grandparents greater ability to nurture, protect and care for children in the stead of the parents. I am pleased the member for St. John has agreed to second the motion.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Leeds—Grenville
Ontario

Liberal

Joe Jordan Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I ask that the answer to Question No. 18 be made an order for return. This return would be tabled immediately.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 18
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC

For the fiscal years 1997-1998 and 1998-1999, can the government provide a detailed list of all funds paid by departments and Crown corporations to the 75 ridings in Quebec and the 17 administrative regions in Quebec, indicating separately the amounts paid out by the federal government in employment insurance and old age pensions to the 75 ridings in Quebec and the 17 administrative regions in Quebec?

(Return tabled)

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Leeds—Grenville
Ontario

Liberal

Joe Jordan Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Supply
Government Orders

October 29th, 2001 / 3:20 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, as we are resuming debate on the motion brought forward by my colleague from Lac-Saint-Jean--Saguenay, I would like to read it again to help members get back into the right context.

That this House call upon the government to review its international aid policy with a view to substantially increasing the funds available for Canadian humanitarian aid, particularly in the context of the military interventions in Afghanistan, and to increasing the level of its aid for development to 0.7% of GDP, as recommended by the United Nations.

I think that, in this motion, the member is referring to a general international assistance policy and is asking us to reflect on the current urgent situation, namely the drama taking place right now in Afghanistan and Pakistan where millions of people are seeking refuge to escape the Taliban regime or to escape air strikes by the Americans and the British.

Everybody will agree the government has moved to somewhat improve aid to these people. However, the announcement of a further $16 million to help close to 5 million people in Afghanistan as winter is fast approaching—a prospect we all dread—is far from enough. For the time being we can only hope that very soon the government will face up to its responsibility and commit further money to deal with the emergency situation in Afghanistan.

I would like to point out that although the situation in Afghanistan is the most highly publicized these days, it is far from being the only emergency situation across the world. For the past three years, Central America has been experiencing a severe drought and thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people, especially children, are at risk. Over the next few weeks casualties could be in the hundreds of thousands. The Canadian government should be able to intervene there too. As we know, some areas in Africa are also experiencing emergency situations.

We focused on Afghanistan because the situation there is well known to Canadians and Quebecers, but I believe that what we are after is an overall policy. We must get back to acceptable levels of aid in keeping with Canada's status within the international community. As the foreign affairs minister said “when you are a member of the G-8, you cannot excuse yourself when it is time to pay the bill”.

The same can be said of our military commitment, and our commitment to humanitarian and international aid. Our wealth allows us to do a lot more than what we are doing currently and also to intervene for the long term.

Clearly, we must respond to emergency situations. However, it must be recognized that it is only through structural changes that we will be able to change the current rules, a system that breeds poverty, disparities not only between countries, between areas in the world, but also within our own societies.

There is an old Chinese proverb that I like to quote, which states “If you give a man a fish, he will have a single meal. If you teach him how to fish, he will eat all his life”. Our approach to this situation should be along those lines. We need to have an international aid program that allows all developing countries, particularly those that have more problems dealing with the new economic realities of the world, to set up measures and programs, especially the needed training programs to pull themselves out of their predicament, out of poverty. There must be forms of aid that strengthen communities and provide them with the means to develop.

When it comes to this, Canada is not fulfilling its responsibilities, as I mentioned at the beginning of my speech. When you think about a goal of 0.7%—a goalset by a former Prime Minister of Canada, Lester B. Pearson, incidentally—we are nowhere near reaching this goal proposed by the United Nations.

Currently, our international aid is at its lowest level in 30 years. We are at a mere 0.25% of our GDP, which places us 17th out of the 22 countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, or the OECD. In 1999, we ranked 12th. Only one year later, we fell five places. In 1995, we ranked 6th. Canada's position within the international community when it comes to international aid has dropped noticeably and consistently.

Canada does not compare well to countries that are much smaller than us, but that are similar in economic terms: Denmark gives 1.06% of its GDP, thereby exceeding the United Nations' requirements; the Netherlands are at 0.82%; Sweden, 0.81%; Norway, 0.8%; and Luxembourg, 0.7%.

How is it that Canada, which prides itself on being a generous country and on being a good influence for peace in the world, is not included in this list of countries? As far as I can tell, it is a case of saying one thing, but doing another.

These efforts are extremely important. I am making my comments in the context of globalization and economic integration. From a political perspective, we should all agree that we must eradicate poverty in our societies, but also around the world, because poverty, inequalities and injustices are a fertile ground for terrorism. This is not to say that it is the only cause. As we know, there is far right terrorism in the United States, but it is clear that inequalities and injustices are the conditions that generate despair and actions such as the ones we witnessed on September 11.

If we are to fight terrorism effectively and intelligently, we do need a targeted military response but, above all, we need an action plan by the international community for economic and social development, and to fight poverty. Canada should be a leader in the development of such a plan, but this is not the case right now.

As I mentioned earlier, globalization and economic integration generate inequalities. It is true that free trade and the opening up of markets generate wealth, as we have seen over the past 30 or 40 years.

Since the early seventies, world wealth and income have tripled. We do support the opening up of markets and the rules that were set, particularly through GATT, now the WTO, because they have generated wealth. The world has never been richer than it is now. But the redistribution of this wealth is more uneven than it was 20 or 30 years ago. It is not due to an economical or physical factor. It is wrong to say that poverty is caused by rarity.

I just provided an example. When world wealth triples, we should not look for rarity to explain the growing inequalities between countries, between regions and even within our societies. Rather, we should look for social or political phenomena.

Since the early eighties, since the Reagan era, there has been a lack of will to set up plans to fight poverty, both in our societies and at the international level.

We do need free trade to generate wealth, but we also need measures to redistribute this wealth, so that it can provide levers to all the countries in the world for their economic and social development, and this is possible.

I will use Europe as an example. Even though most European countries are developed countries, they do not all have the same level of development, and in particular, they did not have it in the past. We need only think about Portugal, Spain or Greece 30 years ago, or even Ireland 10 or 15 years ago. These countries were clearly lagging behind the average European countries.

In the context of political construction, European construction, Europeans set up regional and structural development funds that are now producing results.

When we visit Portugal, Spain, Greece or Ireland, we realize that we are really in developed societies, which was not necessarily the case about 30 years ago. Thus, it is possible, if there is a political will, to eradicate poverty. Clearly, this will not happen overnight, but considering what was done in the past, which was giving up, it seems to me that this is not the right attitude and that we must instead move forward.

I take this opportunity to disagree with the image of the proverbial pie often used for domestic poverty problems as well as international poverty problems. People say “Before we can redistributing the pie, there has to be one in the first place”. We will make the pie as big as possible with free trade and we will then redistribute it among all the partners. If we really want to make the pie as big as possible, we must at the same time redistribute the wealth. Everybody has to be able to get his or her share of the pie.

This two-stage image of the pie being created and then served up is a false one. This is not the economic reality of things. The economic reality is that we are part of a system where, to produce, one must be able to sell. Taken on a national or global scale, this means that it is in our interest, the interest of developed economies, that there be purchasing power in southern hemisphere countries and that it be as widespread as possible. That is the logic of co-operation, which should accompany the current logic of globalization.

As I have already explained, there are no physical barriers to this. This poverty is not an inevitability of nature. It is truly the product of social and political phenomena.

In this context, I therefore think it extremely important that we rectify this state of affairs, that we once again have an aid program worthy of the name and that it have the necessary funding for these countries--I mentioned this earlier--because this is a well understood logic of what is known as globalization, but also for us right now.

I remind the House that 36,000 Canadian jobs depend on development aid. Of every dollar spent on aid, over 70 cents comes back to Canada. So, basically, when $1 billion is spent, $70 million comes back to Canada. In Canada, there are 50 universities and 60 colleges, including the college in Lanaudière, which benefit from aid program related contracts. Two thousand Canadian companies benefiting from aid related contracts are gaining prominence in certain markets and making enviable inroads internationally.

The motion we are moving therefore responds in a timely manner to a need which is critical and shared, I think, by all Canadians and Quebecers. In the medium and long term, it is the only logical approach if we are to avoid situations such as those we have witnessed in the last decade or so, from the slaughter in Rwanda to the events of September 11, or what went on in the former Soviet Bloc countries.

In conclusion, this international aid program should be part of a comprehensive set of measures to rectify the situation. Earlier, the member for Lac-Saint-Jean--Saguenay reminded the House of what the Tobin tax could do to civilize speculative transactions and create international development funds, and to bring about respect for fundamental rights.

We have initiated this debate in the House and we will keep it alive in the context of the Costa Rica free trade agreement. The Canadian government made no move to take the social, democratic and environmental dimensions into consideration in the bilateral trade agreements it signed.

I say again that Canadians and Quebecers would never have accepted to sign a free trade agreement with Pinochet's Chile. We now have a trade agreement with Chile; we should also have included clauses concerning fundamental rights such as human, labour and environmental rights.

I also believe that measures could be taken immediately to show that Canada is going in another direction. For example trade sanctions on Iraq could be eliminated for things that have nothing to do with military equipment or that cannot be used for a military build-up. As we know, over the last 10 years thousands of children died in Iraq because of those sanctions and Saddam Hussein is still in power.

More globally, I am calling for the restructuring of international institutions and the means at their disposition. It is obvious that the challenge we are facing is similar to the one that existed during the great depression of the thirties.

When Roosevelt launched his new deal, maintaining free enterprise while creating a series of institutions favouring a more equalitarian and national redistribution of wealth, recognizing among other things union rights, that lead to the situation we now know.

With globalization and the integration of economies, we have to recreate this new deal but this time on an international basis.

This is the debate, the issues raised by the motion that our colleague from Lac-Saint-Jean—Saguenay tabled in the House. If hon. members agree with me on the importance of the challenges we face, they should at least adopt this motion unanimously.

Supply
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the hon. member for Joliette on his speech. I found it very well presented, particularly his comparison between the programs developed to cope with the depression in the thirties and the situation we are experiencing today. I believe this is an interesting comparison.

Last week I took part in a discussion with some one hundred students at the Cégep de la Pocatière. With me were church representatives, a sociologist and a teacher, an Arab originally from Morocco. The students were particularly interested in two things.

They asked many questions about the effectiveness of the strikes but also had many queries about short and long term international aid. They asked whether we were indeed playing our part correctly. I think the Bloc Quebecois motion of today responds to this in part.

I would like to ask my colleague from Joliette whether what we have been seeing in terms of international aid since 1993-94 is not the application of the very same principle the Liberal government has applied within Canada?

There were many cuts to be made and they were made in the sectors where people are perhaps the least organized, the least capable of defending themselves, the least anxious to assert themselves, for instance the unemployed, who do not necessarily have big organizations to defend them.

As far as international aid is concerned, hon. members will recall that funding was cut to COSI, a Quebec agency consolidating all NGOs involved in international co-operation. Its funding was cut so much that it was less able to assume its mandate of organization and thus the public felt less inclined to invest.

Is it not in fact this principle that has led us to the conclusion that Canada is absolutely not pulling its weight as far as international aid is concerned? Unfortunately, other countries are doing the same, which is what has led to the terrorism we have unfortunately experienced, particularly on September 11.

Supply
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

I thank the member for his question, which I find extremely relevant. What he is referring to is in fact a real danger.

I do think that the Liberal government, and, I must say, the previous Progressive Conservative government, have both attacked social programs, which meet the needs of the most disadvantaged, the less organized people in our society.

It is rather surprising to see that, when governments want to restore fiscal health, an objective we agree with, it is always easier to cut employment insurance than it is to cut other programs. However, when the money is there, the Minister of Finance suddenly announces that he now has some fiscal flexibility and that he will put all the funds into the military and security when, in theory at least because that is what they told us, we never had the means to help the unemployed.

I think the situation is the same on the international level.

Nowadays, some regions of the world are totally disorganized and are unable to have an impact at the international level. Just think of Africa. Even private investors have lost interest in a good portion of Africa. It is not a question of exploitation. Those regions do not even have the privilege—I am being ironic here—of being exploited by multinationals anymore. The multinationals ignore them and the international community ignores them.

There is something dangerous in the current policies. Very sincerely, I wonder if we are not actually developing, through bilateral free trade agreement programs with South American countries, for example, trade agreements with countries that show some potential for us and letting other countries down.

It is in that sense that I feel the negotiation of a free trade area of the Americas, well understood, multilateral and with a concern for rights, is a much more interesting way to go than bilateral agreements.

What we could find at the end of the day is that Canada has bilateral agreements with a number of economically promising countries, like Costa Rica, but has let down other countries that seemed to be too hard hit to be worth salvaging.

Does Bolivia, for example, show some potential for Canada? I think that on a short term, the answer is no. Under a multilateraI agreement, Bolivia would be included.

What concerns me now is that parts of the world are left out and are no longer of economic interest for the great powers, particularly the United States.

In that context, I feel we should give a very clear indication that, as Canadians and as Quebecers, we are concerned about the whole world and that we will commit resources at the level expected of us. The 0.7% of Canadian GDP is what we are being asked to contribute in international aid, and we will be able to reach that level within a few years.