House of Commons Hansard #17 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was ethical.

Topics

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4 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant McNally Dewdney—Alouette, BC

It is unbelievable that a member of the government would say such a thing to the member from Calgary. Would he care to comment on that unbelievable concession from the government member?

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4:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deborah Grey Edmonton North, AB

You were not from the west, Dennis, obviously.

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4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Dennis Mills Toronto—Danforth, ON

That idea came from the west.

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4:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Madam Speaker, let us say it this way. For those of us who were living in the west during the national energy policy, we know exactly what happened.

The member was living in Toronto. He is from Toronto. What does he know? He was not there to feel the pain of Albertans when his government was taking money out of the province. He should have lived there and then he would have known what the pain was the pain in that part of the world. I lived under that rule. He lives in Toronto. He thinks everything is fine because the money was flowing into his province at that time.

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February 24th, 2004 / 4:05 p.m.

Sarnia—Lambton
Ontario

Liberal

Roger Gallaway Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, there have been discussions among all the parties. I think you would find unanimous consent that the following motion be put and adopted. I move:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice, the hours of sitting and order of business of the House on Tuesday, March 9, 2004, shall be those of a Wednesday:

That the Address of the Secretary General of the United Nations, to be delivered in the House Chamber at 10:00 a.m. on March 9, 2004 before Members of the Senate and Members of the House of Commons, together with all introductory and related remarks, be printed as an appendix to the House of Commons Debates for that day and form part of the records of this House; and

That media recording and transmission of such address, introductory and related remarks be authorized pursuant to established guidelines for such occasions.

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4:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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4:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

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4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Dennis Mills Toronto—Danforth, ON

Madam Speaker, before I begin to respond to the motion by the member for Winnipeg Centre, I will say it is a very good motion. There are some flaws in it and I will deal with those.

I will begin by dealing with the national energy program. I was part of a government that implemented that plan. What most people do not understand is that the idea that essentially was behind the national energy program, the security of supply retroactive back into Canadian lands that were essentially being taken over by foreign multinationals--

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4:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

I would take a moment to remind the hon. member for Toronto—Danforth that the subject matter he is answering to today may be a subject for another day. Today we have a specific motion on the floor of the House. I would ask the member to direct his comments and his speech to that motion.

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4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Dennis Mills Toronto—Danforth, ON

Madam Speaker, you are so correct. I will go back, but I did not want my friends from the west to think that we were defensive about Canadian ownership of one of our most important natural resources.

The motion today reads:

That... the Canada Pension Plan Investment Review Board should be guided by ethical investment policies which would ensure that our pension investments are socially responsible and do not support companies or enterprises that manufacture or trade in military arms and weapons, have records of poor labour practices, contribute to environmental degradation, or whose conduct, practices or activities are similarly contrary to Canadian values.

I like this motion a lot, but the reality is this. For starters, we should make sure we understand that the pension fund board, the operator of this fund, is at arm's length from us, but that we can have tremendous influence on the board. Any alteration of the plan the fund operators are on is not decided by us in the House alone. We need two-thirds of the provinces on side and in fact we need to have Canadians support this in a very serious way.

This motion reminds me of an idea that we have been talking about around here for a number of years, that is, we should be reviewing our entire system of measuring how we approach growth and development in our country. The United Nations had a system called the human development index. Rather than measure by accounting terms like “gross national product”, which are simply numbers, we should be developing a formula wherein we include in the basket of measurement children in poverty and the state of our agricultural sector. Too often in this chamber, we are guided by the officials of the finance department and we do not have enough influence on the way they think from the people in Human Resources Development or the people who run the Department of the Environment. This is where I think the motion is very strong and very good.

I think the mere fact that we are debating this today is a process of sensitizing those people who manage the board that handles the pension fund. I had absolutely no knowledge, until I heard it today from the member for Winnipeg Centre, of some of those investments the board is making, which are linked to making landmines or biological weapons, if I heard the member correctly, or some kind of poisonous gas or something. The member read out a list of armament materials that we were investing in. I do not think anyone in the House was aware of that.

If we accomplish one thing today, it should be that we will have sensitized the board to the fact that it really should review every single area in which we are investing. Maybe the investment that the board is putting into a particular fund happens to be part of another fund which in turn is linked to some kind of U.S. company that happens to be in the business of manufacturing these military weapons. I do not think that anyone on this board realizes for a second that Canadian taxpayers' pension fund money is going into a business that is making landmines.

As the member for Winnipeg Centre so appropriately remarked, it was our minister of foreign affairs, Lloyd Axworthy, who led the way on a global landmines treaty. The notion that we would be complementing or participating in the making of landmines is something that I am sure the pension board, after hearing this debate today, would rectify in a microsecond.

I think that what we have to do in this motion is be tough where there are examples that really go against the spirit and the social policy of the House of Commons. If there are flagrant examples of where we are investing in corporations that go against everything the House of Commons stands for, then the board should obviously review and correct them.

At the same time, the part of this motion that I have a little difficulty with is the area regarding “enterprises that manufacture...military arms”. I want to be very specific about this, because there is a fine line here. The Department of National Defence and our peacekeepers have to go into peacekeeping zones with arms, tanks and equipment that allow our men and women who are in harm's way to be protected. We as a nation in the House of Commons decided many years ago to purchase F-18As. These are part of our ships at sea.

These are all areas where we cannot suddenly say that we do not believe in this because it is just not part of what the House of Commons or the nation is all about. We are very proud of our Department of National Defence. In fact, our new minister is pressing nerve here in a way that hopefully will reinvigorate that department even more, because there is no way that anyone, especially those in the NDP, would want our peacekeepers to be in a position where they are exposed. They need to have armaments for their own defence.

In the area of environmental degradation, I know for a fact that some of these funds are investing in environmental technology. We cannot move fast enough on that file. I think that is an area where we can almost be forceful with the Canada pension fund board, because we all know that the more we push green technologies, the more we are actually creating a more economically viable, sustainable society and planet. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that anything that has to do with investment in environmental technologies is a no-brainer in terms of generating an economic return.

Ten years ago, my very dear friends, Patty Carson and Julia Moulden, wrote a book, Green is Gold . They made the case for more investment in green businesses. A lot of these businesses are actually making very solid margins. They are making good profits. Those good profits in environmental businesses can actually help sustain and make our Canadian pension fund stronger and give us a better return.

That particular area of the member's motion I applaud and support. I think that in the end this debate today will be solid, useful and substantive because, as we have learned from another instance that we had thrown at us a few weeks ago, we can never ever presume that those agencies of government, even if they are at arm's length, are always sensitive to the direction from and the consensus of the House. The notion that we would ask these people to review every single investment that is part of the pension fund and at the same time keep it on a solid economic footing is a good piece of parliamentary debate.

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4:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for New Brunswick Southwest, Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

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4:15 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I will not take up too much time. I am interested in hearing the views of others as I was the one who moved this motion. I want to thank the hon. member who just spoke for a very balanced speech on this motion. I think he took very seriously the various elements of it. I would ask him to help others in the House to understand what he knows about the ethical investment funds as they are.

Would he agree that there are two ways to do this? There is a negative screen that we could put in place to make sure that the CPP fund is not investing in certain companies whose practices are in contrast to Canadian values. Also, there is a positive screen, through which we could reward certain other industry sectors that we want to motivate and encourage. Through us investing, as a carrot effect, in a certain sector in the company that has the best practices, other companies in that sector may rise to that higher standard in order to attract CPP investment.

Would that not be a positive result of having ethical screens?

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4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Dennis Mills Toronto—Danforth, ON

Madam Speaker, first, on the unethical investing or the screen that is unethical, I think it is a no-brainer. If the pension fund managers are reviewing things that are in that zone, they should decide immediately this does not reflect the value system of the House of Commons and they should repair that immediately.

On the other side, the positive ethical corporate experiences, I agree with that as well. The only thing that I think we have to be careful about in the House is that we ask people to manage funds in a way such that they are sustainable for those people who eventually have to receive those pensions, whether they be people who retire or people who are beneficiaries if someone passes away, or whether they have disabilities.

I do not think we can over-regulate them on that side, because there is a balance between making sure that they are sensitized to things that are ethically good, but at the same time they also must have a level of return that does not jeopardize the sustainability of the fund.

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4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Maria Minna Beaches—East York, ON

Madam Speaker, I agree one hundred per cent with my colleague and I also agree with the motion. It is a very good motion. I must say that I find totally unacceptable the notion that companies which manufacture landmines might be subsidized by our CPP funds. Having seen when I visited Kosovo some of the effects that landmines have had on people and given the fact that we have what was called the Ottawa initiative, Canada's initiative from a former minister of foreign affair, which led the world in eliminating landmines, just using that as an example, it is not acceptable.

To me, investing in green technologies is probably one of the ways to really encourage CPP. When the Canada pension plan people came in front of the finance committee of the House of Commons, they told us that they tried very hard to make sure that they invested ethically. They told us that they try to screen as much as they can. I think it is incumbent on the House to make sure that they are encouraged--