House of Commons Hansard #114 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was families.

Topics

Speaker's Ruling
Development Assistance Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

At this time I would like to share with the House the ruling by the Speaker concerning the motions at report stage of Bill C-293, An Act respecting the provision of development assistance abroad.

There are nine motions in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill C-293. Motions Nos. 1 to 9 will be grouped for debate and voted upon according to the voting pattern available at the table. The Chair has also examined these amendments and finds that they do not contain any provisions which would require a royal recommendation.

I shall now propose Motions Nos. 1 to 9 to the House.

Motions in amendment
Development Assistance Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

moved:

Motion No. 1

That Bill C-293, in Clause 3, be amended by replacing, in the English version, line 4 on page 3 with the following:

“or”

Motion No. 2

That Bill C-293, in Clause 3, be amended by replacing, in the French version, line 6 on page 3 with the following:

“les organisations de défense des droits de la”

Motion No. 3

That Bill C-293, in Clause 4, be amended by adding after line 16 on page 3 the following:

“(1.1) Notwithstanding subsection (1), official development assistance may be provided for the purposes of alleviating the effects of a natural or artificial disaster or other emergency occurring outside Canada.”

Motion No. 4

That Bill C-293, in Clause 4, be amended by replacing, in the French version, line 22 on page 3 with the following:

“et des organismes de la société civile”

Motion No. 5

That Bill C-293, in Clause 4, be amended by replacing line 25 on page 3 with the following:

“official development assistance as defined by this Act”

Motion No. 6

That Bill C-293, in Clause 4, be amended by replacing lines 26 and 27 on page 3 with the following:

“that meets the criteria in subsections (1) and (1.1).”

Motion No. 7

That Bill C-293, in Clause 4, be amended by replacing line 26 on page 3 with the following:

“that meets the criteria in subsections (1) and (1.1), and”

Motion No. 8

That Bill C-293 be amended by deleting Clause 5.

Motion No. 9

That Bill C-293, in Clause 9, be amended by replacing lines 30 to 35 on page 4 with the following:

“to preparing the report required under section 13 of the Bretton Woods and Related Agreements Act, contribute the following to the report submitted to Parliament under subsection (1):

(a) the position taken by Canada on any resolution that is adopted by the Board of”

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank all members in the House and indeed many who are listening for the help that they have given me with this bill. I think this has been a worthwhile effort. It is in an effort to bring accountability to our aid projects, our official development assistance. It is a bit of an example of cooperation among all parties. I think at the end of the day we do have a product that many members will find themselves able to support. I even want to thank government members who from time to time even offered assistance. It is quite a remarkable phenomenon for us in the opposition to have support from government members.

This is about better aid. It is not about more aid.

I just want to offer an observation with respect to a report by a Senate committee chaired by Senator Segal that comments upon our aid in sub-Saharan Africa. The observation, according to news reports, was that we have put somewhere in the order of about $12 billion into sub-Saharan Africa and it is not observable what it is we actually got for that significant sum of money. The senators' observations in these areas are actually quite acute. I think that this particular bill, assuming it arrives in the Senate, hopefully sooner rather than later, addresses in some small measure the concerns of the senators as they expressed them in their report. I am hoping that the Senate will also see fit to support this bill.

When I started work on this bill, it seemed like a good idea. It was in accord with my own observations that our own official development assistance was not well focused. I thought it was a good bill to put before the House to generate debate and to see how far it went. But last month, I went to Kenya with the member for Halifax, the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour and the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley. I do not know whether other members have actually had an opportunity to travel in Africa but if they had the experience that we had, they would know that this bill is now a personal matter.

We had met, in some small measure, the actual people this bill would affect. We had personal conversations in the slums of Nairobi with the people this bill would affect. We had personal conversations in West Kenya with the people this bill would affect.

This bill directs that our official development assistance will be directed for poverty alleviation. That will be the litmus test of official development assistance.

At the time, it was pretty hard to look those people in the eye and say that we want accountability and we want this and we want that. It was pretty darned hard because we were meeting some people from an organization called the Jami Bora Trust. These people are street prostitutes. These people are petty thieves. Many of them, probably in the order of 50% of them, have AIDS. They are the poorest of the poor. They simply have no money, nothing that we would constitute as an asset. Yet Jami Bora Trust was willing to lend them money based upon any savings that they had. If they had what we would call $10 in their bank account, Jami Bora Trust would actually lend them $20 more. With that $30, they would open small businesses.

It was just remarkable the transformation that those small businesses would make to the lives of those people. They could cease to be prostitutes. They could cease to be petty criminals. They could actually earn enough to buy enough food and to get medications that might be made available to them for TB, malaria or AIDS. It was a remarkable transformation. It was remarkable to see people who, for ridiculously small amounts of money, were able to purchase malaria nets. In some instances, they were given to them free.

We were in a situation with three or four African huts around a compound, just like in National Geographic. I can still see this woman looking at me and saying, “Because we have these nets, now my children do not scratch themselves in the morning, they do not get sick and they actually go to school more often”. This bill would help with those things.

We went through the Kibera slums and it was quite remarkable. There were three students for one book. At one time it was 15 students to one textbook. Can anyone imagine 15 students to one textbook? With Canada's assistance, that was brought down to three students to a textbook, and obviously a lot more can be done. It is a hugely successful program but that is the kind of thing that this bill could affect.

We went through the Kibera primary school, right in the middle of one of the worst slums of Nairobi, and what we saw were 2,400 students being schooled by 36 teachers. That is the kind of thing we could be doing and the kind of thing we should be doing.

I submit that this bill could make a difference in people's lives, which is why I am urging hon. members to support it.

At this point, we have no legislated mandate or rules on how we spend our ODA funds. I confess that I may be exaggerating somewhat here, but it seems that whoever puts up his or her hand last is the one who gets the project money. This bill would actually give the minister a legislated focus as to how she or he spends our official development assistance funds.

The critical test will be whether the money will go to poverty alleviation and, if the money does go toward poverty alleviation, micro-finance in the slums of Nairobi, bed nets in west Kenya or primary school books in the schools of Kenya, then the minister can say to her colleagues or others that it does fall within our official development assistance mandate.

The point of this bill is to focus our official development assistance on poverty alleviation. I want to ensure that members understand that would not prevent us from providing other assistance. In the amendments, the discussions and the time in committee, we tried to make that as clear as we possibly could. One of the amendments that was read into the record makes it about as clear as possible that this would not prevent the minister or other members of the government from doing precisely that.

Bill C-293 would create a clear mandate that ODA and all ODA funded projects would first need to demonstrate that their objectives include poverty reduction.

The second test is whether the projects take into account the perspectives of the poor. I suppose if a point were driven home to me while I was in Kenya, the perspectives of the poor are extremely important.

The third test is whether they are consistent with international standards.

The criteria for ODA funded projects, however, do not apply in the instances of humanitarian assistance.

This bill has become personal to me because of my trip to Kenya with my colleagues in the House. I can still see the faces of the people who will be affected if this legislation passes.

Motions in amendment
Development Assistance Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade and Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak once again to Bill C-293, An Act respecting the provision of development assistance abroad.

As I said before, the House will find no disagreement from the government on the fundamental principles underlying the proposed legislation. We can all agree that poverty reduction should be a driving value in our aid efforts and that poverty reduction entails a commitment to better health and education, the promotion and protection of human rights, environmental sustainability and equality between men and women.

However, our government believes that poverty reduction means more than just that. Successful poverty reduction also requires strengthened democratic governance in developing countries to ensure that governments protect, respect and promote the rights of citizens. Providing basic health and education is essential but will produce no lasting benefits if a government turns on its own citizens or is incapable of protecting them from lawlessness, crime and corruption.

Our government is implementing programs based on this broader definition of poverty reduction in order to help bring freedom, democracy, human rights, the rule of law, long-lasting development and compassion to those less fortunate. We take this very seriously.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the members of the opposition. Canada focuses its development assistance program in the poorest developing countries and, within those countries, on improving the lives of the poorest and the most vulnerable men, women and children.

There is no doubt that we can do more but doing more also means working smarter to ensure that our aid dollars are spent more effectively, with greater accountability and with clear results for the poor in developing countries.

Our government's commitment to aid effectiveness has been clear from the beginning and is reflected in our determination to focus our aid program and to strengthen our ability to deliver aid effective initiatives, with results commensurate with dollars spent.

Our commitment to greater accountability also means demonstrating this effectiveness to Canadians. Starting in 2007, we will publish an annual report on the international development results and that is to be delivered to Parliament and to Canadians. We have a positive story to tell Canadians and we intend to tell it.

However, I fear that the opposition is more concerned about scoring political points with the Make Poverty History campaign than it is about ensuring we pass concrete legislation for our development assistance. This is evident in the bill, a bill that is unclear, lacks ministerial accountability and opens us up to potential legal challenges at almost every turn.

In my speech at second reading, I highlighted some of the difficulties the bill presented, serious concerns that my colleagues and I have tried to address and amend at committee stage. For example, CIDA currently falls under the Foreign Affairs Act, meaning that if no minister of international cooperation is named by the governor in council, the responsibility of the agency falls to the minister of foreign affairs.

This is a legal relationship that already exists. In our committee deliberations on Tuesday, December 12, 2006, at the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, despite efforts by myself and my colleagues to clarify for the opposition members this relationship, the committee voted 7 to 4 to disregard this relationship and create its own definition of the minister.

I have provided for the House merely one example of the confusion the bill creates and the irresponsible actions of the opposition members.

Legislation can help strengthen Canada's development assistance, particularly when the mandate is straightforward and precise, when accountabilities are clear and when reporting on those results is substantive and unambiguous. Legislation that meets these tests can be an enormously powerful instrument for guiding and focusing our aid program.

Bill C-293 fails these tests and, I am sorry to say, was not helped by the actions of many opposition members on the committee.

In our view, Bill C-293 is flawed because it fails to provide a precise, transparent mandate and it encumbers ministers responsible for Canada's aid program with onerous, unnecessary and inappropriate accountabilities that increase administrative burden but do not add value to aid programming. Why should three government departments be asked to table the same information?

The end result is a cumbersome piece of legislation that lacks essential clarity and operational efficiency. The bill is so laden with unproductive restrictions and unnecessary criteria that it would do nothing more than overload the aid program with an administrative and bureaucratic complexity.

There are a number of specific issues with this bill that I wish to touch on.

First, a workable mandate statement must be precise, simple and clear. The mandate statement of Bill C-293 is none of these things. Instead, it creates a number of overlapping and complex obligations on the aid program.

In our view, the legal requirement that the minister should take into account the perspectives of the poor when disbursing Canadian assistance, begs a question. What would be the test of such a requirement? Not only is it impossible to interpret this requirement but it adds rigidity to an approach that should remain flexible and responsive to local circumstances in developing countries.

That obligation in the proposed mandate statement may impinge upon a process of developing priorities that is usually determined at the country level following consultations with a variety of actors, including people living in poverty. These procedures vary from country to country, depending on the political circumstances and the level of commitment by the government to poverty reduction, human rights and governance framework. They already exist as good practice and should remain as such.

I also wish to discuss the issue of jurisdiction over the aid program. This issue requires very careful review because jurisdictions for Canadian development assistance overlap. We agree that accountabilities for the aid program require careful review but, in our view, the rush to ensure this bill passes into legislation has not given us the time to review and refine ministerial accountabilities regarding the aid program.

Finally, the reporting provisions of the bill remain redundant and confuse ministerial accountability. For example, the named minister is required to report on activities that may not fall under his or her jurisdiction. There are several instances where new reports would merely be a synthesis of material that is already in the public domain. In other words, it is old wine in new bottles.

Finally, much of the reporting asked for is already authorized under the legislation, for example, in the Bretton Woods and Related Agreements Act.

In my view, Bill C-293, despite being worthy in its intent, is highly flawed legislation and should not be adopted because of its many shortcomings. I would remind my colleagues that we will be judged on the international stage by this legislation. I would suggest, if this bill does pass, that as members of Parliament and as legislators in this country we should be ashamed to support such poorly drafted legislation.

Motions in amendment
Development Assistance Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

February 20th, 2007 / 6:40 p.m.

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak this evening on Bill C-293 at the report stage.

For the information of our citizens, I will provide the background for this bill. In her report of February 2005, the Auditor General of Canada flagged certain issues pertaining to CIDA management. The report listed the following five criticisms, among others. First, the increased use of grants rather than contributions to finance aid projects is worrisome. Second, CIDA disburses grants in advance of needs. Third, CIDA does not verify in-kind contributions. For example, of 19 files reviewed, 12 mentioned this type of contribution and for 11 there was no indication that CIDA had determined the real value. Fourth, only 3 of 19 agreements analyzed indicated that CIDA had reviewed project costs to ensure that there was no profit. Fifth, CIDA must strengthen its current practices regarding audits because it is possible, among other things, that the agency is refunding unauthorized expenses.

The Auditor General's criticisms indicate that there are significant gaps in CIDA's accountability and transparency and that legislation to that end is required. In addition, over the past 25 years, we have seen a significant reduction in poverty world-wide. With the emergence of new economic powers such as China and India, thousands of people no longer suffer abject poverty and have been able to get an education, live as equals, and relieve their hunger. However, conditions have deteriorated in some countries. We are still a long way from a world where no one goes hungry and where the infant mortality rate is comparable to that in the West. We are still very far from Kofi Annan's reform project. On March 21, 2005, Kofi Annan, then the UN Secretary General, released a report in which he indicated his intention to strengthen the UN. His three major themes were: freedom from want, freedom from fear and freedom to live in dignity.

The Bloc Québécois supports the Kofi Annan project to implement measures that will enable all peoples worldwide to live in freedom from want and fear and to live in dignity. Canada must do its part to make this happen.

That said, the wording of the bill at second reading was a bit confusing. In clause 2, the bill stated that Canadian official development assistance abroad must be provided with a central focus on poverty reduction.

What role does fighting poverty play in development assistance? We know that fighting poverty is a very good way to promote development. However, we would have liked to have seen a provision in the bill that broadened, as much as possible, the definition of the word “poverty”. Poverty is not just a money issue; it is also a social issue. That is why we think the UN's millennium goals provide the best framework for working to reduce poverty.

The UN has established eight millennium development goals. The first is to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. The second is to achieve universal primary education. The third is to promote gender equality and empower women. The fourth is to reduce child mortality. The fifth is to improve maternal health. The sixth is to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. The seventh is to ensure environmental sustainability. The eighth is to develop a global partnership for development.

The bill addresses only two of the eight goals: fighting poverty and sustainable development. But fighting poverty is more than just one of the eight goals. As part of his freedom from poverty agenda, Kofi Annan wrote:

We need to see the Millennium Development Goals as part of an even larger development agenda. ... they clearly do not in themselves represent a complete development agenda.

We presented an amendment to that effect to the committee. The amendment stipulated that the fight against poverty take into account related issues, such as health, education and equality.

Our amendment was defeated. All the same, we believe that this bill is a step in the right direction, because it provides a framework for official development assistance by ensuring that it focusses on poverty reduction.

In addition to defining official development assistance, this bill stipulates that assistance must take the poor into account. We firmly believe that any official development assistance must take into account the perspectives of the poor. Such assistance is intended to improve their living conditions and their housing environment, so it makes sense to take into account the perspectives of the very people we are trying to help.

Currently, CIDA is centred in Ottawa. Roughly 80% of CIDA's employees work in the national capital. How can CIDA take into account the perspectives of the poor when most of its employees work in offices in Ottawa? We hope that this bill will pave the way for a reform of CIDA that will decentralize the agency's activities to the countries that receive official development assistance.

There are a number of benefits to adopting such a bill, including the creation of monitoring, accountability and transparency mechanisms. Who can be against that? For example, clause 9 of the bill is designed to ensure that assistance is provided more transparently. It also requires the competent minister to table in the House a report containing the amount the government spends on official development assistance, a summary of any activity or initiative taken under this bill, a summary of the annual report submitted under the Bretton Woods and Related Agreements Act and a summary of CIDA's performance report.

Much of this information is already published. What is new is that all the information would be assembled in a single document, providing a better overview of CIDA's work and Canada's official development assistance. This would facilitate the legislators' work, because it would be easier for them to identify problems and solve them in accordance with this bill.

At second reading, Bill C-293 included three clauses, 6, 7 and 8, which were dropped. These three clauses represented the most substantial aspects of the bill. These clauses were dropped because it was thought that they needed a royal recommendation and were therefore out of order. Even without these three clauses, this bill is still important because, as I was saying earlier, this is a step in the right direction and it finally provides a framework for development assistance.

We also expressed some reservations about clause 2.(1) which states that all Canadian official development assistance activities are to be provided in a manner that is consistent with Canadian values. What is meant by “Canadian values”? This is vague and ambiguous. We proposed an amendment to define this term and used the definition on the CIDA site as a reference. Our amendment was approved by the committee. The new definition reads as follows: “Canadian values means, amongst others, values of global citizenship, equity and environmental sustainability”.

However, can we even talk about Canadian values? In our view, it would be more fair to talk about the values of Canada's nations. The values of a country are those that stem from the nation or nations that make up that country. As we know, there is more than one nation in Canada.

Given that poverty offers fertile ground for terrorism, urgent action is needed. The time for action has come and then some. The federal government would have to be serious about its desire to alleviate poverty around the world. Yet, both the Liberals and the Conservatives lack the political will to set aside funds for development assistance in the budget. Even if the Conservatives maintain the budget increase for development assistance at 8% annually, this is still not enough of an increase to allow Canada to reach the target of 0.7% of our GNP by 2015.

For more than 10 years, many people have been calling on the government to adopt legislation on development assistance. Today, this Parliament has the perfect opportunity to take action and make a difference.

Motions in amendment
Development Assistance Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak briefly this evening in support of private member's Bill C-293, that is before the House at report stage.

The work that has gone into this bill to bring it to this point is an example of the kind of collaborative effort that often occurs in a positive, constructive way to a much greater degree in a minority government. I want to applaud the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood for having very skilfully led this through the committee process.

Although we are dealing with a private member's bill and no one member is empowered to speak on behalf of all of one's colleagues, it would appear as though the consistent support that was expressed at the committee by the Liberal, Bloc and New Democratic Party members would reflect the support of their respective caucuses.

I am profoundly disappointed to hear the practically wholesale condemnation of the bill, that has now reached the report stage, coming from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade and Minister of International Cooperation.

It is demeaning and not worthy of the really quite admirable, collaborative, and cooperative effort that has been displayed to describe the motives, which are not actually parliamentary, of committee members who have supported this in good faith and who have indicated they are prepared to support it, to be doing so only to score points with the Make Poverty History campaign. That is actually somewhat pathetic, I must say.

The Make Poverty History campaign was actually launched by Nelson Mandela as a global effort very much supporting the international cooperative effort to support the millennium development goals and to ensure that every single donor country in the world, every country that is as privileged as Canada is to have immense wealth relative to the developing countries, would live up to their international obligations.

The bill that is before us, which has already been noted by others who have spoken, is not about the volume of aid from Canada. In fact, a parallel effort has gone on for almost the last two years to try to get the Government of Canada to deliver at the level of the minimal requirement, the minimal obligation, that has been defined as the sort of international standard of 0.7% of our gross national income for official development assistance.

This bill is about delivering Canada's aid in a more effective, transparent and accountable way. A good effort has been made into the evolution of the development assistance accountability act. This is a third iteration of a bill that goes back, to give credit where it is due, to the former New Democratic member for Churchill who initially introduced the bill. I subsequently did so. There have been refinements and improvements that have come as a result of the good faith effort at committee and as a result of hearing from witnesses. It is extremely disappointing that the government would basically sweep it aside as being completely unworthy.

Having said that, I hope that what we will see at third reading is sufficient support for this private member's initiative to in fact pass in the House. Such is often a possibility in a minority Parliament.

We are talking in this instance about recognizing how much we owe it to Canadians, as well as to the recipients of ODA, to be as effective and accountable as possible in the use of every single last dollar that is intended to go to overseas official development assistance.

To have an accurate picture, in 2005-06 CIDA's authorized budget was $3.3 billion of which $3.1 billion was disbursed mainly through grants and contributions. This is not about the amount of aid. It is about having a sense of the volume of aid about which we are speaking. Even though it falls very short of our obligation to 0.7%, it is a sizable sum of money.

If we delivered at the level that Sweden or Finland delivers, we would triple the amount of aid that we contribute now. However, the real issue is about the transparency and the accountability in this instance.

I think, as the member for Scarborough—Guildwood has said, anyone who has visited developing countries and has seen the grinding, devastating poverty conditions in which so many women, men and children are living would want to use every possible means we could to make that aid as effective as humanly possible.

We observed these conditions in Kenya. I then had the privilege to spend a week in Uganda at the same time as the member who has sponsored this private member's bill visited Africa with two of our colleagues. We saw children living in the most squalid conditions imaginable, open sewers, no basic sanitation, children who could not possibly remain healthy because of the health hazards. Their living conditions are so desperate that there is no possibility of escaping contamination by TB. We saw families conscientiously trying to use bed nets to prevent their children from suffering from malaria. All of these conditions were crying out for the most effective possible response from donor countries.

Therefore, we should celebrate the fact that a great many witnesses came before our committee. This project started on April 1 of 2003 when we began to really look at our ODA obligations and how we could improve our accountability and transparency as well as meet our obligations at a higher level of ODA.

In the incredible collaborative spirit in which people came together again and again before the committee to plead the case of our doing a more effective job with our aid and also with a more generous allocation of our dollars for aid, I hope the government will reconsider why it would strengthen the message to Canadians and our commitment to the poorest of the poor in the world.

We should pass the bill in this Parliament as a unanimous gesture to say we can do better, we will do more and we will maximize our effectiveness as a generous contributor to overseas official development assistance for those in the world who desperately need our support.

Motions in amendment
Development Assistance Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague, the member for Scarborough—Guildwood, on this exceptional bill, Bill C-293, on an issue that I think is of interest to many Canadians.

It deals with international development and how we can make it more effective. Why do we want to do this? As a matter of course to the taxpayer. However, the people we are dealing with are some of the most underprivileged people in the entire world and, quite frankly, it is a matter of life and death for many of them.

I will focus on Africa. Why? Because it is the only part of the world where the social parameters and economies are in decline. It is ironic that 40% of the world's natural resources are in the continent of Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, yet we see the worst cases of poverty on the entire globe.

In the 24 times that I have gone to Africa to work as a physician and engage in other aid and development projects on the ground, I can tell the House, and all of those who have been there know full well, that the people there are the most industrious, caring, compassionate and resourceful individuals. Acts of absolutely breathtaking charity and kindness are exercised by these people in the midst of abject poverty. It is extraordinary to see and humbling, coming from the west.

All the more ironic and heart-rending is the fact that there are massive resources of extraordinary amounts. The tragic irony is some of the poorest people live in the richest countries in the world, with resources of oil, diamonds, gold, minerals, timber and hydro in abundance. Why do we evidence all of these resources on one hand, but on the other hand we see abject poverty?

Let us go through some of the challenges and problems.

First is corruption. Corruption is the cancer that has eroded the continent. The fact that we as western countries have chosen to neglect this is a pox on our houses. We have chosen to neglect the gross excesses of leaders, from Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe to the Angolan government that has massive surpluses from oil, yet it is one of the worst places in the world for children to live. There are areas where there are conflicts, from Darfur to Chad, to the CAR and the Congo. We have seen countries ripped to pieces, innocent civilians caught in the cross-fire between groups that are fighting over resources, in part supported by western interests. We have done absolutely nothing. We have turned a blind eye.

How can we make our aid and development work better? I spoke of the problem of corruption, of a lack of capacity. We have umpteen numbers of solutions and frameworks that take place. We spend millions of dollars and those frameworks go absolutely no where. How on earth can we implement a framework if we do not have the people on the ground who have the capacity to execute them? It is an absolutely absurd situation, yet we expect these countries to get on their feet by giving them a framework that they cannot implement. They do not have the resources nor the people to do that. We give them the framework, we walk away and we are happy, with no effect on the ground. That is what we are talking about today.

There is a lack of basic infrastructure, human capacity and basic needs. When conflict arises and is in full force in front of us, when it is entirely possible to prevent those conflicts what have we done? Absolutely nothing. I have mentioned Darfur, Chad, CAR, Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe and the list goes on.

Aid is like a funnel. Money goes in one end and trickles out the other end to the people. Our aid is scattered, unfocused, disorganized, within government, between governments and within countries of need. Can we fix it? Absolutely. This is in no way a mark on the very good people who we have in CIDA. They have been labouring under umpteen numbers of troubles through decades, but we can and we must fix this.

For example, we do not support the partnership branch, which supports the smaller NGOs that do exceptional work on the ground. Rather, we give huge tranches of funds to large international NGOs, and we lose accountability and effect. Again, it is the funnel effect with huge amounts of money through large NGOs, international organizations, with a trickle down to the people on the ground.

What can we do? Let us focus on the millennium development goals: 12 countries; primary health; primary education; water security; food security; governance; and anti-corruption work. Let us focus on these six particular areas and we will have an effect.

How do we execute them? From an administrative perspective, we should use the “Three Ones” that has been championed by UN aids, one framework, one implementing mechanism and one oversight mechanism. We can do that with CIDA and through our programs abroad.

When look at health care, which is a particular interest of mine, we should focus on maternal health. Why? If we get maternal health right, we will have our health care personnel, our medications, clinics, water and food. If we affect the maternal mortality statistics, we will know our health care systems are essentially correct and this will affect the entire population.

It is a mistake to focus on a silo mechanism for dealing with health care internationally, for example, A's focus only on antiretrovirals. If we simply deal with diseases as silos, but we do not have the health care personnel, the diagnostics, the treatment facilities, the clean water and the nutrition, how on earth will we have an effect on the ground? How will we affect those parameters and the people who have been ripped to pieces by the worst scourge that has ever affected humanity.

What else can we do? Why do we not take the Canada Corps, which is a moribund, rump of an organization within CIDA. Why not tap into the potential within our own country, Canadians who desperately want to work abroad, both young people and those who are part of the early retirement group? They have the desire, the will, the time and the expertise to do this.

How would this work? The Canada Corps would be the interface between a country and our people at home. Our CIDA people would then be on the ground and they could ask the people what they need. How many nurses, doctors, engineers, judicial experts, agronomists, hydrologists and veterinarians do they need? It then brings a list back to Canada. The corps then asks various groups, such as the Canadian Medical Association, the nursing association, Lawyers Without Borders, Doctors Without Borders, the Canadian Teachers Association, to fill those areas. If we do that, a big gap will be filled. Those people would not only provide care, but they could also teach people in those countries how to be veterinarians, doctors, nurses or agronomists. A long term stable effect would be felt on the ground.

We need to focus on the partnership branch. We need to increase moneys to it and ensure Canadian NGOs are used. They do incredible work on the ground. People here in the House as well as their families are involved in this work.

In the end, the big answer to Africa is the private sector. How can we provide an environment with infrastructure where people will invest in developing countries, an environment where people can use the ample resources for their benefit and not for the benefit of the leaders who swan around in Mercédes-Benzs while their people live in gutters. That is happening right now. We can do this.

I encourage members to look at the example of what Sir Seretse Khama did in Botswana. He was a leader for the continent. He had the resources and he ensured that they were tapped into and his people benefited from that. Despite the fact that Botswana has tragic levels of HIV-AIDS, it has a relatively stable economically, and it is to the credit of Sir Seretse Khama and other African leaders like him who were able to do this.

I encourage the government not to ignore Africa because it is a continent of great hope and potential. It has extraordinary people who can definitely change the course of their future. They do not want handouts. They want a hand up. All they want is the same as all of us. They do not want to be shot. They do not want to be killed. They do not want their children to be abused. They do not want to have a leadership that robs their country blind.

They want to have clean water. They want to have access to clean food that they can get themselves. They want education for their children. They want roads that are clear and free of landmines.

They want a stable playing field, and if we enable them to have that, if we do not give it to them, there will be an opportunity where these people will be able to take care of themselves. They have the internal personal resources. They have the capability to do this themselves. They just want an opportunity.

Motions in amendment
Development Assistance Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

Calgary East
Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, this subject goes to my heart. When I was a member of Parliament on the opposition side, I was the international development critic and also a member of the standing committee.

I do not mean to say that the essence of the bill and the intention of the member who presented it are wrong, but what really surprises me is that for 13 years the Liberals were in government and could have done all these things they are talking about today. None of them that I can remember sat over here talking about international development assistance. None of them came and told the CIDA ministers about what they are now asking this government to do. We can all make rhetorical statements and we can all make statements about this, but let us look at the record for a minute.

CIDA is a recognized and well respected body around the world. When we went with the member for Halifax to the Scandinavian countries with all the other donor countries, CIDA was recognized as one of the those efficient bodies that does give good aid out there.

The member for Halifax has just stated that we spend $3.1 billion of CIDA money. With all these things, CIDA has acquired a lot, but yes, there is always room for improvement, and today that is what we should discuss: room for improvement.

The problem here is that nobody is talking about the merits or demerits of the bill. They are talking about international development. They are talking about Africa. Both the member for Scarborough—Guildwood and the member for Halifax talked about their visits to Kenya.

That is the country where I grew up. That is the country where I spent most of my life. I have seen CIDA things there. Today they are talking about all this poverty out there. Yes, there is poverty out there, but there are many reasons why there is poverty out there. And yes, CIDA has been working for a long time, but those members stand here and now say that they are so stunned about all these things that are happening in Africa.

Yes, we have been working out there, but that is not the message of this bill. We understand that international development assistance can be delivered effectively. That is what we want to do. We are going to need more transparency, but we want to build on what we have achieved over many years and on what CIDA has done out there in working with Canadian NGOs.

We have excellent expertise here in Canada from the NGO community and from all the other communities that are involved in international development assistance. We need to ensure that we help them become more effective in what they need, but in what we are hearing here tonight, that is not the issue. The problem with this bill is that this is a flawed bill. This bill does not achieve the objective of what the members are saying here today about making poverty history.

Yes, we have been involved in making poverty history. I remember that it was the Conservative government that worked very hard to get Mr. Mandela out and free. Canada has been in the forefront in making poverty history. We all want to make poverty history, but that is not what this bill will do. That is why I want every listener to understand why this government is opposing this bill. This bill is not being opposed because its intent is wrong. This bill is being opposed because it is a flawed bill.

The member for Scarborough—Guildwood and the member for Halifax said they worked countless hours out there. I can tell members from being on that committee that they totally refused to listen to us. They totally refused to recognize that the ministers for CIDA and foreign affairs have gone out and made Canada proud of the contribution of international development assistance.

What we had there was one NGO group shepherding this thing, and even when the departmental officials came and outlined what was wrong with this bill and why this bill would create a tremendous number of problems, including a bureaucracy, and would have no transparency and would impact other areas of international development, the problem was that the members refused to listen.

The member for Scarborough—Guildwood just talked about the Senate report on Africa, which outlined that we need to do more in Africa, as was said. Yes, there are all those things, but the problem is that this bill will not do that.

There are other issues too. Let me tell the House about other areas in which Canada has been involved. Canada has been involved in the global partnership program, to which we have given $100 million. Canada has been involved in the global peace and security fund, in police training in Afghanistan and in investigating war crimes in Darfur.

Canada's international development assistance takes a bigger picture into account. This bill restricts all those things and creates another level of bureaucracy.

Those members have been members of Parliament for a long time and have been working for accountability as well. I am just flabbergasted that they did not recognize or are refusing to recognize what is wrong with this bill. Whatever they are trying to do will not be accomplished with this bill. That is why the Government of Canada is opposed to the bill.

The Government of Canada is not opposed to making poverty history. The Government of Canada is not opposed to making sure its aid dollars are more effectively spent. As a matter of fact, we have increased our aid budget by 8%. By the year 2010, it will be double the amount in 2001.

My colleague, the parliamentary secretary for international cooperation, outlined the problems with the bill. We wanted to work with the opposition to make the bill effective, but there was an attempt by the opposition to ram it through. When we ram through a bill, it becomes a flawed bill, which is why the Government of Canada cannot support the bill.

I would like to take this opportunity to say--

Motions in amendment
Development Assistance Accountability Act
Private Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

Order, please. The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

7:15 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, for those watching on TV and in the gallery we are starting what in Parliament is called the adjournment proceedings, affectionately known as the late show, a time when members can follow up if they get a poor answer in question period.

As for the parliamentary secretary, I would suggest that he write quickly. I have a lot of questions and I am sure he will answer them, but if he does not, I am sure the media will be quite interested in hearing this.

The question I asked in question period was:

Mr. Speaker, in the last election the centrepiece of the Prime Minister's Arctic sovereignty strategy was a promise to build a deep water Arctic port and a fleet of icebreakers. Several communities are now actively lobbying and preparing construction for this deep water port.

Leaked documents suggest the Conservatives will now only build a refuelling site for naval ships and the construction of six small Arctic patrol vessels that cannot even go in the ice. This is a far cry from a deep water Arctic port and a fleet of icebreakers.

Why is the Conservative government breaking yet another promise and failing to protect our Arctic sovereignty and our northern resources?

The answer I received from the Minister of National Defence was:

--this is a case where one cannot always believe what one reads.

I guess it is like how one cannot always believe what he reads when the Prime Minister said he would never touch or tax income trusts. I guess one cannot always believe what he reads during an election campaign when the Prime Minister said he would build three icebreakers and a deep water port. We did not promise those icebreakers to get elected, but the government did.

Navy officers confirmed to CanWest News Service that they are indeed proceeding with a plan to build six Arctic patrol ships, not icebreakers.

Can the government tell us at what stage these plans are? What is the cost of these vessels versus the icebreakers? What is the practicality of these patrol ships in north? My understanding is that they cannot even go through the Arctic winter ice.

Last summer, with great fanfare, the minister and the Prime Minister separately toured the north. What information was uncovered in these tours that would apply to the site selection of a deep water port?

Given the government inaction, what led to the cancellation of the deep sea port? Cost? Location? Is it no longer needed because the icebreakers are no longer in government plans?

Why did the government raise expectations across the north about a deep sea port and then disappoint the Arctic communities? These communities do not have a lot of economic opportunities and really had their expectations raised over this potential opportunity.

The government is considering the establishment of forward operating refuelling and berthing sites. Why would that be? If the boats cannot go there at the major time of the year, what is going to be refuelled? If the government is going to do this, where might it be located?

How will these locations be justified if the government has yet to complete mapping of our continental shelf? Is the mapping of the continental shelf on schedule? When will it be completed? When will we have a clear indication of our territorial holdings in the north? I was very proud that we signed the law of the sea and started that Arctic mapping on schedule, as the opposition was asking. It was on schedule when we left government. Is it on schedule now?

A greater armed presence in the north will also mean an air presence. How many search and rescue air force utility aircraft will be stationed north of 60?

It is very serious to make a promise to get elected in an area that needs resources and protection, an area of Arctic sovereignty that all Canadians believe in. I hope the parliamentary secretary here tonight will confirm--

7:20 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

Order. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence.

7:20 p.m.

South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale
B.C.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has asked more questions than can possibly be answered in the few minutes I have, but I would like to thank him for raising this very important issue.

I welcome the opportunity to share with him and with the viewing audience what this government and National Defence are in fact doing to assert our sovereignty and provide security for Canadians who live in the north.

National Defence is strongly committed to the protection of Canada's security and sovereignty in the north. This is an important part of our Canada First defence strategy.

Indeed, during the last election campaign, we promised to make the Canadian Arctic a priority.

Last summer, the Prime Minister and the Minister of National Defence both travelled to the Arctic to emphasize this commitment. During their travel to Yellowknife, Alert, Iqaluit, Resolute and Goose Bay, they met with the local population and officials to talk about how the Canadian Forces could best serve this vast region of the country.

That trip was merely a first step in what will be a sustained effort to improve our ability to better serve Canadians in the north.

National Defence has started to explore options to achieve our goals, including our goal to improve CF surveillance and response capabilities in the northern territories and also to allow our military to better support the government's efforts in asserting our sovereignty and ensuring security in the Arctic.

As part of our efforts to bolster the role of the Canadian Forces in the north, we made the commitment to pursue a three-ocean navy capable of operating in all Canadian waters. Accordingly, the Minister of National Defence asked the Canadian Forces to look at options and make recommendations to enhance our naval presence in the north in a way that is both affordable and effective.

The building of a berthing facility in the Arctic is another key component of our defence plan for the north.

On that issue, DND is currently exploring several options and continues to consult other federal departments in the context of this process.

In addition, we are currently looking at ways to expand our air force capabilities in the Arctic to meet our needs for an army Arctic warfare training centre and strengthen the Rangers' presence in the region. Developments like the establishment of Canada Command and the recent increase in the duration and frequency of Ranger patrols are certainly promising, but this government knows it needs to do more.

There has been a great deal of discussion concerning our commitments with respect to our northern defence strategy, “Canada First”, and I understand that Canadians want to know more about our projects.

The Department of National Defence is indeed in the process of developing a plan for the Arctic as part of our Canada first defence strategy. Once this plan has been approved by the cabinet, the minister and I will be happy to share the details with the member opposite so that the details can be known to the House and Canadians.

We stand by the commitments we have made to the Arctic. I can assure the House and the member that this government will make good on those commitments.

7:20 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I will add a couple more questions.

There were no specific numbers in the parliamentary secretary's speech. Given that the U.S. armed forces presence in Alaska sometimes equals the entire Canadian forces, how large a presence in the north is he talking about in his speech? Where will the Arctic training centre for our regular and reserve forces be located and how soon will it come into operation?

I was very happy that the member said during his speech that he will keep Canada's commitment to the Arctic. The Prime Minister said during the campaign that he would build three icebreakers and a deep sea port. I am assuming that when the parliamentary secretary said he will keep the government's commitments, those are the commitments that he has just promised to keep.

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has asked even more questions which I honestly do not believe he is expecting answers to, so I will take them as rhetorical.

There is a question that should be asked of him. Canadians are wondering why the member opposite is so concerned about the need for a strong military presence when he has not objected to the policy of his own leader who advocates for no military presence in the Arctic. In fact, his leader would rather turn the Arctic into a giant national park that could be a place for international scientists to monitor the region.

Could the member opposite explain to Canadians watching why his position is so out of touch with that of his leader?

7:25 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

Unfortunately, the hon. member for Yukon does not get a chance to answer questions. He was the one asking them.

The hon. member for Winnipeg South Centre.