House of Commons Hansard #100 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was chair.

Topics

Motions for Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Motions for Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question Period—Speaker's Ruling
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier concerning comments made by the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board during question period on Monday, April 28, 2008.

I would like to thank the hon. Member for Ottawa—Vanier for raising this matter and the hon. parliamentary secretary, the hon. member for Beauséjour, and the hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons for their interventions.

Following question period on April 28 last, the member for Ottawa—Vanier rose on a question of privilege to take issue with comments made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board during oral questions in response to a question from the member for Beauséjour concerning election expenses. In that response, the parliamentary secretary said, as can be read in the Debates on page 5164:

Not to mention the fact that the Liberal Party transferred money directly to the Liberal candidate in Ottawa Centre to fund this Liberal in-and-out scam. I wonder if the member will stand up now and demand that the member for Ottawa—Vanier, who got involved, step aside until his name is cleared.

The member for Ottawa—Vanier expressed concern that these remarks suggested that he had been involved in improper election expenses—a suggestion to which he took strong exception—and he requested that the hon. Parliamentary Secretary withdraw the remarks and apologize.

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary defended his response to the question by quoting from an affidavit, a copy of which he tabled the following day. I undertook to review the transcript of both Members’ statements, to look at the affidavit in question and to return to the House with a ruling on the matter.

As I have explained in previous rulings on similar matters, it is difficult for the Chair to find a prima facie case of privilege when dealing with these sorts of disagreements.

As stated on page 433 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice:

In most instances, when a point of order or a question of privilege has been raised in regard to a response to an oral question, the Speaker has ruled that the matter is a disagreement among Members over the facts surrounding the issue.

I have examined closely the documentation cited and the comments made during question period on that day. The affidavit is a lengthy description by a party official of alleged election advertising transactions and arrangements. Contrary to the impression left by the parliamentary secretary, the affidavit in no way supports the pointed insinuation of wrongdoing he made regarding the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier. Similarly, the Chair cannot find anything in the affidavit that contradicts the very clear assertions made by the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier on the matter at issue and in particular his statement found at page 5168 of the Debates for April 28, 2008.

As Speaker, I can fully appreciate that the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier believes the parliamentary secretary attacked his reputation on the basis of the remarks he made. However, it is difficult for the Chair to find a prima facie question of privilege. Members may clearly disagree on the propriety of certain events that are alleged to have taken place; they may even dispute their legality, but I do not believe it is the role of the Speaker to settle that argument. My only role is to determine whether the remarks were unparliamentary and whether they constitute such a grave attack as to impede the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier in the performance of his duties.

Given the differing views of both hon. members, and the actual words used by the parliamentary secretary, it is difficult for the Chair to regard the matter as anything other than a matter of debate. On the same ground that I ruled on similar questions for which I gave rulings on October 5, 2006, and again recently on April 10, 2008, I am, therefore, unable to find a basis for a prima facie breach of privilege.

That said, I must take this opportunity once again to remind honourable Members to be more judicious in their choice of words. As is stated in House of Commons Procedure and Practice at page 522: “Remarks directed specifically at another member questioning that member's integrity, honesty or character are not in order”.

The political climate in the House may be very heated at the moment but that is no reason to dispense with all civility or natural courtesy.

In the case at hand, although the Chair has not found a breach of privilege, the comments complained of have been addressed and I consider the matter closed.

I thank the House for its attention.

I wish to inform the House that because of the deferred recorded divisions, government orders will be extended by 10 minutes.

The hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier.

Question Period—Speaker's Ruling
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I listened to you closely, just as I did yesterday when you presided over a part of the ceremony unveiling the portrait of Canada's 16th prime minister, the Right Honourable Joe Clark. I would like to quote something Mr. Clark said at the end in English:

“A little respect can go a long way”.

I am disappointed in your ruling, Mr. Speaker. This episode in the House is an attempt to go beyond what is permitted. The fact that a parliamentary secretary is trying to attack the reputation of a colleague directly, without any documentation—because he cannot produce any—demeans debate in the Canadian Parliament and the House of Commons.

I am very disappointed that your ruling basically allows this type of behaviour to continue.

Question Period—Speaker's Ruling
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The hon. member has certainly made his opinion on this subject clear, but I did not say that allegations of this nature should continue. In addition, I would encourage all of the hon. members to review the Standing Orders, obey them and not repeat the type of attacks I have mentioned.

Question Period—Speaker's Ruling
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I point out that one of the rules of the House is to show respect for the Speaker when he rules. Obviously from time to time, you are called upon to make rulings with which all of us might differ with, but clearly we need to show the Chair the respect that the position deserves at all times. It is rather ironic that the hon. member questions your decision on an issue on which he has asked for respect.

Question Period—Speaker's Ruling
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I think we will consider the matter closed.

The House resumed from May 16 consideration of Bill C-21, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act, as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

Canadian Human Rights Act
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to stand today to speak in support of the amended Bill C-21.

Members will recall that the bill was first introduced into the House in the 39th session of Parliament as Bill C-44. It has been re-introduced into the House as Bill C-21 and has gone through a very lengthy committee process. It has now come back to the House in its amended form for final conclusion.

To recap, members will remember that the act would repeal section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which excludes Indians who live or work on reserve from filing human rights complaints with the Canadian Human Rights Commission in respect of any alleged human rights violations that relate to any action arising from or pursuant to the Indian Act.

I want to make it very clear from the outset that this party, this official opposition, has supported the intent of the bill. The repeal of section 67 of the Human Rights Act has been a long time in coming and it is something that we support very much.

What we did not support was the manner in which the bill was brought forward, both in its initial introduction and in its subsequent introduction as Bill C-21. It was brought forward without any consultation with first nations communities. We heard that there were significant concerns about the legislation, but there seemed to be absolutely no will, commitment, effort or respect on the part of the government to address some of those concerns.

I am repeating myself, but I want to make it very clear. I said, at least 18 times, in the House or in committee, as did my colleagues, that we supported the repeal of section 67 of the Human Rights Act. We did not support the process in which the government chose, as one of the chiefs from Alberta said, to ram it down their throats.

We are proud to support the amended legislation. We are proud of the process that went on in committee. We heard from a host of witnesses who came before the committee. I emphasize that this is not a substitute for consultation; it was about hearing witnesses and their concerns. Out of the 21 or 22 witnesses we heard, only 1 witness supported the legislation in its original form. We heard learned presentations from academics. We heard from leaders in the aboriginal community. We heard from individuals in the aboriginal community. We heard concerns from the men and women who the bill would affect.

We were concerned that there was no interpretive clause. We were concerned that there was no non-derogation clause. We were concerned that there was no attention given to the fiscal capacity. We were most concerned that the transition period was very short. We were also concerned that no study or analysis had been done on the impact the legislation would have on first nations communities. We know an analysis was done on what the impact would be on INAC, but no study was done to determine what the impact would be on first nations communities.

The amended legislation was a model of cooperation by the opposition parties, listening to the representations we heard from individuals, working together to amend the bill to make it a stronger, fairer bill for aboriginal people in our country.

Many times we heard in the House that we had gutted the bill. Far from it. Misrepresentations were mailed out to every household in my riding, misrepresenting my position and the position of my party as it related to the bill.

We proposed a number of important amendments to the bill. We proposed and passed through committee, a non-derogation clause, an interpretative clause, an extension of the time for implementation for three years. This is important. The government originally proposed six months. It was willing to extend it to 18 months, but not beyond that. I am pleased to see the government has allowed it to go in at three years now.

The implementation period of three years will allow first nations to determine their capacity and to look at the implications. It will allow them to prepare their communities for the actual final implementation of the bill.

As the House may recall, the government tried at one point, through a point of order, to remove the non-derogation clause and the interpretative clause. We are pleased that it has come back with amendments. Although they are not what we would have preferred, we will accept the amended non-derogation and interpretative clauses in the bill. They deal with the intent and the protection of the collective rights of first nations communities. We do, however, prefer the amendments put forward in committee, but as an expression of good faith and a desire to get the bill passed, we will support the amendments put forward by the government.

With the amendments, we would be able to grant human rights to first nations people in a way that balances their collective rights with individual rights as well as maintaining all existing aboriginal and treaty rights, as recognized under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

With respect to the transition period, first nations will now have an adequate amount of time to prepare for the legislation. In doing so, the government will have a chance to properly consult with all affected first nations peoples. I sincerely hope the government will take advantage of the opportunity to do this. I hope it will not just tell them but engage them in a meaningful consultation process whereby it will listen to them and work with them to implement the bill.

Once the bill comes into effect, first nations will work with the government to undertake the extensive preparation, the capacity, fiscal and human resources required.

The important part of this is the amended legislation, and it was amended not without acrimony or without challenge, is an example of parliamentarians working together to fix flawed legislation and amend it to reflect the best interests of first nations people.

As I said at the beginning, the Liberals have always maintained our support for the repeal of this section. It was not done in a way which we supported. Since the bill is now in front of us, we are proud to say that we improved flawed legislation to reflect the views of first nations communities throughout the country. They will be able to work with this legislation, and we are proud to support it.

Canadian Human Rights Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, this is an important day in the House as we bring back the amended Bill C-21. Specifically, we are dealing with a couple of amendments.

Unfortunately, this bill has been decades in coming. I will share just a bit of history around this bill. Originally in 1977 an exception was provided that first nations living on reserve could not file complaints under the Canadian Human Rights Act against anything in the Indian Act. Part of the history around that so-called temporary exemption from 1977 being put in place was of course that there were discriminatory provisions in existence in the Indian Act.

One of those discriminatory provisions was around the fact that first nations women who married non-aboriginal men were actually excluded from living on reserve or maintaining their status. The report that came out in 2005 from the Canadian Human Rights Commission, “A Matter of Rights”, talked about the impacts on the community. I have a quote from that report about what happens to families:

The effect of this discriminatory provision was the effective banishment of over one hundred thousand women, their spouses, and their children from their communities and traditional homelands. This caused great psychological, emotional and economic suffering. This was especially true in cases where marriages broke down and First Nation women were not allowed to return home.

What we had in place was a system that disenfranchised thousands and thousands of women and their families. Because the department of the day knew this discriminatory provision was in place and was not at that time prepared to deal with that discriminatory provision, it asked for this exemption and it was put in place.

Subsequent to that, this particular part of the Indian Act was repealed and women were granted their status. I am going to come back to that in a minute, because that was Bill C-31 from 1985, which was one of the reasons that so many people who came before committee were so vocal about wanting some of the amendments that were put in place.

I am not going to read all the recommendations from “A Matter of Rights”, but there were five key recommendations. Part of what the Canadian Human Rights Commission recommended in 2005, before legislation was developed, was that consultation take place with first nations and that “an interpretive provision”, which would take into consideration the rights and interests of first nations, be put in place, and that there would be a transitional period of at least 18 to 30 months, and so on. There were a number of other recommendations.

However, part of the challenge that this House and the committee faced was that when the piece of legislation came before the committee, it was of course a very simple piece of legislation and did not include any of those elements. The bill was developed without consultation with first nations communities.

Therefore, to the Conservative government's surprise, there were a number of concerns raised by witness after witness who came before the committee. People were saying that in the past governments have passed bills in the House that have had some unintended consequences, and they did not want to see that happen.

The committee listened quite respectfully to the witnesses and subsequently proposed a number of amendments, which included an extended transitional period for 36 months. They included an interpretive clause and a non-derogation clause. The amendments we are dealing with today have done some refinement on the non-derogation clause and on some additional wording around gender principles.

I want to come back for a moment to the Canadian Human Rights Commission and why the committee faced some challenges around needing to hear so much more information, because the report of the Canadian Human Rights Act Review Panel, “Promoting Equality: A New Vision”, made a number of specific recommendations with regard to the repeal of section 67.

The panel said specifically,“Any effort to deal with the section 67 issue must ensure adequate input from Aboriginal people themselves”. We saw what happened when that did not happen: it took months for us to get to the place where there was some agreement in getting the bill back in the House.

The panel talked about resources. To go back to Bill C-31, one thing was very clear in Bill C-31, and in a minute I will quote the Native Women's Association of Canada. What was very clear under Bill C-31 was that there were inadequate resources once women regained their status in their communities. There was not enough housing. There were not enough other support services for women who could have returned to their community.

Therefore, one of the things that the Human Rights Commission recommended was that these resources be put in place. It said that resources must be put in place so that people actually have access to any redress mechanisms that might be deemed suitable once a complaint was filed.

It talked about the fact that there should be cultural recognition and said:

At the same time, the Act should permit a balancing of the values of the Aboriginal people and the need to preserve Aboriginal culture...These points raise huge questions about the social and economic structure of Aboriginal life and its legal underpinnings. Such matters deserve far more study than we have been able to give them. So again, there is a need for adequate consultations.

It talked about the balancing provision and stated:

The Panel believes it is highly important to balance the interests of Aboriginal individuals seeking equality without discrimination with important Aboriginal community interests. A balancing provision means that a Tribunal would actually hear evidence and representations on the issue of whether the interests of the individual and the community are properly balanced.

It talked about self-government and said:

The Panel believes something more should be done in order to ensure greater say in the human rights roles that apply to Aboriginal governments. This would be consistent with the principle of self-government.

Thus, the Canadian Human Rights Commission itself acknowledged the fact that there needed to be a number of other mechanisms put in place in order to make sure that this piece of legislation did not have the same kind of impact that Bill C-31 has had. Bill C-31 has had some difficulties in terms of the fact that when women were reinstated there were not the resources that I referred to, but there is also a second generation cut-off.

The second generation cut-off means that people whose parents were not both first nations could end up losing their status by the time the second generation is born. That is an unintended consequence. A report did some analysis on key reserves across the country and did some estimates on when the last status person would be born on those reserves. Some would say that quite cynically the government is not dealing with that provision because then first nations people would come under the guidance of the provinces rather than the federal government.

Bev Jacobs, president of the Native Women's Association of Canada, said in a press release:

Twenty-five years after having the Charter, NWAC is well aware that having rights on paper does not guarantee the ability of all individuals to exercise those rights. NWAC believes that consultation with Aboriginal peoples and specifically, Aboriginal women, is necessary to ensuring the rights are meaningful and exercisable. We are also well aware that membership provisions under Bill C-31, off-reserve rights, health, housing and education policies as well as the continuing lack of a matrimonial real property law regime that applies on reserve are issues that the federal crown will most likely see complaints filed about.

She goes on further in that press release to say:

--It is important for both the CHRC and First Nations communities to have the resources to build a relationship that acknowledges and respects human rights.” This is the only way equal rights for all can be promised.

We know that this very important piece of legislation, the repeal of section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which does provide the right for first nations people on reserve to file complaints under discriminatory provisions under the Indian Act, in itself will not guarantee human rights unless there are resources in place.

The Native Women's Association of Canada talked about resources around education and housing. We know, of course, that the children from Attawapiskat are here on the Hill today, talking about how their human rights are being violated by the fact that they do not have access to a school. They do not have access to the education that every other Canadian child off reserve expects as a fundamental human right. When Ms. Jacobs from the Native Women's Association of Canada talks about this, she knows full well that many communities simply do not have those resources that would make sure that their human rights were not violated.

In a brief that the Native Women's Association put forward to the committee on the repeal of section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, it talked about the fact that governments, both the current Conservative government and previous Liberal government, should not have waited so long, and again quotes the Canadian Human Rights Commission, which said:

However, the Commission would prefer that the Government take a proactive approach to preventing potential discrimination and not wait for complaints to be filed and potentially lengthy proceedings to take place. The Commission, therefore, urges the Government, in consultation with First Nations, the Commission and other relevant bodies, to review provisions of the Indian Act and relevant policies and programs to ensure that they do not conflict with the Canadian Human Rights Act and other relevant provisions of domestic and international human rights law. Such a review should focus in particular on the impact of Bill C-31....

In conclusion, I am very pleased that the House has decided that it would support Bill C-21, the repeal of section 67, and I urge the government to ensure that the resources are put in place to deal with potential human rights complaints and also to ensure that the resources are available to the Canadian Human Rights Commission so it can go out and work with first nations governments to ensure this understanding is in place.

Canadian Human Rights Act
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

Pursuant to order made earlier today, Motions Nos. 1 and 2 are deemed adopted, Bill C-21, an Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act, as amended, is deemed concurred in at report stage with further amendments, and deemed read a third time and passed.

(Motions Nos. 1 and 2 agreed to, bill as amended concurred in, read the third time and passed)

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to the bill dealing with the European free trade agreement with Canada.

The bill is one that started its progression internationally in 1998 when the then government of Mr. Chrétien moved forward on deliberations with our partners and began dealing with this particular issue. The agreement was signed on January 26, 2008, in Switzerland and it was tabled in our Parliament on February 14, 2008.

The purpose of the bill is to eliminate duties on non-agricultural goods and selected agricultural products, giving Canadian exporters better access to Canada's fifth largest merchandise export destination. Many Canadians would find it interesting that the particular destination is a group of northern European countries, including Liechtenstein and Norway.

This particular free trade agreement is one that has broad support. The Liberal Party supports this particular bill. There are some concerns in a few sectors, including shipbuilding, but I think we have worked together quite well to put forth some solutions that would enable our shipbuilders in Canada to find some recourse because the phase-out of tariffs will be over quite a prolonged period of time.

We want to ensure that in Canada we capitalize on our areas of expertise, and one of those is, quite frankly, in the shipbuilding area. On the east coast and west coast of Canada and in my riding of Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, we have outstanding individuals, fine craftsmen and craftswomen, who work in the shipbuilding industry and provide exceptional products.

Some of those have been built for our Canadian Forces. When Liberals were in government, we commissioned a number of projects, including the Orca class of boats that have been built in my riding of Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca by the shipbuilders there. Quite frankly, the product they have is superb.

My hope is that the government will work with our private sector to ensure that our capabilities will be exported and that those capabilities will find markets in other countries. It would certainly be a fine testament to the exceptional workers that we have in our country, in both eastern and western Canada, who have that ability.

There is one area in shipbuilding in particular that the government may wish to pick up on. We have a tariff on importing ships. A company in Canada that wishes to import a large vessel would pay an import duty. That duty goes into general revenue.

The government would be wise to consider, rather than putting those import duties into general revenue, to put them into a fund that would have to be matched by the private sector, which would double the size of the fund, so that those moneys could be directed toward infrastructure for the shipbuilding industry. The funds spent by the companies could then be recirculated within the shipbuilding industry. The private sector would then know that its import tariffs were going back into the shipbuilding industry.

Third, it would also increase the bang for the buck because the government would be putting those moneys in to match. The matching funds would share the responsibility between the private sector and the government, so there would be dual responsibility and a dual opportunity for both the private sector and the government to enable the private sector to compete with other shipbuilders, particularly those in northern Europe, who quite frankly have done a pretty good job of developing a fine product and are competing internationally.

However, those countries subsidize their domestic shipbuilding capabilities, and while they do it in certain ways, it is important that our shipbuilders not be under the gun or behind the eight-ball when they are competing with other shipbuilding companies in other parts of the world.

The scope of the bill is very interesting. As I said before, the EFTA countries are the world's fourteenth largest merchandising traders and Canada's fifth largest merchandise export destination.

The two way Canada-EFTA non-agricultural merchandise trade is, in total, $12.6 billion. Our exports to the EFTA were $5.1 billion last year and our imports were $7.4 billion. Our exports included areas such as the aerospace products industry and I want to take a moment to talk about the MacDonald-Detweiler issue when the government, I think wisely, made the decision to prevent that sale from occurring.

There is a challenge, though. While the MDA sale was quite rightly blocked because Canada and Canadian taxpayers had put more than $500 million into enabling MDA to be a world leader in the aerospace industry and paid for satellites that are some of the best in terms of earth monitoring capabilities, there is another side to this. There are over 1,200 scientists at MDA and unless they have products to sell and be competitive internationally, we will lose those scientists.

It took some 20 years to bring those scientists to Canada and to build and create the capabilities. It is of the utmost urgency that the Minister of Industry work with and listen to MDA to find ways to ensure that those scientific capabilities stay within Canada. If we do not, the very real danger is that we will lose that world class capability we have within MDA with the pool of 1,200 scientists to other parts of the world. In particular, we will lose them south of the border to the United States.

This is not something we can wait on for a long period of time. This is something that has to be done quite quickly. I would again urge the Minister of Industry or industry officials to meet with MDA officials to determine what we can do to ensure we do not have this loss of very highly skilled, extraordinary individuals.

The other issue I want to talk about is international trade, as this is a trade issue, dealing with the WTO and the Doha round of talks. This is very appropriate given the fact that we have a world food crisis on our hands. It has caused governments to collapse and food riots, and it particularly affects those citizens of our planet who are the poorest and most impoverished in the world. One billion people live on less than $1 a day and 1.5 billion people live on less than $2 a day. Two and a half billion people on our planet live on less than $2 a day.

What happens if our foodstuffs increase 140% in a matter of less than a few months? That is what happened with rice. This year, rice prices have increased 141%. Wheat, sorghum, corn, the staples of life, have increased significantly over the last two years. Some have even increased 25% in a day.

Most of us in our country have been somewhat insulated from the effects of that for various reasons, but for the poorest people in the world, that is not the case. People living on less than $2 a day have a choice between food and sending their children to school, food and having a roof over their heads, or food and health care. Those are the stark choices people would have if they lived in those countries in the world, more than 58, where there is endemic poverty.

The food crisis has not hit us yet in terms of prices but it will. When it hits, it is those Canadians who are least able to afford it who are going to be hurt, people who are single parents with very little money, people making minimum wage or a bit above it, and seniors on fixed incomes who live hand to mouth. The implications of this are quite significant.

What if people have to make choices within food groups? That is how it happens. As prices increase dramatically, people actually have to jettison vital food groups that are important not only for the health of adults but are critical for the development of children.

We know that the deprivation of micronutrients and malnutrition on a developing child is catastrophic. If children are deprived of micronutrients and are malnourished, the developing brain in particular is affected. Malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies create long term cognitive, intellectual and physical disabilities that are permanent.

Children would grow up to be adults who are less than what they could be. The downstream effects of this are what? The downstream effects are that children who are deprived of micronutrients and are malnourished have long term physical, cognitive and intellectual disabilities that affect them when they are adults.

When they are trying to be employed; go to school; acquire training; live and work; act, behave and interact; all of those are negatively impeded by virtue of the fact of what happened when those individuals were children. Early deprivation has long term, profound implications not only for the individual but for society as a whole. The tragedy of it is that it is entirely preventable.

When we know that, it behooves us to start to tackle this issue in a pragmatic way. Let us talk about some of the antecedents as to why the food crisis is taking place. Demand, to be sure, is going up in countries such as India and China, pushing prices up.

Second, there is the issue of higher energy costs. Energy is required to produce fertilizers. Seeds are becoming more expensive. Availability is down. Biofuel, the conversion of foodstuffs such as corn into ethanol, which is put in our gas tanks, is also a driver to move prices up.

The last and the most pernicious area is the area of trade barriers. There is something we could do that would dramatically ameliorate the effects of food prices and that is the tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade that are dramatically impeding our ability to be able to produce the food that we require.

Imagine that the Doha round and WTO has ground to a halt. It started in 2001, I believe, and it has been sitting there moribund or endlessly going around in one big circle. The countries that are most responsible for this are those that are the richest. The countries that pay the price are those that are the poorest.

Imagine that. We have a world food crisis where some of the poorest people in the world are unable to put food on the table and we, as developed countries that are the richest countries in the world, are actually doing things to prevent people who need food, who live on less than $2 a day to feed their children and themselves.

Why has the government not demanded an emergency series of debates at the WTO to move the Doha round forward and to implement the Doha round of agreements? This is something that our new Conservative government has fallen flat on, among many other things on the international stage. Why has the government not done this, instead of sitting back? Why has the government not taken a leadership role to address this international challenge?

Canada can do this. We can take a role in mobilizing the more than 27 agencies such as the World Bank, FAO, IFAD, WFP, and WTO. All of those organizations, 27 in total, are tasked with a responsibility to deal with food issues.

Canada can make a profound impact at the WTO. Canada needs to get our diplomats behind this. There has to be a sense of urgency that has to come from the Prime Minister's Office. The Prime Minister has to tell our highly competent diplomats to move this forward and get the job done. They have to get the Doha round of agreements completed and mobilize this with our international colleagues.

On the development stage, we have heard very little. In fact, we have heard nothing on this. Moneys were given. A good thing the government did was to not tie the aid and I compliment it for that.

The amount of money given by the government was $50 million more than last year, but prices have increased by 40% plus for the demands that the World Food Programme is trying to meet.

We have an increased demand but we also have increased costs. As a result, the amount of money that we are actually putting forward on this is not even able to keep up with the increases in prices. This is something that is unconscionable.

What else can happen? As I said before, some 500 million small landholders live on less than a hectare. About a tonne of foodstuffs, grain and basic products can be derived from a hectare. We know what we could do. Jeffrey Sachs from Columbia University has made some very eloquent interventions. We could double or even triple the output from these small landholders, who are some of the poorest people in the world.

Imagine if Canada were to tap into some of the extraordinary research available in the International Development Research Centre and other areas in Canada to deal with the issues of better seed quality, better access to fertilizer and markets and better agricultural practices, water security and irrigation techniques. That combination could be used quite significantly to triple the output of foodstuffs from small landholders. What a remarkable thing we could do if Canada were to take up that leadership role.

I would be remiss if I did not draw attention to two areas of excellence within CIDA. One is the micronutrient initiative in which Canada plays a leadership role. I urge the government to work with the Minister of International Cooperation and other partners to support this initiative because micronutrient deficiencies have a profound impact on developing children.

CIDA has discovered high protein, high caloric, high energy bars. The government could work in this area as well because these bars would be effective during a food crisis.

I also want to talk about food security and, in particular, the fisheries issue.

A good chunk of the world relies on fish for food because it is an important source of protein. Ninety per cent of world fish species have been removed from the oceans, particularly large fish species like tuna and shark. This is a catastrophe. Our oceans are dying. Dr. Sylvia Earle from Woods Hole in Massachusetts has done an excellent job of articulating this. She calls it the dying oceans. Why is the government not dealing with this catastrophe?

I will give the House an example. As draggers fish, they destroy the beds upon which fish reproduce. Draggers are horrible, destructive elements in fishing and they are creating an environmental catastrophe. If Canada were to work with our partners to ban dragging, that would go some way toward addressing the problem of our dying oceans. The reason I mention this is because this is part of international trade agreements and trade negotiations.

We have heard nothing from the government on all these issues. We have given the government a number of constructive solutions on which it could act. It could act on the food crisis. It could act through international development and trade. The government could ensure that Canadians are not going to be affected by the storms that are wafting over the world right now. So far we have been somewhat protected, but that is not going to exist much longer.

These are big international issues that demand international action. Our country can act with authority and knowledge. I implore the government to demonstrate some leadership and do this for our citizens and for the world.

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4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am glad the member has spoken to the European Free Trade Association agreement with Canada. As he is well aware, it is an agreement between the Government of Canada and EFTA, which is a bloc of four countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, to implement a bilateral trade agreement between us and those four countries. It is a bloc of countries that is made up of about 12 million citizens. It is a good trade deal because it is a free trade deal with countries that have similar or even higher labour and environmental standards as compared to Canada's. It is a step in the right direction.

I note that this is in Europe. The big trading bloc in Europe is the European Union, an area of about 27 countries and close to 500 million citizens.

What does the member think the Government of Canada needs to do in order to conduct a trade agreement with the European Union? The real future opportunity for Canadian trade, for Canadian business and for Canadian society is under a free trade agreement with the wider European Union, as I mentioned before, a trading bloc. It is one of the largest trading blocs in the world, made up of close to half a billion citizens and 27 member states. What does the member think we need to do as a country, as a government, to move that sort of trade deal along now that we have the first building block of a free trade agreement with the EFTA?

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4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has hit on a very intriguing challenge for the reasons he has mentioned, in terms of the size of the existing population. He also knows there are enormous barriers within that bloc, particularly in terms of the trade subsidies, the tariff and non-tariff barriers, that exist within the European Union and between the European Union and us.

I submit that there are two channels we could take.

One is to pursue it through negotiations, but be very certain that our domestic producers will not be harmed. Critical to that and incumbent upon the European Union is to remove the tariff and non-tariff barriers that so far have created tremendous price distorting issues, not only in the agricultural sector but also the non-agricultural merchandise sector too.

The second channel is we move to the WTO. The member knows I have a particular passion, and I know he does too, in dealing with the Doha round of talks. It is unfathomable I think to most of us to see the intransigence on the part of the Europeans in trying to move forward with something that will help the most impoverished in our world. The failure to complete the Doha round is self-defeating. In the absence of moving through Doha and in the absence of completing these talks, we affect negatively the very security that we are trying to deal with not only in Afghanistan but also in other parts of the world. The failure to complete Doha creates insecurity in some of the most impoverished parts of the world, which ultimately will come to address us in terms of insecurity.

I will close by one point. Maybe the area in which we can attract our European friend on this is the issue of immigration to Europe from other parts of the world that are quite poor and the effect that has in its own countries. They are deeply concerned by the immigration issue. If they were able to go and complete Doha, then a lot of the people who would go to their countries, seeking simply a better and more secure life, as any of us would do, would not happen.

Therefore, the carrot for the European countries would be diminished immigration. A lot of the immigration challenges and racial issues within Europe would be defused. They would also be providing security in areas that have been a source of terrorist activity and insecurity for Europe.