Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Pierrefonds—Dollard.
It has been just over a week since the Conservative government delivered its second budget in 14 months, and unfortunately, but not surprisingly, it fails on the test of foreign policy. In addressing foreign policy needs, the government is basically silent.
Although the government claims that it has delivered something for everyone, it really has not dealt with the area of foreign policy. It should not be a surprise, because foreign policy is amateur hour when it comes to the Conservatives. They do not really have a focus on foreign policy. Other than the United States and Afghanistan, they think they can do without the rest of the world. Unfortunately this is very true when it comes to the budget.
I would point out that Nancy Hughes Anthony, the president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce made the comment:
The government promised in November that they were going to make Canada more competitive and control spending and I think they broke that promise today.
It certainly did on being more competitive. I will get into that when it comes to a number of issues around the world where the government has failed.
The present government likes to talk about the previous Liberal government, so let us talk about the previous Liberal government. In 2005 we put forth the CANtrade strategy which provided $485 million over five years to help Canadian business succeed in emerging markets. The Conservatives scrapped this initiative and have now replaced it with $60 million over the next two years.
The Conservatives also cut $970 million from indirect costs of research programs which cuts assistance to Canadian universities. How are we going to be competitive abroad when this kind of narrow action is taken?
The budget says that the government is going to double international assistance by 2010-11. The Conservatives talk about their commitment of an additional $200 million for reconstruction in Afghanistan, $115 million initially, and $230 million to the issues of advanced markets, but the Liberal government in 2005 provided an increase of $3.4 billion over five years for international assistance, and committed to double official development assistance to over $5 billion by 2010.
The previous Liberal government understood the international community. It was out there. It was clear that it worked hand in glove with the international community and certainly with Canadian business and Canadian universities. Unfortunately, the Conservative government's view of the world is very different.
The government has changed the whole approach and structure on Afghanistan, and its mission is exclusively, it seems, military. We do not see the accountability factors when it comes to development assistance. We are providing more financial dollars to Afghanistan, yet it is not in the top 25 of CIDA recipients. We see that it is spending 10 times more money on the military than on humanitarian assistance in the Afghan theatre, and $200 million for Afghanistan in this budget is not new money. The Conservatives are very good at recycling money, but again it is the same money that the Prime Minister announced in the previous month.
In 2004 the Liberal government passed Bill C-9, the Jean Chrétien pledge to Africa which improved access to expensive drugs for the world's least developed countries in the fight against HIV-AIDS, malaria and other epidemics.
This budget talks about $175 million to accelerate implementation of a Canada first defence plan and $10 million to establish new operational stress injury clinics. The reality is that the government's Canada first defence plan is at odds with the priorities of the armed forces. Much of the equipment will not even be located or maintained in Canada, effectively selling out Canadian sovereignty, of course, and more important, depriving our aerospace industry of significant economic benefits.
In 2005 the Liberal government created a new veterans charter that provided for the most sweeping changes to veterans services and benefits since the end of the second world war. During the 2005 federal election, the Conservatives promised to veterans that they would immediately extend the veterans independence program and services to all second world war and Korean veterans, and of course resolve the agent orange issue.
The government made a promise of $80 million to make CSIS operations more effective. What does this really mean? On a review of the budget, the reality is there is not a real commitment as to how the money will be spent.
There has been no commitment in the budget to hire, for example, more police officers. The government talks about law and order, but it does not walk the talk. It is this party that talked about hiring and will hire 2,500 new officers across the country and provide that assistance. In budget 2007 the government commits no new money for additional police officers. Again, the Conservatives like to talk about crime, but they do not walk the talk.
The Conservatives talk about the previous Liberal government, that the Liberal government did this and that. The reality is the facts certainly show something different. On foreign policy it seems that anything we did they think is bad. They come in and change direction, but they have no substantive policy to assist in innovation, in dealing with international trade, et cetera.
There are two examples on China which are unbelievable. At the beginning of the mandate of the Conservative government, in February when the Conservatives announced the new cabinet, they said there were a thousand Chinese spies in Canada. They could not back that one up. Then the Prime Minister said he was going to talk tough on human rights. He had a 15 minute bathroom break with Hu Jintao, the Chinese president, in Hanoi in November last year. Assuming that eight minutes were used for translation, he had seven minutes in which he could talk about human rights, trade issues and a whole list of things which he is so proud of. Again the Chinese were not impressed.
Clearly this party when in government had a consistent policy of engagement with China. This party has been working, not only on the trade issue, but on tough talk, working with the Chinese and improving the judiciary, improving human rights in the area. One of the most galling things has got to be the short-sightedness of the government in closing four consulates: in Milan, in St. Petersburg, in Fukuoka, and Osaka. Let us take a look at that.
When we look at the Kansai region of Osaka, it has 25 million people, a GDP greater than all of Canada, and the government says, “No, no, it is okay to business. You can do business in the Kansai region. We are going to hand out”--and this is from the minister--“handbooks”. Handbooks do not cut it.
The second largest economy in the world is Japan. It has an economy greater than all of Asia combined, including China, and the Conservatives' answer to Canadian business, Canadian investors, in one of the most important markets outside of the United States is to say “We will close down the consulate and we will hand out handbooks”. This really is not too impressive. Who is not impressed by this? Let us take a look.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce said that the consulates also serve as a focal point for the collection and dissemination of information for Japanese and Canadian companies, organizations and individuals. Anyone who knows Asia knows that the issue is friendship first, business second. We have to be on the ground. We have to have those contacts. They do not have those contacts because now they will be giving out handbooks.
The Conservative government is swimming in money, thanks to the good economic management of previous Liberal governments which eliminated the deficit. Remember that when we came to power in 1993, that side of the House had left us a $42.5 billion deficit. The Conservatives seem to forget that. Unfortunately, or fortunately for them, we left them with more money than they know what to do with. Of course now they are spending it here, there and everywhere, but there is no focus. They have all this money, but they have to close four consulates. That seems to me to be just unbelievable.
The comment of the Canada-Japan Society is that even prior to the announced closing of the consulates in Osaka and Fukuoka, Canadian interests were underrepresented in Japan relative to Japan's importance to Canada as a market for our goods, a source of tourists and students and a major source of investment in the Canadian resource and automotive sectors. They are people who know the Japanese market. They wrote the Prime Minister at the end of January and there was silence from that side of the House.
There is no question that when it comes to the area of foreign affairs, when it comes to the kinds of investments for Canadian business to be competitive, to be a player, the Conservatives have been silent and they have cut back.
There is no question that the former Japanese ambassador was very concerned about this approach. Japanese colleagues in Tokyo were absolutely astounded that we would take such an approach in terms of dealing with this. The government thinks it can deal with it out of Tokyo. It thinks it can deal with it out of Rome.
The government does not understand foreign policy. It is demonstrated in the budget the government presented last week.