Evidence of meeting #126 for Finance in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was bank.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Joyce Henry  Director General, Office of Energy Efficiency, Department of Natural Resources
Melanie Hill  Special Advisor, Strategy and Innovation Policy Sector, Department of Industry
Stephen Fertuck  Acting Director General, External and Trade Policy Branch, Department of Industry
Gervais Coulombe  Chief, Excise Policy, Sales Tax Division, Tax Policy Branch, Department of Finance
Pierre Mercille  Senior Legislative Chief, Sales Tax Division, Tax Policy Branch, Department of Finance
Nicole Giles  Director, International Finance and Development Division, International Trade and Finance Branch, Department of Finance
Neil Saravanamuttoo  Chief, Multilateral Institutions, International Finance and Development Division, International Trade and Finance Branch, Department of Finance
Margaret Hill  Senior Director, Labour Program, Department of Employment and Social Development
Réal Gagnon  Senior Policy Analyst, Strategic Policy and Legislative Reform, Labour Program, Department of Employment and Social Development

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Mr. Poilievre and then Ms. O'Connell.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Mr. Chair, it is important for members to know what they're voting on. The leader of the Green Party said we're voting on the Asian Development Bank. That is wrong. We are not voting on the Asian Development Bank. We're voting on the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. She also said this will not fund pipelines. In fact, Mr. Kmiec has done a tremendous amount of research on the projects already approved by the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

I have the project list which Mr. Kmiec has assembled. It includes a natural gas infrastructure and efficiency improvement project in Bangladesh. This is a gas transmission pipeline capacity increase in that country. Then there is a second project, the trans-Anatolian natural gas pipeline project to be co-financed with the World Bank. That's in Azerbaijan. It again is a natural gas pipeline.

By supporting this bill, the leader of the Green Party is supporting subsidies for fossil fuels. She, moments ago, said she was against that. Now she's voting for it. The government is supporting subsidies for fossil fuels in faraway lands. It puts every regulatory obstacle possible in the building of a pipeline between Alberta and New Brunswick, a project that would have created countless jobs for energy workers in the west and refinery workers in the east. It would have allowed us to get fair prices for Canadian oil, and eliminate our reliance on Saudi Arabian and Venezuelan oil. That project has been blocked by countless regulatory obstacles that this government has put in its way.

Meanwhile, it is forcing the same out-of-work Canadians to pay, on their taxes, for pipelines in Bangladesh and Azerbaijan, projects that will surely profit the world's well-connected and wealthy elite, but projects that will do literally nothing for the Canadian economy. On this side, we will be standing up for Canadian workers, Canadian jobs, and Canadian taxpayers. We will not support this bank which is designed to pad the pocketbooks of the world's well-connected and wealthy.

9:40 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Ms. May, I know you've been challenged, and I also know the rules. The floor is yours, and then we'll go to Ms. O'Connell.

9:40 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

My first point is that to vote for an omnibus budget bill this large, my own lens is, do I approve of about 99% of what's in there?

In terms of this item, the Asian infrastructure bank, I will be watching closely. The commitments the government has made are not to fund...and I shouldn't use the word “pipelines”, because I'm not against pipelines. It's a question of what's in them. Also, improvements in efficiency in the use of natural gas in a country like Bangladesh arguably reduce greenhouse gases in that country.

As for the nonsense that was just said, and with all due respect, Mr. Poilievre, on the energy east pipeline, which was withdrawn from consideration by its proponent, in credible analysis by energy economist Andrew Leach at the University of Calgary, I think he makes a very strong point that, with Keystone approved, TransCanada just didn't have enough market for two pipelines. Also, that pipeline, if completed as planned, was going to have a mixed amount of content. About 80% of what was to go through the energy east pipeline was mixed bitumen with diluent, for which there is no refinery in Atlantic Canada that can process it. It was primarily an export pipeline.

We have these debates, and I don't think that amendments to Bill C-63 in clause-by-clause is an appropriate place for a pipeline debate, but I do think it's important to set the record straight. In this government, unfortunately, the Liberals are all for pipelines. They approve them all over the place. Personally, and for the Green Party, it's not about the pipelines. It's what's in the pipeline, and we will oppose any pipeline of bitumen mixed with diluent, which is a substance that can't be cleaned up and poses a risk wherever it is shipped.

9:40 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Okay. We go all around the block on issues at this committee, Ms. May. There's no question about it.

Ms. O'Connell and then Mr. Albas.

9:40 a.m.

Liberal

Jennifer O'Connell Liberal Pickering—Uxbridge, ON

Mr. Chair, I never thought I'd see the day when I would hear the Conservatives say they're so against socialism for the wealthy, because that's what I remember from the last 10 years, but that's okay. We'll talk about the fact of jobs. The question was about jobs for Canadians. Well, I think our two records can speak for themselves. Some of the worst job records we saw from the previous government.

In terms of pipelines, another one.... We'll see the records show for themselves how many were completed by the previous government. In terms of subsidies for fossil fuels, I think the Conservatives are having a really hard time with their messaging, because our job numbers are doing very well and our economy is growing. They want to really twist and turn and get to whatever they can in terms of messaging around some of these amendments, and really, what we heard from the officials, if you'll recall, was that part of Canada joining the Asian infrastructure bank was about having a seat at the table to start influencing and changing the conversation and changing behaviour. If we're not at the table, we really can't influence that.

To pretend for one second that Canada should not be involved in a global economy, I mean, again, coming from Conservatives, it's something that I'm very surprised by, especially from these former Harper Conservatives. It's just absolutely shocking to me. I think the point is—and I think most Canadians see the fact—that we are living in a global economy. If we want to move and make progress on things such as infrastructure, international development, environmental standards, and labour standards, Canada has to have a seat at the table.

That's what we heard about. It's not about operating in one silo or another and only doing things in Canada and never talking or interacting with global markets or global businesses. I don't think that's what the previous Harper Government did, but now, because they really can't talk about the economy because of their track record, they have to twist themselves into pretzels to really talk about subsidies for fossil fuels. Really, this is about having a seat at the table and changing the conversation and Canada having that influence to move to a sustainable global market.

9:45 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you, Ms. O'Connell.

It looks like we have a full-court press. From the official opposition, we have Mr. Albas, Mr. Kmiec, and Mr. Poilievre.

We are on amendment CPC-1. I think we're going broadly around it, but go ahead. The floor is open.

November 21st, 2017 / 9:45 a.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

Mr. Chair, just to make sure people are correct on the record, median wages from 2005 to 2015 rose 12.2%. Canada was one of the only areas in the developed world where we saw median wages go up as compared to other places. We also had the great recession, which some people might say could have easily gone into a depression if not for the good work done by the previous government. I think most members would say that could be a difficult thing, particularly during minority years. As well, during the time I was here, Mr. Chair, Canada did the best out of all of our partners in coming out of that recession, with 1.2 million jobs after the recession. That record is there.

Also, when we talked about doing international development or multilateralism, we would talk about child and maternal health care plans so more children would be born whose parents would be able to take care of them. Those are the kinds of things we did.

The trans-Pacific partnership was something the previous government invested a lot of time in, because we saw Asia and the Pacific in general as a good place to be doing business.

That's how we did it. We did not do it, though, by subsidizing pipelines. As a British Columbian, I have to say that when we see investments of $36 billion in proposed investment not go ahead in the Pacific LNG project because of the enormous amount of regulatory pressure put on it by this government.... They put a regulatory cap on its emissions, and it made the project non-viable. Only now do we find out that they are willing to subsidize natural gas projects and other types of projects like that in other countries.

This is the problem. The government can say it is all about multilateralism, but at the end of the day you are taking taxpayers' money and placing it to the benefit of taxpayers in other countries. I think many people may just say that if we're not going to be supporting projects here in Canada, why are we supporting those projects? I really do hope the government members take note of this, because at the end of the day you have to go to your constituents and say to them that $375 million U.S. was.... You were at this committee, and you didn't say anything other than supportive bromides.

Thank you.

9:45 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

We are moving fairly far astray from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, but we went down this road, so I'll have to allow us to complete it.

We have Mr. Kmiec and then Mr. Poilievre.

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

We have gone down this road now, so to that amendment, I'm trying to remove the funding component to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

However, since we talked about employment numbers, you would know that CANSIM table 282-0011 shows that job numbers are pretty much the same as they were all the way back in about June or July of last year, because there was a drop and it came back up. I'd be really careful, then, about using whatever employment numbers you want, because I can use StatsCan numbers to demonstrate to you that half of the drop in the unemployment rate is due to workforce participation dropping. There are fewer people looking for work. People are dropping out of the workforce because of all the tax hikes. It's not worth looking for work. That's not me; that's StatsCan. Just go look at the data. It's right there.

To the amendment, it's been said that this isn't about pipeline infrastructure projects in Asia. It is about them, though, because there are 21 projects already on the books. The day the government announced it was going to join was the day the TANAP Azerbaijan project was approved. It was the exact same day, so how could you not know?

The witnesses said there was a human rights and environmental record review done on every single project, which means the government would have been reviewing it ahead of time before joining this project. It would have known that $375 million U.S. of taxpayers' money would be going to finance the loans being given to these pipeline projects. It has to. Inevitably it will go there. Middle-class taxpayers are going to be financing two pipeline projects overseas, and I don't see how that's fair to the widows or how that's fair to the orphans or how it's fair to taxpayers in Canada to be financing those projects.

Witnesses have also said before this committee—in error—that this is an opportunity for Canadian companies to bid and that they could bid on these projects ahead of time. I have experts from Australia and Asia saying that this is furthering China's foreign policy interests, not Canada's, and that Chinese contractors are preferred contractors when it comes to bidding on these projects, so this money very well may go to financing middle-class jobs in China and the elite who will be getting these loans. “De-risking” was the term used for what this money is going towards, but de-risking whom? Well, it's de-risking those people who are fortunate enough to have a seat at that table. We are not purchasing a seat at the table. We are not going to be a member of the board of governors or the board of directors of this bank.

We may, perhaps in the future, but we get less than a 1% voting share for this money, and I just don't see the value. I don't see the bang for your buck. Back in Alberta, we say, “Get 'er done”. I don't see us “getting 'er done” here.

9:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you, Mr. Kmiec.

Next is Mr. Poilievre, and then Mr. Fergus. Hopefully we can—

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Mr. Chair, the comments from across the way demonstrate that the Liberals do not even understand what free trade is. They think free trade is a group of political grandees getting together in a faraway land and deciding how to spend other people's money through complex international institutions unaccountable to the people who pay for them. That is what this so-called Asian infrastructure bank is. It will take a total of $100 billion in tax dollars, from working people around the world, and put it into the hands of a well-connected, well-lobbied for, well-lawyered few. They will be able to use that money to secure loan guarantees and loans, and the losses that will result from projects gone bad will then fall on the backs of the world's taxpayers, of which Canadian taxpayers will be responsible for half a billion dollars.

That's not free trade. What the government doesn't understand is that countries don't trade—people trade. Individuals buy things from one another across borders. In a true free-trading economy, the government should remove the barriers to the flow of goods and services across those borders. It should not forcefully expropriate the money of the taxpayers in those countries to provide financial assistance to wealthy international investors well connected enough to get their hands on it.

That is effectively the difference here. We believe in voluntary exchange, where buyer and seller trade things because each believes they are better off with what they get than with what they had. They believe in forcing people to contribute to projects they don't support and often don't even know about in faraway lands they've never been to.

We are going to continue to support true free trade over here on this side of the House of Commons, and not these programs of socialism for the wealthy and the well connected.

Thank you.

9:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

We have Mr. Fergus, and then Mr. Lightbound.

We are on the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank agreement act amendment, but I will admit that we are a little broader than that in the discussion.

Go ahead, Mr. Fergus.

9:55 a.m.

Liberal

Greg Fergus Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Chair, well, it did start off with the discussion, and I'd like to thank the honourable member from Calgary for his analysis. I think it's not entirely reflective of the full diversity of the benefits of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, but the most important thing is that we have a full discussion of the benefits and perhaps some of the disadvantages.

Good people of reasoned perspectives can have a fair debate. What I really don't appreciate is the lack of coherency, I would say, in terms of the arguments being marshalled by some of my honourable colleagues opposite, in terms of pulling in little bits and pieces and then conflating them into a conclusion which will support an ideological perspective that they may have.

I don't think anyone on this side said that the AIIB is a free trade agreement. I'm not certain where that came from. We were talking about different aspects of different measures in which we would want to support.... We'd like to support free trade. We also want to support and be a part of the global community to make sure there is going to be, Mr. Chair, a fair development, which is going to be happening all over the world, because Canada....

Mr. Chair, let me back up a bit. I come from the perspective that it's very important for all of us to have self-interest, but if all that we have is self-interest, what kind of people are we? We need to have some idea of being able to work with our neighbours and with our brothers and sisters around the world. We cannot just stick.... Canada is not an island to stay unto itself, to invest only in itself and only for things which only benefit ourselves. We need to make sure that we are part of a larger global community and we take our perspectives in doing so. I have no problems doing that, and I'm certain that honourable members, in most contexts, would probably agree with that perspective as well. I think that is key and that's important.

This is one tool in which we are able to do that, and it's one tool which I'm proud Canada is taking a step toward being a part of. Part of our long and proud history over the last 80 years, certainly throughout the 20th century, is in being part of these multilateral organizations which seek to improve the welfare and well-being of citizens around the world. It's one thing I'm proud of.

It's interesting that the honourable member also brought up issues in regard to the economic record of the previous government, saying that we would have gone into depression. It's fascinating that they used the term “depression”, because every economist, every statistic, would demonstrate that their economic record was only second to that of another prime minister, R.B. Bennett, during that depression era, in terms of annual economic growth.

When you take a look at the anemic record that existed then compared to the 3.5% growth that we have now, Mr. Chair—

9:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Greg, I would like if we could—

9:55 a.m.

Liberal

Greg Fergus Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

It's just because the door was opened.

9:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

I know we went very broad on this, but I don't want to get into a debate on this government versus that government. I think we went far enough on that point.

Mr. Lightbound.

9:55 a.m.

Liberal

Joël Lightbound Liberal Louis-Hébert, QC

I'll be very quick.

I want to thank Mr. Kmiec for his extensive research on the Asian infrastructure bank. I'm sure he would have noted that on many of the projects he's mentioned, the World Bank is a co-lender.

If we push his reasoning, I guess he would suggest that Canada should exit from the World Bank or reconsider its engagement. However, I don't see that Canadians have an appetite for disengaging from institutions such as the World Bank. I think Canadians have a strong desire to see Canada being part of the discussion about development around the world.

I am curious if his reasoning was that Canada should exit institutions such as the World Bank. In the interests of staying on the proposed amendments, I am not seeking an answer necessarily right now, but if he wants to, I'd be happy to hear it.

10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

We'll give him the opportunity, if he wants to answer now, and then maybe Mr. Poilievre can close this debate and we'll vote on CPC-1, and then go to CPC-2.

Mr. Kmiec.

10 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

I'd be happy to. This is turning out to be a bit like question period now, but I'll actually answer the question.

My answer is no, of course not, but you're asking us to spend $375 million U.S. of new money. Not every project has World Bank money attached to it.

Let me give you as an example the Duqm port commercial terminal and operational zone development project. The project status right now is that it's under construction. If your government had been reading about the project, reading the newspapers, and reading the analyses of it, you would know that there are massive concerns about the abuse of migrant workers and unfair labour conditions for those migrant workers in Oman. I refuse to believe that this government somehow would have done a human rights review, as the witnesses said, and not have noticed that fact at some point.

We're transferring $375 million U.S. of new money that will be financing the loans that will eventually make their way to this project. Of course, for each of these projects, you don't give all of the loan money up front; you give it in pieces over time. Canadian taxpayer dollars will go towards this Omani project where there are human rights concerns. Not all projects are funded by the World Bank. Some projects receive money—some, not all. The IMF is giving money to some of them as is the ADB, but not to all of them.

The unique thing about this bank is that it's led by the Chinese government and is explicitly for the purpose of one belt, one road, or OBOR, initiative. The one purpose behind this project is to find opportunities to further China's economic interests. They have said that explicitly and repeatedly.

All we're getting here is less than 1% of the shares and no seat at the table. We're not on the board of directors. We're not involved anywhere. We're not talking about institutions that are part of the Bretton Woods institutions, which we have been part of for 50-plus years. We're talking about a new institution not led by one of our allies.

10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Mr. Poilievre.

10 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Mr. Chair, again, I think I have to reiterate what members across the way have said.

Mr. Kmiec has done phenomenal service to Parliament through his research and through the data he has dug up. He is really leading the charge on this file.

I have to respond to Mr. Fergus, however, who says that this is about selflessness and altruism, that we need not be so selfish, and that we need to show generosity. This is another classic Liberal contradiction. They are very generous with other people's money.

If the Liberals believe that the best way to help the world's most needy people is to invest in an infrastructure bank, why don't they do it with their own money rather than forcing Canadian taxpayers to fund it? We on this side believe that free trade helps everyone. This is not free trade. This is forced taxation to fund a faraway bank that will help wealthy people in a faraway land to protect their own financial interests at Canadian taxpayers' expense.

Normally, international aid programs are designed to help the world's poor. The Liberals have now conjured one up to help the world's rich, the investment bankers and private equity fund managers. Those who will invest in these projects will get underwritten by Canadian taxpayers. A half a billion Canadian tax dollars will be poured into the pockets of the wealthy elite who are going to benefit from it.

We are moving a motion under the name and the leadership of MP Kmiec to cancel this expenditure and keep that half a billion dollars in Canada, in the hands of the people who earned it.

10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Mr. Fergus, let us hope yours will be the last comment in this round.

10 a.m.

Liberal

Greg Fergus Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

I hope it is, Mr. Chair.

I'm certainly not a fellow to have a sensitive skin. I'm certain the honourable member didn't imply that I, speaking as a Liberal and as an individual, don't spend my own money in supporting causes, not only in Canada but around the world. I don't think he knows me well enough to know whether or not, as an individual, I do that. Let me just assure him and state for the record that a fair bit of my salary and a fair bit of my family's work is for activities that are certainly not in my personal interest—a narrow economic benefit—but to help out my neighbours not only in my community but around the world.

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

We'll vote on CPC-1.