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Evidence of meeting #26 for Foreign Affairs and International Development in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was microfinance.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Wendy Hannam  Executive Vice-President, Sales and Service, Products and Marketing, International Banking, Scotiabank
Morris Rosenberg  Deputy Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière NDP Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Minister, you spoke earlier very eloquently about the importance of strengthening security in the hemisphere.

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Ablonczy Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

I'm not getting translation here—

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière NDP Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Okay. I'll do it in English.

You've spoken eloquently about the need to strengthen security in the hemisphere, in the Americas, with which we agree. We also know that one of the main security issues in the Americas is the illicit transfer of arms.

Now, the OAS has developed, under the leadership of Canada, a great tool called CIFTA, the convention to control the transfer of arms. Yet Canada is one of the few countries that still has not ratified the convention. Do you know why?

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Ablonczy Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

In this specific case, I don't know what our hesitation would be.

5:35 p.m.

A voice

We'll have to get back—

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Ablonczy Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Yes, we'll have to get back to you on that, because I'm not aware of this.

I can say that transnational crime involves arms, as you say. It involves people-smuggling—often children—and of course drugs are also huge. We have a range of programs to address that—

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière NDP Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Yes, absolutely. I'm really sorry to have to interrupt you, but I want to let my colleague speak.

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Ablonczy Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

We'll get back to you on the specifics.

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière NDP Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Thank you very much.

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dean Allison

Ms. Sims.

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Thank you.

I want to thank the ministers and staff for coming here to answer our questions. I really appreciate it.

I also want to acknowledge Minister Ablonczy's staff and the minister herself for being very open in giving us briefings. That always helps us to get a better understanding of what is going on. I really wanted to get that down on the record, so thank you for that.

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Ablonczy Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

I'll pass that on.

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Thank you, Minister.

As you know, this Friday marks one year for the detention of Mr. Tepper. I know it's a very complex case. One of the disturbing things that keeps coming back to me over and over again is that this government knew that there was a red warrant for Mr. Tepper, yet he was allowed to travel on an official business trip on a government mission when at the same time we knew that the Algerian country right next to where he was going could end up arresting him.

Did anyone think about letting him know what could happen to him?

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Ablonczy Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

My understanding was that there was an attempt to have a conversation about that, but that would be through Public Safety and the RCMP, so I'm not able to speak on their behalf on that—

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

I appreciate that.

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Ablonczy Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

—but you want might to pursue that with them and see if you can get more detail.

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

I have read a few statements that Minister Toews has made in public, saying that it's not their normal practice to do that, but because this was an official mission that this gentleman was going on, it seems to me that we do have some obligation towards a Canadian citizen. I know how hard it is on the family right now.

Minister, I really want to move on to the e-passports that are coming next year. You have to remember that I'm the person who still hasn't—

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Ablonczy Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

If I may, Mr. Chairman, in this case there was not an official government mission. I just want to clarify that. We've clarified this over and over, and I just want to put that on the record.

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Oh, okay. My understanding is that he was with the provincial mission...? Okay.

Anyway, about e-passports, as I said, we're talking about a person who hasn't discovered online banking yet, so to think about e-passports is a real stretch.

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

John Baird Conservative Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

I'm the same way.

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

I don't have to tell you that there are Canadian families who are really struggling. The cost of a passport, at $120, for the average family that might have three or four kids, means that a significant burden is put on them, and especially now. When my kids were younger, you could travel to the States without a passport. I can even remember travelling to Mexico through the States without a passport. It was so much easier then.

How can we justify this fee increase when Canadian families are really struggling to make ends meet? It once again ends up being a burden for the people who already struggle.

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dean Allison

You can answer the question, but we'll finish with that. That's all the time we have.

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

I have at least five more.

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

John Baird Conservative Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

I'm always available. If you'd like, we could go to Tim Hortons and get a coffee and chat.

I appreciate that this is not an easy expense for any family. The way Passport Canada is set up is that it's a cost-recovery agency. It can charge only enough to provide the service. It's not paid for out of general government revenues. We certainly try to ensure that they keep their fees to no more than is absolutely required.

The good news is that they'll be ten-year passports—but that doesn't help the children, as you pointed out—and that the e-passports also will make the security of the passport better.

The only other alternative would be to subsidize it out of general government revenue. There are many Canadians who don't travel abroad because they can't afford to, and it would be, I think, wrong to ask them to subsidize those who do.

I appreciate your comments. It is a significant imposition on families, but there is a cost to providing the service. I'm certainly not insensitive to the pressures that are put on the middle-class family.

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dean Allison

Thank you very much.

We're going to wrap up with Mr. Dechert, for five minutes.