Evidence of meeting #27 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 clients.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Dale Patterson  Member, Board of Directors, Opportunity International Canada
Keith Weaver  Member, Board of Directors, MicroEnsure LLC
Larry Reed  Director, Microcredit Summit Campaign
Doris Olafsen  Executive Vice-President, Opportunity International Canada
Margaret Biggs  President, Canadian International Development Agency

March 14th, 2012 / 5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Conservative Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Thank you, Chair.

Minister, thank you very much for taking your time in coming to our committee. Thank you to the staff as well.

Minister, can you take some time to tell the committee about the results of our ongoing work in Haiti?

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Oda Conservative Durham, ON

Thank you for the question.

As you know, I visited Haiti in January. I would say there is some disappointment because there has been some delay with the political situation and the slow and even more recent events there as far as a government in place.... Most of the projects that we're undertaking we're doing with organizations, so we're not reliant on government. The ministries are continuing the work so that our work can continue, and hopefully we'll find a quick resolution to a new prime minister and a new government in the country of Haiti.

We're doing many projects. One that we support very strongly in Haiti is the school feeding program. The school feeding program is an incentive for families to send their children to school because when children go to school, they get fed a good, nutritious meal every day, and at the end of the week, they also get to take some food home for their families. Consequently, we announced that we are increasing our support for the World Food Programme's school feeding program.

As well, I was there recently in January and announced that Canada will support the resettlement of the families that are in the Champs de Mars national park, and that's ongoing as well.

We've also been able to maintain our support for the health clinics. The incidence of cholera will vary, but they're able to manage that, and there's reduced death as a consequence of cholera.

We continue to do our economic growth, and we now have almost 400,000 who have access to credit and financial systems. We've established a very good program for the farmers, which is a first-time credit system for farmers so that after the earthquake, they're going to be able to buy the tools and the inputs they require to make sure they've got a good restart into their agriculture.

I also went to visit a hospital where we're providing maternal health, prenatal care, and delivery free of cost, and that has increased the health of women through safer births. They're actually following up with postnatal care for their babies as well. We've made a lot of progress, and we continue to keep our commitment to Haiti.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Conservative Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Minister, can you describe some of the limitations when countries have poor legal and informational assistance, such as the basics of government-issued identification, deeds or titles to property, and permanent addresses, etc.? Could you tell us something about that?

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Oda Conservative Durham, ON

I would suggest to you, continuing on with Haiti, that this has been one of the major barriers to the settlement of people. There was very little land titling in Haiti prior to the earthquake. Any records they had were completely destroyed during the earthquake. What happens now when Canada wants to help resettle is the government allocates some land, and you find there are five people who say they own that land.

The majority of the people in Haiti were renters, not owners. I know that the government is trying to create a titling system, but each one of these plots of land now has to be negotiated with the four or five people who claim they own that piece of land. This is why I would suggest to those who hope and expect to see Haitians resettled that the progress on that has been slower.

However, Canada supported a big program of registration of Haitians. In fact, the Haitians recognized that they can now be registered. Registration is really important, because that's the tool that NGOs use to provide health aid, food aid, and all of this kind of thing. It's a start. It also helped with the elections registration as well, so that was a key program.

It wasn't a high-cost program. It can't be measured in many millions of dollars, but it's a program that's going to make a difference as the country progresses.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Conservative Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Has my time stopped? I would like to pass it on to the floor.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dean Allison

I know you'd like to pass it on, but we're not going to allow you right now.

I believe the bells are going to start at any second. I just want to ask if there is unanimous consent to give the last round to the NDP. Would that be all right?

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

John Williamson Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

I have a point of order, but I won't object. I have to move.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dean Allison

All right. We'll finish off with Ms. Sims for the last five minutes.

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Thank you very much.

Minister, a few weeks ago at this committee we had Anthony Bebbington. You might know of him; he's from the graduate school of geography in Massachusetts. He shared some interesting information with us about things he's hearing from Latin American politicians.

He mentions that Canada's foreign policy links with mining are undermining our country's credibility. In fact, he commented—I was really taken aback by it—that a Latin American minister of the environment actually told him this: “I don't know if Canada has ever been quite so discredited in its history.”

I have to tell you, Minister, when I heard that last week it actually gave me goosebumps, because it's not anything I want to hear. At the same time, he said that another official had said to him, “As far as I can tell, the Canadian ambassador here is a representative for Canadian mining companies.”

As you can see, both of those kinds of comments would cause us, as Canadians right around Canada, a great deal of concern.

There is no doubt that you have personally pushed for greater links between NGOs and mining firms. In the fall you announced $26 million in partnerships with Barrick Gold, IAMGOLD, and Rio Tinto-Alcan.

The question, Minister, is this. Let us put aside for a moment the various strengths or drawbacks of these projects. My question is a very simple one: why do multi-billion-dollar private companies need Canadian taxpayer dollars to do this kind of development work?

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Oda Conservative Durham, ON

Thank you for the question.

They do not need it. We need what they can offer us so that we can improve our programs and the effectiveness of what we're doing in these countries. In fact, as you said on February 13, “I think all of us realize there is a role for the private sector to play”, and you indicated that you thought it was articulated well.

You also went on to say that the private sector can play a very active role in international work by itself, for example. They do not need our support. In fact, they're contributing to the projects that were conceived by the non-governmental organizations like WUSC and Plan International that are working with these companies, and they are benefiting.

What the mining company is benefiting from and learning from the NGO community is engagement with community, ensuring that they're understanding the gender aspects, etc. What the NGOs are learning about is an innovative approach: more innovation, more expertise. If you're going to do skills training, how do you train? What skills can be used? It's a demand-driven approach, driven by where the industry is going to be and where the jobs are going to be.

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Thank you, Minister, for your response.

I absolutely stand by my statements earlier that the private sector does have a role to play. At the same time, I can also say that from the evidence presented here and from what I've heard outside of this room as well, I also personally hear some alarm bells around the impact of some of our partnerships on the long-term sustainable developmental work that we need to do in other countries.

I know, Minister, because we have shared these moments, that you care very deeply about our international work. It really concerns me that some of the direction we're taking is actually damaging our international reputation because of the links.

I'm certainly hoping that we will use our funding—the taxpayers' moneys—in a way to invest in long-term sustainable development that will give us systemic results.

I have heard from mining companies that have come to make presentations. At one meeting, I think I made a comment. I felt as if I was at a business council meeting of CEOs, because all we heard about was, well, we need to have these systems put in place for us. I kept thinking, as you make all these profits out of these countries, isn't it your role to develop some of those systems?

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Oda Conservative Durham, ON

Not necessarily—

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dean Allison

It's almost all the time you have, but you may give a quick response, Minister.

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Oda Conservative Durham, ON

I'm sorry; I hope you had finished your question.

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

No; I realize, Minister, that we're all stretched for time—

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Oda Conservative Durham, ON

Yes, exactly; thank you for that.

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

—and you should get your minute of glory too.

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Oda Conservative Durham, ON

Thank you for that.

I would suggest to you that helping countries establish good mining regulations and good mining legislation, etc., helps every country.

If you go into a country that has natural resources, you'll see the Chinese, the Australians, and many countries investing. Those good laws will apply to every country, not just Canadian mining laws. The important thing is that they have good legislation, and we will help the governments ensure that those revenues going to those countries are going to go into better health systems and better education systems. I think that is the thing we want to make sure that we're helping.

I wish Coca-Cola were owned by Canada, because Coca-Cola doesn't need development money. What Coca-Cola is doing with USAID is setting up small, women-run cooperatives for bottling facilities in more remote areas. We all know Coca-Cola, amazingly, reaches the remotest village in a country; Coca-Cola's contribution with USAID is to start women with jobs with a little company, and that's increasing their income. That's long term and that's sustainable. That's why we want to increase our engagement with the private sector.

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

I would love to have a Coca-Cola conversation, because I've seen Coca-Cola's schools in Mexico and the damage they do, but that's another conversation—and I've never drunk Coke.

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dean Allison

Thank you, Minister and Ms. Biggs, for being here, and Mr. Thangaraj also.

With that, we're going to end the meeting. Thank you very much.

The meeting is adjourned.