Thank you, Madam Chair. I would like to acknowledge the hard work of the clerk of the committee in getting this set up for us so that we could do this today.
My name is Jim Abbott. I had the privilege of serving as a member of Parliament for Kootenay—Columbia through six elections, from 1993 to 2011. I served on the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and the special committee on Afghanistan in my sixth term and was the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation.
My presentation today will explain my continuing involvement with the personal initiative I began two years ago before my retirement. Then, as now, I derived no income from this project. As a matter of fact, my wife calls it my “expensive obsession”. Here are my proposals.
One, there is an increased demand for delivering capacity-building services in many countries that are envisaging new wealth in developing their non-renewable resources.
Two, we need to look at the next step, to increase our capacity to involve more parliamentarians in several priority countries in passing appropriate legislation. In many cases, legislators in those countries are functioning in a parliamentary system that lacks capacity to create and enact suitable legislation.
Three, every nation requires treasure to deliver services to its citizens. With good business practices, built on corporate social responsibility, extractive industries have the potential to create wealth and improve delivery of resources to citizens in developing nations.
Fourth, and finally, extractive industries need predictability.
In May 2009 I was approached by the president of the Canadian Public Service Commission, Ms. Maria Barrados. She is a noted international expert on building and maintaining public service capacity. The government and public service of Mongolia had approached Ms. Barrados about restructuring their public service because of the rapid expansion of extractive industries in Mongolia.
My part in Ms. Barrados' initiative evolved over time, primarily on the interface between politicians and bureaucrats.
In September 2009 the Canadian and Mongolian prime ministers witnessed the signing of an MOU in Ottawa that created the momentum to build civil service capacity to address Mongolia’s competence to govern in the best interests of Mongolia's citizens.
In January 2010 I travelled on my own time—and my own dime, I might say—to Ulan Bator to work with Ms. Barrados. I met with Mongolian officials, high-level bureaucrats, and politicians. It was evident to me that the Barrados initiative needed stronger parliamentary awareness and ownership in Mongolia, so I brought the issue to this committee, and in December 2010 you tabled a unanimous report. All parties were on the same page in the Canadian Parliament—a strong sign to citizens and governments in both nations.
You’re currently examining, and let me quote, “how private sector entities—notably increasingly global Canadian firms—can be catalysts in generating long-term economic growth and alleviating poverty in developing countries”.
I believe that thoughtful Canadians want to support the world of developing nations. But we're pummelled by irresponsible froth about the mythical, so-called, resource curse. Are there nations with conflict, corruption, lack of diversity, and enclave effects? You bet.
Do some governments have insufficient investment in human resources? Are there some who lack democracy and human rights, leading to low growth and worsened level of poverty? Well, regrettably, the answer to the list is yes. But it needn’t be so. The issue is good governance. The dividends of good extractive governance are a peaceful society, investor confidence, a diversified economy with forward and backward linkages to the extractive sector, economic growth, improved social infrastructure, shared prosperity, and a positive corporate social response. That's a list that any of us would want to be associated with.
We recognize that the responsibility of any civil service in any country is to create and apply regulations that accurately reflect the meaning and intent of legislation passed by democratically elected parliamentarians. Responsible corporations desire a strong civil service because extractive industries need predictability.
Canada has a proud history of investing time and treasure, assisting nations in the conduct of democratic elections. Canada’s objective has been to give citizens a voice, building a framework for peace, order, and good government.
My presentation is about giving them the parliamentary tools with which they can create that framework. This responds, by the way, to an increasing demand to deliver capacity-building services in many countries as they develop new wealth and their non-renewable resources.
In Canada—we've had the presentation here today—the Parliamentary Centre has been offering services to strengthen legislatures for the past 20 years, and has acquired extensive experience in helping Ghana negotiate a win-win deal with extractive industries in their country. I strongly recommend that you really deeply study this.
I also suggest that acknowledgement, in your final committee report, of current initiatives like that of the Parliamentary Centre will go a long way to propagate our Canadian expertise.
I also recommend that you review your 2010 committee recommendations, because the initiatives I've outlined need not be expensive. In that report, under the heading “Lesson and Examples”, it was noted that CIDA has funded projects designed and implemented by partner agencies for years. Canadian NGOs have developed relevant expertise working with public and private sector partners in countries around the world.
Gale Lee of CESO underlined the value of using retired and semi-retired volunteers to carry out this work. She said that the partners and clients “really appreciate the fact that volunteers are not doing this for any personal gain”.
Today Canada could populate comparable pools of political experts. Undoubtedly there are many MPs in the Canadian Association of Former Parliamentarians who would relish the chance to contribute to the parliamentary procedures in developing nations. The kind of program that was just outlined by Mr. Ruszkowski is an example. When the parliamentarians of Ghana receive the training, they can then do the necessary negotiating.
The 2010 committee recommended that the Government of Canada encourage the establishment of these kinds of committees so that they could move forward with this kind of initiative on a very low-cost basis. As stated, there are many Canadian retirees who want to contribute their expertise. Canada has the models on which we can build.
I look forward to your Q and A, and even more so to reading the report.