Madam Speaker, I enjoyed that last exchange between the hon. member for Eglinton-Lawrence and the hon. member for Fraser Valley East because both members are on the foreign affairs committee and in developing an independent Canadian policy on foreign affairs.
This is the kind of interchange we need on the floor of this House. Therefore I congratulate the two gentlemen for contributing to the debate and to helping us develop an independent Canadian foreign policy.
Canadians have seen the world change dramatically in recent years. In many ways change has been the defining characteristic of this decade. Nowhere has this been more true than in central and eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.
The fall of the Berlin wall, which I witnessed personally, the collapse of communism and the Soviet military threat and the emergence of the new independent states have reshaped Europe. We are faced with challenges and opportunities unparalleled since the end of World War II.
The last five years have shown that the first dramatic steps are sometimes the easiest to take. The hard work begins when ideas must be transformed into reality. Democracy cannot simply be proclaimed. Free markets cannot just be willed into existence. Fundamental reform requires courage and patience. Canada has an important role to play in central and eastern Europe. We must seize this tremendous opportunity.
I would like to focus my statement today on Canada's foreign policy challenges in that part of the world. It is obviously in Canada's best interests that reform in the region succeed. The opportunity to build a more stable world order based on democratic governments and free market economies cannot be squandered.
Central and eastern Europe is a new economic frontier. Trade is the lifeblood of the Canadian economy. The region's largely untapped markets represent an exciting opportunity to generate exports and create new jobs and prosperity in Canada.
Canada's historic, cultural and human links to eastern Europe are an advantage that few of our so-called competitors, European or otherwise, possess. We must use our advantage wisely.
Almost 20 per cent of the constituents in my constituency of Parkdale-High Park and 10 per cent of Canadians generally across Canada can trace their roots to central and eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. This is an unparalleled bond. We have tried to foster relationships with these countries. A number of Canadian entrepreneurs or academics have gone there to offer their expertise and knowledge, to offer training and assistance. It is a difficult task where progress is measured in little steps, but whose rewards for Canada are great.
The linguistic skills and the cultural ties of Canada's ethnocultural communities enable us to support a number of people to people initiatives, to bridge cultural barriers and to deliver training and assistance. The impact of this direct contact cannot be overestimated. I know from years of personal experience working with the Canadian Polish community, with travel study programs for Canadian students in Poland, how personal links can bring countries together.
The countries of central and eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union are trying to create in months and years institutions and systems which have in some cases developed over centuries in the west.
While we should seize the opportunities presented by change, we must recognize that there will be setbacks and avoid impatience and unrealistic expectations. Political and economic reform take time.
Last week the President of Georgia was in Ottawa, Mr. Shevardnadze. I had the honour of greeting him at the airport and bringing him to meet the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs. I asked Mr. Shevardnadze if he had an opportunity to relive his life would he again push the economic, political and democratic reforms as he did with Mr. Gorbachev. He thought about it for a while and said: "Yes, but I would do it much more slowly". His argument was that the problems they were having in many of the east European countries today were because they were not ready for such rapid change.
Therefore, if we want Canada to have a prosperous and beneficial relationship with central and eastern Europe then we must start today and patiently wait for the results. In countries like Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, the memory of democracy and market economies have survived 45 years of political repression and state control. But in what shape? There is enough intact to provide the basis for a successful transformation but the task remains daunting. With strong support and investment from the west we are seeing encouraging signs.
Poland became the first country in the region to record growth in gross domestic product with an increase of 4 per cent last year. It was Europe's fastest growing economy in 1993. Who would have predicted that 10 years ago?
In Hungary the private sector generates close to 45 per cent of the country's GDP. The Czech Republic has low inflation and unemployment rates and has launched a second phase of a successful privatization program.
In the former Soviet Union the first steps have been taken, but with virtually no history of democracy and free markets to draw on we should not be surprised that change is slow and difficult. The challenge is large but it is not insurmountable. Countries such as Russia and Ukraine are central to the historic transformation of Europe. Canada must make a commitment for the long term.
We are encouraging Russia's president, government and parliament to work together to develop a new reform consensus. Canadian assistance remains contingent on a continuing commitment to democracy and economic reform. I should draw to the attention of newer members that the foreign affairs commit-
tee was in the former Soviet Union, Russia and Ukraine twice. Maybe it is time to revisit that region.
Yesterday I had a lengthy meeting with the new ambassador of Ukraine, Ambassador Batyuk, to discuss Canada's special relationship with Ukraine. About two hours ago the Minister of Foreign Affairs met with the Ukrainian Canadian Congress under the presidency of Oleh Romaniw to discuss such matters as political issues, technical assistance, trade and economic issues, consultations with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and immigration issues as they pertain to Ukraine.
This is the kind of input that we welcome, not only input through parliamentary standing committees but meetings such as the minister had just prior to my speaking here.
Government commitment to enhancing this relationship is in every spirit political, economic and social. We will be at the forefront of helping Ukraine in its democratic and economic transformation. A stable, secure and prosperous Ukraine is vital for European security.
We are encouraged by President Kravchuk's desire to submit the non-proliferation treaty to his Parliament for ratification.
Since 1989 Canada has provided substantial support to central and eastern Europe in the form of technical and humanitarian assistance. It is important that we continue to do so. The people of the region must clearly see that the west is supporting them in practical and direct ways during the difficult period of transition.
That is why one of the major components of Canadian assistance to the region is an ongoing program designed to promote democratic development, to support the transition to market economies and to increase Canadian trade and investment links with the region.
In pursuing these objectives we have adopted a partnership approach both with recipient countries and Canadian partners. This is partly a reflection of limited resources. It is also a recognition that government does not have all of the answers. The program draws on the expertise to be found in all sectors of Canadian society.
The assistance program matches Canadian skills and technology with the priority needs of partner countries. We have done this successfully in fields such as energy, agriculture, private sector development and the environment. Our sophisticated financial and legal systems and our respected public service have also provided unrivalled expertise.
This approach not only ensures that Canadian assistance is of high quality but also helps to develop long term commercial opportunities for Canadian companies.
Canadian assistance is having a practical impact on the process of reform. It supports the transfer of critical knowledge and technology and fosters the emergence of small and medium sized enterprises. Western economic practices are being adopted and democratic institutions are being strengthened.
The assistance program also increases the capacity in Canadian firms to compete effectively in central and eastern European markets. Two examples of projects in my parents' homeland of Poland illustrate the range of our involvement and give us a good reason why we should continue to be involved in the region.
One, a Canadian company advised the Polish Ministry of Health on health care reform in 1992. It subsequently won a World Bank contract to manage a $200 million U.S. health sector loan in Poland. Another example, more than 100 Polish dairy farmers and veterinarians have so far upgraded their skills and received management training in an ongoing program at the international livestock management school in Kemptville.
There are those who think that Canada spends too much on foreign aid, as we heard from some of the Reform Party speakers, and that it is a waste of money. As we embark on this foreign policy review process we will have to look at our aid programs, but aid is not simply money. It is also expertise, knowledge and skills that we can share with those who are seeking to build in modern society.
Let me cite a few examples of where Canada has taken the lead in setting up successful programs with very little money. The Federal Business Development Bank took the lead in establishing an independent Romanian loan guarantee fund for small and medium enterprises in 1993. A contribution of $775,000 will provide on site staff and management training until June 1995. Canada without providing capital in the fund has provided much more: a credible reputation and confidence in the abilities of its managers. Thanks to this the fund has attracted a $5 million contribution from Germany.
In Hungary we are establishing regional vocational and labour retraining centres. Our involvement in the project started in 1991 with a $400,000 contribution to the Association of Canadian Community Colleges for one pilot project. The association and an Irish partner then secured a $1.5 million World Bank contract to establish close to 20 such centres in Hungary.
Just yesterday Ambassador Gedai of Hungary was in my office expressing appreciation for the co-operation and assistance from Canada.
Russian oilfield workers and managers are benefiting from training in Russia and Canada. A $10 million Yeltsin democracy fellowship program managed by the University of Saskatchewan in my province brings Russian officials to Canada to work in ministries at all levels of government.
In Ukraine Canadian support for a professional public service training institute is helping to build the institutions that modern independent states require.
Canada is contributing its expertise in agricultural economics, social policy planning and communications. Already 21 deputy and assistant deputy ministers from Ukraine have participated in Canada in a two week executive management program at the Canadian Centre for Management Development.
Canada's assistance program also provides funding to Canadian business on a cost shared basis to develop joint ventures in trade and investment opportunities. As a result Canadian companies have established a strong presence in Russia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Ukraine. Trade and investment are key to the long term growth of these fledgling market economies.
As I said earlier, and my colleagues have also pointed out, trade is also essential to Canada's continued growth in the next century. Canada is encouraging collective, decisive action on the part of the west. The government supports stronger links between NATO and central and eastern Europe through the partnership for peace program. Canada has encouraged the CSCE to play a more active role in central and eastern Europe, particularly in the area of conflict prevention and crisis management.
We are proposing to focus high level G-7 attention on Ukraine. Already Canada is playing a leading international role in assisting Ukraine in its upcoming elections through technical assistance and election monitoring.
I am pleased to announce that the Minister of Foreign Affairs has asked me to lead a delegation to Ukraine on its request to monitor the elections there.
Canadian soldiers are serving as peacekeepers with the United Nation protection force in the former Yugoslavia and the government increased Canada's contribution to relief operations there with the announcement of a $10 million package of humanitarian assistance in November 1993. This brings Canadian contributions of humanitarian assistance for the war affected populations of former Yugoslavia to $50 million since 1991. We will continue to monitor humanitarian needs throughout the region and to respond generously and compassionately.
Had the former Yugoslavian conflict been resolved in an institutionalized way through compromise, tolerance and agreement, as recommended by Lester B. Pearson, billions of dollars could be used today for development rather than for humanitarian assistance. Again, in response to the people who say we should focus on only giving assistance to the poorest of the poor, if we only give humanitarian aid when do the countries get assistance to develop so that they can stand on their own feet? Our ideology should be to help the people in those countries to help themselves.
The course of reform in central and eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union may continue to be unpredictable and fraught with danger but we cannot withdraw. Canada must play a role in turning this period of turbulent change into an opportunity to create a more stable and prosperous world. The government is committed to providing creative international leadership to ensure that we achieve this vital goal.
I am very impressed with the work of the parliamentary standing committee represented by the three parties sitting in this House and I am looking forward to criss-crossing Canada, hearing views from grassroots Canadians in helping us develop a unique, independent Canadian foreign policy.