Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today as Minister for International Co-operation and Minister responsible for Francophonie to add my voice to the debate on the address in reply to the speech from the throne.
Needless to say, it is a great day for a member of Parliament when he addresses the House of Commons for the first time as a minister. I feel especially honoured since it is the first time a francophone from outside Quebec has been appointed to the position of Minister responsible for Francophonie, and I intend to do a good job of representing Canada at the upper levels of the international French-speaking community.
First of all, I would like to thank the Right Hon. Prime Minister for appointing me, for giving the great honour and privilege of serving the people of my country.
I should emphasize the contribution of the people of Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, without whom, of course, I would not be here as either a member or a minister. I am very grateful to them and I would like to say that I will remain first and foremost the member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell.
They sent me to Parliament as their representative and, even though I am now a minister, I will continue to represent them faithfully at every opportunity.
Last week marked the 30th anniversary of my arrival in the House of Commons. I have spent 20 years in politics and, as you know, I also used to work here as a public servant. As I said before, I first set foot in the House of Commons on October 25, 1966 as a waiter, and I was lucky. I now stand before you on this November 1, 1996 addressing the House as a minister.
In the past two years, I had the opportunity and honour to perform the duties of chief government whip. Again, I must tell you that it was for me an unforgettable experience, and I thank the Prime Minister for entrusting me with that task.
I take this opportunity to congratulate the hon. member for Stormont-Dundas, who was appointed chief government whip a few days ago, and wish him the best of luck. Needless to say, his personal experience in a previous incarnation will probably help him do a good job. I mean, of course, his personal experience as a hockey coach, not as a referee.
I also wish to congratulate the government on its excellent agenda as outlined in the throne speech, which can be summed up as putting government finances on a healthier footing, reviving Canada's economy and creating jobs. Canadian interest rates are now at their lowest level in 30 years.
Over 600,000 jobs have been created since the last election, and Canada will soon be able to function without borrowing money. This is a rather spectacular achievement for a country whose public finances were in poor shape just a few years ago.
I want to take a few moments to tell you about the francophonie. Whether at the municipal, provincial or federal level, I always did my best to show my commitment to the francophone community. In 1983, I was the founding president of the Ontario section of the Association internationale des parlementaires de langue française. Until my appointment, a few days ago, I was the parliamentary secretary general of the AIPLF in the House of Commons.
I also had the honour of receiving, on two occasions, the Ordre de la Pléiade from this illustrious organization. This says something about my will to help preserve and promote French language and culture at home and around the world. Representing Canada among the francophonie's official circles will give me an opportunity to pursue my commitment on the international scene and to continue the work of my predecessors.
As a Franco-Ontarian, I will stress to the international community the contribution made by all francophones in Canada, whether they live in Quebec or in Ontario, which is my home province and
that of other parliamentarians, including the members for Ottawa-Vanier and Stormont-Dundas.
I thank and congratulate the hon. member for Papineau-Saint-Michel for doing so much for the francophone community. I hope to rise to the occasion and to continue the work he has done since he first arrived in this House.
A few days ago, during my trip to Vietnam, my first one as minister, I had discussions concerning the francophone summit to be held in Hanoi next year and to which we will make a major contribution. I firmly intend to support a more politically involved francophonie.
We can do more than to protect language and culture. We can be a leader among French-speaking countries and do our share to ensure global security.
As pointed out in the speech from the throne, and I quote: "In an interdependent world, security means taking an active role on the international stage".
Why is it that Canada is so involved in international co-operation? Since our aid program started from the 1950s international co-operation has been a principal vocation for Canada. It has emerged from our shared values of justice, equity, democracy and freedom. International co-operation is our means of working together in practical ways to build a world that is safer, more prosperous and more humane.
This is a role that has manifested itself throughout the years. I remember as a child in school where missionary work was emphasized, where children were encouraged to contribute portions of their lunch money, instead of buying candy bars and soda pop. We were asked to make small contributions to missionary work at that time, many of them organized by the church of which I am a member. We were encouraged to do that, to aid people in Africa and in China and so on. I remember in particular the China effort. That is the heritage from which we undertake our work in international co-operation.
For a middle power such as Canada, development assistance is a way of protecting our values as well as contributing to global security. It is a way of contributing to the world community, a kind of ticket enabling Canada to play its unique role in the major international organizations, the United Nations, the Commonwealth, la francophonie, the IMF, the World Bank and the development banks of Africa, Asia and the Americas. It is a way of being a global citizen.
International co-operation also helps Canada influence events in the world in a positive way. This week, for example, the United Nations secretary general named Mr. Raymond Chrétien, Canada's ambassador to the U.S., as his own special envoy to central Africa. Mr. Chrétien will work with central African leaders on finding a solution to the conflict that now threatens hundreds of thousands of people in Zaire and in the great lakes region of Africa.
That kind of appointment shows that Canada and Canada's representatives have credibility where it counts. I would call that the Pearsonian heritage. That credibility comes from having made an international contribution through our aid program.
Since 1994 Canada has contributed money to organizations such as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the Red Cross, UNICEF and others to help ease the suffering of refugees and displaced people, to find homes for orphans following the genocide in Rwanda two years ago. Our peacekeeping efforts helped keep the airports open in Kigali during the critical period in 1994 which enabled relief flights to land, providing food, medicine and so on to the starving people and to the wounded. All this work means that we are listened to when we raise our voices in the international council. Other countries know that we walk our talk in the world.
However, aid is not only responding to emergencies such as the one in central Africa. Development assistance is also a long term investment which has already paid off dramatically. Let me give a few examples.
In literacy and life expectancy the developing world has achieved in 30 years what it took the industrialized world 100 years to accomplish. Eighty per cent of the world's children now have been vaccinated against the six most infectious diseases and small pox has been almost completely eradicated. Since 1960 life expectancy in developing countries has risen from 47 to 61 years. Two-thirds of the world's people now know how to read, which is up from half in 1960. We must keep this long term investment precisely because it is delivering results and because human development is the best guarantee to global security.
The safety of each and everyone of us is related to several national factors such as the economy, the environment, social security and political stability. In the long term, however, it is the world context that will shape the world in which our children will live. This context will be determined, to a large extent, by how we will have met the most serious challenge of our time: world poverty.
I encountered these realities as soon as I took up my new position. I saw that even countries with impressive economies like China have huge pockets of poverty, in particular in the northeastern area of that country, where the Canadian International Development Agency has set up its community projects.
Poverty reduction is a key element of Canada's development co-operation. Furthermore, it is partly as a result of Canada's influence that this has become a leading objective in international institutions. I intend to address this issue next November 7 with representatives of the World Bank when they are here to present their report on this serious matter.
In order to fight poverty effectively and contribute to sustainable development in developing countries, the Canadian International Development Agency has established 6 broad program priorities. The first priority is to meet basic human needs, and 25 per cent of Canadian assistance falls into this category. These basic needs are, of course, food, potable water, education and health.
According to UNICEF's own evaluation, our contribution of approximately $24 million to their programs meant that, in 1995, over 3 million children were spared the mental impairment caused by a lack of iodine in their diet. UNICEF's executive director personally congratulated the Prime Minister of Canada for his leadership and that of his government in this area.
The second priority is the integration of women. Whether you are talking about food production, health or education, all studies have shown that when women are helped, the entire family is helped. Canada is one of the countries taking part in efforts focused on primary education in Africa known as the education for all initiative. This initiative is designed to improve the quality of the instruction given young girls in 15 African countries.
The third priority is human rights, democracy and good governance. In a few days I am going to Haiti, where, under this heading, we are supporting the efforts of that country's society by providing assistance with elections, as well as with police training and reform of the legal system, among other things.
In the area of the environment, CIDA supports the tree growers co-operative project in India. India loses some 15,000 square kilometres of forest per year. That is an area of forest about the size of Prince Edward Island.
Since 1993 CIDA has funded local co-operatives to plant trees on marginal land and as a result of the tree planting effort Indian villagers now have new skills, improved health and greater food security.
The fifth area is private sector development. An example is the six year old Peru-Canada fund which does good development work and at the same time has positive economic spinoffs for Canada. It is a counterpart fund, which means that CIDA provides funds to Peruvian companies to buy the Canadian equipment they need. The Peru-Canada fund is a win-win combination. It is important for us to note this. It has stimulated economies in hundreds of impoverished Peruvian communities and at the same time it protects Canadian jobs by financing the export of Canadian goods.
The sixth area of priority is that of infrastructure services. This is an important sector because it emphasizes that with environmentally sound infrastructure services, emphasis on poorer groups and improving the building capacity of other countries we can make life better.
I want to speak briefly of the relevance of international assistance for Canada. International assistance is not simply charity. It also has short and long term relevance to the Canadian economy. Every dollar invested in the developing world yields over $5 of return in the form of Canadian goods and services, jobs, contracts and export sales, although that is not the reason for giving. Canadians should know that even on that score there is enormous benefit for Canada. Over 70 cents of every development assistance dollar is disbursed to Canadians and it results in over 36,000 jobs per year for Canadians. Canadian food aid alone contributes 5,700 jobs.
I would like to take the next few minutes to tell you about CIDA's partners. In order to implement our programs, we turn to the expertise, talent, and knowledge of partners known as NGOs, non-governmental organizations, which include universities, colleges-over a hundred-, co-operatives, associations, and of course certain companies. There are over 2,000 working with us in one way or another.
Partnerships between the government sector and other sectors that arise through international development efforts have, in turn, led to horizontal partnerships, alliances between organizations and agencies that enrich and consolidate the contributions of all involved.
I have outlined the development assistance program and what it is doing to help build a safer world and how it provides benefits both overseas and here in Canada. Now I would like to talk about how we as a government are managing the process. It is not enough to do good; we must do it well.
The Canadian International Development Agency and its hundreds of partners, organizations, firms and institutions have earned a distinguished reputation for doing good and doing it well. To help these partnerships endure and flourish and to help new ones take root, CIDA must be able to engage the Canadian suppliers of goods and services who offer the best quality and the best price. To ensure this happens I intend to do my best to improve the already good contracting procedures which have already been opened up by my predecessor and others and I will be pushing to modernize the process and push it forward.
Finally, CIDA also needs to find new ways to reach out and involve young Canadians in international development. Today's young people will lead the world in the next century and it is important that they be well prepared and that they be cognizant of our role as a nation and our role in international development. It will be up to them in the 21st century to carry forward Canada's unique role in international co-operation.
I want to conclude by reiterating my thanks to the electors of Glengarry-Prescott-Russell for the excellent opportunity given to me and to the Prime Minister who has assigned me this formidable task of Minister of International Co-operation and Minister responsible for Francophonie.