Mr. Speaker, as I was about to say, in both process and substance the Reform Party is suspect. Yes, there is a lot of hot air. Yes, there is a lot of huffing and puffing. When we notice what Reformers stand for, we cannot understand their eagerness to abandon basic Canadian values.
The Reformers complain in their motion that they do not understand why Canada is participating in these negotiations. While many concepts are difficult, the answer is quite clear.
Investment flows are particularly important for Canada. We are host to $180 billion of foreign investment. And we must not forget that every billion dollars of foreign investment generates over 40,000 jobs over five years. Furthermore, Canadians have invested $170 billion abroad.
Despite the fact that trade and investment are inextricably linked there is no multilateral framework of rules for investment as there is for trade. In many countries, in particular in developing countries beyond the OECD, the treatment of foreign investment remains unpredictable.
The MAI is essentially about developing a code of conduct for countries that host and invite direct foreign investment and not as some would suggest a charter for multinational enterprises. The fact is that we already have transparent and fair rules for foreign investment in Canada.
The right kind of MAI would ensure the same kind of treatment for Canadians abroad without requiring us to substantially change what we are already doing.
We have said on many occasions that we want to eventually take the MAI to the WTO whose membership is in the area of 130 countries and develop north and south. In that forum we could negotiate a truly multilateral agreement on investment that would complement the rules on trade via the same body.
It is sad the official opposition says in its motion today that it does not understand any of this, particularly since its position in the committee report was:
The Reform Party supports Canada's participation in the OECD effort to construct an MAI that will encourage foreign investment in Canada and give protection to Canadian investment abroad.
If the Reformers do not understand our explanation for participating in the negotiations, why are they supporting that participation? They are either confused or playing at political gamesmanship or, as we correctly suspect, both.
Let me stress a crucially important point. Participating in these MAI negotiations does not mean we are hell bent on signing any resulting agreement come what may.
It is quite the contrary. We will only accept an MAI that meets the following key Canadian requirements. The first requirement is a narrow interpretation of expropriation which makes it entirely clear that legislative or regulatory action by government in the public interest is not expropriation requiring compensation, even if it has adverse profitability consequences for both companies and investors.
The second is ironclad reservations at both national and provincial levels that completely preserve our freedom of action in key areas including health care, social programs, education, culture and programs for aboriginal peoples and minority groups.
Finally, there would be no standstill or rollback requirements in any of the areas of reservation or exception I have just mentioned.
With regard to culture we support excluding culture from the MAI altogether for all countries. If some nations insist on addressing this sector we will register, as is our legitimate right, a country's specific reservation in this area. At the end of the day for Canadian culture there would be no difference between the two options. Canadian culture is simply not negotiable.
We will also not accept an agreement that adversely affects Canada's supply management regime. We will take the necessary reservations to preserve investment measures specific to our agricultural interests and responsibilities. The same will apply to the management of our natural resources.
In addition there are important questions on how the MAI should approach labour and environmental standards and whether we should call for binding or non-binding language. Even experts in the NGO community agree that this is a complex issue where it is very important to avoid unintended consequences.
I had a very positive discussion on this and other issues with provincial trade ministers at last week's federal-provincial meeting. The NDP minister from Saskatchewan said:
Canada is taking a very strong position at the table that health, social services and education will be an unbound reservation and that those matters will not be touched or Canada will not sign the agreement. That is the position that they have taken very strongly.
He went on to add:
Many of us have been encouraged to think the fight for the MAI is very worth while.
This was from the NDP Government of Saskatchewan. Al Palladini, the minister from Ontario, said:
First of all I want to congratulate the minister for initiating this meeting. I thought the meeting was a very successful one and certainly the assurance that all the ministers from each province received today on the MAI is that the federal government is certainly going to be the driving force behind this thing, but at the same time with positive input allowed or giving opportunity to the provinces, especially in environment and in labour. So I am really confident that these things are going to materialize in getting us an agreement that is good for both Canada and the global community.
None of the provinces advocated that Canada walk away from the MAI table. In fact they were quite reassured by the direction that the Government of Canada was taking, and we agreed to work on areas that needed further work.
Given that labour is largely a provincial jurisdiction and that we share responsibility in the environment, I have asked for their views and I await their responses particularly in these two areas because the large majority of both provinces and territories have not given us their final position on these two important matters.
We are also continuing to push hard for clear provisions in the MAI against the extraterritorial application of laws on investment such as the U.S. Helms-Burton act on Cuba.
I will continue to take the time necessary—and we now have it—for full consultation with all parties. For some critics, including the NDP, our insistence on meeting key Canadians requirements is not good enough. They say we should not be at the table at all, that we should be watching from the sidelines. They said that again today, particularly the MP from Kamloops, at a time when the NDP premier is reaching out in a rather desperate way to both the business and investment communities.
I could not imagine a more self-defeating course for Canada than the one they are advocating. All we would accomplish by running away would be to forgo any chance of shaping an agreement that works to our advantage or that satisfies Canada's particular needs.
Last week the leader of the federal New Democratic Party publicly recognized that globalization brings opportunities. I congratulate her on catching up, however belatedly, to the latter part of the 20th century.
The Government of Canada believes that Canadians do not want to hide from globalization. Instead, they want to work with governments to try to shape it to our advantage, which is exactly what our participation at the MAI table is all about.
In conclusion, we will not run away and we will not hide. Above all, we will not capitulate either. We are quite prepared to take the time to get it done right. If our requirements are not met, we will not sign. We will still continue to attract investment to Canada.
I want, as I said, the right deal at the right time and not any deal at any cost or at any time. For the government, Canada's interests and values must always be and always will be paramount whether or not the Reform Party likes it. We will never settle for anything less.