That this House strike a special parliamentary committee with the specific objective of considering the repercussions of the globalization of economies on governments' autonomy in preserving social cohesiveness.
Madam Speaker, I am most anxious to have an opportunity to speak to day. I have alerted my colleagues to the fact that, at the end of this hour of debate, they will have to reach a decision, one that I consider quite important.
I would remind my colleagues that during the debate I will be providing them with a copy of the letter I sent to them last Wednesday explaining the situation. The topic of today's debate is of such importance to me that, on April 20, 1998, I took the risk of laying my position as an MP on the line, in order to make the public aware of the need for a public debate on the issue addressed in today's motion.
When I carried my chair away with me, hon. members will recall that I did so in order to provoke a debate on society's ability to reduce the gap between rich and poor within a context of global markets. Hon. members are aware, moreover, that this situation seems to be getting worse. Poverty is quietly but constantly increasing, while at the same time the economy is growing without seeming to have any impact on society.
My concern about this widening gap between rich and poor is based on the threat this represents to social cohesion. I would remind hon. members that social cohesion is the feeling of solidarity that unifies all people regardless of their social and economic status.
Last Wednesday, we celebrated—although celebrated hardly seems to be the appropriate term—the tenth anniversary of parliament's choice to eliminate child poverty by the year 2000. After a decade, after ten whole years, what has become of this? Poverty has not even remained at the same level; it has increased. Is it a matter of political will? I hope not, since the House has said it wanted to eliminate this poverty. Is it a matter of political power? That is the question. Are there certain phenomena that take away governments' autonomy? The question needs to be asked.
With political power being national, and the laws we pass here being national, it is high time we realized that we are living in a period of great change, as the economy is becoming a global one. This is to be expected since in recent decades, thanks to technological developments, access to transportation and telecommunications is improved, thus reducing distances and opening the door to incredible possibilities, including that of trading with the rest of the world, which is now accessible to us.
Trade and the economy are being globalized and the production of wealth is increasing. These new approaches are not, however, without consequence. There are positive aspects as well as more negative ones. Would it, for example, be realistic to think that national tax rules established by national governments are increasingly difficult to apply in a global economy? I am not the only one to think so, since the former secretary general of the OECD, Kimon Valaskakis, said the following in La Presse on October 29:
The principle of redistribution is at the very heart of ordinary social policy in a country and is expressed in fiscal terms. But since globalization, redistribution is much more difficult to put into practice. On the national level, it imposes a fairly high social cost. The need to compete forces governments to reduce their payroll taxes and thus their capacity to redistribute wealth, which in turn increases inequities rather than reducing them.
There is another vital issue and that is the fact that we have gone from an industrial economy to an economy 90% of which is controlled by speculation, distorting to some degree the global financial market as in the cases of the recent financial crises in Mexico, Asia, Brazil and Russia. There seem to be economic problems in terms of redistribution, but not in terms of the creation of wealth. Are international authorities continuing to respond to the needs of the people in these instances? Does parliament, our national authority, continue to meet the needs of the people?
In short, a lot of questions and issues remain to be analyzed, since, whether we want it or not, globalization is here and growing. And, whether we like it or we do not, we cannot ignore it.
This is why it is important to understand in order to act. Right now certain things are becoming global, while others are not, and this creates an imbalance.
Globalization may be unavoidable, but the way to achieve it is not. It is still, I hope, under the control of democracies. It is up to us to shape it, and this is why we must hold a public debate to help everyone, particularly us parliamentarians, get a better grasp of what is going on.
This is why I am in favour of establishing a process to consult civil society, a means of thinking about this whole issue. With a committee, we will have the benefit of the public's views.
I am not alone in this belief. This idea does have support. Over 50,000 people across the country—and not all from my riding—signed the petition asking that a committee be struck, asking that their elected representatives simply look at certain issues. These 50,000 people are not asking for extraordinary tax measures or for new legislation. They are asking us their elected representatives to do our job. They are asking us to reflect on the changes that we are currently experiencing. This idea is also supported by over 200 organizations across the country and also, and perhaps more importantly, by one third of the members of this House. Indeed, 100 members of parliament signed this document, asking that the request be treated as a priority item in Private Members Business.
If the signature of these members still means something in this House, it would make sense to deal with this issue in a serious fashion. I should also point out that these 100 members of parliament represent all the parties in this House.
This issue should be treated as a priority. As I said, I am not the only one who holds that view. I am not pro-Senate, like some of my colleagues, but during its study on social cohesiveness, the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology acknowledged that part of the difficulty in addressing this issue is that much basic analytical and empirical work on the consequences of globalization remains to be done.
The committee has concluded that one of the next steps for political leaders is to begin to give some objective consideration to new ways of thinking and doing.
Some members will probably say that there is enough talk about globalization. I admit that it comes up frequently; in fact, at the last meeting of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, which dealt with the World Trade Organization, we discussed globalization, except that we came at it strictly from the point of view of trade and economic competitiveness.
So, yes, I think it is a good idea to discuss it from this angle. In fact, I congratulate the committee, which was relatively open to all points of view. However, in the long run, such a study must be accompanied by a more in-depth examination of the social impacts of globalization.
In my view, there cannot be one without the other. They go hand in hand. We are on the eve of a very important day, the beginning of what I would describe as another step towards globalization—the WTO talks. And yet, many people throughout the world right now, including people in Montreal, seem inclined to oppose the talks and to call for a moratorium.
I do not know who is right, but what I do know is that there is a widening gap between our political positions and what society in general thinks and, therefore, striking such a committee would be a useful means of engaging in a collective dialogue, so that we will all be on the same wavelength.
We must take this opportunity and show leadership internationally, because the possible solutions suggested by such a committee could eventually be implemented worldwide.
Besides, would the Minister of Finance, as the chairman of the new G-20, not profit from the establishment of this parliamentary committee, since he could benefit from the expertise provided by the representatives of the civil society who would come before the committee to be heard? This form of consultation is in direct agreement with the goals of the G-20 countries which, I remind the hon. members, are committed to making every effort needed to turn the benefits of globalization into increased incomes and better opportunities for their peoples.
We have a problem here today. In spite of the obvious support from the population and the parliamentarians, in spite of the fact that the motion and the issue have never been more topical, and in spite of the fact that the motion meets all the criteria for the selection of votable items, because of outdated, anachronistic, outmoded and ill adapted parliamentary procedures, Motion M-41 was not selected as a votable item on account of prerogatives related to quotas and random draw.
Clearly, if we cannot vote on the motion, it will automatically be dropped from the Order Paper. This would be like throwing it in the trash can. I do not want to put the parliamentary system on trial today, but I do know that a good many members realize that a reform of this institution would be a good thing. But this is not the issue.
What is important is that, even now, members present in the House have the opportunity to reverse this decision. We have the opportunity to correct this technical incident simply by supporting my request for unanimous consent.
I will first listen what my colleagues present here have to say. Meanwhile, I will send them a copy of the letter that I sent them last Wednesday, on the 10th anniversary of the motion on poverty. If, because of a translation problem, they were unable to understand everything I said, I hope they will read it.
During the last five minutes, when I avail myself of my right to reply, I will try to answer my colleagues and I will also ask for the unanimous consent of the House to allow two more hours of debate on this motion, because it deserves further examination. I will ask that it be deemed votable, so we can, as members of parliament, do our duty, which is to make decisions. It is sad that members of parliament sometimes deprive themselves of the power to make decisions and to vote.
In short, my goal today is not to condemn the parliamentary system. I have other colleagues, especially the member for Longueuil, who are considering that issue.
What is important is to be aware of the social changes we are experiencing. I am not the only one to say this. The Senate report says this. Petitioners say this. Parliamentarians and experts from all over say this. I could go on for another hour about all the people who have expressed support for this motion.
I want the House to prove to me that we can save face in this parliament. Prove to me that there is still democracy in this country. I want the House to prove to me that this authority, the parliament, can still respond to the current expectations and the expectations of the citizens. It is as if everyone in an olympic stadium were asking us to take an issue into consideration.
I will listen to what my colleagues have to say and then I will ask them a question.