Mr. Speaker, as we are resuming debate on the motion brought forward by my colleague from Lac-Saint-Jean--Saguenay, I would like to read it again to help members get back into the right context.
That this House call upon the government to review its international aid policy with a view to substantially increasing the funds available for Canadian humanitarian aid, particularly in the context of the military interventions in Afghanistan, and to increasing the level of its aid for development to 0.7% of GDP, as recommended by the United Nations.
I think that, in this motion, the member is referring to a general international assistance policy and is asking us to reflect on the current urgent situation, namely the drama taking place right now in Afghanistan and Pakistan where millions of people are seeking refuge to escape the Taliban regime or to escape air strikes by the Americans and the British.
Everybody will agree the government has moved to somewhat improve aid to these people. However, the announcement of a further $16 million to help close to 5 million people in Afghanistan as winter is fast approaching—a prospect we all dread—is far from enough. For the time being we can only hope that very soon the government will face up to its responsibility and commit further money to deal with the emergency situation in Afghanistan.
I would like to point out that although the situation in Afghanistan is the most highly publicized these days, it is far from being the only emergency situation across the world. For the past three years, Central America has been experiencing a severe drought and thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people, especially children, are at risk. Over the next few weeks casualties could be in the hundreds of thousands. The Canadian government should be able to intervene there too. As we know, some areas in Africa are also experiencing emergency situations.
We focused on Afghanistan because the situation there is well known to Canadians and Quebecers, but I believe that what we are after is an overall policy. We must get back to acceptable levels of aid in keeping with Canada's status within the international community. As the foreign affairs minister said “when you are a member of the G-8, you cannot excuse yourself when it is time to pay the bill”.
The same can be said of our military commitment, and our commitment to humanitarian and international aid. Our wealth allows us to do a lot more than what we are doing currently and also to intervene for the long term.
Clearly, we must respond to emergency situations. However, it must be recognized that it is only through structural changes that we will be able to change the current rules, a system that breeds poverty, disparities not only between countries, between areas in the world, but also within our own societies.
There is an old Chinese proverb that I like to quote, which states “If you give a man a fish, he will have a single meal. If you teach him how to fish, he will eat all his life”. Our approach to this situation should be along those lines. We need to have an international aid program that allows all developing countries, particularly those that have more problems dealing with the new economic realities of the world, to set up measures and programs, especially the needed training programs to pull themselves out of their predicament, out of poverty. There must be forms of aid that strengthen communities and provide them with the means to develop.
When it comes to this, Canada is not fulfilling its responsibilities, as I mentioned at the beginning of my speech. When you think about a goal of 0.7%—a goalset by a former Prime Minister of Canada, Lester B. Pearson, incidentally—we are nowhere near reaching this goal proposed by the United Nations.
Currently, our international aid is at its lowest level in 30 years. We are at a mere 0.25% of our GDP, which places us 17th out of the 22 countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, or the OECD. In 1999, we ranked 12th. Only one year later, we fell five places. In 1995, we ranked 6th. Canada's position within the international community when it comes to international aid has dropped noticeably and consistently.
Canada does not compare well to countries that are much smaller than us, but that are similar in economic terms: Denmark gives 1.06% of its GDP, thereby exceeding the United Nations' requirements; the Netherlands are at 0.82%; Sweden, 0.81%; Norway, 0.8%; and Luxembourg, 0.7%.
How is it that Canada, which prides itself on being a generous country and on being a good influence for peace in the world, is not included in this list of countries? As far as I can tell, it is a case of saying one thing, but doing another.
These efforts are extremely important. I am making my comments in the context of globalization and economic integration. From a political perspective, we should all agree that we must eradicate poverty in our societies, but also around the world, because poverty, inequalities and injustices are a fertile ground for terrorism. This is not to say that it is the only cause. As we know, there is far right terrorism in the United States, but it is clear that inequalities and injustices are the conditions that generate despair and actions such as the ones we witnessed on September 11.
If we are to fight terrorism effectively and intelligently, we do need a targeted military response but, above all, we need an action plan by the international community for economic and social development, and to fight poverty. Canada should be a leader in the development of such a plan, but this is not the case right now.
As I mentioned earlier, globalization and economic integration generate inequalities. It is true that free trade and the opening up of markets generate wealth, as we have seen over the past 30 or 40 years.
Since the early seventies, world wealth and income have tripled. We do support the opening up of markets and the rules that were set, particularly through GATT, now the WTO, because they have generated wealth. The world has never been richer than it is now. But the redistribution of this wealth is more uneven than it was 20 or 30 years ago. It is not due to an economical or physical factor. It is wrong to say that poverty is caused by rarity.
I just provided an example. When world wealth triples, we should not look for rarity to explain the growing inequalities between countries, between regions and even within our societies. Rather, we should look for social or political phenomena.
Since the early eighties, since the Reagan era, there has been a lack of will to set up plans to fight poverty, both in our societies and at the international level.
We do need free trade to generate wealth, but we also need measures to redistribute this wealth, so that it can provide levers to all the countries in the world for their economic and social development, and this is possible.
I will use Europe as an example. Even though most European countries are developed countries, they do not all have the same level of development, and in particular, they did not have it in the past. We need only think about Portugal, Spain or Greece 30 years ago, or even Ireland 10 or 15 years ago. These countries were clearly lagging behind the average European countries.
In the context of political construction, European construction, Europeans set up regional and structural development funds that are now producing results.
When we visit Portugal, Spain, Greece or Ireland, we realize that we are really in developed societies, which was not necessarily the case about 30 years ago. Thus, it is possible, if there is a political will, to eradicate poverty. Clearly, this will not happen overnight, but considering what was done in the past, which was giving up, it seems to me that this is not the right attitude and that we must instead move forward.
I take this opportunity to disagree with the image of the proverbial pie often used for domestic poverty problems as well as international poverty problems. People say “Before we can redistributing the pie, there has to be one in the first place”. We will make the pie as big as possible with free trade and we will then redistribute it among all the partners. If we really want to make the pie as big as possible, we must at the same time redistribute the wealth. Everybody has to be able to get his or her share of the pie.
This two-stage image of the pie being created and then served up is a false one. This is not the economic reality of things. The economic reality is that we are part of a system where, to produce, one must be able to sell. Taken on a national or global scale, this means that it is in our interest, the interest of developed economies, that there be purchasing power in southern hemisphere countries and that it be as widespread as possible. That is the logic of co-operation, which should accompany the current logic of globalization.
As I have already explained, there are no physical barriers to this. This poverty is not an inevitability of nature. It is truly the product of social and political phenomena.
In this context, I therefore think it extremely important that we rectify this state of affairs, that we once again have an aid program worthy of the name and that it have the necessary funding for these countries--I mentioned this earlier--because this is a well understood logic of what is known as globalization, but also for us right now.
I remind the House that 36,000 Canadian jobs depend on development aid. Of every dollar spent on aid, over 70 cents comes back to Canada. So, basically, when $1 billion is spent, $70 million comes back to Canada. In Canada, there are 50 universities and 60 colleges, including the college in Lanaudière, which benefit from aid program related contracts. Two thousand Canadian companies benefiting from aid related contracts are gaining prominence in certain markets and making enviable inroads internationally.
The motion we are moving therefore responds in a timely manner to a need which is critical and shared, I think, by all Canadians and Quebecers. In the medium and long term, it is the only logical approach if we are to avoid situations such as those we have witnessed in the last decade or so, from the slaughter in Rwanda to the events of September 11, or what went on in the former Soviet Bloc countries.
In conclusion, this international aid program should be part of a comprehensive set of measures to rectify the situation. Earlier, the member for Lac-Saint-Jean--Saguenay reminded the House of what the Tobin tax could do to civilize speculative transactions and create international development funds, and to bring about respect for fundamental rights.
We have initiated this debate in the House and we will keep it alive in the context of the Costa Rica free trade agreement. The Canadian government made no move to take the social, democratic and environmental dimensions into consideration in the bilateral trade agreements it signed.
I say again that Canadians and Quebecers would never have accepted to sign a free trade agreement with Pinochet's Chile. We now have a trade agreement with Chile; we should also have included clauses concerning fundamental rights such as human, labour and environmental rights.
I also believe that measures could be taken immediately to show that Canada is going in another direction. For example trade sanctions on Iraq could be eliminated for things that have nothing to do with military equipment or that cannot be used for a military build-up. As we know, over the last 10 years thousands of children died in Iraq because of those sanctions and Saddam Hussein is still in power.
More globally, I am calling for the restructuring of international institutions and the means at their disposition. It is obvious that the challenge we are facing is similar to the one that existed during the great depression of the thirties.
When Roosevelt launched his new deal, maintaining free enterprise while creating a series of institutions favouring a more equalitarian and national redistribution of wealth, recognizing among other things union rights, that lead to the situation we now know.
With globalization and the integration of economies, we have to recreate this new deal but this time on an international basis.
This is the debate, the issues raised by the motion that our colleague from Lac-Saint-Jean—Saguenay tabled in the House. If hon. members agree with me on the importance of the challenges we face, they should at least adopt this motion unanimously.