This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #105 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was taiwan.

Topics

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Duncan Canadian Alliance Vancouver Island North, BC

Madam Speaker, we are debating today the official opposition's supply day motion relating to the current world health concerns over severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, and the fact that Taiwan's aspirations to be recognized as a member of the World Health Organization should be supported and championed by Canada. The motion reads:

That this House, acknowledging that health issues transcend political borders as seen with the recent outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), express its support for the admission of Taiwan as an Observer to the World Health Organization and call upon the government to actively urge other member states and non-governmental organizations to support this goal.

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Calgary East.

SARS developed in Guangdong province in southern China in November of last year. It was not until March of this year that it was reported to the World Health Organization. The People's Republic of China has been roundly condemned by the international community for trying to deny this outbreak rather than exposing it immediately, as one would assume would be its responsibility as a World Health Organization member. Essentially, the PRC broke the rules of membership and yet wants to continue to retain a veto over Taiwan membership.

It is worthwhile to remember that in the middle of March there were more reported SARS cases in Canada than there were in Taiwan. There were 11 cases in Canada and three cases in Taiwan as of March 18. It was clearly evident in the case of both Taiwan and Canada that the SARS victims were a consequence of people travelling to and returning from mainland China.

Canada has a strong vested interest in displaying leadership at the World Health Organization and in ensuring that Taiwan and mainland China are active participants in the World Health Organization because of the high number of ethnic Chinese living in Canada and the highly developed travel and trade between mainland China, Taiwan and Canada.

In fact, each year more than three million Taiwanese citizens travel to China. Over 150,000 Taiwanese travel to Canada and tens of thousands of visitors travel to or arrive from mainland China. It is no surprise to anyone to realize the health and economic consequences of the SARS epidemic in Canada and Asia.

On March 28 Canada listed Taiwan on a health advisory authority, at a time when Taiwan had less reported cases than Canada and had no deaths, with the rationale that Taiwan was geographically close to Hong Kong and mainland China with 20 flights a day between Taiwan and Hong Kong. Canada then took great exception when the World Health Organization issued a health travel advisory for Toronto on April 23.

Historically Canada has been very influential at the World Health Organization. The WHO is a specialized agency of the United Nations created in 1948. The first director general was a Canadian. No country, other than permanent Security Council members of the UN, have been elected to more three year terms than Canada, a total of nine times.

Given this circumstance and our participation as a SARS infected and vulnerable jurisdiction, it is incumbent upon Canada to take the lead in bringing in the only remaining sizeable territory in the world whose people are excluded from the benefits of WHO engagement. Full membership was rejected for Palestine and Taiwan in recent years. The U.S. opposed Palestine's application and the People's Republic of China opposed Taiwan's application. Observer status was granted to Palestine in 2002 as an entity and Taiwan is applying for observer status as an entity. Taiwan's application is being supported once again by the U.S. and by Japan.

Japan and the Japanese minister of health, labour and welfare have recently once again demonstrated strong support for Taiwan's bid to join the World Health Organization as an observer. Taiwan has made annual submissions to join the World Health Organization since 1997 and the People's Republic of China has been criticized in Japan since then for annually blocking Taiwan's efforts to join the health organization. Japan has large foreign direct investment in Taiwan and China, and these countries are geographically close. Japan has a one-China policy similar to the Government of Canada, but this has in no way detracted from its position and desire to support Taiwan's World Health Organization application for observer status.

The Japanese vice-ministers decided on April 17 that in order to prevent the spread of SARS, Japan should once again actively support Taiwan's bid. This is in strong contrast to the Canadian government's position, which is not being overtly opposed to Taiwan but leaving the onus on Taiwan to deal with China in reference to its application, an impossible situation for progress on the basis of unwavering opposition to Taiwan's application emanating from the People's Republic of China. Lack of Canadian leadership on this crucial international and domestic health issue clearly is demonstrable and constitutes a public health risk.

The U.S. congress and the European parliament have not agreed on many issues recently, however the U.S. supports observer status for Taiwan at the WHO and the EU has expressed similar support. This leadership from others in the international community is in stark contrast to Canada's position and yet Canada has been more directly impacted by SARS than any other country outside of Asia.

The U.S. administration does not support Taiwan's membership in organizations that require statehood for membership and yet clearly states that Taiwan's application at the WHO meets this test, contrary to statements made from time to time by our own Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs.

In an increasingly smaller and globalized world, where one can fly to any region or country within 24 hours, it is increasingly unacceptable to exclude Taiwan from the benefits of WHO engagement and to exclude other WHO members from the advice which Taiwan could provide through membership.

I just returned from Asia nine days ago. Our trade committee did not go to Singapore or Beijing as originally planned because of concerns about SARS. We did travel to India, Thailand and Japan.

When one is in Asia, it further concentrates the mind as to the threat from diseases like SARS. Clearly we are not involved in an academic discussion. The posture which the parliamentary secretary and secretary of state took in today's debate were weak, defensive and poorly researched. The status quo Canadian position is bankrupt and has been exposed, warts and all, through the foreign affairs committee, the efforts of individual members of Parliament from all parties, and today's Canadian Alliance motion.

As of today, the WHO website reported that a cumulative total of 8,202 probably cases, with 725 deaths, have been reported in 29 countries. New cases in the last two days were reported from mainland China, Taiwan, Canada and Hong Kong. While we must continued to report new cases in Toronto, it is anticipated that Canada is over the worst and we are getting on top of the disease. We certainly hope this is the case and we congratulate our courageous health care workers. In China and Taiwan there is an ongoing problem which cannot with certainty be predicted as to when it will be controlled. There is a real danger that a SARS outbreak in an area of poverty in the developing world could create untold tragedy and consequences.

Taiwan's health care delivery system, research and medical schools are world class. Taiwan can contribute much to the WHO and it is time that it be given this ongoing opportunity. Let Taiwan join the community of nations, the Order of Malta, the Holy See, the International Committee of the Red Cross, as well as the PLO, as a participant in the World Health Organization.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Bloc

Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Bloc Laval Centre, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Vancouver Island North on his speech. I asked the previous speaker why the Government of Canada was opposed to supporting Taiwan's bid for observer status. Thinking about it some more, I may have found a reason and I would like to ask my hon. colleague if he thinks it makes sense.

The thing politicians in power fear most is precedent. If, for example, Canada threw its weight behind allowing Taiwan observer status at the World Health Organization, that would definitely be a precedent. Does the fear of a precedent justify the current position?

Let us imagine, for example, that Nunavut—where health problems are very significant and needs absolutely enormous—decided one day to ask for observer status; would Canada have to support that request? Or what if it were Quebec that asked for observer status at the WHO? I would like my hon. colleague to answer me that.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Duncan Canadian Alliance Vancouver Island North, BC

Madam Speaker, I thank the member from the Bloc for the question because I know everyone wonders what motivates the government to do some of the things that it does.

I believe that this is not a question that relates so much to domestic issues as it relates to the fact that there are ties between people in the government, the business community, and the People's Republic of China. There is a concern in the government and in the business community that taking an action such as supporting Taiwan's observer bid for status at the World Health Organization would elicit a negative reaction from the People's Republic of China which would negatively impact on the business of friends of the government. That I think is the prime and root cause of this issue because the government position shows a distinct lack of imagination, a distinct adherence to the status quo, and the world has moved on.

Taiwan is now a member of the World Trade Organization and is a member of APEC. Increasingly it is a major player in the Asian region. When one looks at Canada's relations with the Pacific Rim and with Asia in particular, one can only wonder at how we treat the whole region, never mind our relationship with Taiwan. Japan is our second largest trading partner and we would never know it by the way the government prioritizes its resources. That comes as close to an answer as I can provide.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Canadian Alliance Calgary East, AB

Madam Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure for me to rise and speak on this motion which basically speaks about Taiwan joining the WHO.

I was listening to the questions the parliamentary secretary was asking colleagues on this side. It seems to me from her questions that the government has made up its mind to oppose the motion, which is a tragedy, because people on this side, and including members of her own government, are in agreement that Taiwan should be a member of the WHO.

As a matter of fact, I can say that I know the parliamentary secretary very well and I respect her extremely. I can say in all honesty that if she were not a parliamentary secretary she would be supporting the motion, but because of the government she is not.

Nevertheless, in order to answer my colleague from the Bloc who spoke just before me on the question of what the real motive of the government is in not supporting the motion, of course it is the government's one China policy. Where did the government's one China policy come from? It is tragic that this is coming down to an issue in which the basic bottom line is politics.

My colleague mentioned certain reasons as to why he thought the government, with its one China policy, was opposing the motion. He indicated economic interests. However, I would like to state from a different perspective what basically has happened. As we all know, in the past for a long time China was in isolation. It developed its processes, its country and everything in isolation under Communist rule and saw the world with a different vision, a vision of suspicion and mistrust, and I would say that insecurity still exists with the current leaders of the People's Republic of China.

This is a tragic situation, because we all know China is a land of great civilization. China has nothing to be ashamed of. It is a great, proud country. Its people are very resourceful. It has given the world a tremendous civilization and it should be standing very proudly on its achievements.

However, this insecurity seems to go on, manifested in recent years when China has taken one step toward joining the world community. We can see it in its handling of the whole Taiwan issue, the nitpicking of the small issues on Taiwan about its membership in WHO. Basically anybody looking at this issue in depth will know that it would benefit mankind, it would benefit humanity and it would benefit 22 million people living on an island.

What is the downside? There is no downside to Taiwan joining the WHO. The only downside is that it is going to hurt the pride of those old leaders in China.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

An hon. member

What about the old leaders over there?

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Canadian Alliance Calgary East, AB

When I was the trade critic, I was an adamant supporter of China joining the WTO. I felt that as a great nation China should be a member of the world community and I supported its application to join the WTO. As such, the world also welcomed China into the community of nations. On the other hand, there was also an expectation that China then would take on its responsibilities as a member of the world community. As a member of the world community, there are responsibilities, which include making rational decisions and not trying to be living in the old culture that it was. The SARS crisis indicates why that kind of regime cannot be and will not be accepted in the world.

China has made tremendous economic progress by joining the WTO and is now becoming a critically important member of the world community, including in that region. It will become a powerhouse in that region, but first, it cannot act as a bully, and second, it cannot still be living in a closed society, thinking that whatever happens inside China will have no impact outside China. That is not going to happen, because China is now a member of the world community, period. It is simple.

The SARS crisis has indicated that very clearly. China's reluctance to say that there was a SARS crisis in the country has spread this disease across the world. If China had taken very strong steps in the SARS crisis, as is expected of all communities, then in this whole crisis there may have been fewer deaths, who knows. But the responsibility still lies with China. It must understand that politics should be put aside, that it is now a grown nation, a powerful nation, and that it should view this whole issue with a different perspective.

What I do not understand, even now, is that for a nation that is reaching out and saying Taiwan is its province, that it wants to overtake Taiwan, there is the very strange behaviour of the government of China in stopping 22 million Taiwanese citizens from benefiting from the services of the World Health Organization. What is so political about it? Nothing. This is for the benefit of the people of Taiwan, but here is a government that wants to represent them and it is denying them all of this. This boggles everyone's mind.

Yes, I have listened to the political speeches. I know the political arguments. No one has to tell me about the political arguments. I have been to APEC meetings. I have seen how the Chinese work. I have been to Taiwan. I have talked with the academics in Taiwan. I know what they feel. I am very well versed in the politics of the whole situation. What I do not understand is the reluctance of China to let Taiwan become a member of the WHO. We have precedents. The Palestinians are there and the Holy See is there, so what is the actual motive of China in saying no?

Why do I keep repeating this? This is not a China bashing speech. I am just pointing out the facts. Why do I keep repeating this about China? It is because the Government of Canada, regretfully, is afraid to stand up to China because of various reasons, be they economic, political or whatever. The Canadian government does not want to rock the boat. Those mandarins sitting in the foreign affairs department do not want to rock the boat and have given instructions on this. It is as simple as that. Yet countries or anyone logically looking at this application cannot find a sound reason why Taiwan should not be a member of the WHO. Why should 22 million people not be able to directly participate and take advantage of the services of the WHO?

I would say that one of the reasons, which I personally agree with, is that the 22 million people of Taiwan should be the ones to decide who is going to rule them and who is going to do that. They should make the choice, not someone from outside, but that is not the debate today. The debate today is about this point-blank simple fact: Why is China stopping Taiwan from joining the WHO and why is the Government of Canada following along and not agreeing to this motion? Even its own members have said they do, with 161 MPs stating they will support this application.

In conclusion, I say to the government members that they, like the opposition, support the people of Taiwan who do not want politics at this stage. The people of Taiwan want Taiwan to be a member of the WHO so they can participate in the world affairs of health, across the world.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Duncan Canadian Alliance Vancouver Island North, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to ask the member about Canada's position on this whole arrangement. Does he see Canada's role as one that would involve supporting this application or does he see Canada's best interests being served by actually championing this application by Taiwan?

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Canadian Alliance Calgary East, AB

Madam Speaker, Canada has a huge Taiwanese community. They are Canadians and they expect us to do something. We cannot ignore this. We cannot sit here and ignore the wishes of a segment of Canadians who happen to be of Taiwanese origin. It is the desire of a lot of Canadians, not just those of Taiwanese origin but those of other nationalities as well, who see the need for Taiwan to be a member of the WHO so its 22 million people can benefit from it. That is one reason.

Second, Taiwan is one of our major economic partners. We have to admit that this nation made up of 22 million people has made tremendous economic progress. It is our second largest trading partner. Canada also has a vested interest in seeing that the Taiwanese benefit from the WHO and from world services. At the same time, we must also see that there is the political situation of helping them. This is not China bashing. It is saying that there is a need to look at this in a different perspective. It should be Canada's responsibility to champion this cause as opposed to just staying neutral. Yes, there is a need to make an argument as to why Taiwan should be a member of the WHO.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Roy H. Bailey Canadian Alliance Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Madam Speaker, after listening to the debate today and the questions and answers from speakers on each side of the House, does the member not believe that a free vote should be held in the House on this private member's motion? There is no reason not to hold a free vote in the House. It seems to me that those who are opposing this are doing so because they do not want to lose a vote to a private member's motion and that is simply it. There is no other logical reason to vote against it.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Canadian Alliance Calgary East, AB

Madam Speaker, it is very simple. Over 50% of the members in the House, 161 members, signed in favour of Taiwan's application to the WHO. Obviously they cannot only be members of the opposition. It also had to be members of the governing party, the majority members. Where are those members? I hope they will vote for this motion.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Duncan Canadian Alliance Vancouver Island North, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask the member quickly what he reads into the fact that Japan, a close neighbour and a major investor and trader with mainland China and Taiwan, has consistently pursued and supported Taiwan's application at the WHO?

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Canadian Alliance Calgary East, AB

Madam Speaker, Japan is in that part of the world. Taiwan and China are its neighbours. If Japan can stand up on principle, I do not see why Canada cannot stand up on principle as we espouse the same principles and same values too.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Richmond B.C.

Liberal

Joe Peschisolido LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Yukon.

It is my honour as a member of Parliament for Richmond in the wonderful province of British Columbia to stand in the House today and discuss the merits of the motion of the Canadian Alliance, a motion supported by many members of Parliament in the House, that this House support the admission of Taiwan as an observer status at the WHO.

We have heard two or three different lines of argument. One was on the political side, and my colleague from Calgary East talked about those things. We have also heard about the humanitarian and health considerations.

Let me just say that as a member of Parliament for Richmond, that community is the gateway to Asia. The community receives the vast majority of the 150,000 Taiwanese coming into Canada every year and the 6,000 foreign students from Taiwan who study in Richmond and in Vancouver. That community plays a major part in the $6 billion of trade between Canada and Taiwan. Yes, Canada has wonderful and strong economic and cultural ties with Taiwan, but this issue is not a political issue. It is not a debate about geopolitics. Whether this House endorses the motion and supports Taiwan's admission as an observer status at the WHO will not change the position of the Government of Canada. The one-China policy still stands. In the United States, the Congress has approved a similar motion endorsing Taiwan's position as a non-voting member, as an observer at the WHO, and this has not changed the position of the administration of the United States.

Today we are debating an issue about compassion, an issue about life and death matters. As has been mentioned in the House, Taiwan has had 72 deaths based on a disease called SARS. We have had 700 deaths worldwide. We do not know how this disease is mutating. We are not talking about politics. Yes, there is a debate about the World Health Organization, what it states and whether it will then impact upon the United Nations. We have had different precedents arguing both ways. We have member states in the WHO, we also do not have member states. We have the Red Cross, the Vatican and also the PLO. I am not sure of the exact term for its executive branch.

The question is whether this House should endorse a motion that would allow the people of Taiwan, its medical officers, as well as the people of Canada, to have a system with which we could better tackle infectious diseases, viral diseases, and in particular the case of SARS.

The Vancouver International Airport is in my riding of Richmond. I see, day in and day out, less and less people coming in from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan and mainland China. Those who are coming in have masks and gloves. This impacts upon our economic and cultural links, not only with Taiwan but with China, Japan and Singapore. Something must be done in a compassionate way to deal with this disease but also to maintain those wonderful economic links that exist between Canada and the Far East.

This is what we are talking about now. We have a problem. We are not talking about the grand stage of geopolitics. We are talking about the best way to solve a problem. The solution is to give an entity of 23 million people, or whatever we call it, which participates a great deal in the connections around the world, an opportunity to deal with the SARS disease and everything else. That is the crux of the issue.

Should the House allow the world, Taiwan, the people of Richmond and all Canadians, to better deal with a serious disease that is mutating and that has produced 20 or 30 new cases in Toronto? That is the issue here.

I do not know much about medicine and infectious disease, and that scares me. The people who have lunch and dinner in the restaurants along No. 3 Road in Richmond are concerned about SARS. I assume this is happening all across the country and across the world. Why, because of a false political argument which I do not think applies, should the House not endorse a motion that will simply provide Taiwan, the world community and more important, because we are representatives of Canadian ridings, and in my case as a member of Parliament for Richmond, our communities the tools to deal with what has been a tragic and serious health and economic concern, and it could be a much more serious one?

I would like to end my comments by encouraging everyone in the House to look at the health issues and as members of Parliament endorse the ascension to observer status for Taiwan.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Barrie—Simcoe—Bradford Ontario

Liberal

Aileen Carroll LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Madam Speaker, I would be delighted to look at this issue with the hon. member for Richmond strictly as a health issue. However I draw to his attention some of the facts that seem to have eluded the bulk of the debate we have listened to today.

First, through the close cooperation with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is a WHO collaboration centre, Taiwan has had access to the same information as others, including Canada, to deal with the SARS outbreak. It not being an observer has in no way affected its ability to deal with the outbreak. Nor has it adversely affected the health and safety of the Taiwanese.

It was very well said, in a longer period of time than I have now, by the minister this morning just exactly when and how much, and the consecutive order in which they received all of what could possibly have been accorded to a member or not.

I find it somewhat incredulous that we are standing here talking about the health issue as if it really is the driving force and to have those on the opposite side debunk the very notion that there might be a political agenda here, and I include my hon. colleague on this side of the House. I would again, as I tried to enlighten the member for Halifax, draw his attention to comments from the Taiwan Mainland Affairs Council that said today, and quoted in the Globe and Mail , that the Chinese who had offered assistance could keep their medical supplies on the mainland and that they should not interfere with Taiwan's attempts to participate in the WHO or other international organizations.

Perhaps the hon. member might wish to make reference in his response to what other international organizations Taiwan wishes to join and how that would reflect to the SARS and health issues that are the big push of today's debate.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Peschisolido Liberal Richmond, BC

Madam Speaker, I cannot speak for the government of Taiwan. I do not know its motivations. I am not sure what its plans are and I do not particularly care. This is an important point. I am the member of Parliament for Richmond and there is a very serious disease occurring, SARS.

We have had a situation in Taiwan where delay has occurred of x number of days where a political decision was made. If Taiwan had observer status at the WHO, action could have been taken sooner. I do not know whether that would have saved lives. However I would like to err on the side of the health issue here.

The building I am in in Richmond, on Saba Road, has a notice in English as well as in Chinese characters which states very clearly that if people have arrived from Hong Kong, China or Taiwan, they should be isolated for 10 or 12 days and that people should ensure they wash their hands so they do not spread the disease.

The point that I am making is, as a member of Parliament, as the House of the Canadian people, it is incumbent on us to solve a problem. The problem is, in my view, that we have a disease we should contain. We might have diseases in the future that are more serious than SARS. I believe, not changing the political configuration, the best way to do that in this particular case is to give an entity, Taiwan, call it what we will, observer status with the World Health Organization because the risk and the costs are too high.

We are talking about people dying. We are also talking about lack of economic activity. I know what I see when I drive around my riding of Richmond. I see the lack of economic activity. Restaurants are 10% full. The shops of all the different communities in Richmond have 20% to 25% of the sales they had before. Why? Fear of SARS and fear of uncertainty.

I want to stop that. That is why I, as a member of Parliament for Richmond, support this motion to have Taiwan given observer status in the World Health Organization.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, who has let the little children die? WHO has let the little children die. In 1998 there was an enterovirus outbreak in Taiwan. Taiwan learned later that WHO was in possession of certain high quality, single strain antibodies that would have helped meet Taiwan's needs. Numerous official and unofficial letters requesting urgent assistance were sent to the coordinator of the WHO by professors of the National Taiwan University. However, to Taiwan's disappointment, there was no response at all. Over 80 Taiwanese citizens died, most of them children. WHO has let the little children die.

Today I will ask some questions on both sides of the debate. Quite often speeches in the House are only one-sided but on some occasions I try to bring out both sides because no debate is uncomplicated or simple enough that there is only one view. I think all sides have to be taken into account. The biggest underlying motivation for me is what is in the best interests of the health of Canadians.

At the moment Taiwan has access to health protection and health programs available to other countries around the world from WHO. If it has access to these programs, under the unique circumstances of its political position in the world at this time, then what is the health issue?

Because of its unique political position in the world, it obtains some of its WHO related information from a collaboration centre of WHO, which is the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. If Taiwan has access to this information through these other channels, then what is the health issue? What is the health problem? The health issue is what most of us today want to ensure is resolved and it is what is most important for Canada.

There has been talk about the recent SARS outbreak which was announced in Taiwan on March 14 of this year. The previous speaker actually mentioned that there was a delay. It was only two days later that the Centres for Disease Control, the WHO collaboration centre, sent representatives to Taiwan to assess and report on the SARS cases. If there is such quick action and connection in today's modern world, access to information is fairly quick. If Taiwan has the access and is willing to use it and make all best efforts to obtain that information, then why is this a political issue we are dealing with today?

However, on the other side, we hear that Taiwan has been denied participation in any symposium, workshop or training program organized by the WHO, even the ones that do not specify “by invitation only”.

We were told that on September 21, 1999 a devastating earthquake hit Taiwan where 2,400 people were killed. While the WHO developed its indirect and direct methods of assistance, it slowed down getting assistance to Taiwan which included putting roadblocks in front of Russia and the Red Cross in providing assistance to Taiwan.

Having Taiwan as a member or an observer of WHO would be a two way street. Taiwan has some very advanced health care systems and could provide information back to WHO. That should be occurring through one channel or another, whether through an observer status or by some other mechanism, but I think it is in the world's best interest that the sharing be done.

After the SARS outbreak a video conference was held with 30 experts from around the world who discussed SARS. Taiwan was not allowed to participate. Once again the interaction of that participation would have been beneficial.

The response from China, which is that with its one country policy it is responsible for health care in Taiwan, does not, of course, make any sense. China does not fund Taiwan's health care system. It has nothing to do with it. Taiwan manages its health care system on its own. One of the Bloc members suggested a parallel to Quebec, but of course that does not match at all because the Government of Canada is a major partner in the health care system.

In fairness I contacted the Chinese embassy today to make sure all sides of this debate were brought forward. As the House knows, Taiwan cannot join WHO at the moment because it is not a sovereign nation state but WHO is always ready to accept an application from Taiwan to join a Chinese delegation meeting of the WHO.

Therefore, if, as most members have said today, the issue is health care and following up on health care, then if Taiwan is interested why does it not follow that procedure until something better is negotiated?

The embassy also believes that during the SARS outbreak the Chinese government sent medical experts, chemicals and equipment to assist in testing for SARS in China.

There is an upcoming conference on SARS in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia from June 17 to 18. Taiwan is sending two experts and China is not objecting to that at all.

In closing I want to talk about the politics for a moment. As we have all said, the interest is in health care but a number of members have tried to avoid the fact that there are political consequences involved, which is kind of ironic being in a political House. However these are international relationships with major countries in the world. Obviously there are political relationships with political ramifications, including health ramifications.

For instance, if we are worried about the health of Canadians, where does the biggest SARS threat in the world come from? Where are the most cases of SARS? Are they in Taiwan? No. They are in China.

What if we have a breakdown in communications that makes it harder for Canadians to find information on many Chinese who come to visit Canada and do business with Canada, as do the Taiwanese? If we were to have a breakdown in the relationship with a country that has the largest population in the world, a country that has the most SARS cases, what ramifications would that have for Canada's health care and to the health of Canadians?

I think it is quite evident today, unfortunately on all sides of the case, that politics has played a part in this whole exercise, when members of the House are interested in not only the health primarily of Canadians but of the world.

I encourage all participants and all players in the unique political structure we have with Taiwan to try to work toward finding a solution to the sharing of medical information and the speedy delivery of medicine. We must take the politics out of the situation and find the best way of sharing the information so that we do not have to ask again: who has let the little children die?

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Stockwell Day Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Madam Speaker, if my dear colleague who just presented would forgive me for being somewhat obtuse, I will preface my question with a preliminary question. Is his speech in support of our motion or not? Forgive me for appearing obtuse but I ask that question in all sincerity.

In contradiction to what the member for Barrie—Simcoe—Bradford continues to toss out before us, purported to be information, when she says that Taiwan has all the information available that it would possibly ever need, I would like to cite one case.

Is the member aware that during a video conference held by the WHO, in which over 30 experts were invited to discuss SARS, Taiwanese experts were not allowed to even participate and discuss their experiences? They had to wait a considerable period of time to get the information from that particular video conference off the Internet. Is the member aware of that and could he answer the first part of my question?

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, I am delighted to answer that question because I answered both of those questions in my speech.

On the first question about whether I was supporting the motion, the point I was making was that there were a number of issues on both sides of the situation. There are a lot of politics on both sides. What I am supporting is better sharing by all parties of the health information to make Canadians and the world safer.

With regard to the second question about the video conference and whether I was aware of it, I announced it in my speech. Therefore I guess I was aware of it. Taiwan did have to wait 20 hours to get the information on the Internet which is not a long time.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

There are three minutes left and four members wish to speak. The hon. member for Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Marceau Bloc Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Madam Speaker, perhaps I have a problem comprehending the language of Shakespeare, but I still do not understand the answer provided just now by my hon. colleague from Yukon to the former leader of the Canadian Alliance. So, for the benefit of all the members of this House who are participating so avidly in this discussion, I will repeat the question: is the hon. Liberal member for Yukon in favour of the motion put forward by the Canadian Alliance or is he opposed? A simple question deserves a simple answer.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, as I said in my last reply, it is not a simple question. It is a very complex question. The purpose of my speech, unlike the speeches of many other people in the House, was to outline the various ramifications on both sides, the fact that politics has been put into this issue by both sides and that is not what should be driving this. The health care of Canadians and of the world should be of the most interest.

Hopefully members on one side who listened to the arguments from the other side will widen their horizons. However everyone will have to wait until 3 o'clock tomorrow to see how I will vote.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Bloc

Odina Desrochers Bloc Lotbinière—L'Érable, QC

Madam Speaker, I repeat the question asked by my hon. colleague from Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier. When it comes time to vote, it will be impossible to vote half in favour and half against the motion.

My question is very clear. The vote is tomorrow. What is the position of the hon. member for Yukon? Is he for or against the Canadian Alliance motion? It is simple.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, I am delighted to answer this question for the fourth time. It is unfortunate that the three members who asked this question did not give proper respect to Parliament because the purpose of a debate is for people to present arguments on both sides. The proper role of a member of Parliament is to listen to arguments on both sides for the entire debate in order to make the most informed decision.

I will be making the most informed decision at 3 o'clock tomorrow. I hope the members who have already decided will change their ways and listen to the valid arguments made by all members of the House during the rest of this debate and not prejudge them without all the information.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Reed Elley Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Madam Speaker, I have a very simple question. If the government is against the motion, why is it against the motion?

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, probably for the reasons I mentioned in the second half of my speech, the broader implications of this to the health and other aspects of Canadians.