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House of Commons Hansard #17 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was ethical.

Topics

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12:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Randy White Canadian Alliance Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, as long as we do not clone the NDP, I guess we are okay here.

When I talk about investing, I do so on the a basis of knowledge. My concern is with this kind of irrational process that is being presented here today. I do believe I am right when I say, for instance, the CEO and executive staff of a company believe in the traditional definition of marriage, then in their mind the company should not really invest in something that is contrary to their values, if they were a government, that is an absurd point of view.

There we go again. They are acknowledging that I am right, basically. The investment portfolio business is a complex one and a needy one. All I could ask is that the government try to spend its money a lot more wisely than it has in the past and perhaps it could put a few of these dollars into the Canada pension plan.

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12:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Bob Mills Canadian Alliance Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, I, like the previous member, wonder why we are debating a motion like this when families are going bankrupt because of the agriculture crisis and when we have so many international problems with which we could be dealing.

I would like to put a different tone on this and talk about what we might do with the Canada pension plan as opposed to the motion itself.

We get kind of tired of the NDP's rhetoric that business is bad, Americans are bad, banks are bad, everybody is bad except them. It is interesting that it talks the line but basically it wants to share everybody else's wealth except for itself. It is sort of like the leader of that party coming for a free lunch every day when he has not even been elected to this place. The NDP members are on this gravy train and want the free lunch, which to me seems to be NDP philosophy.

They pride themselves on being the representatives who care about everything but let us look at their examples in B.C., in Saskatchewan and in Ontario for four years. Fortunately, however, Ontario was smart enough not to re-elect them ever again. It has been a disaster. I myself am a refugee from Saskatchewan. I graduated from university and got out under the wire at night to get away from that sort of socialist sharing of someone else's wealth by a party that has no concept of how to run a government or anything about it.

We have a culture of corruption going on across the way and one would think that would be what we would be talking about today.

CPP, as we all know, started in 1966. That was the period of time when all of us were told that government would take care of us from birth until death, that it would take care of everything: health care, pensions, jobs, funerals, everything. Much of society bought into that.

When the Canada pension plan was designed in 1966 we were told that the government would only have to collect about 5.5% of our income to take care of our pensions for the rest of our lives. The demographics of 1966 would have worked but in 1967 the two designers of the plan said that it would not work. They said that the government had made a mistake, that its calculations were wrong and that its modelling was wrong. They said that it had a demographic problem coming and that in 30 years this thing would go bankrupt.

Does anyone know what happened to those two economists? They were both fired. One of them now lives in Winnipeg and is quite willing to testify before the House and its committees at any time about what a horrible mistake the government made in the design of the Canada pension plan.

By 1988, exactly what the economists said would happen, happened and it was bankrupt. At that point we had to raise it over the next five years to 9.9%. In another 10 or 15 years, by 2015, we will have to raise it to 14.5% to make it sustainable. We are talking about taking 14.5% of every young person's salary and putting it into a pension for them many years down the road. The reason we have to do that is because of our demographics and because of all those seniors.

I put to the House that at that point in time young people will be saying “Whoa, we are not going to keep paying like this. If it is 14.5% now, where are you going and will there be anything there for us?” The whole question becomes whether there will be.

If we were to talk to businesses we would find out that they cannot afford to put in that kind of money and still hire staff. Ninety per cent of this country is run by small businesses. A small business cannot afford to put aside that much extra for payroll deductions so it just does not expand. It does not hire those extra people because it cannot afford those payroll deductions.

As a result, not only are our young people threatened with a 15% deduction but we threaten them with the potential of fewer and fewer jobs because businesses just cannot make it with those deductions.

It was interesting when I went out at about five in the morning to talk to about 150 oil guys who had just come off their rig. Their boss had set up coffee and donuts for them so they could listen to a politician for 15 minutes. I told them all that I knew they had just got paid and that I wanted them to look at the deductions on their pay stubs. I then asked them to ask themselves what they were receiving for each of the deductions.

I then asked them to stop at the CPP deduction so we could talk about it. Most of the men in the room were under 30 so I ask them if they thought the CPP would be there for them at 65. I also asked them if they were prepared to pay all that money. I told them that if they were to invest that money privately they could have a lot of money down the road in some 35 years from now.

Following up on that, I decided to take a trip to Chile and take a look at its pension plan. I started in Santiago and visited its bureaucracy which privatized, I think, in 1967 or 1968. It offered its people the option of a government run plan or a private plan. Everybody under 45 at that time opted for the private plan and everybody over 45 stayed on the government plan. That makes sense because obviously the people at 45 did not have time enough to invest and so they stayed on the government plan.

I spent three weeks looking at that but I do not have time to give all the details. However today over 90% of Chileans are on the private plan. The government plan still exists and is still administered and regulated by government but it is also a private plan.

It was compulsory that 10% of one's salary went into the pension plan. About six or seven years ago people were given the option of putting another 10% into the plan, which was 20% of their salary, and it was tax deductible. It was a way of saving money for retirement and the people themselves did it.

Under the plan they have plans A, B, C or D. It is set up by the government and each one contains a portfolio of investments. Plan A is very conservative. It is all of the blue chip stocks. Plan D is much more adventuresome and has a much greater chance of winning or losing. People choose either plan A, B, C or D and every three months they receive a statement.

I thought it sounded pretty good. I did a rather unscientific poll. I brought along a translator and decided to find out what people thought of their pension plan. I went to markets, to wealthy segments of Santiago, to a poor section and to a slum section. I told the people that I was a member of Parliament from Canada and that I wanted to know about their pension plan. They looked at me as if I were crazy but it was interesting to hear what they had to say. It did not matter their socio-economic position, people told me to wait a minute and ran into their houses. They came back out with their cards. I learned pretty quickly what the card was. It was their investment card. Every three months they received a statement showing that they had invested x number of dollars in shares under whichever category they had chosen and then it shows how their stock is doing. One guy told me that he bought his groceries at such and such a chain because he had those shares.

That has provided a $25 billion capital fund within the country that is invested in Chilean businesses and it prevents them from having to borrow money externally. It helps the country and the people. They are proud of it. They have a pension plan that is secure and it is theirs.

With the Canada pension plan we throw money into the well and it is for people who are retiring today. What about the young people sitting here? Where is their money going? Will it be there for them?

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1 p.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I do not know, but maybe grey matter does not work the same way in people.

I was in Chile as well. When I was there, people asked us about our public pension plan because their plan was not working. Money was being invested through private companies and those companies made the money. There was not enough money to provide pension plans for Chilean workers.

Who should Canadians believe? Should they believe the Conservatives, Alliance, Reformers who have had their heads in the sand and will not accept that an investment into Canadian infrastructure and Canadian municipalities is a sound investment that can be profitable and support a pension plan and that an investment into values, principles and companies is a sound investment? The Alliance, Reform, Conservatives, for the life of them, cannot accept the public working together to support the public and their fellow Canadians, and it is something that is wrong. I leave it to Canadians.

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1:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Bob Mills Canadian Alliance Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, obviously there is a philosophical gap here. I guess what the member does not understand is fact that competition makes things happen. She does not understand the fact that free enterprise makes things happen. She does not understand that having healthy competition and free enterprise keeps the culture of corruption from taking over, where bureaucracy upon bureaucracy is running things. I do not know what she is talking about.

When a business hires someone, it must match that pension contribution. If the individual puts 10% into the pension plan, the business puts in 10%. That 20% is under the control of the individuals. It is their money to be invested. However, they cannot take it out until they are 65. I have no idea what she is talking about.

Obviously, if we only talk to union heads in Chile, we may well get that message, but we certainly do not get it from the people on the street, and they are really the ones who matter.

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1:05 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia Manitoba

Liberal

John Harvard LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the member for Red Deer, the home of women's curling this week. I saw the good member on television trying to raise money for the Sandra Schmirler Foundation, and I hope all went well.

Maybe I was not listening too closely to the member. He seemed to suggest, coming out of the conversation he had with some of the oil workers in his province of Alberta, that business, regardless of its size I suppose, really had no responsibility when it came to providing pensions for its employees. I just want to make sure because I would have thought there could be competitive questions, and it may be difficult for a lot of companies. I think he implied that if businesses do not want to provide pension benefits for whatever reason, it should be their business.

We do not take that attitude with respect to safety standards or pollution control standards. We ask businesses to provide and meet certain standards. I would have thought the same thing would apply to the question of pension benefits. People who have worked with companies for a good many years deserve some kind of standard of living in retirement. Is the member suggesting no responsibility at all when it comes to pensions?

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1:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Bob Mills Canadian Alliance Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for allowing me to clarify this. I also want to let him know that we raised over $100,000 for the Sandra Schmirler Foundation for sick children. It went extremely well. Those five hours were probably the best five hours I spent on the weekend.

In answer to his question, companies must and should want to provide pensions for their employees. That should not be an option. I did not in any way suggest it should be optional. It must be there. Companies should always provide encouragement to individuals to do that. I certainly did not want to leave that impression.

People should have the right to control that money. The government can run it if it wants to, but if we find out it can be done better and in a different way, we should at least examine that. I suggested Chile, Great Britain and the U.S. as examples. We should encourage pensions even more than we do.

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1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Clifford Lincoln Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by congratulating the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre. I believe the motion he has introduced will enable us to have a healthy debate, because it deals with issues we absolutely must discuss, as objectively as possible. It is a matter of great importance for each of us. One day, we ourselves and our children and grandchildren will all benefit from the Canada pension plan.

At the same time, it needs to be pointed out that not everything is bleak; not everything is negative. In fact, before the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board was established in 1998, the investment policy stated that all available funds after the payment of pensions to beneficiaries and of the system's administrative costs had to be invested in provincial bonds, at the prevailing federal interest rate.

The legislation that created the board in 1998 certainly changed things for the better. At the same time, many other steps were taken and it is vital that they be pointed out. As I said, not everything is negative; we are not starting from scratch.

Legislation on corporate responsibility was enacted on June 12, 2003 and a corporate ethics code was also adopted. We created a national contact point for Canada, an interdepartmental federal committee comprised of representatives of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Industry, Human Resources Development, Environment, Natural Resources, Finance and the Canadian International Development Agency, mandated to raise awareness of the OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises and to ensure their implementation.

We developed an information kit on the production of reports on sustainable development. This was a joint effort of Industry, Environment and Foreign Affairs and International Trade with a view to providing information and guidelines for the production of these reports.

What the government attempted to do with the 1998 reform was to make the Canadian pension system self-sustaining, which it had ceased to be. This became a government priority. In fact, a whole series of well thought out changes were introduced with a view to bolstering the plan's financing, improve its investment practices, and reining in the increase in its costs.

The changes effected in 1997 brought in the following changes: better performing investments; changes to the calculation of certain benefits in order to control spiralling costs; regular reports on the CPP for Canadians; and contribution rates limited to no more than 10% for future generations.

In 1997, the chief actuary of the plan informed us that, if changes were not made to the plan and the way it was financed, our children and grandchildren would be paying over 14.2% of all pensionable earnings by 2030, divided 50-50 between employer and employee, for pensions. Today the figure is only 9.9%.

So there have been some salutary and positive reforms. The Canada pension plan of today is certainly far better balanced and far more stable than the one in place prior to the reform of 1997 and the legislation of 1998.

However, much needs to be looked at again. I believe it is really worthy of my colleague from Winnipeg Centre to have brought this subject forward.

As we look at the objectives of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board under the act, we see that its objective No. 2 is to invest its assets with a view to achieving a maximum rate of return without undue risk or loss. If we look at the principles, the CPP Investment Board statutory mandate and fiduciary duty are based exclusively on investment considerations.

The CPP Investment Board believes that responsible corporate behaviour in such matters as the environment, employee practices, stakeholder relations, human rights, respect for domestic and international laws and ethical conduct generally contribute to enhanced long term investment returns. This is where I agree with my colleague from Winnipeg Centre that the objectives and the principles have to be looked at again. It has to be seen in a far more proactive and precise way than it is today.

To rely on the basic principle that we need to achieve a maximum rate of return without undue risk to loss and that our statutory mandate is based exclusively on investment considerations, belies the intention of using our corporate behaviour to decide on the criteria of the investment. Corporate behaviour can be very elastic and subjective. To say that responsible corporate behaviour in such matters as the environment, employee practices, stakeholder relations, human rights, respect for domestic and international laws and ethical conduct should be our reliance to decide on investment is very deficient.

I really believe the government should look at the whole aspect of both the principles and the objectives to ensure that at least the objectives and principles fit in with the gist of our policies and values as a government and as a country.

I could give examples. We have endorsed, with a large majority, the Kyoto protocol after much debate. The Kyoto protocol has certain obligations for us internationally to reduce our gas emissions. Yet, I would think that any company in the fossil fuel industry could say that it respects complete and utter corporate behaviour in matters of the environment, employee practices, stakeholder relations, human rights, respect for domestic and international laws and ethical conduct. It is just a matter of degree. It is a matter of really deciding what our basic value system is.

It would seem to me that it would not be asking too much for the principles of the CPP Investment Board and its objectives to make sure that whatever basic policies and criteria the government adopts--I think of examples such as the landmines convention-- that certainly language can be found to match those objectives and principles to what the government believes fundamentally to be its paramount policies and values.

In its principle No. 3, the CPP Investment Board believes that social investing means different things to different people and that the CPP Investment Board cannot reflect the divergent religious, economic, political, social and personal views of millions of Canadians in its investment decisions.

The same argument could be made about a government, that a government cannot reflect the divergent religious, economic, political, social and personal views of millions of Canadians in its legislation.

This is a cop-out. It is an excuse for complete paralysis in action. It seems to me that the government, through its agencies, must go forward and establish clear criteria so that the board of the CPP is well aware of the criteria that we set as a government and as a country. It should respect the basic policies, ideals and values that this country and this government represent.

Surely there is a possibility of broadening the objectives, making them far more precise and far tighter than they are today. Surely there is a possibility to add criteria that not only do not offend the various segments of the population, but at the same time reflect values that we all share as Canadians regardless of religion, class or creed.

I welcome the idea of the member for Winnipeg Centre who brought forward the motion to force this debate along. To say that what we have today is the perfect solution and can never be changed, amended or improved is to say that the government must be static regardless of the evolution of society.

When members of the official opposition say that it is impossible to qualify investments in terms of values, I think that is totally wrong. Society is evolving today in whatever sector to reflect the common values that we hold as a democratic society. Surely among the members here there is enough talent, conviction and commitment to arrive at wording which the Canada pension plan board could use to make our investments far more in tune with those same common values that we share.

Right now I believe the principles and objectives are too loose. They are far too open to subjectivity. They are far too open to the possibility that we should invest in corporations that do not reflect our policies and values.

I welcome this debate. I hope that instead of pouring cold water on the idea of the member for Winnipeg Centre that we will use it as a stepping stone for a constructive debate. This debate will help all the beneficiaries of the Canada pension plan now and in the future.

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1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I must say, first, that I greatly appreciated the speech by my hon. colleague from Lac-Saint-Louis. I would like to say that I share his point of view, particularly with respect to the importance we should attach to the fact that the pension and retirement funds, and the associated investments, must meet certain criteria of responsibility and require more socially acceptable behaviour from the businesses that benefit from them.

Additionally, I believe there should be selection criteria based on social responsibility. This could even go so far as to exclude certain companies automatically if they do not meet certain standards.

The hon. member for Lac-Saint-Louis touched on an important issue, the Kyoto protocol. The Parliament of Canada has ratified this protocol.

I would like to ask my colleague a question. In the criteria for managers of pension funds, should we not, in fact, place a high value on this environmental responsibility? For example, to the extent that a company decided to respect the Kyoto protocol, it could receive some benefit in terms of investments by these managers. Conversely, if businesses refused to comply with the Kyoto requirements, they could be automatically excluded from the investments and decisions of the pension fund managers.

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1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Clifford Lincoln Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am convinced that, in today's world where so many people know so much about investments, there are ways to reconcile the issue of maximum rate of return with very specific social responsibility criteria.

In fact, I fully agree with my colleague that it would be completely paradoxical for us, on the one hand, to implement certain environmental or health care policies, such as anti-smoking measures, while investing in companies trying in fact to avoid their national and international responsibilities or get around government policies.

I look at today's criteria and objectives and I wonder if these objectives are specific enough, for example, to prevent a major cigarette manufacturer from being selected as an investor by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. I am not too sure about this.

Consequently, I fully agree with my colleague that, at all costs, we must establish precise criteria to avoid falling into a paradoxical situation, such as supporting certain policies, as a Parliament and a democracy and, at the same time, trampling on these same principles in the CPP. That would be illogical.

It seems to me there are ways to amplify, identify and improve the current objectives and principles so they are much more restrictive and specific.

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1:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Howard Hilstrom Canadian Alliance Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, my question for the member involves his statement that he believes Liberal values are synonymous with Canadian values. Nothing could be further from the truth. Some of the things the Liberals believe in are what some Canadians believe in. However, Canadians are not a group that believes everything the Liberals say are Canadian values are actually that.

The issues we have before the House, everything from the scandal to environmental issues, the member certainly cannot agree with. In the area of the investments by the Canada pension plan, he does not agree that the money should be going there. He seemed to be quite clear on that.

With all the wrong things and the bad judgment that is being used on the Canada pension plan by the Liberal government, how can he remain a member of the Liberal caucus?

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1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Clifford Lincoln Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I never equated Liberal values to Canadian values. That is nonsense; I never said that at all. I do not believe that the Liberal Party has the monopoly on virtue or Canadian values or that it is the purest of the pure.

Surely the government has made mistakes. It has admitted to them. There are many mistakes but to say that this is exclusive to the Liberals and that everybody else in the land is pure is just demagoguery as it is to say that I should leave the Liberal caucus because of one issue or another where the government has made mistakes. There would not be any democracy left; we would all have to leave at one point or another. I am not even going to address that part of it because I think it is puerile.

At the same time I would like to state that certainly there are common values that we hold as a democratic society. A democratic society makes its decisions here in this Parliament and other parliaments, provincial and otherwise. The majority rules. We accept it. That is the way democracy works. For example, if we decided tomorrow that we were going to invest moneys in policies to stop smoking in society, at the same time we would say let us not invest in companies that promote smoking in society. That is what I am trying to say.

There are certain common values that we share. There are others where we differ. At the same time when Parliament rules in its majority that a certain line of conduct, a certain policy should be implemented, what I am saying is that surely it would be paradoxical for a pension plan to go in exactly the opposite direction to what democracy has chosen.

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1:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

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

Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed the comments of the hon. member opposite.

At times I am a little uneasy with the government investing my money. If I want to invest money and lose it, and I probably would, I would take the loss.

Recently in Saskatchewan in my constituency the federal government put $22 million or more into an ethanol plant. Up the road on the same line the provincial government, along with an American investment firm, was building an ethanol plant but it fell through. Because it fell through, the provincial government lost several million dollars of taxpayers' money.

A company in which one invests has to be accountable for that money. Therefore the government, provincial or federal, must be accountable to the ratepayers for the money it has lost.

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1:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Colleagues, we have strayed somewhat from the subject at hand. Let us try to bring the debate back to the CPP.

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1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Clifford Lincoln Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are not talking about government investments. We are talking about the Canada pension plan. This is why a separate board was created, to make sure that the investment follows basic principles and objectives as set out in the act. The act is the ruling instrument to decide how the moneys are going to be invested. This is the way it should be.

I am suggesting that within the powers of investment of the board, according to the objectives and principles of the act, the member for Winnipeg Centre has a point. We should look at this whole issue to see whether we can make the criteria, the principles, the objectives much more precise, much more in keeping with the values we share and we decide upon as a democratic society in this Parliament. This is really what I was trying to convey.

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1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to announce that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Drummond.

As members of the Bloc Quebecois, we are pleased not only to take part in this opposition day, which always lends some greater semblance of democracy to this House, but also to support the NDP member's motion.

This is a motion rooted in this Parliament. Our former colleague, Stéphan Tremblay, who represented Lac-Saint-Jean—Saguenay after Lucien Bouchard, is now a member of the National Assembly. He is the Parti Quebecois environment critic and was for years the green conscience of the Bloc. The torch was brilliantly taken up by the member for Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, who has done an excellent job in connection with the Kyoto protocol issue, the widening of the St. Lawrence seaway, and of course the whole GMO issue. It can be seen that ecological concerns are very much front and centre with the Bloc Quebecois.

The NDP motion is interesting in the way it links imperatives of economic development, workers' pension funds and values we support as Quebeckers, Canadians and even North Americans, since this issue is not confined to Quebec and to Canada.

Perhaps you would permit me to read the motion again. Those who have just joined us may not know what this is about. I can explain it after. This is an opposition day and the New Democratic Party member for Winnipeg-Centre has proposed the following motion:

That, in the opinion of this House, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Review Board should be guided by ethical investment policies which would ensure that our pension investments are socially responsible and do not support companies or enterprises that manufacture or trade in military arms and weapons, have records of poor labour practices, contribute to environmental degradation, or whose conduct, practices or activities are similarly contrary to Canadian values.

What does that mean? It means this: all workers in the public or private sector obviously pay contributions to a retirement fund. Once a person has retired from the work force, a pension will be paid. Naturally, the investment managers have very large sums to manage. For example, we can estimate $600 million dollars just for Canada. These investments last for years.

Let us take an example close to home. As members of Parliament, we contribute some of our salary to a pension plan. This is true in the private and public sectors. Thus, there are very large sums in the pension funds that are invested in the bond market every year.

Naturally, the pension fund managers are always looking for the best performance. The hon. member for Trois-Rivières must understand that since he is a former industrial commissioner. That is how important the pension fund market is to the economy.

Our former colleague, Stéphan Tremblay, who succeeded Lucien Bouchard as member for Lac-Saint-Jean—Saguenay and who now is the Parti Quebecois environment critic, once introduced a bill. It provided that pension fund managers were required not only to seek the highest return—which is legitimate because if the returns are high, the workers will be better off and we are not against that—but also to be selective in the investments they made, and would need to examine the purpose and mandate of the organizations in which they were investing.

That is called ethics. Before I give my examples, I have found a definition of ethical investing. We have not been discussing this concept a long time; it is even quite a recent idea. Since 1992 or 1993 there have been somewhat organized policies in this field.

To make it clearer for everyone, it is said that ethical investment is a socially responsible investment, a commitment to achieve public good in investments. It is not just about the best return, but public good, collective good.

The social investor therefore sees a double purpose in these activities: corporate social and financial performance.

To complement the financial criteria, investors look for ventures allowing them to support companies that subscribe to the same social objectives they do.

For instance, an investment board or private funds managers might say, “We are not going to invest; we are not going to buy any shares”. That is often who it works. The investor buys shares, trusts, or mutual funds, but does not look for corporate investment instruments.

Take for example the arms issue. Unfortunately, although Canada boast about not being an aggressive country, and about having a long tradition of pacifism, the fact remains that Canada produces military equipment.

At the Université du Québec in Montreal, there was a research group led by Yves Boulanger. In 1993, I was elected leader, or rather member of the Bloc Quebecois—pardon me, but that said, I can assure my colleagues that I have no other ambition in life than to serve the people of Hochelaga—Maisonneuve. I know that Sigmund Freud had a psychoanalytical theory about our subconscious thoughts coming to the surface. Dreams are the royal road to the subconscious. My colleague could certainly attest to the fact that I am blushing, I am so embarrassed. I want to be very clear about the fact that I have no other ambition than to serve the people of Hochelaga—Maisonneuve and to be an efficient health critic.

When I was elected in Hochelaga—Maisonneuve in 1993, Lucien Bouchard gave me two mandates. The first one was to be the research and development critic. That made me very happy, although I was somewhat surprised considering I cannot even program my VCR. I am not very adept at using new technologies. He also gave me a second mandate, which was to look into the whole issue of defence industry conversion for civilian purposes.

Industry Canada had an important program to encourage this conversion. However, encouraging conversion means that some industries were producing military equipment. This is quite logical.

An investment portfolio manager could decide, in making ethical investments, not to invest in companies that, in any way, shape or form, are connected to the nuclear weapon industry. As the hon. member for Rosemont—Petite-Patrie indicated, a manager could decide not to invest or purchase shares in companies that are heavy polluters.

Unfortunately, this is still happening. There are companies that continue to be bad corporate citizens, dump waste in our waterways and pollute beyond the standards set by the major regulatory agencies. So we have here some models of ethical and socially responsible investments.

My colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville could say, “Yes, but we could also encourage investments in areas where companies are most concerned about gender equity in leadership positions”. This could also be a way to ask questions about ethical investments.

We could also look at all the social benefits and the entire way we encourage people to combine working and having a family. This is increasingly important in collective agreements. This criterion could guide how we pick our investments.

Since my time is up, I want to congratulate our colleague from Winnipeg Centre and to say that we will support this motion, which we consider a responsible motion and that, once again, the Bloc Quebecois, through Stéphan Tremblay, was a visionary in this regard.

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1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the hon. member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve on his excellent speech. In my opinion it was very pertinent. The people listening will certainly have recognized how one ought to act if one is seeking transparency in the handling of public funds.

I am particularly happy to take part in this debate on the NDP motion. I am happy because in the past, I also introduced, with a colleague, a bill along the same lines.

When trying to be transparent, one concern must be the criteria for investment. Workers who entrust their savings to pension funds have the right to know where their money is going.

This is why I think pension fund administrators should, in their annual reports, present the social, ethical or environmental considerations that they have taken into account before making their investments on the financial markets.

Must pension plan boards be compelled to make socially responsible investments? I think they must. I believe it would be a very good idea if we could, at the very least, oblige the administrators to adopt a policy like this themselves and let their contributors know about it.

Concretely, half the money traded on world financial markets belong to small investors in pension funds. This represents, Canada-wide, some $600 billion, about $90 billion of that for businesses under federal control. That is the money of workers, and it has become one of the major engines of globalization. These investors hold considerable influence in their hands with the potential to bring about sustainable development anywhere and everywhere on this planet.

An ethical investment policy would encourage businesses to provide broader progress reports than a mere financial report, because it introduces the concept of a three-fold approach to accountability: a financial statement coupled with a social and environmental statement. This new approach can very readily be integrated with the company's general strategy.

Institutional investors, pension funds in particular, carry considerable financial clout. Half of the shares of major Canadian corporations are owned by pension or mutual funds. In Quebec, the assets of complementary pension funds are estimated at over $100 billion, some $30 billion of that in the government and public employees pension plan.

In Canada, we find that pension fund administrators, lacking a precise definition of their fiduciary obligations, feel they do not have enough latitude to take social responsibility into consideration in their decisions.

Because the only demands upon them concern the financial aspect, these fund administrators must be capable of proving they have invested well from the financial point of view, regardless of where they have invested. For example, they may have invested in companies that use child labour. This is important, and this is what we are opposed to. The funds of the public, the pension funds of small investors, which the government has in its hands, must be invested in businesses that are not involved in human rights violations.

As I said, some governments have already adopted changes to their legislation to facilitate the introduction of non-financial criteria for their investment policies, particularly ones to enhance accountability on this aspect. This is the case in the United Kingdom, Belgium and France.

In Canada at present socially responsible investments, that is investments for which at least one of the three approaches to ethical investment is applied, apparently total around $50 billion, close to $5 billion of that in ethical funds and another $5 billion in union funds such as the CSN or the FTQ.

The federal government's role in promoting corporate social responsibility is to lead by example. In fact, when it purchases goods and services, the government supports economic development or is responsible for managing capital entrusted to it. We may wonder if it would be appropriate for this government to compel the companies it does business to apply socially responsible principles.

Even if I agree that retirement fund boards and administrators are responsible for determining to what extent retirement fund investments will be based on criteria to ensure social responsibility, I believe that the state can act to ensure that these choices are more transparent.

In the United Kingdom, Germany and France, retirement fund administrators or trustees are already required to make public the investment policies behind their pension plan investment policy. Observers believe this is a step in the right direction.

In Quebec, under the previous government, a parliamentary commission considered this issue. When will the federal government decide to act? No one knows. Consequently, we hope that government members will vote in favour of the motion by our NDP colleague.

In conclusion, investments can be made according to criteria that promote constructive corporate behaviour and balance between profitability and social responsibility.

Socially responsible investment means, first and foremost, that workers must be made aware of how their money is being invested. As a result, they need access to relevant information about the purpose of investments being made on their behalf.

While finance minister, the current Prime Minister said he supported the principles underlying the NDP motion. Now he just has to turn his words into actions.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Alex Shepherd Liberal Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to enter into this debate on the NDP motion. As I read it over before getting up to speak, and also in researching my speech, I was taken aback by one profound thing. The money people contribute off their paycheques into the Canada pension plan does not belong to legislators or the government.

That money is left with the government in trust and people are concerned about that aspect in and of itself. It is not our money to play with. It is no different than other people's money that is held in trust, whether it is through an estate or other fiduciary relationship. It is given to the government in trust and the trust is allocated in such a way that its orientation is to invest people's money in the best way possible so that they will get a return on their investment.

Why is that important? It is very important because the whole concept of the CPP, originally founded in 1967, was to ensure that those people who were working would be able to put aside certain amounts of money for their retirement. It addressed people who were unable or could not save, and so forth.

It was kind of a forced savings and it is one of the pillars of our pension system. We have the old age pension, the Canada pension plan and private pensions. Unfortunately, many people do not have the last one, that is private pensions. In fact, there are those in our country who do not have the second one either, the Canada pension plan. There are many people simply trying to live on the old age pension which is very difficult to do.

The other aspect--and I speak from one of my previous vocations, a certified financial planner--is that in Canada we are witnessing that people are retiring a lot younger than they ever did before through voluntary retirement, and some would suggest forced retirement. The flip side of that is that we are living longer so the retirement years are becoming more extenuated.

Canadians are looking toward to those retirement years and are starting to ask a lot of questions about the CPP. One of the questions they are asking is: “Will we have enough income to live in dignity and respect?”

The NDP motion is sort of circular because it talks about activities that are contrary to Canadian values. It does not spell out what Canadian values are and certainly, Canadian values are not that a lot of our seniors should live in poverty.

It is incumbent upon us, from an administrative point of view of the Canada pension plan, to ensure that these moneys are invested effectively and efficiently so they generate the best possible return.

That does not mean that people who are entrusted with the money can invest in illegal activities. They cannot obviously invest in the drug trade or anything else that would possibly pay higher returns. They must invest in a milieu within our country which ensures that they go through an institutional order. We have a rule of law in the country.

They are required to invest through recognized stock exchanges and through the rule of law. I challenge the New Democratic Party, or anybody else who supports this motion, to point out to me any company that the CPP board has invested in that is carrying on an illegal activity in the country.

It is not for the investment board to make judgment calls on what is or what is not a good investment. It is simply a matter of that determination taking place in the general public and through our legal system. If something is an illegal activity then obviously the company would be reviewed and adjudicated and so forth. That is not a concern of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.

I want to expand on this aspect of retirement years. I am 57. I was born in 1946. I see myself on the leading edge of the so-called baby boom generation.

I have talked to a lot of people of my generation. They say their major concern is that they will not have enough money to retire. It is a terrible thing to think that people are concerned that they will live too long, but that is a possibility. There has been so much medical science in our country that it has allowed people to live better and healthier lives for a longer time. However, at the same time, people are worried that it has been too successful, that they will live to the point where they cannot afford to carry on a normal lifestyle.

There are other areas where this kind of thing has happened in government. Government pension plans in the civil service, historically--

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member for Durham. I would also inform him that he has 14 minutes left in his speech after question period.

Cattle IndustryStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, as all members know, BSE is an ongoing national tragedy. It has hit farm families in the Peterborough region very hard.

This week, the Holiday Inn Peterborough-Waterfront is hosting a fundraising dinner to assist the local farm community. This special event is the kick-off for a year of commitment to this cause. It will be followed by other activities, including beef specials with part of the price going to farmers.

The Peterborough County Cattlemen-Winemakers' Dinner sponsors include the Holiday Inn Riverside Grill, Colio Wines, Honeyman's Beef Purveyors and the Wolf Cruz. The target is $5,000 from individuals and service clubs who have bought tickets.

I urge all members to support local events such as this to help farmers hit by BSE. I urge all members to buy their meat from local farmers. This is something we can do to help while we work to get the U.S. border open again.

My thanks go out to the Holiday Inn and my best wishes to the Peterborough County Cattlemen. I urge other local groups to follow their example.

EstoniaStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, today is the 86th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence of Estonia. The Republic of Estonia was founded on February 24, 1918, when the Salvation Committee declared the republic's independence.

This date was celebrated as the date of independence until the Soviet occupation of Estonia in 1940. During the Soviet occupation, Independence Day continued to be celebrated by Estonian communities around the world.

As the hope of restoring the nation's independence grew stronger in the late 1980s, the people already began to celebrate the day of independence publicly before the end of the Soviet occupation.

On February 24, 1989, the red flag of Soviet Estonia was replaced by the blue, black and white Estonia national flag on Toompea, and since that time independence has been celebrated once again as a public holiday.

I would like to offer my congratulations to President Rüütel, the Estonian parliament, the people of Estonia and Canadians of Estonian descent on this momentous occasion. Elagu eesti .

Cattle IndustryStatements By Members

February 24th, 2004 / 1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Betty Hinton Canadian Alliance Kamloops, Thompson And Highland Valleys, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is hard to believe that any government could mishandle a $30 billion industry that creates 225,000 jobs in this country, but that is exactly what the government has done in response to the crisis in our cattle industry.

Canadian ranchers have lost $2 billion due to the BSE crisis and the government is still quibbling with the province about who should help. Some provinces have already paid compensation to their beef producers, but this national issue begs a national response.

Matters are even worse for ranchers in and around my riding of Kamloops, Thompson and Highland Valleys, who are still waiting for federal assistance to re-seed and re-fence land ravaged by fire last summer. Again, our legitimate pleas have fallen on deaf ears.

After the challenges they have faced, it is a shame that Canada's cattlemen must now suffer the consequences of this government's dithering.

City of MontrealStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Bernard Patry Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to acknowledge the results of a compilation of international studies by the Association for Canadian Studies.

Based on data from Statistics Canada and the U.S. Census Bureau, the association indicates that the City of Montreal is in first place in terms of the number of people who walk to work. The study looked at 21 centres with a population of 900,000 or more. It showed that 7.4% of workers in Montreal walk to work, putting them ahead of New York and Ottawa.

Among the top ten cities, six are Canadian. Canadians are ahead of the pack in not using cars to get to work. While American workers prefer to use a car 90.8% of the time, only 80.6% of Canadians in urban centres choose to drive to work.

When we look at the extent of the efforts made to counter climate change, we must applaud the workers in Canadian cities.

Government ProgramsStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, on February 16 the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development announced Government of Canada funding of $10.9 million for 34 projects targeted to help youth and employment insurance recipients in the Greater Toronto Area.

The government is providing financial assistance through employment assistance services, local labour market partnerships, job creation partnerships, and youth employment strategy to enhance Canadians' employability, social inclusion, and skills and learning.

These projects support the Government of Canada's goals to encourage Canadians to upgrade their skills and knowledge to the fullest potential. Funding for them was provided for in the February 2003 federal budget.

As stated in the Speech from the Throne, these programs will help all Canadians gain a foothold in the labour market. The government is committed to developing programs that enhance the skills, knowledge and work experience of all Canadians, ensuring their full participation in society and in the workplace.

Government of CanadaStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are not fooled by this so-called new Liberal government and Prime Minister. They know it is still the same old Liberal government that they have endured for a decade.

In my riding of Prince George—Peace River, constituents are still waiting for the government to properly address the environmental disaster brought on by the mountain pine beetle infestation.

They are waiting for a resolution to the softwood lumber dispute with the United States that has closed mills and left so many without a job.

They are waiting for the government to come up with a workable assistance program that will actually help beef producers devastated by the mad cow crisis.

They are waiting for quality health care to arrive in our remote northern region of the country where we continue to face a severe shortage of doctors.

And they are waiting in vain for tax relief while the government continues to throw their money away on scandal after scandal after scandal.

Just like my constituents, and after 10 years as their MP, I am increasingly frustrated with the government's misplaced priorities. Canadians deserve better, and with the Conservative Party of Canada they are going to get it.

Cattle IndustryStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

David Kilgour Liberal Edmonton Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Western Economic Diversification today announced $680,000 in funding for the development of a new testing technology for live cattle.

The project is a first step toward a system that will eliminate the need to slaughter animals in order to test for BSE and other diseases.

Canada must be a world leader in 21st century technologies. Even more importantly these days, the mandate assists our key beef industry in western Canada, on which thousands and thousands of families depend for their livelihoods.