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.