Madam Speaker, you are so correct. I will go back, but I did not want my friends from the west to think that we were defensive about Canadian ownership of one of our most important natural resources.
The motion today reads:
That... 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.
I like this motion a lot, but the reality is this. For starters, we should make sure we understand that the pension fund board, the operator of this fund, is at arm's length from us, but that we can have tremendous influence on the board. Any alteration of the plan the fund operators are on is not decided by us in the House alone. We need two-thirds of the provinces on side and in fact we need to have Canadians support this in a very serious way.
This motion reminds me of an idea that we have been talking about around here for a number of years, that is, we should be reviewing our entire system of measuring how we approach growth and development in our country. The United Nations had a system called the human development index. Rather than measure by accounting terms like “gross national product”, which are simply numbers, we should be developing a formula wherein we include in the basket of measurement children in poverty and the state of our agricultural sector. Too often in this chamber, we are guided by the officials of the finance department and we do not have enough influence on the way they think from the people in Human Resources Development or the people who run the Department of the Environment. This is where I think the motion is very strong and very good.
I think the mere fact that we are debating this today is a process of sensitizing those people who manage the board that handles the pension fund. I had absolutely no knowledge, until I heard it today from the member for Winnipeg Centre, of some of those investments the board is making, which are linked to making landmines or biological weapons, if I heard the member correctly, or some kind of poisonous gas or something. The member read out a list of armament materials that we were investing in. I do not think anyone in the House was aware of that.
If we accomplish one thing today, it should be that we will have sensitized the board to the fact that it really should review every single area in which we are investing. Maybe the investment that the board is putting into a particular fund happens to be part of another fund which in turn is linked to some kind of U.S. company that happens to be in the business of manufacturing these military weapons. I do not think that anyone on this board realizes for a second that Canadian taxpayers' pension fund money is going into a business that is making landmines.
As the member for Winnipeg Centre so appropriately remarked, it was our minister of foreign affairs, Lloyd Axworthy, who led the way on a global landmines treaty. The notion that we would be complementing or participating in the making of landmines is something that I am sure the pension board, after hearing this debate today, would rectify in a microsecond.
I think that what we have to do in this motion is be tough where there are examples that really go against the spirit and the social policy of the House of Commons. If there are flagrant examples of where we are investing in corporations that go against everything the House of Commons stands for, then the board should obviously review and correct them.
At the same time, the part of this motion that I have a little difficulty with is the area regarding “enterprises that manufacture...military arms”. I want to be very specific about this, because there is a fine line here. The Department of National Defence and our peacekeepers have to go into peacekeeping zones with arms, tanks and equipment that allow our men and women who are in harm's way to be protected. We as a nation in the House of Commons decided many years ago to purchase F-18As. These are part of our ships at sea.
These are all areas where we cannot suddenly say that we do not believe in this because it is just not part of what the House of Commons or the nation is all about. We are very proud of our Department of National Defence. In fact, our new minister is pressing nerve here in a way that hopefully will reinvigorate that department even more, because there is no way that anyone, especially those in the NDP, would want our peacekeepers to be in a position where they are exposed. They need to have armaments for their own defence.
In the area of environmental degradation, I know for a fact that some of these funds are investing in environmental technology. We cannot move fast enough on that file. I think that is an area where we can almost be forceful with the Canada pension fund board, because we all know that the more we push green technologies, the more we are actually creating a more economically viable, sustainable society and planet. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that anything that has to do with investment in environmental technologies is a no-brainer in terms of generating an economic return.
Ten years ago, my very dear friends, Patty Carson and Julia Moulden, wrote a book, Green is Gold . They made the case for more investment in green businesses. A lot of these businesses are actually making very solid margins. They are making good profits. Those good profits in environmental businesses can actually help sustain and make our Canadian pension fund stronger and give us a better return.
That particular area of the member's motion I applaud and support. I think that in the end this debate today will be solid, useful and substantive because, as we have learned from another instance that we had thrown at us a few weeks ago, we can never ever presume that those agencies of government, even if they are at arm's length, are always sensitive to the direction from and the consensus of the House. The notion that we would ask these people to review every single investment that is part of the pension fund and at the same time keep it on a solid economic footing is a good piece of parliamentary debate.