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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

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Canadian Alliance Calgary East, AB

Madam Speaker, I am glad he asked that. He said that billions of dollars were given out to the oil industry. I want to remind him that the national energy policy, which his government brought out--

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Dennis Mills Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

It was a work of genius.

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3:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Canadian Alliance Calgary East, AB

--was one of the biggest disasters the country ever had. I lived in Alberta at that time and I know what the national energy policy did to that province.

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3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Dennis Mills Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

It is the best thing that ever happened to the country.

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3:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Canadian Alliance Calgary East, AB

Let me ask another question. Every municipality in the country is demanding to know where the infrastructure money is from the government? The government has provided nothing. Every municipality wants federal government involvement in infrastructure. What does it do? It takes money like fuel taxes. It takes more money from cities than it gives back to cities. That is why cities need the money. All the mayors are demanding unanimously that the federal government now return that money to the cities, and not by that horrible infrastructure.

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3:55 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I would like people to come back to the issue at hand because it is worthy of our interest and our comments. However, the comments of the member for Calgary East on the actual motion were so off the wall it is hard to know where to start.

This is RSP season and many Canadians are making the choice as to where to put their RSP investments. Many Canadians take the time to ensure that the money they have put away is done so in such a way that it is ethically invested. Those investments do not harm either people or the environment or whatever their particular interest is. Is the member aware that the Canadian government has no such scruples whatsoever?

This year $2.5 billion of our Canada pension funds were invested in corporations that manufacture the world's deadliest weapons, including missile launchers, incendiary bombs, battle tanks, high tech fighter aircraft, anti-personnel cluster munitions, warships, and even landmines, many of which are in use in the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Is he aware of that?

Would he also care to comment on the fact that the Canadian government has inadvertently conscripted us into war profiteering, whether we like it or not, as investors in the Canada pension plan?

Here are some of the weapons that we are investing in which are at work today in Iraq: the BGM-109 Tomahawk missile; the F-14A Tomcat fighter jet; the M3 “Bradley” assault vehicle; the Nighthawk stealth jet; the B-52 Stratofortress aircraft; and the M109A6 Paladin tank. The hon. member for Calgary East has shares in all of those weapons of mass destruction that are blowing the legs off children in Iraq as we speak.

The current Canada pension plan is specifically barred from taking into consideration anything other than maximizing for profit. The board is not allowed in its investment strategy to take into consideration whether those investments may be contrary to the wishes of Canadians, contrary to Canadian values, or even contrary to international conventions to which Canada has stipulated itself, such as the treaty on landmines put together by the former foreign affairs minister for the government at the time, the hon. Lloyd Axworthy. That treaty is something we are all proud of as a nation, yet this glaring contradiction exists that we are inadvertently investing in these things.

I raised only armaments as one issue. Our Canada pension plan also invests in pornography, tobacco and a number of other things that Canadians are against.

Seeing as the empirical evidence is such that you do not have to compromise a good rate of return to invest ethically, would he not reconsider his, I was going to say stupid, but his fatuous remarks about this motion?

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4 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

I would remind members to address the Chair and not each other. I would also ask that the language be fitting of Parliament.

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4 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Canadian Alliance Calgary East, AB

Madam Speaker, that is typical Liberal garbage calling my comments stupid. The sky is falling. Those members are always reporting these things. The only point I can agree on was when the member said that the government was scrupulous.

The member talked about armaments and about the war in Iraq, and about this issue. There are types of treaties. Parliament decides whether to join in war or not. To say that armaments are the responsibility of a company is absolutely class nonsense. It is weak. It is the government that chooses to go to war. It is the government that chooses to fight over there. Under the rules, we have to tell the government whether it goes to war or not. We should not be telling companies what to do.

All we said about the Canada pension plan was for the government to maximize its interest in companies. If there were no war in Iraq and children were not dying, nobody would be selling any of those things. Those companies would not be selling their stocks and we would not be buying their stocks.

That party's usual garbage about the world falling apart is just a typical NDP way of doing business.

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4 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant McNally Canadian Alliance Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Madam Speaker, I agree that the NDP has brought up some points in the debate today that have raised some questions about the government's choice of investing CPP funds in some questionable companies.

I also want to refer to my colleague's comments. He briefly talked about the scandal going on with the government scandal. I was surprised that the member for Toronto—Danforth shouted across the way, with regard to government largesse, “That is just a down payment and it is not going to stop”.

Later on, when my colleague referenced the national energy program, the member for Toronto--Danforth said, “It was a work of genius. It is the best thing that ever happen to this country”.

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4 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deborah Grey Canadian Alliance Edmonton North, AB

The evil genius.

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4 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant McNally Canadian Alliance Dewdney—Alouette, BC

It is unbelievable that a member of the government would say such a thing to the member from Calgary. Would he care to comment on that unbelievable concession from the government member?

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4:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deborah Grey Canadian Alliance Edmonton North, AB

You were not from the west, Dennis, obviously.

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4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Dennis Mills Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

That idea came from the west.

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4:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Canadian Alliance Calgary East, AB

Madam Speaker, let us say it this way. For those of us who were living in the west during the national energy policy, we know exactly what happened.

The member was living in Toronto. He is from Toronto. What does he know? He was not there to feel the pain of Albertans when his government was taking money out of the province. He should have lived there and then he would have known what the pain was the pain in that part of the world. I lived under that rule. He lives in Toronto. He thinks everything is fine because the money was flowing into his province at that time.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

February 24th, 2004 / 4:05 p.m.

Sarnia—Lambton Ontario

Liberal

Roger Gallaway LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, there have been discussions among all the parties. I think you would find unanimous consent that the following motion be put and adopted. I move:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice, the hours of sitting and order of business of the House on Tuesday, March 9, 2004, shall be those of a Wednesday:

That the Address of the Secretary General of the United Nations, to be delivered in the House Chamber at 10:00 a.m. on March 9, 2004 before Members of the Senate and Members of the House of Commons, together with all introductory and related remarks, be printed as an appendix to the House of Commons Debates for that day and form part of the records of this House; and

That media recording and transmission of such address, introductory and related remarks be authorized pursuant to established guidelines for such occasions.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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4:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

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4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Dennis Mills Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

Madam Speaker, before I begin to respond to the motion by the member for Winnipeg Centre, I will say it is a very good motion. There are some flaws in it and I will deal with those.

I will begin by dealing with the national energy program. I was part of a government that implemented that plan. What most people do not understand is that the idea that essentially was behind the national energy program, the security of supply retroactive back into Canadian lands that were essentially being taken over by foreign multinationals--

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4:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

I would take a moment to remind the hon. member for Toronto—Danforth that the subject matter he is answering to today may be a subject for another day. Today we have a specific motion on the floor of the House. I would ask the member to direct his comments and his speech to that motion.

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4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Dennis Mills Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

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.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for New Brunswick Southwest, Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

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4:15 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I will not take up too much time. I am interested in hearing the views of others as I was the one who moved this motion. I want to thank the hon. member who just spoke for a very balanced speech on this motion. I think he took very seriously the various elements of it. I would ask him to help others in the House to understand what he knows about the ethical investment funds as they are.

Would he agree that there are two ways to do this? There is a negative screen that we could put in place to make sure that the CPP fund is not investing in certain companies whose practices are in contrast to Canadian values. Also, there is a positive screen, through which we could reward certain other industry sectors that we want to motivate and encourage. Through us investing, as a carrot effect, in a certain sector in the company that has the best practices, other companies in that sector may rise to that higher standard in order to attract CPP investment.

Would that not be a positive result of having ethical screens?

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4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Dennis Mills Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

Madam Speaker, first, on the unethical investing or the screen that is unethical, I think it is a no-brainer. If the pension fund managers are reviewing things that are in that zone, they should decide immediately this does not reflect the value system of the House of Commons and they should repair that immediately.

On the other side, the positive ethical corporate experiences, I agree with that as well. The only thing that I think we have to be careful about in the House is that we ask people to manage funds in a way such that they are sustainable for those people who eventually have to receive those pensions, whether they be people who retire or people who are beneficiaries if someone passes away, or whether they have disabilities.

I do not think we can over-regulate them on that side, because there is a balance between making sure that they are sensitized to things that are ethically good, but at the same time they also must have a level of return that does not jeopardize the sustainability of the fund.

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4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Maria Minna Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Madam Speaker, I agree one hundred per cent with my colleague and I also agree with the motion. It is a very good motion. I must say that I find totally unacceptable the notion that companies which manufacture landmines might be subsidized by our CPP funds. Having seen when I visited Kosovo some of the effects that landmines have had on people and given the fact that we have what was called the Ottawa initiative, Canada's initiative from a former minister of foreign affair, which led the world in eliminating landmines, just using that as an example, it is not acceptable.

To me, investing in green technologies is probably one of the ways to really encourage CPP. When the Canada pension plan people came in front of the finance committee of the House of Commons, they told us that they tried very hard to make sure that they invested ethically. They told us that they try to screen as much as they can. I think it is incumbent on the House to make sure that they are encouraged--