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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

FinanceOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Wascana Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, first, of course, I must totally reject the preamble to the hon. gentleman's question.

I am very pleased to announce that I shall bring down my first budget for the Government of Canada in the House of Commons on March 23, 2004, at 4 p.m.

Presence in GalleryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

I would like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of the Honourable Dragoljub Micunovic, President of the Parliament of Serbia and Montenegro.

Presence in GalleryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, during question period today the right hon. Prime Minister, in response to a question from the member for Edmonton—Strathcona, referred specifically to a document. He read from a document in which he referenced a sponsorship program that was accessed by the member's riding. This was in response to a question about a Liberal Party slush fund, which was the subject of much debate here in question period today.

In terms of protocol in the House, I would ask that the specific document to which the Prime Minister referred be tabled. We would ask that the document be put on the table. The Minister of Public Works did the same thing.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Winnipeg South Manitoba

Liberal

Reg Alcock LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, the list that the Prime Minister read from has been tabled in the House twice. We can table it a third time if they like but it is the same list. We are quite willing to table it again.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

Since the matter has already been tabled we have that assurance.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

We do not know that.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

The minister said it. The member can go and look at it. If he has a dispute about it we will hear it later. We accept a member's word for these things in the House. That is the standard practice. The minister said that it has been tabled and that is that.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wish to seek unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That Motion No. 542, standing in my name be removed from the Order Paper and replaced with the text of a new motion, seconded by the member for Edmonton—Strathcona, the member for Trois-Rivières and the member for Burnaby—Douglas, which reads:

That this House declare April 7 as a Day of Remembrance of the victims of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, and encourage all Canadians, including the government, to take appropriate steps on that day to commemorate the genocide and to reflect upon its lessons.

I ask that the motion be carried forthwith without debate.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is there unanimous consent of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

Point of OrderOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

I am now ready to rule on the point of order raised on Thursday, February 19, by the honourable member for Roberval and House Leader for the Bloc Quebecois. The event at issue occurred during question period.

In his argument, the honourable member stated that he had been prevented from asking, and I quote, “a question on what is […] a government operation.”

When the point of order was raised, I indicated that I clearly considered the member’s first question out of order, but that I would look again at his second question. I did so very carefully, and I am convinced that the nature of the two questions was the same, in that they both concerned the funding of political parties. Such questions are contrary to our practices as described in House of Commons Procedure and Practice and in Beauchesne’s 6th edition, page 124, citation 410, which reads as follows:

The subject matter of questions must be within the collective responsibility of the Government or the individual responsibilities of Ministers.

(…) Ministers may not be questioned with respect to party responsibilities

I therefore remain convinced that the questions asked by the honourable member were out of order.

I would point out, however, that the arguments made by the honourable member in raising the point of order were extremely eloquent. Their context was much clearer than during question period, because he established the link between the funding of political parties and the administrative responsibilities of the government. If his initial questions had been worded in this manner, they would certainly have been ruled in order.

Members must remember that during such periods of heated debate the tone and wording of questions is of capital importance.

I thank the honourable member for Roberval for raising this matter.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

February 24th, 2004 / 3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

I am also prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on February 18, 2004 by the hon. President of the Treasury Board and Minister Responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board alleging that a document tabled earlier that day by the hon. member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough was incomplete.

I would like to thank the hon. President of the Treasury Board for having raised this question, as well as the hon. members for St. John's West, Scarborough—Rouge River, Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, and Provencher for their contributions to the discussion.

In drawing the attention of the Chair to this matter, the President of the Treasury Board stated that the document tabled by the hon. member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, a 1994 internal memo from the office of the then minister of finance, originally contained five pages and that the tabled document contained only two of those pages. He argued that since the document was incomplete, the House had been misled and that this constituted a contempt.

The hon. member for Pictou-Antigonish-Guysborough asserted that he had sought unanimous consent to table the material in his possession and that, on receiving consent, he had tabled that material, namely the two-page document in dispute.

The Chair heard these arguments and can only conclude that what we have before us is a dispute as to facts. The hon. member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough tabled a two page document, that being all that he had in his possession. Unanimous consent of the House was required before the hon. member could table that document. Consent was duly requested and received and the document was tabled.

Now the hon. President of the Treasury Board has tabled a five page document. The matter would seem to be closed. Readers of the parliamentary debates and the sessional papers can draw their own conclusions. It is not for the Chair to adjudicate in such matters.

This is a matter of debate and members will, I am sure, avail themselves of the usual means at their disposal to resolve this matter. It is certainly not something on which the Chair can be asked to rule and it does not constitute a prima facie breach of the privileges of the House in my finding.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Alex Shepherd Liberal Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, before question period I was talking about the importance of the so-called cohorts of the Canadian economy and the existence of a significant population in Canada called baby boomers. Canada's baby boom population is the largest in the western world based on demographics. This means that in the Canadian context a huge portion of our labour force will be retiring within the next 20 years.

This will be the greatest change economically to our system in the lifetime of our country. Normally there is a level playing field between new workers coming into the workforce and other workers exiting the workforce. We are going to see a tremendous exodus of workers. This has been predicated by a number of things.

Some people have been saving for their retirement and have been looking forward to it. Other people have been forced to retire because of the mandatory retirement age in Canada which is an issue that is currently under debate. Needless to say, a lot of people between the ages of 55 and 60 see retirement on the horizon.

When people would come to my office wanting to discuss retirement, the first question I would ask them would be when they were going to die. The bottom line is that most people do not want to think about their mortality. Most people want to think they are going to live forever. This makes insurance companies rich because they know that is just not the case.

The simple reality is that people are living longer now compared to 20 to 50 years ago. Those years create quite a challenge for income planners and for people who are trying to make ends meet. For one thing we do not know what the inflationary factor will be. Currently, inflation numbers have been relatively low, but historically that has not always been the case. Those living on fixed incomes are always concerned about what is going to happen to their retirement income.

Today's debate is apropos. As I mentioned earlier, the Canada pension plan is one of the three pillars of our pension system.

The first pillar is the old age pension for which everyone is eligible regardless of whether they worked or not. Unfortunately it is income tested. Those individuals who are wealthy get a certain portion of that clawed back through the income tax system.

The bottom line is that everyone is eligible for the old age pension, the first pillar but there is also the guaranteed income supplement goes along with that. It basically ensures that most people will get at least something in the neighbourhood of $12,000 a year. Most of us recognize that $12,000 is significantly below the poverty line set for various provinces; I believe generally speaking it is about $20,000. Anyone living strictly on old age pension and the guaranteed income supplement will be under significant pressure economically.

The second pillar of the retirement plan is the Canada pension plan which we are talking about today. For many Canadians this along with the old age pension will be the only income that they will receive in their retirement.

I used to practise as an accountant. I can remember that a number of clients would come to me to file their income tax returns because it was the only way they could get what in those days was called the Ontario tax credit. I was quite surprised at the number of people who fell into this group and were trying to make ends meet on this very limited amount of income.

When we talk about poverty, many of us think about single moms and so forth who obviously do live in poverty, but there are many single women, many seniors generally who live in poverty in this country. It is really quite a shock and quite a shame. I always call them the silent poor. They do not stand outside Parliament waving signs and so forth and complaining. They hardly ever write to their members of Parliament. They seem to bear this as a charitable plight on our society, but these people are not receiving enough income to live in dignity.

We should always be concerned that the income level be reinforced. In fact, I have always been one who has supported increasing the guaranteed income supplement to ensure that some of those people have at least a little more money than they currently have.

Today we are talking about the second pillar which is the Canada pension plan. In order to get the Canada pension plan the individual must have worked, must have had contributory earnings. Many people have chosen to stay at home and are unable to access the Canada pension plan in the first place.

Be that as it may, the government realized that the Canada pension plan needed to be reformed a number of years ago. It took some very significant measures to ensure that the Canada pension plan would be sustainable, that is to say, there would be an income flow from that plan to people who were eligible to receive it.

One of the second parts of reforming the plan was to allow the Canada pension plan to go into market driven investments. Prior to that the Canada pension plan was lent back to the provinces. The federal government basically lent the money back to the provinces. The provinces then issued provincial government bonds and basically built most of the schools. As I understand it, most of the schools in this country came from Canada pension plan money.

The unfortunate aspect is that while some people would say that the provincial government debt was pretty secure, at the same time it also had a very low yield. With regard to this yield, some people ask what is the difference between 4% and 5%? Quite frankly, 1% of deviation on investment capital extrapolated over 20 or 30 years is quite significant.

It was realized that if the Canada pension plan was going to be sustainable, it had to be invested in other areas of the economy that would at least give us a fairly good rate of return. When I say a good rate of return, most investment managers try to balance their portfolios and put so much of their money maybe in fixed income government securities, investment grade rated corporate bonds, and then look at the securities markets. They look at the debt ratings. Moody's, Standard & Poor's, Dominion Bond Rating Services are some of the agencies that they use to ensure that these investments are secure.

The motion before us today talks about changing that criteria. It talks about adding another criteria and basically talks about generalities, something called Canadian values. I dare say that to think of the broad range in Canadian values, it would be very difficult to do that in a guidance system for an investment portfolio. Obviously some person's values whether it was to do with the steel industry or something else could be quite different from another person's. It is a very subjective argument about how we want the Canada pension plan to operate in the first place.

I go back to the history of the Canada pension plan and why it is set up the way it is. People generally thought there would not be enough money to sustain the plan and to ensure that people would get an adequate income from it.

It seems to me that the motion attacks the very assumptions that were made that established the board in the first place. It asks them to consider some other kinds of criteria which are not primarily related to return on investment.

Some people will suggest that using the return on investment as the sole criterion gets some strange results in the sense that presumably we may invest in industries that pollute or whatever the case may be. I suggest it is not the import of those people who are doing the investing; it is the import of government.

If the government sees illegal activity occurring within the economy generally, it is within the power of the government, whether it be federal, provincial or municipal, to regulate and to enforce pollution control and pollution abatement. There are various ways of doing that. There is no history, as I understand it, that the Canada pension plan has ever invested in illegal activities.

I believe that we have to reject this motion because it is certainly not predicated on the best interests of Canadians generally.

I go back to saying that with the money that is actually in the Canada pension plan, there is a trust established between the people of Canada and their government. The trust is that we will put the money in this plan, that it will be managed safely and appropriately but that at the same time there will also be a proper return on investment.

I go back to the pressure that is being created by the demographics of our nation. I just want to turn to the original motion of the NDP which talks about Canadian values. There is no more important value, I do not think, than people retiring and living in dignity. People worry that the money coming from the Canada pension plan may not be adequate enough, and most people would suggest it is not in any case. Even if the money were less adequate than it is today because of investment management decisions that we as a legislature superimposed on the Canada pension plan, it seems ludicrous that we would want to threaten those people who live on fixed incomes or who depend on money coming from the Canada pension plan, that we would be prepared to take more risk, or if not more risk, to take less return on investment.

An interesting study has been done on so-called ethical mutual funds. I am not complaining about these funds; I am just looking at the sole aspect of return on investment. There are a number of them and I have never heard of them because I am not interested. There is Acuity Clean Environment Balanced fund, Acuity Clean Environment Equity fund, Desjardins Environment fund, Ethical Special Equity fund, Ethical Balanced fund, Ethical Growth fund, and Ethical North American fund. The one thing all these funds have in common is that they are underperforming their own indexes within the mutual fund business; that is to say they are all underperformers.

The point I am trying to make is that twisting the arms of people who are managing the Canada pension plan, making them make decisions which are not in the best interests of the beneficiaries of those plans, who are Canadian citizens, is not in the best interests for the long term social values that I believe this country was founded on. I suggest that the whole motion by the New Democratic Party is a fallacy and it should be rejected by the House.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Brossard—La Prairie Québec

Liberal

Jacques Saada LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister responsible for Democratic Reform

Madam Speaker, I would just like to bring to your attention that Bill C-21 will be referred to committee before second reading.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Madam Speaker, there is no intention on my behalf or on the behalf of the New Democratic Party to mislead Canadians or to misrepresent. There is documented evidence that ethical funds do provide profit.

This morning my colleague from Winnipeg Centre mentioned a number. The investment sector does not recommend that investments be based on a one year or two year period. Even those who are not all out investors get that much of a message from the investment companies. Investments should be based over a longer period of time. There are companies that over the course of 10 years do not show a 10% profit but do show a 1% profit. I think the member needs to be clear for Canadians that in the last number of years a lot of funds have lost money. I think it would be misleading to suggest that only ethical funds may have lost money over a couple of years, because that has happened overall.

Quite frankly, the investments of the CPP pension plan board lost $2 billion for the CPP fund. I cannot imagine that the ethical funds would have done any worse.

What we believe should be happening and what we suggest as part of the CPP fund is investment in Canada. We are not suggesting a loss or that we not try to support the program. Obviously we care very dearly about the Canada pension plan. We fought for the Canada pension plan. We know it is probably the best plan in the world and will make a contribution to the most people throughout the country.

We are not going to want to see it devastated, but we know that an investment in Canada using CPP funds will mean dollars coming back in. That is an investment in Canada. Quite frankly, as someone who pays into CPP, it does mean more to me that it goes to something ethical. I do not want my funds going into tobacco companies and landmines. I do not want them going into environmental degradation. The cost of repairing those things is far greater and it is far more important that it not happen.

I think Canadian values are along the lines that I believe, not what I am hearing here today, which is that money should be the only option, that we are just going to look at how much money that one little sector makes and not look at the consequences. That is not acceptable in this day and age.

It is not acceptable.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Alex Shepherd Liberal Durham, ON

First, Madam Speaker, I can understand that the individual member may be concerned about how her money is invested in this plan, but I can tell the House as a general comment that the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board is a fiduciary agent for all the people in Canada, not just the individual member of Parliament. It has to take some kind of criteria that all the people of Canada are going to agree to. One of those things is that it has a fair and reasonable rate of return.

Some of the investment funds that I quoted were in fact over a five year period. Statistically speaking, those funds were significantly underperforming their indices within the market.

Finally, it is very important to realize what we are talking about here: ethical behaviour. How do we measure this? It is very subjective. If it is a legal activity in Canada, then that can be the only criteria that an investment board can use. If it is not illegal, then it must be a legal thing that we can invest in. We are trying to make a judgment call on people that goes beyond some kind of basic rule of law, some kind of feeling of judgment or something which is just not part of investment criteria.

The member talked about some of the companies. The tobacco industry, unfortunately, is not an illegal activity in Canada. There are many others: the medical science industry, Nortel Networks, all the technology companies, and some of the great and wonderful things we do as a nation. We as Canadians can take some great pride that we are investing in our country. The vast majority of funds in the Canada pension plan is invested in this country to keep Canadians working and to give opportunities to Canadians. I think that is just what the board was originally set up to do.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

My colleague may not like the response, but there is a reality. He said that what we should judge it on is whether it is illegal or legal in Canada. I can tell the House that we have a treaty. Canada has signed a landmine treaty to abolish landmines and not to support the building of landmines. The CPP pension fund is invested in companies that make landmines. That is not acceptable. What if the CPP board decides to invest in a company that produces pornography which uses children and which is okay in some other country but not in Canada?

There are standards set out by the ILO on labour conditions throughout the world. There are human rights issues. What if the CPP pension plan is invested in those companies when worldwide it is not seen as acceptable?

We know that human rights conditions in Indonesia and China and situations in Africa and numerous other countries are not acceptable. Is it okay that the pension funds are invested in those companies? Does the member think it is okay for Canada to be investing in countries that wipe out citizens so that they can get to the diamond mines? Does the member think it is okay to invest in companies that go into and literally rape a country's environment? Is it okay for the member that Canada pension funds should be invested in those activities?

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Alex Shepherd Liberal Durham, ON

Madam Speaker, the short answer of course is no. I can agree with the theory. The theory is whether the Canada pension plan board should be investing in industries that subject labour to practices which we would not accept, et cetera.

I understand what she is trying to say, but the problem is due diligence. How much information is the investment board supposed to have?

The reality is that there are many people in this country who would invest in stocks of various companies that have huge reaches around the world, and it may well be that one small part of a company's operation somewhere in Indonesia or elsewhere has some kind of blemish on it. I am not saying that is an excuse, but it is the question of who knows. It is the question of knowledge.

Let us say that I invest in XYZ Ltd., which is a multi-billion dollar corporation, and it owns some small operation indirectly or has a joint venture somewhere where people are being made to work 20 hours a day or something like that. If we do not know that, are we responsible for the investment? Or is she suggesting that we have to somehow investigate every company that is available for investment all over the world for their world activities to quantify what it is that they are doing to make judgment calls?

The point of the matter is that this is not the criteria of an investment board. The investment board, while it takes some of those things into consideration, cannot be responsible for all of the activities of any company that it invests in. It tries to be responsible, but the reality is that it cannot ultimately be responsible for everything that is going on in the world. It just does not have the resources to do that kind of due diligence.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Madam Speaker, no one is suggesting that if people do not know that a company is doing something, they should be responsible for investing in them.

What about the companies that we do know are creating those situations, that we do know are not adhering to labour standards, and that we do know are doing wrong to the environment? That is what we are saying.

We are not saying just anybody; it just cannot be done. There is documented evidence. There are groups all over the world that conduct investigations and get the information that way. The proof is there. That is why we have had situations such as Talisman oil and its investments, which ended up having to readjust the way it was doing business. It was recognized that it was investing in what ended up being a sort of rebel activity and in stuff that was not good in that country.

If people do not know, no one is suggesting they should not invest, but if they do know that tobacco companies are targeting young people, children, by selling tobacco in third world countries--and that information is coming out now--if people do know that a company is using five year olds and six year olds to make toys and rugs, we should not allow those companies to be invested in. That is what we are saying. We are not suggesting that no one can invest anywhere. But if the information is there, we should not be investing in those companies.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Alex Shepherd Liberal Durham, ON

First, Madam Speaker, that is predicated on the assumption that this is all known, understood, documented and agreed on, whatever this activity is, which I suspect is questionable.

There is one other aspect to this assumption, which is that we should even be restricting the countries that we invest in because we are saying those countries do not have laws that protect their people adequately and so forth.

The problem with the flip side of this is that we get no investment. Some of those countries need foreign direct investment to help their people, to bring them along and to raise their income.

The hon. member will probably talk about the maquiladoras region of Mexico. The reality is that the Mexican economy and the average Mexican life and standard of living have been better ever since the World Trade Organization, but that same member would say what was said 20 years ago: that we should not be investing, that we should not be allowing our country to invest in Mexico because the labour practices are a lot different from ours and therefore we are subsidizing an inadequate or inferior labour force. The reality is that this has been a success. Those people's lives have been made better.

I really question this subjective argument that we know everything going on in every country, and I also question whether we can override the laws of an individual country by refusing to actually invest because of some subjective argument that we believe in. When the member talks about these things, sure, we can all sympathize with her. We all sympathize with the idea. None of us here would agree with child labour and some of these things. Clearly these are things that I think any corporate executives, if they knew about it or had knowledge of it, would not be involved in and would not invest in.

Having said that, let me say that if we try to change the actual investment criteria of the Canada pension board to make it somehow responsible, such that somehow it is supposed to know all of these things, suddenly we will have a huge overhead structure in which the people can be intransigent and will be unable to make good investment decisions.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Canadian Alliance Calgary East, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak to the motion brought forward by the NDP dealing with ethical behaviours for the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.

On the surface the motion looks like a feel good motion. The way the NDP has worded it, no one will say we should not be doing this because companies that are unethical will not have the support of the people of Canada and neither will they have the support of the shareholders. This is the kind of motion that is a great idea on the surface and idealistically everything looks fine.

As I was listening to my colleague from the NDP talking about child labour, the raping of the environment and these kinds of situations, of course Canadians are concerned, and on listening to this they will say that they do not want to support any companies that go into third world countries and rape the environment or break labour standards or labour codes. That is exactly what the motion is all about. It is all about the NDP trying to make a everyone feel good.

The problem is that when we go deeper into the motion and listen to what the member was saying, it is like the sky is falling. It is totally devoid of facts, totally devoid of common sense and totally devoid of how things work in reality.

This morning I thought I heard the member talk about how these companies were somehow associated with al-Qaeda. I did not hear exactly what she said but I was quite surprised to hear her talking about al-Qaeda. What does the Canada pension plan have to do with al-Qaeda, except for the fact that from their point of view they have to dramatize things to imply that the sky is falling and that we have to do something about it? It is a typical Liberal strategy.

Let us take a look at the record of the NDP in dealing with the economy. I come from Alberta, which is right next to British Columbia, and when the NDP was ruling in British Columbia with its high taxes, non-common sense approach to the economy, we suddenly had an influx of people coming into Alberta from British Columbia because they could not find jobs. We know the impact in the province of Alberta when the economy in British Columbia goes down because people move from British Columbia over into Alberta.

As a matter of fact, Madam Speaker, in your own riding in the Okanagan Valley people could not find jobs when the NDP was ruling there so they moved to Alberta where there were jobs because of sound fiscal management.

The motion talks about these feel good situations but there are no sound fiscal ideas behind it. It is devoid of reality. It is a situation where one might agree that we have to do it, but let us talk for a second about the Canada pension plan.

On the contrary maybe nothing is happening, as they are suggesting we should not do this and that. I do not even understand when there is such a big scandal in this country. The Liberals are being held accountable. When every Canadian wants to know the truth of where that $100 million went, where does the NDP focus its attention? It focuses it on bringing forward a motion like this. Maybe when we have nothing else to do in the House we can discuss these things at that given time, but right now, when there is a scandal plagued government on that side and Canadians want answers, what do we have? We have a motion like this from the NDP.

Let us discuss the motion. I beg to differ with my hon. colleague on the other side when he says that the Canada pension plan is a great plan to take care of Canadians when they retire. That is nonsense. I have met with many seniors in my riding who are receiving Canada pensions and they tell me that the plan has failed as a safety net. They live on fixed incomes which are subject to slight increases.

We recognized that the Canada pension plan was not the vehicle to do that and therefore brought in the old age security. Even then, the old age security has put seniors who are on fixed incomes, living without subsidized housing, without other benefits, into a very tight situation.

The question we should be asking is whether the Canada pension plan is a real retirement plan. No, it is not. When CPP was first brought into the House we had discussions and found that there were serious flaws in the way it was designed and handled, and in the way it was set to look after the needs of seniors. The younger generation has no more confidence in the Canada pension plan.

The government recognized all those things, which was why it introduced the RRSPs and other things asking Canadians to be responsible for their own retirement fund. They did not want Canadians relying on the government.

About two or three years ago we had a debate when the premiums were raised. At that time we pointed out again that there were serious flaws in the Canada pension plan with the premiums and that it did not meet the requirements of the future generation, as the baby boomers get older and Canada pension plan unfunded liability increases. This is a well known fact.

We need the Canada pension plan to be in a sound fiscal position and one in which everyone contributes. Whatever it gives, it gives, so that it is there not as a complete safety net but at some point as a safety net. To do that we have to give the Canada pension plan board leeway as to where it can invest because investment is the key to where it will get its return so it is able to meet some of its obligations. I have to say some of its obligations because those premiums are not going to meet the full obligations. The way it is designed it will not meet the full obligations.

Having said that, can we now come along and say to the Canada pension plan board that it cannot do this or that? What do we base that on? Is it based on some notions out there? That is true, it is based on the NDP's notion that it is unethical and based on the fact that we are directing the board in what to do. This creates a danger.

My friends in the NDP should know that there are laws that prevent companies from polluting the environment, that prevent companies from going into third world countries and raping the environment. We have laws to charge them. We now have the ILO. We have signed the convention on child labour.

We are looking at many of the issues to which the NDP members have spoken, such as unfair labour practices, the environment and everything. We have laws in this country that will ensure that those companies are penalized. If they are penalized and charged their value on the stock market is practically zero.

Why are we sitting here asking that the Canada pension board be guided by ethical investment policies and telling it that it cannot do this or that? Members of that board are prudent managers and they will put the money into sound companies where they can get the best return.

I think I have already made my major point in saying why I will not support the motion put forward by the NDP. I would support the motion if it had concerned strengthening the child labour laws in third world countries. We would support a motion if it concerned enforcing environment laws for companies that rape the environment. However we will definitely not support a motion concerning some fuzzy buzzy situation about some company doing this or that.

We have other ways and means of doing those things but the motion before us today is not one of them. We should leave the Canada pension plan board to do its work. It is being run by competent people who can make the right decisions. As far as we are concerned, the board is already under severe stress and it will face more and more stress as more and more Canadians lose confidence in the Canada pension plan.

I do not have much confidence in the Canada pension plan being able to look after my retirement, and I am sure many Canadians feel the same way. As a matter of fact, some other countries are looking at ways of financing their own pension plans and many have different forms of pension plans.

A suggestion was made by the Canadian Alliance, and now by the Conservative Party, that there should be self-directed RRSPs for this thing. If our friends on the NDP side do not like one company for one reason or another, they do not have to buy stocks in that company. However to come along and try to direct the board on notions and vague ideas, that it is a mistake.

The member alluded to the Talisman being in Sudan. She should know that it was the public opinion in the country that made the Talisman move out. The Talisman moved out because its shares were not reflecting its true value. That is the public thing she should do, not come along and put forward this kind of motion.

What happened? The public put pressure on the company because its shares were not reflecting their true value. It sold a profitable business out to a company. Now what? Sudan now has a company and nobody can do anything about it. If they have anything, let the public know and if they do not want to let it ride, the shares will fall down and nobody will buy their shares.

However the NDP should not come in here with all these fuzzy words that we should not invest in the Canada pension. In all likelihood the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board will not put money into companies like the tobacco companies or companies that are building landmines. Who would want to invest in those sorts of things?

I do not know where the NDP members get their facts. Maybe they do have the facts to say that the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board put money in those things. We do not even know about all those things.

It is difficult to support the motion because it is devoid of facts and has nothing to do with the reality of what is happening. It is just a motion with an idea.

As I said before, the Liberal government is facing one of the biggest scandals in the history of Canada and what do we have? We have a motion like this.

Let us talk about the scandal for a second where $100 million, boom, went down. The Minister of Environment spent money on a festival and then they start trotting out little documents saying that they sent money to other members' ridings.

Does the House know what the Liberals do? They do not for ask my approval. They send the money because they want to buy votes. They did not send the money because of some great festival. That is nonsense. It was pure vote buying. Then they say that I have seen it, that it has come across my table. The Prime Minister does not have to stand up and read it. I can tell him because I get something that says “Mr. MP, send your approval”. Even though I do not, the money gets sent anyway. They do not ask me. Then they stand up as if somehow I am associated with the scandal over there. Where does the money go? The money goes to buy votes in my riding. The Liberals were kicked out in my riding. Canadians are not foolish nor are they stupid. They know when the Liberals are trying to buy their votes.

The finance minister mentioned today that the budget that will come down on the March 23. Hopefully it will not tell Canadians that the Liberals will buy their votes by giving them goods. As a matter of fact, the member sitting across will go to Toronto and talk about the great money he will spend to do things. That is buying votes. He is being challenged in his riding.

This whole business of using Canadian taxpayer money to buy votes has to stop. Canadians are saying that, and hopefully they will say it at the polls. For the first time Canadians are showing real anger with the way the Liberals have managed the money. It is terrible the way Liberals have managed the money. The anger is coming out, and they recognize it because the polls are showing it.

We should debate in the House how best to use Canadian taxpayers money. When the Liberals mismanage it, we then stand in the House ask the questions so Canadians have the answers.

To get back to the motion, it is difficult for my party to support it. Before my friends in the NDP get up and say that the sky is falling, the sky is not falling. We have different reasons why we do not support the motion.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Dennis Mills Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to ask the member for Calgary East a very specific question. He talked about the fact that whenever governments invested in infrastructure or special projects to help make our cities, our communities better, this was government buying votes.

The member is from Calgary. Does he feel that the billions of dollars over the 10 to 12 years that have gone into the oil and gas business in his community, through direct grants and tax cuts, and the hundreds of millions of dollars that have gone into the agricultural sector in his province, is also considered as the Government of Canada trying to buy votes? Does he not believe that those industries are entitled to this chamber, the House of Commons, working hard to ensure that they can compete and are supported so that they are globally sustainable?