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House of Commons Hansard #38 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was land.

Topics

The Armenian PeopleAdjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.

Liberal

André Harvey Liberal Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I understand that the representatives of the Bloc are not here to find solutions, but rather to focus on the problems.

This is the approach they take to every issue, be it health, employment insurance, or anything else. In this particular instance, the government is working along with the provincial governments, while respecting jurisdictions.

I am certain that, if my Bloc colleague made a comparative study of gas prices around the world, he would realize that we are not the worst off. The government is putting measures in place to promote the development of better energy sources and thus impact on all environmental considerations. Ultimately, the costs to all Canadian consumers will be far lower.

Even on the international level, I am certain that steps taken by the various governments, within jurisdictional limits, will contribute to lower resource prices.

The Armenian PeopleAdjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Canadian Alliance Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to respond to the manner in which the Minister of Foreign Affairs chose to answer my question which I asked on behalf of the farmers and the softwood lumbers producers in my riding of Renfrew--Nipissing--Pembroke.

Canadian exporters rely upon an open border. Diplomatic relations with our closest and largest trading partner must be a number one priority.

The Canadian consulate in Washington is our most important diplomatic posting. The Minister of Foreign Affairs knows full well that the ambassador position in Washington has been used by this government as a patronage plumb in the same way that ambassador postings around the world are being used as dumping grounds for old Liberal Party hacks.

The minister also knows that the current posting to Washington has expired. The minister knows that John Manley was offered the spot--

The Armenian PeopleAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member knows that she cannot refer to hon. members by name. I assume that she means the hon. member for Ottawa South and she will want to make sure she refrains from using members' names in discussion in the House.

The Armenian PeopleAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Canadian Alliance Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thought he had retired.

The hon. member for Ottawa South was offered this spot but refused to go because he assumed there would be another leadership convention after the upcoming election. He figured it would be better to plot here in the capital than to be run out of the country by a dictatorial Prime Minister who knows no compassion when it comes to dealing with his rivals.

Rather than trying to insinuate something that is not, the government should also know that loading up ambassadorial postings with Liberal Party hacks is causing a morale problem with our foreign service. Many retired heads of missions look back nostalgically on the days when promotions were made on the basis of merit and Canada was a leader in diplomacy.

There was a time when the Canadian foreign service attracted the brightest and the best. Nothing can be more insulting than spending 30 or 35 years in the foreign service and then getting squeezed out on the basis of not what one knows but who one knows.

We enjoyed a good reputation around the world. Canada's role has been marginalized by an indifferent government that rarely backs up words with action. Denmark was so insulted when the government dumped Alfonso Gagliano in their country as ambassador that it responded by invading Canada and claiming a piece of our territory in the high Arctic.

While Canadians were asking what the Danes did to deserve this kind of treatment, the Danes were busy raising their flag on Canadian soil. No wonder the Danes acted the way they did.

The Armenian PeopleAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

Kings—Hants Nova Scotia

Liberal

Scott Brison LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister (Canada-U.S.)

Mr. Speaker, the member has attacked the reputation of our foreign service officials and in fact, with her pernicious and misinformed attack, has actually done more to hurt the morale of our foreign service than she realizes.

It is a misinformed attack because, first, we recognize the importance of the Canada-U.S. relationship as our most important external relationship and the complexity of that relationship. That is why we must ensure that the position of ambassador to the United States continues to be filled by a qualified individual. I can assure everyone that is indeed the case.

The position has been staffed, for instance, for the last three and a half years by a competent career diplomat with over 35 years of foreign service experience. She mentions that people with 30 to 35 years of experience in the foreign service are getting pushed aside. This is somebody with 35 years of foreign service experience representing the interests of Canada across the world and making a difference, and the hon. member has attacked and impugned his reputation.

I want to point out very clearly that the individual I mentioned is a career foreign service official who has defended the interests of Canadians valiantly over a career of 35 years, and his position did not expire in October. That is another piece of misinformation that the hon. member has come to the House unprepared to explain today.

As order in council appointments, ambassadors serve at the pleasure of the Prime Minister, rather than for a fixed period of time. For administrative purposes, by and large, the heads of mission assignments are established for a period between two and four years, plus any extensions depending upon the location.

If we were to review the history of the ambassadors to the U.S., we would see that the position has been held for periods of anywhere from one year, in terms of John de Chastelain, to eight years for Allan Gottlieb from 1981 to 1989. Most ambassadors to the U.S., however, have a period of four years or more.

Our current ambassador presented his letters of credence to President Clinton on October 19, 2000. He has therefore yet to reach the three and a half year mark in his term. He has not even served four years.

While in Washington, I can tell everyone that our current ambassador, supported by a talented and dedicated group of officials, has and continues to work diligently to defend and promote Canadian political, economic and trade interests in the United States.

Here at home, as the president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce recently said about our Prime Minister, “this Prime Minister gets it when it comes to Canada-U.S. relations”.

We are taking a more sophisticated approach to Canada-U.S. relations. In addition to my appointment as Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, we now have a cabinet committee on Canada-U.S. relations, a cabinet committee chaired by the Prime Minister that deals with, across departments and ministries, issues of relevance to Canada-U.S. relations.

Beyond that, through the enhanced representation initiative, we are increasing by 50% our missions and our representations in the U.S. over the next year. We are also setting up a secretariat in Washington that will help support the efforts of legislators, from both sides of the House and from all parties, in an effort to defend Canadian interests when they are building relationships with other legislators.

The fact is that we are strengthening our representation in the U.S. by 50% and we will be serving the interests of Canadians.

The Armenian PeopleAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Canadian Alliance Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, how demoralized the current ambassador to Washington must feel as a career diplomat. As soon as the current Prime Minister was sworn in, the first thing he wanted to do was replace him with someone he felt was a threat to his leadership.

I want to go back to the appointment to Denmark. Even though the Prime Minister fired Alfonso Gagliano, the damage was done. Now the Prime Minister has finally decided to travel to Washington. It should be funny to see what kind of photos the Prime Minister's handlers allow to be sent back to Canada. If he is being too chummy with the United States president, the socialists cannot wait to attack. If the Prime Minister does not at least make some attempt to repair relations with our largest trading partner, the tens of thousands of Canadians who were relying on--

The Armenian PeopleAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.

The Speaker

I am afraid the hon. member's time has expired.

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister.

The Armenian PeopleAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, as I was discussing prior to the cellphone of the hon. member interrupting our discourse, I want to assure the hon. member that as a government we are committed to strengthening Canada-U.S. relations, a relationship that is strong, functional and effective in defending our interests in Washington.

The Prime Minister made substantive and symbolic progress in his meeting with the president in Monterrey. In fact, it was after that meeting that President Bush said he recognized that the BSE issue was not simply a Canadian issue but a Canada-U.S. issue, that we have an integrated beef industry and, as such, we ought to work together on both sides of the border at the official and the political levels to reach a common, science based approach which will enable us to defend that interest anywhere in the world.

That is what we are committed to as a government. That is what we are working to achieve. I would hope that all members of the House from all parties will continue to work to those efforts. We will continue to support that engagement.

The Armenian PeopleAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.

The Speaker

It being 7:05 p.m., the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:05 p.m.)