Mr. Speaker, once again, I am pleased to rise to address Bill C-32, as I did Bill C-31, to condemn this totally unacceptable operation on the part of the government, which consists in splitting the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade into two entities, namely the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada.
I am pleased to do so, because I really feel that I am fulfilling the role of the Bloc Québécois, which is to protect the interests of Quebec and also to show Quebeckers how a sovereign Quebec would promote its values and political interestsand to use its trade policy to meet these objectives.
Unfortunately, Quebec's interests are still being defended by Canada. Therefore, we must ensure that Canada has the necessary means to adequately protect Quebec's political and economic interests at the international level. However, this will not be the case with the splitting of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
We often hear from the Liberals, and I imagine the same is true for the Conservatives and the NDP, that Canada's foreign policy and commercial policy must promote great Canadian values. I agree with this. As a Quebecker, I hope that in a sovereign Quebec, the Quebec nation will base its foreign policy, commercial policy and international representation on promoting the values of Quebec society.
Unfortunately, I think the proposal being put forward by the government does not meet these objectives. Accordingly, as defenders of Quebec's interests and promoters of Quebec's sovereignty, we will oppose this bill.
As I was saying, this bill, which is associated with Bill C-31 totally lacks transparency, and I would even describe it as anti-democratic. I will come back to that. It is totally backward and goes against Canada's approach to foreign policy for the past 30 years whereby commercial policy was used as a lever in Canadian foreign policy and aimed, in an awkward and inadequate way, I agree, at promoting the great, so-called Canadian, values of democracy, social justice, fairness and social and economic progress.
It is a decision that will set us back 30 or 40 years. It is illogical on every level. I will come back to that. Finally, this decision to split the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade is harmful to Canada's economic and political interests and likewise to Quebec's interests.
Obviously, faced with something so undemocratic, non-transparent, backward, illogical and harmful, the Bloc Québécois will vote against Bill C-32, just as it will vote against Bill C-31.
I want to remind hon. members that on December 12, 2003, the Governor General in Council passed an order in council under the Public Services Rearrangement and Transfer of Duties Act, separating the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade into two departments: Foreign Affairs Canada, and International Trade Canada.
What is extraordinary is that this order was handed down the same day the current Prime Minister was sworn in. I have said it before, but I want to say again that we are a little surprised by the speed with which the new Prime Minister was able to make such an important decision about splitting a department that, since the early 1970s, had merged these two missions: foreign affairs and international trade. We are not used to having the Liberal government act with such speed.
I can give the example of changes to the Employment Insurance Act. Since 2000, the Liberal government has been announcing, in election campaign after election campaign, a major overhaul of employment insurance to take into consideration the difficulties facing unemployed workers in seasonal industries who experience the black hole. Women and young people are not eligible for EI because they have to accumulate 910 hours of work before they can get benefits. The benefit level is insufficient, thereby creating child poverty, which the federal government is constantly condemning.
However, child poverty exists because parents are poor. And who made the parents poor? The current government did.
The government has been announcing an overhaul of EI since 2000, and we are still waiting. Obviously, we hope that, in the February 23 budget, the unemployed will see some solutions to their problems. However, this is the year 2005, and the decision still has not been made.
The same goes for the aerospace industry. During the election campaign, the government was able to announce a half a billion dollars for the auto industry, which is primarily if not almost entirely located in southern Ontario. A policy for the aerospace industry, which is primarily located in the greater Montreal region, is still under consideration. Without a decision, there can be no such policy.
The list goes on and on, and includes areas such as the clothing and textile industries. In April 2003, the Standing Committee on Finance tabled a report containing numerous proposals. The government waited until December, when there was a crisis that led to the closure of six textile mills in Huntingdon, before following up on this report. However, since June 28, the government could have taken the necessary actions to help the clothing and textile industries, which are currently experiencing a very important transition.
What is more, the measures announced in December are clearly not enough. From the questions we asked of the Minister of Industry, we have the clear impression that the government has no intention of doing any more than it announced in December. The Canadian Textile Institute itself feels these measures were inadequate and incomplete. We are still waiting for action.
The same goes for what we are discussing today. In two throne speeches, February 2004 and October 2004, new directions for foreign policy were announced. We are still waiting for them. The Minister of Foreign Affairs told the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade that he planned to do so in December. Here we are still, nearly mid-February, with no indication as to when the minister or the government plans to make these foreign affairs directions public.
This of course has an impact on the work of the committee, and in fact we are incapable of planning our work in any useful way for the coming months. We will need to consult Canadians and Quebeckers on these directions, which I repeat have been announced in two throne speeches by this government.
The Prime Minister reached a fast decision, the very same day he was sworn in. Whom did he consult? We do not know. Certainly not the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, nor the major organizations concerned by such issues, such as those involved in international solidarity or international cooperation, nor even the major coalitions of exporters or groups concerned with defending economic interests. So we are told, anyway. Who, then, was consulted that the government moved so quickly to try to split up Foreign Affairs and International Trade?
The Minister of International Affairs has given us a few ideas. When we asked him what the decision to split up the department was based on, he could not come up with an answer. Between you and me, the minister is not too thrilled with this decision by the PM. He was probably not consulted either.
Nonetheless, because he is a good soldier, the foreign affairs minister said, and I quote:
Consultations are still going on. The government has always kept communications open with large associations of exporters and other representatives of economic groups.
Later on, he added:
This time, after discussing the issue with various people, the Prime Minister decided otherwise.
What the minister is telling us is that consultations are always held. Each meeting or chat the foreign affairs minister or the international trade minister has with somebody probably qualifies as a consultation. I guess this is the kind of discussion we are dealing with here.
As I mentioned earlier, these are certainly not structured consultations. We are being told the Prime Minister has discussed this issue with various people, probably in his own entourage, and probably even before he was sworn in, since he has been able to move very quickly.
The foreign affairs minister's remarks are quite interesting. He said that, after discussing with various people, the Prime Minister decided otherwise. It means that even people in his inner circle advised him against splitting the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. He had made up his mind, but on what basis? We do not know. This decision has no analytical or political basis whatsoever. It is probably a concept that is dear to him for whatever obscure reasons that, to this day, we do not know, and that nobody has been able to explain. This is not a transparent and democratic decision. It did not draw on the usual parliamentary mechanisms.
We find ourselves faced with a fait accompli. This order in council in December 2003, followed by the tabling, a year later, of Bills C-31, An Act to establish the Department of International Trade and to make related amendments to certain Acts, and C-32, An Act to amend the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, is an attempt at setting a done deal in front of Parliament, namely the partition of the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of International Trade into two separate entities. That is profoundly anti-democratic.
I would like to remind the House that Jeffrey Simpson of the Globe and Mail was calling out for Hercule Poirot, that great detective and character invented by Agatha Christie, whose books you have probably read, imploring him to come to Ottawa to investigate whose absurd idea it was to slice up the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. It is a non-democratic, non-transparent and unfounded decision.
It is a step backwards, which is my second point. I would like to quote once again, because I think it is not well enough known by the public and the media, a letter to the chair of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, dated December 8, 2004, from the president of the Retired Heads of Mission Association. The first paragraph says it all:
Our Association, which is composed of approximately 270 former Canadian Ambassadors, High Commissioners and Consuls General, is deeply concerned about the future of the Canadian Foreign Service. Recently, we have had to come reluctantly to the conclusion that our Foreign Service is being gradually dismantled. One clear manifestation of this happening is the recent decision to split the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT).
I am not the one who says this: it is the association of retired heads of mission. The letter concludes with this:
As former diplomats and officials of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Commerce, Immigration and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), our members have personally experienced the difficulties of integrating coherently these two crucial sectors of Canada's foreign policy. Thus, we believe that the decision to partition DFAIT is unfortunate and a step backwards.
These former representatives of Canada around the world came to this conclusion based on their experience.
So, why is this backward? Why are these 270 former foreign affairs officials raising this? It is because this improv decision, until proven otherwise, the government was not able to explain the basis of this decision to us, goes against the past 30 years of integrating all elements of Canadian foreign policy within the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
Let us recall that in 1971, under Pierre Elliott Trudeau, we started integrating functions of an external nature within the Department of Foreign Affairs. Then, in 1982, trade commissioners were included, over a ten year period. There was reflection and consultation, even though Mr. Trudeau cannot be said to be the greatest democrat in the world. It was concluded that trade representatives had to be included in the Department of Foreign Affairs. Thus, since 1982, we have had the functions of foreign affairs, international trade and everything relating to immigration, particularly to refugees, and international trade.
All that was overseen by the department, and they struggled to find a measure of consistency, synergy. Besides, retired diplomats also mention it. Indeed, it is difficult to achieve consistency and synergy in all those missions. That vision of things was maintained under the Mulroney and Chrétien governments.
Of course, this is the source of a problem, because the Department of Foreign Affairs and of International Trade has not developed harmoniously, in a straight line and free of problems over the past 30 years. It had problems. These problems were due less to administrative issues, and to the fact that four missions were combined, foreign affairs, international trade, foreign aid and immigration, particularly refugee matters, in one department. They have more to do, since the beginning of the 1990s, first with the Conservatives, then with the Liberals have cut the resources of the Department of Foreign Affairs and of International Trade.
The present Prime Minister, when he was finance minister, is one of the people primarily responsible for this operation. Clearly, since there was not enough funds, choices had to be made. Officials tried to maintain the essential missions of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. They set aside or relegated the issues pertaining to foreign aid, immigration and refugees in favour of matters of foreign affairs and international trade.
Therefore, the solution, and Jeffrey Simpson shares this analysis, is not to split a department which is trying to ensure consistency in all of the functions of Canada's foreign policy, but rather to reinvest the resources necessary for this department to be able to assume its various responsibilities.
So, this is a backward decision. It is also illogical, that is the third point, because it puts the cart before the horse. The past two throne speeches have announced a review of Canada's foreign policy. Why then proceed with the administrative partition of a department as important as the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade before even debating the basis of the policy directions.
Normally, and Napoleon would agree, strategic, political decisions are made, and logistics follow. In this instance, the opposite occurred. A decision is made, and then a discussion is held on what should underlie an administrative decision. This is totally illogical. A decision is made and presented to Parliament as a fait accompli, if possible, and then a discussion of the broad directions in foreign policy will be announced.
The administrative split of the mandate of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade will taint the debate. This brings us to the other point: the fact that this decision will be harmful to Canada's economic and political interests, because separating foreign affairs from trade policy is not possible.
I will remind the hon. members that today is the 15th anniversary of Nelson Mandela's release, in 1990, which spelled the end of apartheid in South Africa. I remember very well that it did not happen out of the blue. First decisions were made by civil society, and later by governments, to boycott products from and investments in South Africa. I remember clearly that my father would not buy wine from South Africa at the Quebec liquor board. The liquor board, which might have undergone a name change during that time, was forced to stop buying wine from South Africa. I also remember a boycott on Shell to get it withdraw its investments in South Africa. These trade policy pressures, combined with diplomatic pressures, of course, paved the way for Mandela's release and the end of apartheid in South Africa.
How can we separate the two elements? When the Prime Minister recently went to Asia, whether in Japan or in China, he discussed both trade policies and foreign affairs. You cannot go to China and only speak of international trade without addressing the human rights issue. When he went to Japan, the Prime Minister discussed the upcoming G-8 summit on climate change. This and the Kyoto protocol are linked both to foreign affairs and to international trade.
Splitting the department in two will weaken both Canadian foreign policy and trade policy at the same time. The ambassadors will only be accountable for their diplomatic performance. They will no longer be accountable to the Minister of International Trade. Indeed, Canada will lose on both fronts, economic and political.
For all these reasons, you will understand that we cannot support this kind of hare-brained improvisation, which will ultimately be detrimental to the interests of Canada and, consequently, those of Quebec.