This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #154 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was icsid.

Topics

Settlement of International Investment Disputes ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Liberal Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I understand the concerns raised by the hon. member.

With respect to free trade and investment, I think the member understands full well that we are a trading nation with a population of 32 million and to ensure our quality of life we need to trade with other nations. However, make no mistake about it, we are also the party of fair trade. We will do everything in our capacity to ensure we promote that in every aspect where we have an opportunity to do so.

We have the South Korean free trade agreement that is potentially being negotiated right now, which the minister has indicated he wants to sign. It is our party that will ensure we stand up for Canadians and ensure there is a level playing field for Canadian companies trying to do trade investment abroad.

Bill C-53 is a very important tool and, as he has indicated, it has been around since the 1960s. Not only has it been around for a long time, it has also been implemented at the provincial levels. It is about time the federal government shows some leadership or at least follows the direction given by the provincial governments.

This is a very simple, straightforward process. It is very transparent. It is a very fair arbitration process. I think the member would agree that this is the tool we need for investment purposes that will generate Canadian jobs and Canadian wealth so Canadians can have a good quality of life.

Settlement of International Investment Disputes ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, when the member referenced the softwood lumber treaty in his speech, many here were quite perplexed. He also talked about, not just free trade but fair trade when we go about trading with our neighbours to the south.

There was great concern because $1 billion, from what all of us understand, were left on the table. Some of us were quite concerned that this perhaps was pandering to special interest groups.

In his speech he also mentioned some of the economic missteps in the budget, such as the broken promise on income trusts, and now there is a second train of thought that what we are seeing is not pandering to special interests but perhaps just plain incompetence.

I was wondering if the member could perhaps elaborate on what this incompetence is costing Canadians.

Settlement of International Investment Disputes ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Liberal Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, what my colleague touches upon is very important. It is a trend that we have seen now with the current Conservative government of incompetence. It is really rooted in the fact that the Conservatives make policy decisions based on political expediency. They develop poor public policy around the fact that they can get around the Canadian public by developing gimmicks, but it has caught up to them.

The softwood lumber agreement, as he indicated, was a completely flawed deal that really damaged Canada's credibility in our trade relationship with the United States. It left over $1 billion in the hands of the U.S. government and the fair lumber industry. It not only imposed a quota system that has impaired and damaged our industry's ability to expand broadly but it has impaired our sovereignty as well.

He is completely right about this trend continuing with the income trust broken promise and the interest deductibility reversal that we saw yesterday.

Settlement of International Investment Disputes ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the member a question in regard to the procedure for the constitution of ICSID in terms of what it means for the ability of investors to be free of the courts.

Essentially it says that Canadian investors in foreign countries often fear that foreign courts will be biased in favour of their state and their country's laws and the convention that is being contemplated here shelters foreign investors from the courts of the country in which the investment is made.

Why is this bad? If we look at some of the reality, we have foreign investors who have not always been stellar corporate citizens. I am thinking about Union Carbide in Bhopal and the travesty committed against that community. None of those victims had recourse in terms of the behaviour of the corporation. Coca-Cola right now is taking a huge amount of water in India and polluting local water systems, much to the disadvantage of local people. We saw Talisman in Nigeria behaving in such a way that local people reacted against that company, which ended in the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa; and other multinationals, water providers who tried in Bolivia to privatize the water resources.

My concern is that these companies can hide behind this convention. What on earth happens to the locals, the nationals, who may need and deserve recourse in their courts?

Settlement of International Investment Disputes ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Liberal Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, again, I appreciate the concerns raised by the hon. member. One needs to recognize, as I have said before, the premise of how this all operates. Canada is trading nation. We must acknowledge that. With the population of 32 million, the only way we can sustain our quality of life is to ensure we have proper trade and investment.

The member raises the notion of how we approach this. The best way for Canada to succeed at the global level is, as an example, the WTO Doha round of discussions. That is by far the best means for us to secure the best deal for Canada.

Canada should not avoid ratifying this treaty. One hundred and forty-three countries have already signed on, Canada being 143 to do so. It is a way for us to have credibility on the international level to ensure we instill confidence in investors. The system in the process has been adopted by many countries, which is a very transparent and straightforward process.

I have indicated in my remarks that both parties select arbitrators. This process has been implemented on many occasions very successfully, with both parties agreeing to the parameters. The way it is set up benefits not only them, but helps further promote investment between the countries as well.

Settlement of International Investment Disputes ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member used the terms “predictability” and “stability”. One can only imagine when an investor is looking at certain circumstances. The member may want to comment on what Canada looked like coming out of the Conservative years with a $42 billion deficit and what that had to do with foreign investment in Canada.

Settlement of International Investment Disputes ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Liberal Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member for Mississauga South raises a very important issue. Today our country generates a surplus, which is respected by the international community for sound fiscal management. However, if we were to look back to 1993, our country had lost the confidence of the world and was beginning to lose the confidence of the Canadian public. Our deficit was around $42 billion to $43 billion. The debt was growing out of control. Our financial market was weakening. Our dollar was weak.

Those problems really hurt investors. Now there is sound fiscal management because of the Liberal Party and the hard work by Canadians, which turned that around.

Settlement of International Investment Disputes ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate on Bill C-53.

Although the bill is extremely technical, it does not change much for Canada. However, it still offers an opportunity to ask ourselves about the nature of the investment agreements that have been signed by the Canadian government, and more specifically the bilateral agreements, and about the content of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The problem lies not so much in Bill C-53 as in the agreements that we are signing, that are arbitrated under that convention.

I would note that if this bill is enacted, it will make it possible for Canada to ratify the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States, and will also make it possible for Canada to become a member of the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes.

As we can see, this means incorporating the requirements of the ICSID Convention into domestic law, to ensure that arbitral awards can be enforced and to provide the necessary immunities for the centre and its personnel.

The International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes was created, we should remember, by the World Bank, under a treaty referred to as the Washington Convention of 1965. As of today, 156 countries have ratified the convention and are members of ICSID. The purpose of the convention and the centre is to arbitrate disputes between a state and a foreign investor.

There are two possible kinds of disputes between a state and a foreign investor. There are disputes relating to compliance with bilateral foreign investment protection agreements. For example, and I believe this was mentioned earlier, we recently signed an agreement with Peru. However, hardly anyone in the government alerted us to the signing of a new bilateral investment agreement. That agreement was very quietly signed between Canada and Peru. If it results in challenges, they can be arbitrated under this convention, and by this centre.

There is a second possible type of dispute. Disputes arise regarding agreements signed by governments with foreign investors. The government of Quebec regularly signs these kinds of agreement to generate foreign investment, for example by promising to supply electricity at an agreed price.

One can think of a number of major projects carried out on the North Shore. Discussions were held and commitments were made concerning electricity rates for the aluminum sector in exchange for commitments from the companies with respect to economic benefits from second and third processing, or future investments.

As I said, Canada's membership will not have any impact on the provinces. Only the federal level will be affected, although the provinces also will have the possibility of including in agreements they might enter into with investors provisions providing for the use of the centre and the convention.

Quebec has negotiated in the past, and could do so again in the future, agreements with foreign companies involved in the exploitation or processing of natural resources for competitive electricity rates under certain conditions. In such cases, it will be necessary to ensure that the endeavours of the Government of Quebec, whose good faith I never doubt, meet all the criteria in the agreement.

I have mentioned the bilateral treaty between the federal government and Peru. This treaty already provides for the use of arbitration or the ICSID process. Canada not being a member of the ICSID, it does not have access to the regular process because it has not ratified the convention. Additional facility arbitration rules apply under such circumstances.

As we can see, nothing much will change, except that we will be able to use the regular process.

In fact, Canada's adherence to the centre and the convention will enable it to take part in negotiations to amend the convention or the centre's rules, and ensure its ability to participate in appointments to arbitration tribunals.

I believe that this is important, because we know that this centre and this sort of convention will be increasingly important not only to the economic future, but to the overall future of trading nations such as Canada and Quebec.

In the final analysis, the centre is just a tribunal, and in that respect, we do not have a problem with Bill C-53. What we have a problem with is not the tribunal, but the poor treaties Canada has signed to protect investments. In our view, it is only natural that there should be investment protection agreements, provided that those agreements protect certain rights, especially the sovereign rights of the states involved, whether the agreements are between states or between states and companies.

It is only natural for investors to try and make sure that they will not be divested of their property and that they will not become victims of discrimination. This is the sort of situation that foreign investment protection agreements are meant to cover. They are not a new phenomenon, but have been around for more than two centuries now. In 1788, France and the United States signed an agreement to protect foreign investments. Today, there are 2,400 bilateral investment protection agreements in the world. If we add tax treaties covering the tax treatment of foreign investments and foreign source income, there are roughly 5,000 bilateral treaties relating to foreign investments.

I spoke yesterday about Bill C-33 on foreign trusts, and I will come back to that.

Settlement of International Investment Disputes ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

After question period, the hon. member will have 13 minutes to continue his remarks.

Dennis YoungStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I regret to announce the retirement of my long-time legislative assistant, Dennis Young, from Parliament Hill.

Dennis and I have worked side by side since I was elected to Parliament in 1993. He is the most faithful and hard-working assistant that a member of Parliament could ever hope to find.

Dennis used his creativity every day on every file. He processed and analyzed more than 550 access to information requests. His research exposed the $2 billion gun registry fiasco. With his tenacity and highest of principles, Dennis has values that will not be compromised.

Firearms owners owe Dennis Young a huge debt for his relentless battle on behalf of real public safety and property rights. His legacy in Ottawa includes the popular parliamentary outdoors caucus and serving as a political beacon for the people of Yorkton—Melville.

I thank my friend for being the best strategic partner one could ever ask for. Lydia and I will keep Dennis and Hazel in our prayers as they head west for a well deserved retirement. God bless Dennis. I will miss him.

Donald MacInnisStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I stand today to celebrate the life of a great Canadian.

Donald MacInnis distinguished himself in this chamber fighting for and serving the people of Cape Breton--East Richmond as their member of Parliament for 17 years as a proud Progressive Conservative.

A man of rare character and true substance, Donald was an exceptional person. In his younger years he was a star athlete with the Caledonia Rugby team and the Glace Bay Firemen's track team.

He answered the call to duty during the second world war and served as a gunner and paratrooper with the RCAF. Then, like so many of his friends following the war, he entered the coal mines of Cape Breton.

Prior to municipal amalgamation, Donald served as the last mayor of the town of Glace Bay. Driven by a tremendous sense of principle and purpose, he gave it his all, whether it was on the football field, the battlefield, or on the floor of this chamber and he did so for the benefit of others.

As noted in his memorial tribute, he was just as much at home behind a podium as he was behind his wheelbarrow. Donald took every challenge man and nature threw at him with a feisty spirit and a determined will.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Donald's family.

Ahuntsic-Cartierville Housing CommitteeStatements By Members

May 15th, 2007 / 2 p.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I want to commend the remarkable work of the Ahuntsic-Cartierville housing committee, which, on Monday, May 7, organized a demonstration in my riding. This is a grassroots organization that raises awareness about the needs in social housing.

The new government has indeed invested in social housing, but investment is down 25% if we take into account inflation since 1993.

In May 2006, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights looked at Canada's housing record and described the situation as a national emergency. In Montreal, the waiting list for low-income housing has 23,000 names on it, including 2,000 from the Ahuntsic area alone.

While respecting the various jurisdictions, the government must contribute to the development of programs to deal with this national emergency, as it is defined by the United Nations. This is a matter of fairness and social peace.

Catholic EducationStatements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, this Thursday, May 17, is World Catholic Education Day.

In many communities, Catholic schools across Canada continue to make a profoundly positive contribution to society. In some provinces and territories they are supported by government funds. In others, they are operated wholly by direct parent support.

My own Catholic education ingrained in me a profound respect for Catholic social teaching, respect for human rights, social justice and the dignity of every single human being. I was taught encyclicals on the right to work. I learned that Catholics could have a distinctive identity and spiritual mission, but also a profound respect for other faith traditions. It remains a challenge to remember this inclusive teaching for the rights of all human beings regardless of our differences.

Congratulations to the teachers, the administrators, trustees, support staff, students and parents that together make up the mosaic of Catholic education. I particularly want to celebrate the enormous contribution made by the 14 elementary schools--

Catholic EducationStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Fleetwood—Port Kells.

Government PoliciesStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Conservative Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Mr. Speaker, Liberal heel dragging and empty rhetoric have given way to a positive Conservative agenda producing real results for Canadians. In our short time in office, Canada's new government has listened to Canadians and acted on their priorities.

In B.C.'s lower mainland crime is a hot button issue. We have responded with a dozen justice bills, including legislation raising the age of consent, tackling street racing, drug impaired driving, gun crimes, and repeat offenders.

For many the environment is a top concern. That is why our government has acted with new programs promoting energy efficiency, fuel efficient vehicles and alternative energies. We have put in place an action plan to reduce greenhouse gases and slash air pollution and we are helping the provinces finance their own initiatives.

Our government is funding vital transportation improvements, reforming the Senate, cutting immigrant landing fees, assisting parents, reducing taxes and putting more money into health care.

While Liberals talk, we act and deliver on the priorities of Canadians.

Five with DriveStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Lui Temelkovski Liberal Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, on Sunday, May 27, five individuals, the “Five with Drive”, will leave Halifax and walk to Markham, Ontario, a distance of more than 2,000 kilometres.

The walk is to support the Centre for DREAMS, Inc., a registered charitable organization that helps intellectually challenged adults become active and productive in the community.

I have sent information packages on the walk to all members from Markham to Halifax and to senators from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Quebec. I hope that MPs will raise awareness about the walk in their local communities.

Financial donations are welcomed, as are donations of food and refreshments along the route. Members might also contact their local media about the walk.

Let us all work together to ensure the walk is a resounding success.

Skin Cancer ScreeningStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Bill Casey Conservative Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to remind Canadians of the importance of early detection as a means of preventing skin cancer. I am honoured to be a co-host with the Canadian Dermatology Association for the second Chuck Cadman memorial skin cancer screening.

I learned firsthand the importance of early detection at last year's event. Although I had absolutely no indication that anything was wrong with me, it was at this screening that I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma. This is one of the most dangerous forms of skin cancer, but it was caught early at the screening right here, and today I am healthy and cancer free.

This year's clinic is today. I urge all MPs to go to the clinic this afternoon in Room 200 West Block from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m, even if they have no signs of problems.

I want to thank the dermatologists who volunteer their time and effort at this clinic. I especially want to thank Mrs. Cadman, who co-hosted last year's event and is co-hosting this year's event as well.

Aung San Suu KyiStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Vivian Barbot Bloc Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, Sophie London, a 10 year old who attends the Saint-Barthélemy school in my riding of Papineau, sent me a copy of a letter addressed to the Prime Minister in which she mentions her concern about the 1991 Nobel Peace Price laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, a Burmese activist who has been denied her rights for many years.

Sophie and her classmates have signed a petition calling on parliamentarians in this House to take decisive action to encourage the return of democracy in Burma.

On May 18, 2005, the House of Commons adopted the report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs on the motion on Burma. It specifically called on the government to “urge the authorities in Burma to release [...] Aung San Suu Kyi”.

Sophie London's letter is rather timely and reminds us to honour our commitments. Let her request be heard.

Science and Technology Exploration CentreStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, after years of waiting, the time has finally come for the Quebec City and Chaudière-Appalaches area to lay the groundwork for the creation of a science and technology exploration centre.

Our region is the seventh largest municipality in Canada and yet, among the 20 largest cities of the country, it is the only one that does not have such a scientific and educational centre. What were our predecessors doing? Was the Bloc Québécois asleep at the switch or were those members thinking about their future? Fortunately, the Conservative members from Quebec can deliver the goods.

As promised during the election campaign, our new government, through the CED, is contributing $420,000 to establish the project office, in partnership with the Boîte à science, the City of Lévis and valued private partners.

I would like to congratulate Manon Théberge, executive director of the Boîte à science on her infectious passion for the scientific education of our youth, as well as mayor Danièle Roy-Marinelli for getting the City of Lévis involved in this project that is so important to our entire region. Thank you.

It could be said, promise—

Science and Technology Exploration CentreStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca.

Health CareStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, health care is one of the top concerns of Canadians, and shockingly, it is not on the Conservative government's agenda.

There is a crisis in our emergency departments where it is frequently the norm to wait eight to twelve hours for care.

There is also a medical manpower crisis. Fifteen per cent of graduating nurses cannot find jobs in Canada so they go to the United States. We need them, but the resources are not there to pay for them. This is against a backdrop where the average age of a nurse is in the late forties. For physicians it is worse. Their average age is older.

Hundreds of thousands of Canadians cannot find a family doctor. As we get older, so too do our caregivers. This demographic time bomb is exploding and will devastate our health care system.

I call on the Conservative government to act now and work with the provinces to implement a national health care workforce strategy for physicians, nurses, technicians and other health care workers to get the right number of people in the right places.

Without these health care professionals, we will not have a health care system.

International Day of FamiliesStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Speaker, today is the 14th annual International Day of Families. This year's theme is, “Families and Persons with Disabilities”.

Canadians appreciate what our government has been getting done for families and persons with disabilities. We understand the important contribution families make to Canada. That is why we are investing more to support families' choice in child care than any federal government in our history, three times more than the Liberals did, but there is more.

Our government is helping families enjoy the benefits of a better, safer and stronger Canada. Budget 2007 introduced a new registered disability savings plan, a working families tax plan that includes the new child tax credit, a more attractive RESP for students, and initiatives for seniors. This is on top of previously announced initiatives such as the universal child care benefit and the children's fitness tax credit.

While today is a special day to pay tribute to families, Canadians now have a government that acknowledges the importance of all families every day. I invite Canadians to celebrate the International Day of Families. I encourage all Canadians to take time to appreciate the special people who enrich their lives and make up their families.

Aboriginal AffairsStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the social condition of Canada's first nations people is this country's greatest failure and this country's greatest shame.

Today the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations served notice that decades of round tables, consultations and royal commissions have gone nowhere and have done nothing to improve the social conditions of the people that he represents. The national chief served notice that his people are losing hope and that when young people lose hope, desperation can lead to social unrest and civil disobedience.

It was in 1990 that social unrest among first nations led to the Oka crisis. The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples bought a decade of peace, but in the absence of any meaningful progress, we should recognize that peace is a finite commodity.

We should be grateful and recognize and pay tribute to the leadership of first nations who have kept a lid on the boiling pot of social unrest among their people. We should serve notice to the government of today that it must act meaningfully today.

Official LanguagesStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Liberal Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, today the official languages commissioner tabled a report very critical of the Conservative government in its handling of Canada's Official Languages Act.

Indeed, this Conservative government continues to erode the Official Languages Act.

The government has failed its own accountability test. This morning Conservative members refused to replace the chair of the Standing Committee on Official Languages when the former chair was forced to resign. This effectively brings the committee's work to a standstill.

The government continues to obstruct and hinder the work of committee members.

I call on the government to uphold its commitments under the act and to honour its obligations of results by immediately nominating a new chair so that the work of the committee can continue.

The Standing Committee on Official Languages needs a new chair immediately, in order to go on with its work.

Canadian Police WeekStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Bloc

Raymond Gravel Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, on the occasion of Canadian Police Week, I would like to pay tribute to all these women and all these men who work to protect our fellow citizens and to make our regions safe.

The service provided by our police is a high-risk essential service; it has cost many their life. Just think of the tragic death of Laval police officers Valérie Gignac in December 2005 and Daniel Tessier last March, not to mention many others, in the line of duty.

I worked with the members of the Laval Police Brotherhood for over ten years as chaplain. I have met men and women who loved their work and were committed to serving the public. Over the years, I have forged strong ties of friendship with many of them and I strongly believe that, as citizens, we owe them respect and gratitude and, as parliamentarians, support and solidarity. The best way to support our police is by maintaining, as requested by them, the gun registry which is playing an invaluable role in their work.

In closing, I wish to express my greatest admiration and gratitude to all those police officers I have had the opportunity to meet and appreciate during my life.