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 #101 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was chair.

Topics

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09Business of SupplyGovernment orders

7:40 p.m.

Conservative

David Emerson Conservative Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Chair, we have a series of strategic vision documents in foreign affairs and international trade. Much of them relate to the trade side, with which of course I am most familiar. I am just getting myself into the foreign affairs side of it and will be assessing the documents that articulate the overall vision, in terms of foreign affairs and the future of our department.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09Business of SupplyGovernment orders

7:40 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, I appreciate the minister being new to this, but my question is very specific.

There has been a document produced by the department on its vision, not of trade but of foreign affairs. I am asking very specifically of the minister, does such a document exist and if he could share it with us? That is the question. It is not about the trade side; it is about a document being provided for him and Canadians would like to know where this government is going on foreign affairs.

That is my question. I would appreciate an answer.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09Business of SupplyGovernment orders

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

David Emerson Conservative Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Chair, we certainly have had what is called an internal government strategic review done focused on foreign affairs. That work has been ongoing for a couple of years. It has helped to shape budget decision making and it certainly has given guidance in terms of the strategic directions that we are taking in a variety of areas, and helped to shape the broad themes and parameters of our foreign policy.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09Business of SupplyGovernment orders

7:45 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, I thank the minister for narrowing things down a bit in his response. So, we have established that there is a document. We have established that this is the direction the government is going. Remember that the “Canada First” defence policy we had to kind of taper down to get that out as well. I just want to ask if he can provide us with a copy of that.

My question is: Could the minister provide this committee with a copy of the direction of his department?

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09Business of SupplyGovernment orders

7:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09Business of SupplyGovernment orders

7:45 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

I hear cackles in the back, but I think Canadians want to know what the direction of the foreign affairs file is. I would like to ask the minister, is he willing to provide this committee with that document, yes or no?

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09Business of SupplyGovernment orders

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

David Emerson Conservative Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Chair, the strategic review involves a number of cabinet level documents. What I certainly can do is to provide the member with a substantial amount of information that was part of those documents, and I am perfectly willing to do that. However, I cannot give him classified cabinet documents.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09Business of SupplyGovernment orders

7:45 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, I am requesting that formally.

I would like to switch, now, to something that has already been brought up earlier by, I think, a member from the Liberal Party regarding Burma.

In fact, it was the order paper questions that I put forward and the responses from the government that established the following. When I asked the government what Canadian companies, individuals and public pension funds have direct investments in Burma, what is the total of those investments and how can we establish what Canadian companies have investments in Burma, the minister replied earlier that it was very difficult to track and if there was any way to do it, he would like to know and would like to hear suggestions. However, he was talking about indirect investments.

My question is about direct investments. According to the document I received, which was the government's response officially from the department, there is no requirement for Canadian companies to register their business activities with the department; sources of information are derived from various non-government organizations. Then it goes on about how it might get that.

My question is very specific. If this government were to suggest that it has the toughest sanctions on Burma, how could it do that when its own department is saying there is no requirement for Canadian companies to register at all vis-à-vis direct investment in Burma? Could the minister tell me how he can know what investments are in Burma when there is no requirement for Canadian companies to register direct investments in Burma?

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09Business of SupplyGovernment orders

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

David Emerson Conservative Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Chair, we clearly are tracking publicly available data. We are tracking the exports and imports. We are tracking such direct investment information as we can access. Those numbers have been shrinking and they are now extremely small.

For us to set up a very expensive bureaucracy simply to ask companies to register direct investments in a sanctioned country like Burma would be, to me, a total waste of money. If a company wanted to wilfully evade the rules, and I do not sense there are those companies out there, it would be very easy to find a way of channelling the money which would not be caught by any tracking of direct investment.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09Business of SupplyGovernment orders

7:45 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, sadly, I am going to have to ask a question of the minister. If he is saying that this is too difficult and it is hard to track, then how is it that he can enforce the sanctions at all? What he is saying to us is that we have the toughest sanctions but it turns out to be a paper tiger because the departmental response is saying very directly there is no requirement for Canadian companies to register their business activities with the department. Are we to rely on Google? How is it that we are going to actually enforce the rules? How is the government going to enforce the rules on sanctions vis-à-vis Burma?

The last point I will suggest to him is that he has the tool in his hands. It is SEMA. The Special Economic Measures Act allows the government to tailor sanctions. It could, if it chose to, require all companies that are investing in Burma to register with the government and put the onus on them to pay for it. Why is the government not doing that?

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09Business of SupplyGovernment orders

7:50 p.m.

Conservative

David Emerson Conservative Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Chair, if the evidence was overwhelming that there was a major circumvention of these sanctions, the government would clearly have to consider further steps, but at the present time there is no such evidence. All the evidence we are seeing suggests the sanctions are very effective. We see little point in setting up what in all likelihood would become a potentially monstrous bureaucracy to try to chase funds that would be channelled around the globe and in through the back door.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09Business of SupplyGovernment orders

7:50 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, I think Canadians would be shocked and surprised to learn that the government on the one hand is claiming to have the toughest sanctions in the world vis-à-vis Burma and on the other hand is saying there is absolutely no method to monitor this to find out if that is the case.

Is there any way for the government to track at least what existing investments the Canada pension plan has in Burma? Is it aware of any Canadian investments of the Canada pension plan in Burma, yes or no?

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09Business of SupplyGovernment orders

7:50 p.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Chair, the answer is quite simple. According to the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, the Canada pension plan is in full compliance with SEMA measures, with no investments in Burma that we are aware of.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09Business of SupplyGovernment orders

7:50 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, I note that was not my question. I asked if the government could tell us how much investment there is, in dollar amounts, presently in Burma, not vis-à-vis the sanctions brought in. Hopefully the government knows that the sanctions were for any future investments, not existing investments. How much money does the Canada pension plan presently have invested in Burma? When I say presently invested in Burma, that is existing investments.

Will the government please tell the committee how much money the Canada pension plan has invested in Burma now?

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09Business of SupplyGovernment orders

7:50 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Mr. Chair, when the special economic measures were put in place, Canadian companies known to DFAIT had divested, or were divesting, their interests in Burma, with the exception of CHC Helicopter, which was locked in a long term contract with Total and Petronas. CHC was subsequently acquired by a U.S. private equity firm, which has reiterated its commitment to divest all of CHC's interest in Burma.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09Business of SupplyGovernment orders

7:50 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, I think the member should probably talk to the fund managers at the CPP because they certainly phoned me when I suggested we should have tougher sanctions with Burma. They have a longer list than he has, so he might want to check with them.

I will turn now to the UN. I would like to ask a very straightforward question of the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Is Canada going to be pursuing a chair on the Security Council in the upcoming round, yes or no?

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09Business of SupplyGovernment orders

7:50 p.m.

Conservative

David Emerson Conservative Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Chair, I have been in this portfolio for a couple of days and one thing is clear that we have been doing and will continue to do and that is to aggressively participate in supporting the UN, working under UN mandates such as in Afghanistan, in Sudan and elsewhere in the world. The position in the Security Council is not up until 2010. We will cross that bridge in due course.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09Business of SupplyGovernment orders

7:50 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, on my first question I asked for a yes or no response. Will he or will he not be pursuing a seat at the Security Council? I take it that the answer is no, unless he has when the due course is. That is the first question.

The second question is one on Sudan which was referenced earlier. I would like to know how much the government is contributing to the Resolution 1769 peacekeeping mission. I do not want to know how much we are contributing to Sudan in general. I would like to know specifically for the Resolution 1769 peacekeeping mission how much we are contributing to that mission.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09Business of SupplyGovernment orders

7:55 p.m.

Conservative

David Emerson Conservative Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Chair, I believe I gave the hon. member that number earlier. I think it was $270 million as I recall, but I will check that with my officials.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09Business of SupplyGovernment orders

7:55 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, I was specifically asking how much we are contributing to the Resolution 1769 mission. Previously when I asked the government this question at committee and in the House, the Conservatives said they were not going to be contributing particularly to the rental of helicopters. They said there would actually be other announcements on this. I am asking the government now if it has changed its position, if it is investing more. I heard very clearly they suggest--

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09Business of SupplyGovernment orders

7:55 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Conservative Cambridge, ON

Did you forget the answer?

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09Business of SupplyGovernment orders

7:55 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, if the peanut gallery could just quiet down a bit; I thought they were at a movie tonight.

If the minister could get back to the committee on this, that would be helpful. I did ask for a yes or no answer regarding the chair on the Security Council. I would appreciate an answer on that as well.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09Business of SupplyGovernment orders

7:55 p.m.

Conservative

David Emerson Conservative Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Chair, I want to review the government's participation in Sudan. Canada is a very major contributor to the development and protection of human rights in Sudan. Since January 2006, Canada has provided over $431 million in voluntary contributions toward the establishment of lasting peace in Sudan. In addition to our assessed contributions of $84 million for the UN peacekeeping missions in Sudan, Canada will invest up to $191 million in voluntary contributions toward long term peace in 2008-09. This will mean a total investment of up to $275 million in 2008-09. Across three areas, there is $155 million for security, including assessed contributions; $100 million for aid; and $20 million for diplomacy.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09Business of SupplyGovernment orders

7:55 p.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Bill Blaikie

I will now proceed to the second round of the first rotation.

I recognize the hon. Minister of International Cooperation.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09Business of SupplyGovernment orders

7:55 p.m.

Durham Ontario

Conservative

Bev Oda ConservativeMinister of International Cooperation

Mr. Chair, colleagues, I welcome this opportunity to discuss our estimates and CIDA's role in the world.

Under the leadership of the Prime Minister and this government, Canada's international assistance will be more effective, focused and accountable. Long gone are the days of Liberal hollow promises and inefficient, unaccountable international assistance. Our government is working to make Canada's aid more focused, effective and accountable. This government is showing compassion for the less fortunate.

Recently, Canadians have witnessed our government's quick response to the natural disasters in both Burma and China, but we did not believe that funnelling millions of dollars to a military regime halfway around the world would truly help hundreds of thousands of people who were suffering. We acted responsibly. We immediately announced $2 million to groups with access on the ground to those in need, such as the Red Crescent Society. We loaded emergency shelter kits to protect some 10,000 people against the elements and harsh conditions.

This week the Burmese government granted more access to international aid workers, and so, just last week, I announced that Canada would be matching individual personal Canadian donations to organizations with the access, capacity and ability to deliver the needed aid directly to victims. This aid will provide food, shelter, emergency health care and clean water.

In response to natural disasters, it is our goal to act quickly, efficiently, accountably and with compassion.

In our development work our goal is to help developing nations gain the skill and the expertise they need to be self-sufficient and able to provide basic services to their own people, and so, we are refocusing our mission in Afghanistan. As the independent panel report, the Manley report, stated, progress is being made in Afghanistan, but more work is to be done. As a government, we agree with the recommendations of the report.

With the report as a guiding principle, we have put more CIDA officers in the field and delegated more authority to staff on the ground. We are working to ensure better cooperation and coordination through our whole of government approach. We are continuing our efforts to inform Canadians through regular briefings with the media.

As one of the top donors in Afghanistan with $1.3 billion through to 2011, I am confident that with our international partners we can make a difference in the lives of the Afghan people.

As Kai Eide, UN Special Representative for Afghanistan, said, “The way you in Canada spend your [aid] money is an example I would like to see for other countries”.

As more security gains ground, we will be able to see more girls in school, more female teachers, greater strides in economic development and increased access to basic health services. Currently, as the House knows, the cabinet committee is establishing priorities, benchmarks and timelines.

Working with the Afghan government and our international partners, Canada can be proud of our part in bringing Afghanistan closer to a stronger, freer and self-sustaining country.

As you know, Mr. Chair, our government has also made a significant commitment to Africa. The Prime Minister announced funding for the Canadian-led Initiative to Save a Million Lives. In Africa, our contribution will train over 40,000 front line health care workers. Our funding will help combat measles, guard against diphtheria and fight pneumonia.

A promise our Prime Minister made is that we are doubling our aid to Africa, a substantial increase over the previous government's support, and this is a promise we will keep. However, we will do it effectively, accountably and with compassion for the less fortunate.

When I visited a small school in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, I witnessed young boys and girls gaining the knowledge that will not only enrich their lives but also the lives of their family members. There is no doubt that education and literacy is key to a better life, leading to improved health care and more opportunities toward self-sufficiency.

However, we must also remember to remain flexible, able to respond to emerging issues.

Recently, caused by many factors, the world found itself facing a quiet tsunami: the food crisis. Those who live on the lowest levels of income are struggling to feed themselves and their families, and Canada again answered the international appeal.

Canadians can be proud that of all the developed countries in the world, Canada has been the third largest country contributor to the World Food Programme over the last two years under this government.

However, I was shocked to learn that the former government, after signing the international Food Aid Convention, shortchanged the world's hungry by over 200,000 metric tonnes of food. In fact, since 2000, the Liberal government failed to meet its food aid commitment more times than it met it.

Since becoming government, we have met our commitment on food aid each and every year we have been in office. It is through partnerships with organizations like the Canadian Foodgrains Bank that we are helping to address the global food crisis.

Last month I announced an additional $50 million, a 28% increase in our food aid and the untying of our food aid. This means our food aid will be more efficiently acquired and delivered and can be used to support local or regional farmers in areas across the world. This will make a difference to people in Africa, Afghanistan, South America and Haiti.

As the executive director of the World Food Programme has said:

This generous contribution by Canada will help protect millions of children from severe malnutrition and hunger.

This is a global crisis and our government will ensure that we are part of the international effort to not only meet the immediate emergency need but to find the longer term solutions. Canada will always be part of international efforts to support the victims of conflict and poverty.

In conclusion, I remind the House that the Prime Minister stated:

We are a country of the Americas, re-engagement in our hemisphere is a critical international priority for our Government. Canada is committed to playing a bigger role in the Americas and to doing so for the long term -

I just returned from a meeting at the Caribbean Development Bank where I heard that Canada's significant contribution to the bank's special development fund is supporting many countries in the Caribbean and helping them meet their developmental needs.

As one of our main missions in the Americas, we recently came to Haiti's aid with $10 million in additional food aid, as well as $10 million in accelerated programs that will ensure food is available.

In the Americas, we are working to promote Canada's foundational pillars of security, prosperity and democratic governance. We are developing programs but I must say that the appreciation I heard for the past two days from different countries across the Caribbean, as well as representatives from Central and South America, is that we are doing our part.

Canada is doing its share around the world in its international development efforts. Our government is focused on achieving effective, accountable, measurable and sustainable results.

I want to assure Canadians that when Canada puts forward its international assistance, we will ensure that it does in fact help the people it is intended to help. We will always be responsible, not only about making large announcements and large monetary announcements, we will ensure that the food, the water, the shelter and the medicine that people need will get to those who are in need. That is a commitment from this government.

We do have priorities. We have a priority to ensure Canadians can trust this government to represent them well, to be responsible and to show the compassion that Canadians feel for all people.