House of Commons Hansard #26 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was funding.


Corporate Social Responsibility and the Canadian Extractive Industry in Developing CountriesPrivate Members' Business

11 a.m.


Bernard Patry Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC


That, in the opinion of the House, the government should act immediately to implement the measures of the Advisory Group report “National Roundtables on Corporate Social Responsibility and the Canadian Extractive Industry in Developing Countries” by creating, in an appropriate legal framework and with the funds needed, an independent ombudsman office with the power to receive and investigate complaints.

Mr. Speaker, the motion the members of this House have the privilege of debating today concerns nothing less than our country's responsibility and honour on the international scene.

The time has come to end inaction that, in addition to going on for too long, is helping to seriously undermine our country's credibility in the eyes of the world and the government's credibility in the eyes of Canadians.

To understand the real issue behind this motion, we must remember that Canada leads the world in resource extraction in developing countries. No less than 60% of the mining companies concerned are Canadian.

In addition, I invite my colleagues in this House to bear in mind as they engage in this debate that a 2006 United Nations report shows that most of the human rights abuses perpetrated by transnational corporations can be attributed to mining, oil and gas companies.

I therefore urge members of all parties in this House not only to be aware of these facts, but also to shoulder the responsibilities we have as elected representatives without further delay, not just because the eyes of Canadians and the international community are upon us, but because I believe that it is in our national interest.

I would remind this House that in March 2008, Michael Casey, executive director of the Canadian NGO Development and Peace, rightly stated that “people living in the global south are counting on Ottawa to ensure that Canadian mining companies are called to account” for their activities.

In recent years, my own discussions with numerous parliamentarians from other countries and representatives of international civil society have made me realize that what Mr. Casey said is true and relevant. And I am convinced that I am not the only member of this House to have heard such concerns.

It is up to our country to set an example starting now and to lead the way for the rest of the world, especially in terms of formally prohibiting Canadian companies operating internationally from using practices that are banned, and for good reason, here at home.

This means that, when it comes to respecting human rights and the environment, we must reject the double standard that allows companies to do things in other countries that are prohibited by law and common decency here in Canada.

Basically, when it comes to human rights, justice and the environment, double standards are not and must never be the way we do things in this country.

I think that now is a good time to ask the members to bear in mind a particularly relevant message from Honduran Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez, president of Caritas Internationalis, to Canada's government during the November 2006 national round tables.

Cardinal Rodriguez emphasized that increasingly frequent conflicts in many parts of the world between mining companies and the communities affected show that we can no longer act according to the narrow-minded notion that the market only works on a low-investment, high-profit basis.

The cardinal added, and rightly so, that we must adopt regulatory mechanisms to ensure that these industries are held responsible for their actions and behaviours not only in the countries in which they operate, but also in their home countries.

Cardinal Rodriguez delivered his message to the government two and a half years ago.

A year before that, in June 2005, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, which I had the honour of chairing at the time, submitted the report of the sub-committee charged with studying issues related to promoting respect for international human rights and setting sustainable human development goals for Canadian mining companies operating abroad.

That report led to the creation of the national round tables I just mentioned, and its conclusions justify the motion I moved here today.

The situation we are debating today has existed for many years. And so I must impress upon my colleagues in this House that the government cannot afford to wait any longer and that it must commit itself to action.

We are calling on the government to show leadership. If Canada leads the way, it will be in the best position to encourage other countries in turn to pass the necessary legislation so that extraction operations in developing countries will be conducted under fair and humane conditions with respect for the environment and social justice.

Given the circumstances that led to our debate today, I feel I am justified in saying that the government has a moral obligation to act without further delay because nothing can justify the status quo in a situation that is becoming more and more intolerable.

In fact, it has been almost two years since the national round tables' report was tabled in March 2007. The objective was to examine corporate social responsibility and the Canadian businesses engaged in the extractive industry in developing countries. It was pointed out at the round tables that mining activities in some developing countries have had a detrimental impact on local communities, especially in cases where mining industry regulation is weak or non-existent, or simply not enforced. Those present also spoke about the effects on the economic and social well-being of employees, local residents and the environment.

This report also noted the consensus reached between the industry, experts, NGOs and civil society, which represents considerable progress. The report has also suggested concrete, realistic and significant measures such as establishing Canadian standards for corporate social responsibility that respect and promote the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; creating an ombudsman office to receive complaints from both Canadians and non-Canadians about the Canadian extraction business activities in developing countries; and withholding government services to companies in cases where there is serious non-compliance in terms of social responsibility standards.

As we can see, not only are these proposals morally necessary, but they are also entirely clear, realistic and in line with our values and our national interest. The current Prime Minister even seemed to agree with these requirements. At the G8 summit in Germany, shortly after the report was tabled, he said:

Implementation of the recommendations from this process will place Canada among the most active G8 countries in advancing international guidelines and principles on corporate social responsibility in this sector.

I should point out that the Prime Minister had even greater reason to make this formal commitment, since Canada officially supports the voluntary standards of corporate social responsibility set out in the UN global compact and in the OECD's guidelines for multinational enterprises. We must now face the facts and look at what the government has been doing all this time. Unfortunately, I am very sorry to say that the answer is nothing, absolutely nothing. And we should all condemn this, since Canada itself is the first to lose out.

On April 8, 2008, about a year after the Prime Minister made that statement at the G8 summit, seeing that there had been no follow-up, I rose in this House to ask the government when it would finally honour this formal promise made by the Prime Minister himself to the entire world. The minister of natural resources at the time, our colleague, the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, responded by saying that they would have “something very good to announce shortly to the Canadian people for the extractive sector”.

I must admit, I was encouraged by the minister's response at the time. However, five weeks after the minister's promise, the government was unfortunately still dragging its feet.

On May 13, 2008, the NGO Development and Peace presented a petition signed by more than 190,000 Canadians, calling on the government to act by immediately responding to the round table recommendations issued more than a year previously.

The day after the presentation of this lengthy petition reflecting the opinions and concerns of a great many Canadians, I urged the government in this House to finally respond to the wishes and concerns that members of the public had so clearly expressed.

By way of response, the Minister of International Trade at the time said that the government would “have a strong response to that report very soon”.

“Very soon”, the minister said. But nearly 10 months have gone by since that promise was made, and it has become one more in a long list of promises that have not been kept. The government still has not taken any action.

In light of the facts, we are forced to conclude that, unfortunately, we have before us a government that does nothing but shirk its responsibilities and make every effort not to keep its promises.

That is why we can say that this government's inaction and the fact that it has repeatedly gone back on its word have become unacceptable.

I scarcely need to repeat that the recommendations of the round tables, as I said at the outset, are the product of an established consensus resulting from concerted efforts by all the concerned stakeholders, that is the industry itself, the NGOs and civil society, which in turn have direct connections to hundreds of thousands of Canadians concerned about seeing our country live up to the social, environmental and democratic values it professes to hold.

I could not go any further without mentioning the remarkable and tireless efforts of an organization such as Development and Peace, which has dedicated itself and its partners to the energetic and competent search for solutions that are both fair and reasonable. Solutions that are fully reflected in the report of the round tables.

It is therefore incumbent upon the government to do its own job now and not keep on trying to justify its inaction, now that there is no way it can be justified any longer.

That is why this House must make its opinion clearly known, and must require the government to immediately implement the highly reasonable measures that have been recommended by the advisory group.

In short, the spirit of this motion we have the honour to debate today calls upon us to assume our responsibilities as parliamentarians and to urge this government to at last assume its own responsibilities in connection with this issue. Our national interest and the credibility of our country in the eyes of the world is at stake.

We are all the more justified in calling upon the government to finally take action because, while the round table recommendations are clear, sensible and reasonable, our country is faced with an immense task, particularly with respect to coordinating with the other countries involved and reinforcing the capacity for governance as far as corporate social responsibility is concerned.

The immensity of this task and the weighty responsibility it calls upon us to assume is, however, well within the capacity of Canadians, as well as in keeping with the values that best characterize this country.

It is therefore with full confidence in ourselves as Canadians that I have the honour to seek the support of my colleagues from all parties in this House for this motion, a motion which, once incorporated into our public policies, will enable this country to be all it can be, not only in the eyes of its citizens, but also in the eyes of our international partners, who expect no less from us.

Corporate Social Responsibility and the Canadian Extractive Industry in Developing CountriesPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois will definitely be supporting this motion because it is an important element in the framework of the various bilateral agreements that the government is trying to sign. Social responsibility is also important when we talk about respecting certain working conditions in the places where our companies will be operating, and respecting the environment is important, as well.

Agreements have been signed recently. I am thinking in particular about the agreement with Colombia. Rumours are circulating that some mining companies are exploiting the workforce and are not respecting certain environmental standards. Some are even being linked to paramilitary groups.

I would like to hear the member's thoughts on this. Does he approve of the agreement with Colombia, for example, in which I feel that social responsibility is not being respected?

Corporate Social Responsibility and the Canadian Extractive Industry in Developing CountriesPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Bernard Patry Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my Bloc Québécois colleague for his question. We are currently facing a problem with some mining companies. I cannot really comment on what is happening in Colombia, but I do know what is happening in Africa, Latin America and possibly in certain South American countries. In these countries, companies are not currently held to any Canadian standards in terms of the environment or indigenous peoples' rights. I believe there is nothing more important. If something is not allowed in Canada, it should not be allowed overseas. That is the reason behind today's motion.

Corporate Social Responsibility and the Canadian Extractive Industry in Developing CountriesPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the hon. member on his initiative, one which is well worth supporting. In many respects it parallels Bill C-300, the bill I introduced last week on the same topic. I have two comments on which I would ask for the hon. member's opinion.

The first has to do with the reluctance of the government to respond to the round tables. It is now over two years and there is still no response. I take it that has something to do with the reason the member moved his motion.

The second has to do with a letter I received from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce this morning. The hon. member mentioned that over 200,000 people have actually written in asking for support of Bill C-300, but also on the hon. member's motion. However, the Chamber of Commerce does not like punitive measures, such as no access to funding on EDC, no access to funding on BDC, no access to funding on the Canada pension plan and no consular promotion.

I would be interested in the hon. member's response to both of those issues.

Corporate Social Responsibility and the Canadian Extractive Industry in Developing CountriesPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Bernard Patry Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague on introducing Bill C-300. It is a very good bill.

As I pointed out, it is going to be two years on March 29 since the round table presented its report and nothing has been done by the government. The thing that really upsets me is that the Prime Minister, at the G8 summit in Germany, pointed out that Canada will be the leader in the world, but we are still waiting.

A motion by itself, if it is adopted by this chamber, would bring support for the round table. More than 200,000 Canadians supported the round table and the presentation done by the foreign affairs committee. If my colleague's bill passed, it would be the law of the country, but we hope the government will come out with a response as soon as possible. In 2008 the ministers of industry and international cooperation pointed out that the government would be coming out with some guidelines on this, but we are still waiting.

Corporate Social Responsibility and the Canadian Extractive Industry in Developing CountriesPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Dean Allison Conservative Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to present to the House information about our Conservative government's efforts to promote and encourage corporate social responsibility principles and standards throughout Canada's extractive sector.

I want to thank the hon. member for Pierrefonds—Dollard as I can appreciate the intent of Motion No. 283 calling for the government to act immediately to implement the measures contained in the advisory group report produced following the national round tables on corporate social responsibility and the Canadian extractive industry in developing countries.

This report called for the establishment, through the appropriate legal framework and with required funds, of an independent ombudsman office with the power to receive and investigate complaints against Canadian extractive sector companies. In fact, this Conservative government has already undertaken action on these recommendations and we will soon be doing even more to support corporate social responsibility, or CSR, practices around the world.

Since the presentation of the advisory group recommendations in March 2007, the minister has met many times with representatives of the extractive industries in a variety of forums in an effort to continue the discussion on a number of issues, including CSR. The Minister of International Trade and the Minister of International Cooperation have also met with civil society representatives to discuss trade and development issues, including CSR. This is part of our government's continuous effort to engage with and hear views from all stakeholders and subject matter experts on this very relevant and important issue.

As a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD, Canada is a proud signatory to the OECD's guidelines for multinational enterprises. This is a multilateral instrument promoting CSR. It has also been a long-standing key element of Canada's approach to the issue.

Adherence to the guidelines require Canada, among other things, to establish and maintain a national contact point, a body responsible for promoting OECD guidelines, handling inquiries and helping to resolve issues. The national contact point's work extends to all multinationals operating in Canada and all Canadian companies operating abroad across all sectors. The national contact point gives us an effective means to engage stakeholders and promote a positive, open and constructive dialogue between multinational enterprises and those affected by their operations.

Motion No. 283 calls for the creation of an ombudsman's office. This government does not disagree that a dispute resolution mechanism could help to address problems where they exist, as well as expose unfounded allegations. Through consultation we have found that the opinions of stakeholders diverge on the appropriate model. However, there was widespread support for functions such as fact finding, mediation and good offices to help settle the dispute, recommendations for action and follow up on their implementation and annual public reporting on activities. We are working to develop this model further and hope to present our findings to the House soon.

I would like to take a few moments today to recognize some of the other ways in which this government is proactively addressing the recommendations contained in the advisory group report.

Our government is a strong supporter of the extractive industries transparency initiative, or EITI. In February 2007, Canada joined the EITI, which seeks to improve governance in resource rich countries through a full publication and verification of company payments and government revenues for mining and oil and gas operations. To date, Canada has allocated $1.15 million to the EITI and has secured a seat on the international board of EITI for the 2009 rotation. It is proving to be an effective way of publishing what companies pay and what governments receive in an open, transparent and accountable manner.

The advisory group also recommended enhanced public reporting by the Canadian Investment Fund for Africa, yet another step that has already been taken by the Canadian International Development Agency which manages the fund. As well, the advisory group asked the government to support and adhere to internationally recognized standards, such as the voluntary principles on security and human rights.

As I have stated, our Conservative government adheres already to a number of international standards. I am happy to add that in 2008 our government applied to join the voluntary principles. We hope to confirm our membership soon. The voluntary principles were developed to guide companies in balancing the need for safety while respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms.

In addition to these important steps, in October 2007 Export Development Canada became the second export credit agency in the world to sign on to the equator principles. These principles are an international financial industry benchmark for assessing and managing social and environmental risk and project financing.

We are also committed to ensuring that Canadian companies are made aware of Canada's Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act, or CFPOA , which makes it illegal for Canadians and their representatives to bribe foreign government officials.

To this end, since February 2005, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police has provided functional oversight of the international anti-corruption teams and anti-corruption enforcement activities through a commissioned officer at national headquarters.

In addition, Canada is a member of the International Labour Organization and we fully support the ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning multinational enterprises and social policy. This declaration is widely considered to be the universal basis reference point for social responsibility and labour issues.

Our Conservative government has provided financial support for a number of domestic and international initiatives aimed at promoting CRS principles. For example, since 2005 we have provided financial and political support for the work of Dr. John Ruggie, the United Nations special representative to the secretary-general on business and human rights.

Dr. Ruggie states:

CSR occupies the space between the requirements imposed on companies by law, and prevailing social expectations of the corporation’s role in society.

Dr. Ruggie adds:

The gap between the requirements of legal compliance and prevailing social expectations is particularly wide in countries with weak governance and a weak rule of law.

It is in addressing this gap that our current focus on CSR will be particularly applicable to developing countries. It is also what drives our efforts to increase government-to-government co-operation. In fact, resource governance is an area where Canada can play a leading role. Our vast experience in developing our own resources over decades has given us a breadth of expertise and experience to share with our partners in developing nations.

We are already working with developing countries, helping them to build up their expertise and create the foundation for successful, open and responsible extractive sectors that can provide lasting benefits to their citizens.

We do recognize that not all governments, especially those in developing nations, have the tools, expertise or capacity to effectively manage their natural resources or implement the laws that regulate them. That is why, for example, we have provided financial assistance to help Peru join the OECD Declaration on International Investment and Multinational Enterprises and to establish its own national contact point.

Peru's adherence to the declaration is a huge step forward for that country in terms of CSR practices and would bolster its commitment to the OECD's guidelines for multinational enterprises.

Our involvement in Peru also contributes to strengthening our economic partnerships with Latin America, a region of priority for this government. It is an initiative that we are proud of. Accordingly, Canada's voice on the issue is an influential one.

For example, we are closely working with our partners to foster and promote CSR international standards in a number of multilateral forums, including the Organization of American States, the Group of Eight, the Francophonie and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation. Indeed, at last year's G8 summit in Japan, leaders reiterated support for a consolidate set of internationally recognized CSR guidelines for the extractive sector. This is yet another good example of how we are working with our global partners on this very important issue.

I am happy to tell members that we are extending this principled approach to our trade negotiations. As we know, Canada recently signed free trade agreements with Peru and Colombia, both of which include language in support of CSR practices.

Our government has also included CSR language in its FTA negotiations with Panama, the Central America Four and the Dominican Republic. These are Canada's first free trade agreements to include language that encourages the parties to support positive CSR practices and reminds enterprises of the importance of incorporating CSR standards into their internal policies.

We have also signed parallel agreements on labour and the environment to help ensure that increased business between our countries does not come at the expense of workers' rights or a sustainable environment.

The inclusion of CSR provision in FTAs advances the government's policy to promote CSR, generally. In addition, it encourages our treaty partners to increase CSR promotion.

Those are just a few of the examples of how this government is responding to the recommendations of the round tables and moving in the right direction on CSR in real and tangible ways and without creating unnecessary regulation or administrative burden.

Corporate Social Responsibility and the Canadian Extractive Industry in Developing CountriesPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


Johanne Deschamps Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in this House to speak to the motion which represents, for me, more than three years of work and meetings with groups from countries where mineral, oil, gas and other resource exploitation is the cause of blatant human rights violations and environmental catastrophes. I am very glad to be able to participate in the debate on my colleague's motion. First of all, I would like to provide a brief overview of what led up to the round tables report.

When Paul Martin was in power, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade established the Subcommittee on Human Rights and International Development. The mandate of the latter was to examine human rights throughout the world and report to the committee. In 2004-05, the subcommittee heard the testimony of several witnesses about the practices of Canadian mining companies abroad, in particular the case of TVI Pacific in the Philippines.

The subcommittee's report was devastating and led the standing committee to table its 14th report in the House, which called for the establishment of national round tables to examine the practices of Canadian companies abroad. The Martin government's response to the 14th report was underwhelming but the round tables were put in place. Elections were called in November 2005 with the Conservatives winning in January 2006. The round tables convened in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver in 2006 and the round tables report was tabled on March 29, 2007.

Since then, the Bloc Québécois and Quebec and Canadian NGOs have been peppering the Conservative government with questions and, on several occasions, have applied pressure to the government to respond. In addition, at a G8 meeting in June 2007, the Conservative government promised to position Canada as a leader in regulating corporate social responsibilities. In March 2009, two years later, there is no sign of any action. There is absolutely nothing.

Clearly, the Conservative government is completely uninterested in the work of thousands of Quebeckers and Canadians who participated in the round tables. The issue of respect for human rights and the environment is no longer a priority for this government.

Yet there is no shortage of examples. Consider Colombia, in particular. Since June 2004, the Bloc Québécois' foreign affairs critic and international trade critic have met with more than 20 groups of citizens, spiritual leaders and aboriginal peoples that have come forward to bear witness to the disastrous state of human rights in their country, against a backdrop of ongoing civil war and the exploitation of subsurface resources. All of the evidence was consistent in saying that, in Colombia, the right to make a profit takes precedence over human rights concerns, and corruption exists at the highest levels in the government and the military.

In that regard, the very fact that the Conservative government has signed a free trade agreement with that country clearly demonstrates that Canada does not care about human rights when money and profits are at stake. Fortunately, the Bloc Québécois' unrelenting pressure pushed the government to include a clause stating that the agreement would be reviewed in a few years to look at improvement in the human rights situation in that country.

Another excellent example of the limited importance the Conservatives attach to human rights is their decision to remove several African countries from the list of countries given priority for international aid and to add Colombia to that list. Although governments have the right to ensure their economic well-being, a so-called responsible government should not do so at the expense of the environment, public health and human rights.

Another example I would like to point out comes from the Philippines. In the spring of 2008, the Bloc Québécois, to be specific, my colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île and I, met with a group of Filipino parliamentarians who came to inform us about the disastrous state of human rights in their country.

The fact that the Philippine government is ultra-conservative and terrorizes the people does not help, but the main reason for its behaviour is the exploitation of the country's national resources.

Various civil society groups have criticized the meagre royalties that foreign companies pay to local populations to exploit their subsurface resources. I should also note that some companies hire militias to protect the sites, often to the detriment of local populations, particularly if the latter protest the companies' actions. Violence and brutality perpetrated by Canada's TVI Pacific were at the heart of the subcommittee's report that led to the creation of the round tables.

In May 2007, the Bloc Québécois presented a motion in the House about the situation in the Philippines. This is what Development and Peace said about it:

In support of the motion moved today by the member for La Pointe-de-l'Île, the Bloc Quebecois' Foreign Affairs critic, and supported by the Conservative Party and the New Democratic Party, the Canadian Stop the Killings coalition is strongly urging the Government of Canada to apply pressure on President Gloria Arroyo to take concrete action to end the political assassinations and impunity in the Philippines.

It is imperative that the Canadian government condemn these killings, and take action to ensure that Canadian tax dollars are not complicit in funding the political assassinations and human rights violations perpetrated by the Philippine government.

That is what Dominique Caouette, organizer of the Stop the Killings campaign and a political science professor at the University of Montreal, had to say about it.

The motion presented by my colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île is in response to the serious deterioration of the human rights situation in the Philippines following President Arroyo's election in 2001, and the systematic political assassinations of more than 850 human rights workers, lawyers, journalists, church workers, labour organizers, peasant leaders, and leaders of political organizations that have since ensued. The motion noted reports issued by Amnesty International, the Melo Commission in the Philippines, and the United Nations special rapporteur on extra-judicial, arbitrary and summary killings, all of which link these political killings to the Philippine military.

In March 2007, representatives of the Department of Foreign Affairs and several MPs, including the Bloc critic, met with a delegation of Philippine church leaders and human rights activists. The delegation called upon Canada to stop supporting the Philippine government with bilateral funding and to stop cooperating on security aspects in the war against terrorism.

As stated in the motion of the hon. member for La Pointe-de-l'Île, Canada has considerable influence on the government of the Philippines, enough to call upon it to take action and to remedy the situation, because “Canada provides aid to the Philippines”. At the present time, CIDA provides approximately $25 million Canadian to the Philippines, and bilateral trade between Canada and the Philippines represents close to $1.5 billion yearly.

The urgent need for action as described in the motion by the hon. member for La Pointe-de-l'Île has been seen in daily reports from the Philippines documenting the escalation of political assassinations, kidnappings, arbitrary arrests, detentions and other human rights violations as the country prepares for an election on May 14. Human rights groups attribute this escalation to the campaign of intimidation being carried out by the Philippine army.

I would emphasize that there has not yet been any change in the situation in that country.

I could also refer to the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where similar cases are being reported: human rights violations, an alarming environmental situation, health problems and displaced populations.

Once again, there is likely a link to the corruption in which foreign mining companies are involved. Moreover, this is the situation in Darfur as well.

To summarize: 60% of the world's mining companies are listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange; there are numerous examples of Canadian companies with quite dubious behaviour in various developing countries as far as respect for human rights and the environment is concerned; there is no legislation in place at this time to require those companies to behave in a socially responsible manner; and lastly, those companies are very often the only connection, the only contact, that the people in those countries have with Canada.

Has Canada turned into a country that encourages profits at the expense of human rights ?

Is Canada, thanks to the Conservative government, now to be perceived as a state that tolerates, or worse yet encourages, this kind of actions?

Corporate Social Responsibility and the Canadian Extractive Industry in Developing CountriesPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The opposition whip is rising on a point of order.

Business of SupplyPrivate Members' Business

March 9th, 2009 / 11:40 a.m.


Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, discussions have taken place among all parties and I believe you will find consent for the following motion.

I move:

That at the conclusion of today's debate on the Opposition Motion in the name of the Member for Westmount--Ville-Marie, all questions necessary to dispose of this motion be deemed put, a recorded division deemed requested and deferred to the end of government orders on Tuesday, March 10, 2009.

Business of SupplyPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?

Business of SupplyPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

Some hon. members


Business of SupplyPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of SupplyPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

Some hon. members


Business of SupplyPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Corporate social responsibility and Canadian extractive industry in developing countriesPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Pierrefonds—Dollard for introducing this motion and for his general concern for citizens in developing countries. I would like him to know that I am of the very clear opinion that corporate accountability for Canadian resource extraction companies abroad is long overdue.

We know that extractive industries are often able to take advantage of political cultures in developing countries that do not accept or respect our domestic principles of democratic accountability and transparency. Centralized decision-making at the executive level that can offer extraction rights in exchange for capital in many developing countries can greatly infringe upon the human rights and environmental sustainability of localized populations.

Canadian companies, like those from other modern industrialized states, have at times taken advantage of such political circumstances in their quest for new sources of revenue to the gross detriment of workers and local communities that have and will suffer the devastating environmental consequences for generations. I was sad to see that, very recently, a lawsuit was filed against a company listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange for its alleged involvement in human rights abuses at a mining concession site in Ecuador. Legislation that enforces a responsible code of conduct that respects international human rights and local environmental concerns and enforces corporate accountability upon Canadian companies operating abroad is needed now more than ever.

New Democrats have long stood in the House in support of corporate accountability as a principle of international trade and economic activity among and between nations. The member for Pierrefonds—Dollard will no doubt know that it was the former hon. member for Ottawa Centre who first sought to enforce this principle with Bill C-369 in the 38th Parliament. Support from the New Democrat caucus on legislation or motions that enforce ethical behaviour upon Canadian companies, including those operating abroad, has never been difficult to attain. As such, I am proud to offer my support for this motion.

The creation of an independent ombudsman, as prescribed in this motion and as would be established in law with the passage of Bill C-298, introduced by the current member for Ottawa Centre, would ensure that the enforcement of corporate accountability principles is legitimate, consistent, apolitical and fair to both Canadian companies and the populations that may or may not be affected by their operations abroad.

I would like to thank all the members of the advisory group and all participants of the National Roundtables on Corporate Social Responsibility for their hard work and encourage each and every member of the House to read their report and strongly consider their recommendations when deliberating this particular motion and other pieces of legislation. I would like to take a moment to also recognize the work of the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability, which has helped keep the issue of corporate accountability on the political agenda in Canada for some time.

Member groups of CNCA that deserve our ongoing thanks include: Amnesty International, Africa-Canada Forum, Americas Policy Group, Asia Pacific Working Group, Development and Peace, Canadian Council for International Co-operation, Canadian Labour Congress, L'Entraide missionnaire, Friends of the Earth Canada, Halifax Initiative, Inter Pares, KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, MiningWatch Canada, North-South Institute, Rights & Democracy, Steelworkers Humanity Fund, United Church of Canada and more.

I wish to thank the staff and members of all of those groups. I ask them to please keep the strong and principled work that they have undertaken for so long and with such pride. This Parliament, a minority one with many progressive members, represents a rare chance for real change on a number of fronts, if only these members could muster the political courage to stand up in support of the principles they claim to respect and wish to uphold.

I would like to thank the member for Pierrefonds—Dollard for doing just that. I encourage him to reach out to other members of the Liberal caucus to gain their support for this motion and to lobby for their support of Bill C-298.

Corporate social responsibility and Canadian extractive industry in developing countriesPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the hon. member for Pierrefonds—Dollard for having his private member's motion drawn so early in the private member's lottery. I would also like to congratulate him for presenting such a worthwhile motion on such an important issue.

I am honoured to speak to the motion and I am honoured to have seconded the motion.

The motion dovetails with Bill C-300, An Act respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil or Gas in Developing Countries, presented by the Liberal member for Scarborough—Guildwood.

I would also like to congratulate members of the Development and Peace movement. I personally received over 500 signature cards from members of that organization who live in my riding.

I would like to thank those who sensitized me on the issue through private conversations either at town hall meetings or in my office, namely, Brian McDonough, André Bergeron, Dr. Mona Abbondanza.

I would like to thank those individuals who visited me in my riding office to discuss the issue and to impress upon me the importance of implementing the recommendations that my hon. colleague from Pierrefonds—Dollard no doubt worked on when he was a member of the foreign affairs committee in the 38th Parliament.

I would like to thank Jack Zylak, Nathalie Doiron, Patricia Oliveri, Nelson Furtado, Thérèse Pereira, Lynn Jansen, June Francis, Yvonne Bourque, and Monica Lambton. These individuals worked hard to collect the signatures on the over 500 cards that I received. They have done a remarkable job of advocating for this cause.

All of us in the House are familiar with citizen lobby campaigns that use, among other things, direct mail techniques, but rarely have I seen such a professional, effective and strategic effort on the part of such a good cause.

I would like to give members a little context. As I mentioned, this initiative comes out of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, which, during the first session of the 38th Parliament, became concerned about the increasing evidence that some Canadian resource extraction companies were conducting their operations in developing countries without adequate regard for local, social, environmental and human rights standards.

Accordingly, the committee recommended that the government undertake a comprehensive study of the issue by meeting with relevant industry associations, non-governmental organizations, development experts, environmentalists, human rights advocates, and government officials to determine the best course of action to move the issue forward.

As a result of that, the previous Liberal government initiated national round tables on corporate social responsibility and the Canadian extractive industry in developing countries.

What followed was 10 months of rigorous and meticulous negotiations and discussions with representatives from the extractive industry, advocacy groups, academics, government, and members of the public, all of which culminated in a report containing the very recommendations we are discussing today.

Canadian mining companies do not intend to violate environmental rights or human rights in developing countries. Often they are operating in very difficult jurisdictions that do not have appropriate laws and regulations. The executives of these companies are obviously operating at a distance from where the mining activities are taking place.

As we deplete mining resources, mining operations must go further into the outlands of the various countries in which they operate where no doubt the situation is even more nebulous and hard to monitor.

That is why one of the recommendations that came out of the advisory group's report, namely the recommendation that we create a mining ombudsman, would be so important. It would provide a conduit for information about what is going on in the field in these developing countries, a conduit for information not only to the government and to Canadian citizens at large, but to mining executives in Canada who would no doubt use that information to take appropriate action.

The mining ombudsperson would be mandated to ensure Canadian mining companies conduct their international resource extraction operations while adhering to standards of corporate social responsibility by, one, receiving and investigating complaints regarding potential violations of social or environmental standards by Canadian companies working abroad; two, quickly making recommendations to correct these violations; and three, releasing publicly the results of its investigations and recommendations for actions or sanctions.

For example, the ombudsman might recommend that the government withdraw services to an offending company such as by denying financial backing from Export Development Canada, discontinuing diplomatic support the company receives from Canadian consulates in developing countries, or disallowing Canadian tax deductions for tax paid to foreign governments.

The advisory group also recommends that the mining ombudsman play an advisory role, as I mentioned before, to focus the companies on situations on the ground, perhaps even to the point of helping to prevent conflicts in these countries and those regions of the country where the mining company is operating, before those conflicts begin.

Canada has made numerous contributions in the past to the progress of humankind through its foreign policy. We think, for example, of the treaty to ban antipersonnel landmines, which was a Canadian initiative. We think also of the doctrine of the responsibility to protect, the doctrine that was developed by former Liberal member of Parliament and minister in Liberal governments, the hon. Lloyd Axworthy, an idea that was taken up by Paul Martin before and when he was prime minister, an idea that has been discussed and probed further by the current leader of the Liberal Party.

Canada has also been active through Liberal senators like Senator Dallaire, in terms of helping to address the problems in Sudan, namely in the Darfur region. We have another Canadian, Maude Barlow, who has made great efforts to raise awareness of water as an international environmental issue, an international human issue, and who is now special adviser on water to the president of the United Nations General Assembly.

We have a history as a nation of acting to promote humanitarian progress internationally. This is no different. This is an issue on which we can make a contribution, not least of all because Canada is a mining giant. Half of all mining projects in the world are associated with Canadian companies. We understand this industry, we understand how it operates, we have knowledge and experience, and we should use that knowledge and experience to reduce the hardships that many miners and communities that surround mines have endured for various reasons.

It is even part of our culture to understand that mining has many associated hardships. Of course, just about every province has a mining industry. The likes of Hugh MacLennan have written on the hardships of mining communities, and so on.

It is part of our culture and it is part of economic history, and we should use that to make the world a better place.

Corporate social responsibility and Canadian extractive industry in developing countriesPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


Bruce Stanton Conservative Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, in the very short time remaining I will do my best to build on the comments of my colleague, the member for Niagara West—Glanbrook, as he took the time to comment on this important motion.

First I would like to indicate my thanks for being able to address the House this morning in regard to the issues surrounding corporate responsibility.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Pierrefonds—Dollard for his motion M-283, dated February 3, and to thank his party for its ongoing interest in this major problem.

We are all certainly aware of the importance the mining sector has for Canada and the imprint mining companies can provide in their operations around the world.

Suffice to say, building on the comments of my colleague earlier, there are a number of checks and balances that are in place to ensure that the activities of Canadian companies abroad are measuring up to the kind of standards that are set multilaterally in cooperation with certainly our stakeholders, but with Canadian companies and also the host countries.

We are well aware that it is fundamentally the responsibility of host countries to set the legislative and regulatory framework by which companies must operate, and Canada and Canadian companies, through our coordination and our multilateral partners, can work together with those developing countries to help them build the kind of capacity they need to make those kinds of improvements on the ground.

After all, Canadian companies working abroad are a success story. That is not to say it is perfect and that there is not more work that can be done. However, the progress on this file continues to improve.

We have, as was mentioned earlier, a national contact, a director general now in the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, a senior position that is helping to advance these policies with respect to Canadian companies' operations abroad.

So I would seek the indulgence of hon. members to consider this motion as really redundant in the sense that the work is ongoing and we will continue to make the kind of progress that is needed to keep Canada's respect around the world for extractive industries as high as it is currently.

Corporate social responsibility and Canadian extractive industry in developing countriesPrivate Members' Business



The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

When this matter comes before the House again, the member will have seven minutes remaining.

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

Opposition Motion--Science, Research and InnovationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders



Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC


That, given this government has continually failed to improve Canada’s research funding to build Canada into a competitive, progressive knowledge-based economy, and given that science, research and innovation are the foundations of a strong economy and the creators of the jobs of tomorrow, in the opinion of this House, the government should reinvest in these areas to ensure long term, predictable and globally competitive federal funding.

Mr. Speaker, on a personal note, if there is one reason more than any other that brought me into politics, it is the issue on which I am about to speak.

Simply put, science, research and innovation are the foundations of a strong economy. They will create the jobs of tomorrow.

It is clear to me that the current government does not understand what I have just said. This is particularly apparent if we look at its recent budget and indeed at all its preceding budgets. Notwithstanding all its pronouncements, it has failed to grasp the importance of establishing policies that will ensure long-term, predictable and globally competitive federal funding.

Before I get into details, I want to focus on a crucial part of what I have just said. I am referring to the jobs of tomorrow.

How is this different from the jobs of today?

First, an important observation: the economic blueprint for Canada in the 20th century no longer applies. The Canada that was content to sell its natural resources and low-tech products to the rest of the world can no longer assume that it will remain prosperous in the 21st century. The world has changed, not only because of globalization but for other reasons as well. There is indeed a new paradigm at work.

While resources remain an important component of our economy, it is knowledge and the resulting products and services that result from that knowledge that will ensure that we secure a prosperous future for our children. That is where the jobs of the future lie.

In this world where emerging countries now have hundreds of millions of middle-class, well-educated citizens who have ferociously embraced the virtues of open competition, Canada risks being left standing while others race ahead. Emerging countries are not only producing low-tech manufactured products more cheaply than we are, they are beginning to produce high-tech products that will soon flood the global markets.

In this world where a country such India produces more PhDs than the United States, in this world where the Internet has levelled the playing field in terms of access to knowledge, there are no longer any safe assumptions about the future other than the fact that knowledge and the application of that knowledge will determine who prospers.

In this interconnected world where productivity and innovation determine wealth and economic security, where does Canada stand?

Mr. Speaker, the statistics are discouraging. Canada's productivity has been declining over the last five quarters—its worst performance in 20 years. Basically, Canada is not competitive. In terms of innovation, Canada is 13th of 17 according to a 2008 Conference Board of Canada study. That is certainly nothing to write home about.

Are we creating the jobs of the future? The answer is no. We are proud of our successful companies, such as Bombardier, Research in Motion, Ubisoft and Apotex, and of our space industry, among others, but the truth is that we have to do even better.

We have a very well-educated population, and we have to take advantage of that. To do so, we need federal policies that will enable us to reach our potential. Our neighbours know it, and our competitors know it. Our government is the only one that does not understand.

As a first step, let me say the following. Science, research and innovation require a long-term approach, not an ad hoc, one year at a time approach.

What is really important, if one believes in a long-term approach, is to say it loud and clear. Our scientists and our knowledge-based industries must hear from the government. Hearing it allows them to plan for the long-term. It allows them to truly commit themselves to research and innovation. It sends them the message that what they do is important for the future of our country.

Second, governments should not be trying to pick winners. They should not favour applied research if it means that fundamental research will suffer. They should not focus on commercially-oriented science if this means that other science will suffer. Doing so fails to recognize society's great advance on all fronts and that all research benefits us all, often in ways that had not been anticipated. It is a supreme conceit for a government to assume otherwise.

This does not mean certain strategic areas of research cannot be given an additional impetus. Playing to our strength or trying to take the lead in a particular field is a smart thing to do, as long as it is not done at the expense of other research.

It does not help to create a positive climate of co-operation between the government and our university stakeholders when the Minister of State for Science and Technology bullies the executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, as happened recently. Shouting, interrupting and telling one's visitors to shut up only serves to create a chill between government and those with which it needs to create strong links.

Another illustration of the fact that the government does not understand the importance of science was the elimination of the national science adviser position. The purpose of this position was to offer the Prime Minister an opportunity to consult directly with a respected scientist who would offer not only advice but also the unvarnished truth about Canada's scientific performance.

Both the United States and Great Britain have respected national science advisers. For instance, a Canadian national science adviser could have told the Prime Minister early on in his mandate that climate change really did exist and the Prime Minister could then have acted expeditiously.

Looking at the recent budget, it is clear that the government does not have a coherent strategy for scientific research. While it funded certain areas, it totally overlooked others.

For example, it implemented so-called efficiency cuts of $148 million over three years at the three research granting councils without increasing their operating budgets. It failed to fund Genome Canada in this budget so it could undertake its next cycle of research funding in co-operation with its public and private partners. The National Research Council was not funded for research in this budget. It was instructed to find savings of $27.6 million over three years as part of its strategic review. The program to fund the indirect costs of research was also cut.

Mr. Speaker, everyone agrees that federal organizations have to undergo strategic reviews from time to time to optimize their operations. Our neighbours have clearly recognized the importance of increasing investment in science and research to create the jobs of the future, so the question is, why has the government decided not to allocate more funds to the organizations I just mentioned? Regardless of what the Minister of State says, adjusted for inflation, government spending on research in the natural sciences, engineering, social sciences and humanities has diminished since the Conservatives took power.

I would add that government spending on research relative to its total spending generally went up beginning in 1993 under the Liberal government, but has continually gone down since the current government came to power. The Liberal government spent 4.9% of federal money on research. By 2008, that number had dropped to 4.1%. That says a lot about how important research is to this government.

I would also like to point out that this government would like the $2 billion announced for university and college infrastructure to be identified as part of the funds allocated to science and research. In reality, as we all know, this money is for building maintenance and other infrastructure projects and does not represent direct investment in scientific research as such.

Now this government and the universities are fighting about the $2 billion. It seems that the government would like the money to be spent solely on university infrastructure directly related to scientific research whereas the universities would like to have more leeway in how they spend it.

When comparing federal spending on research in 2008 to that in 2005 and adjusting for inflation, research has decreased in the following ministries: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans, Industry Canada, National Defence and the National Research Council.

Another interesting statistic deals with the gross domestic expenditure on R and D, or GERD. Canadian gross domestic expenditure on R and D as a proportion of GDP rose significantly under the Liberal government to just over 2%, well over the OEDC average of 1.5%. Unfortunately, over the past two years, GERD as a percentage of GDP has declined, led by a failure of the government to maintain continuing investment in R and D.

Not only is the government failing to rise to the occasion, it is actually sliding backward at a time when it should be demonstrating a strong commitment to research. At a time when President Obama is making massive investments in basic research in fields such as health, renewable energy development, energy efficiency, electronic medical records, broadband, smart electrical grids and other areas, why has the government's approach been so piecemeal and incoherent? Where is the vision? Where is the strategy?

I would now like to focus on innovation and the elements that allow a country such as Canada to be innovative. Let me begin by identifying one area where Canada did very well until the Conservatives took over. I am speaking to the funding by the federal government of our universities and research hospitals. The reason we have done so well in this area is because of visionary decisions that were taken by the Chrétien and Martin governments to re-invigorate research in our public research institutions.

Since 1997, consecutive Liberal governments have committed $12 billion in new funding to support basic research. As a result, Canada is now the G7 leader in terms of university research and development. Liberal governments more than doubled the budgets of Canada's research granting councils to a total of $1.6 billion in 2004-05.

It was under the Liberal leadership that Canada saw the creation of the following important programs: the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Canada research chairs program, Genome Canada and the program to fund the indirect costs of research. These far-reaching programs lifted Canada out of a hole and made us leaders in public funding of research.

Establishing programs that support research in our universities and research hospitals is certainly necessary, but not sufficient to ensure that Canada becomes a leader in innovation. It takes more than that. A federal policy on innovation requires a coherent approach that recognizes all the essential elements of innovation. And, as we know, there are many. It is one thing to be creative. Bringing a new product or service to market requires much more.

We all know that research can lead to promising ideas but that many challenges must be solved before the research can be commercialized, that is before it results in goods or services that people want to buy. We must recognize that other elements are essential to innovation.

Let me cover some of those elements essential to innovation. One of them is access to venture capital to allow companies involved in R and D to fund the effort required to develop promising research into a marketable product or service. Often that effort takes many years and often it is undertaken by small and medium-sized companies that have no other source of revenue other than venture capital.

While venture capital pools increased steadily in the United States between 2003 and 2008, they have actually decreased in Canada, according to the Canadian Venture Capital Association. This is cause for concern since venture capital is one of those essential elements required to support innovation. The government should be in active discussion with the venture capital industry to see how it can help improve the growth of venture capital.

Another essential element deals with intellectual property. The reality is Canadian intellectual property laws are weak in Canada and must be strengthened in order that those who generate that intellectual property can own it. Without that protection, innovators are not assured that the fruits of their hard work will remain under their control.

Another important role for government in fostering innovation is to provide tax incentives in the form of credits, some of them refundable, to companies that engage in research. While the current scientific research and experimental development, or SR&ED, program does address the requirement to some extent, it also has proven to be cumbersome to use and restricted in its application. This program needs to be re-examined immediately in order to ensure Canada is using it as effectively as possible to support promising research.

Finally, effective transfer of promising research to the marketplace requires strong linkages between those who perform the research and those who know how to commercialize and market the fruits of that research. Some mechanisms are in place, but we have the right to ask whether they are achieving their intended objectives or do we need to look at other methods that would be more effective in creating effective partnerships between the public and private sectors. We should certainly be pursuing this aggressively if we hope to become a more innovative country.

The government is putting the squeeze on science when it should be committing to an even greater role for science in the 21st century. To paraphrase a recent headline, Canadian research lacks adequate funding and the government a coherent vision. While the U.S. invests heavily in science as a key part of its economic revival, Canada is spending less and putting scientists out of work. I do not think I can say it more succinctly than that.

On top of that, the Conservative minister of state continues to erode relations with the very sector he is there to support. His combative, top-down approach is indicative of the government's failure to work in partnership with stakeholders.

Let me illustrate the stark contrasts between what the government is doing and what our American neighbours are doing.

U.S. President Barack Obama's stimulus package is investing a total of $65 billion over the next two years in the knowledge-based economy. On a per capita basis, this is six times more than Canada's investment. This is why the U.S. will be a leader in creating the companies and jobs of the future, while Canada risks getting left behind. What is it about this that the Conservatives do not understand?

Given that the government has failed to improve Canada's research funding to build Canada into a competitive, progressive knowledge-based economy and given that science, research and innovation are the foundations of a strong economy and the creators of the jobs of tomorrow, for those reasons it is essential that the government reinvest in those areas to ensure long-term, predictable and globally competitive federal funding for science to make Canada a leading innovator on the world stage.

Opposition Motion--Science, Research and InnovationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Oshawa Ontario


Colin Carrie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member's speech quite closely. I want to correct some of the facts he has brought forward, one in particular is about cutting funding for Genome Canada. He is an hon. member and he should put the facts before the House.

I want to state publicly that we have not cut funding for Genome Canada. Our government recognizes the importance of this faculty. We have signed two five year agreements to provide it with stable, predictable, long-term funding. In budget 2007 we invested over $100 million over five years and $140 million over five years in budget 2008 to support the important work of Genome Canada. This funding is ongoing.

For example, Genome Canada will receive $106 million this year and $108 million in 2009-10. It has said publicly that it is happy with the support. In fact, the Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc voted against new funding for Genome Canada in 2007 and 2008.

Could the member stand and state in the House how he can say that we have cut funding when we have not?

Opposition Motion--Science, Research and InnovationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, either the Conservatives do not understand or they are deliberately misrepresenting the actual situation.

Let me explain it to the Conservatives.

Genome Canada is engaged in long-term research. It does this by working with scientists who do the research, who also have to line up private-sector partners. This is multi-year research.

When Genome Canada receives funding, let us say in 2007, it is given money that it will use for these multi-year projects as part of the new endeavour, a new series of research-related projects that will span several years. That money is then engaged. As a result of the fact that there was no money for Genome Canada in 2009, we cannot start a new cycle now on a new batch of projects that will also be multi-year.

So, yes, there is money in the books for 2011, 2012 and 2013, but that money is already committed to previously-established projects. That is not a difficult point to understand.

Opposition Motion--Science, Research and InnovationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I know my colleague's concern about this issue goes back a number of years. In 2006, he made a report on science and technology for the Liberal Party renewal commission. In that report, he suggested at that time that there is no process within our federal government to allow the development of a national science and technology strategy.

Canada does not have a national science strategy, so quite clearly something has carried on from the previous Liberal administration to the Conservative administration, which turns its back on the development of a national science strategy.

Is this an issue that speaks to the nature of how both these parties view our economy as a branch plant economy, as an economy that is tied more to North America than an economy that can stand on its own feet with its own research?

Opposition Motion--Science, Research and InnovationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to find that somebody from the NDP actually read that report, which I spent a great deal of time putting together back in 2006.

There is a need for a coherent national science policy. It does not exist at this time. As the member has intimated, it would be a good idea for us to put it together.

However, I would remind him of elements of my speech, which clearly indicated that back in the 1990s Mr. Chrétien and Mr. Martin recognized, at a time when the economy was in difficulty and at a time when there were severe government cutbacks--we all remember the 1990s--that it was imperative to reinvigorate our research capacity in the public sector in this country. It is because of their efforts to create programs such as the Canada Foundation for Innovation, Genome Canada, the indirect costs of research and the Canada research chairs that we became the leader among the G7 in terms of public research.

We have started the process. We need to continue it. I hope that the NDP has a similar vision.

Opposition Motion--Science, Research and InnovationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Westmount—Ville-Marie for pointing out the woeful and unfortunate absence of vision on the part of the Conservative government when it comes to a technology-based future economy for Canada.

I want to ask a question about the brain drain. The brain drain affects not just Canada's future prospects, but today's economy as well.

We had a visitor from the MITACS centre of excellence regarding advanced science, Dr. Gupta, who estimates that $500 million of investment in post-secondary education and science students is lost each year through students going to the United States because the opportunities are greater there than here.

Would my colleague please comment on the impact of that kind of loss going into the United States as a result of the Conservatives' current budget and policies?