Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to debate these report stage amendments. I get to move amendments very rarely, and so I am pleased that we are going to be debating at least one of them. I tried to move them at committee, but I was not successful there.
I am going to focus most of my comments, if not all of them, on the portions in division 2 that deal specifically with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
I will start with a Yiddish proverb. I always have these. “Everyone knows where his shoe pinches”. My pain point is with this infrastructure structure bank. I have a serious problem with throwing away a half billion dollars of Canadian taxpayer money for a project that at best is a “nice to have” at this point.
I do not know if the Liberals have noticed, but they are broke. They are $20 billion in the hole just this year. They are racking up debt in large amounts. This is not the time to be throwing away a half billion dollars of taxpayer money on such a project.
At committee, we heard from expert witnesses from the government. They were officials who came in and said that this is an opportunity for Canada. Just like we are members of the Asian Development Bank, it is an opportunity to invest Canada's money. Well, it is taxpayer money, and they should honour and steward it. They should not just throw it away like this.
There is no gain for Canada in this. We would be buying less than a 1% share in this AIIB, which would give us the same voting rights as Poland or Israel. The way decisions are made by the bank is by a majority decision of the board. The bank is led by the Chinese government. It has a Chinese national president. It is based in Beijing. It is not like the Asian Development Bank, which is an easy comparison that the government makes. The Asian Development Bank is based in Manilla. It has a Japanese president. I do not know if the government has noticed, but Japan is our ally. China is not. Japan has an exemplary human rights record in the past 30 years. China does not.
This is not about China bashing. This is about the proper use of taxpayer dollars and where the Liberals are putting them at a time when they are running a $20-billion deficit. In comparison, we heard from the New Democrat member who said that infrastructure dollars should be spent here and not in Asia, and that this is the wrong way to go.
Using Alberta as an example, the Liberals have only completed 27 out of 174 projects. Two years into their mandate, and now they are sending a half billion dollars over to Asia to build infrastructure there and to finance loans overseas for these 21 projects that have already been approved by the AIIB. In comparison, when the previous Conservative government was in power, between 2006 and 2008, it completed 100 projects in Alberta. The comparison here is 27 to 100. Where are the priorities? It is an easy question to ask the Government of Canada today.
This is an interesting part, where the budget and foreign affairs and foreign relations of Canada kind of intersect, but putting $480 million of taxpayer money into this bank does not advance our international interests. It does not advance our national interests. It advances China's foreign interests through the belt and road initiative.
It is not just me saying this. Members just have to read the speeches of Xi Jinping, the president of China, in 2015 at different summits where he makes a distinct connection between the belt and road, and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. They are connected together. The journals of Contemporary Politics, different Chinese journals, academics, professors, and foreign service officials from their governments make this point as well. The intent of the AIIB is to turn infrastructure toward China and the entire Asian continent. This is its intention. It is a tool of China's foreign policy, and it does not hide it but is very open about it. Anybody who takes the time to read any of these documents, which are publicly available, will find that China does not hide this fact. It is not as if this is some grand conspiracy. All of this documentation is very much public.
The Prime Minister is going to China to perhaps kick off these so-called free trade negotiations. Was the AIIB investment, the first $480 million, a down payment in order to get in through the door, in order to get an opportunity just to meet with China? Is that how these negotiations are going to go? To get to the next step, we have to pay the Chinese government a certain slice, and more taxpayer dollars have to be sent to it.
The thing that is most degrading for myself as an Albertan is that the AIIB is financing, loaning money, to two projects that are pipeline projects: the TANAP line in Azerbaijan, and the Bangladeshi line. Both of these are natural gas pipelines.
We have such difficulty building pipelines in Canada, yet we are so ready to hand over Canadian taxpayer dollars to support the loans that will end up building pipelines overseas. Some have said, and it has been said at committee too, that part of the reason we are investing is so Canadian companies can have an opportunity to bid. That is absolutely not true. They could have bid for the project before. Officials have confirmed this. It is publicly available on its website as well that Canadian companies could have bid for the contracts before.
The interesting part is that when we review all the projects, how the RFP was done, and which companies received the projects, they were either state-owned enterprises, SOEs, or Chinese sub-contractors, the majority. That is interesting. This so-called bank that is supposedly not dominated by China, and not directed by the Chinese government in fact, furthers the ends of the Chinese government, and ensures that many of the contracts were handed to Chinese-based companies, whether state or privately owned, if we can even call them that, or that they supposedly exist in China. That is the galling part.
There were two pipeline projects that were approved last year. Actually, one of them was approved in and around the time the current government tabled its budget, so it would have known this. When I asked the question whether human rights and environmental reviews had been done for every single project before agreeing to join, the Liberals said that they had indeed been done. I am still waiting for that information to be given to the committee. I am still waiting for that information to be passed on.
We are investing $480 million for a 1% share. We are not on the board of governors. We are not on the board of directors. We likely will never be able to get to that point. We are just giving the money away when we are running a $20-billion deficit in this country. Therefore, instead of good-paying, middle-class construction jobs being created here in Canada through public procurement for infrastructure, we are doing it for the benefit of the middle class in Asia, in whatever countries and whatever assortment there is.
One thing we will hear is that some will say that there are other multinational institutions that are financing some of these projects, such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank. In fact, only 10 of the 21 current projects this AIIB is financing actually have multiple partners doing that. The other 11 are purely funded by this Chinese-led bank. Among the future projects, only three of nine have other international partners funding them. Again, the majority of them are funded by the Chinese government.
Some of the witnesses from the government side came and talked about de-risking, that government money, government largesse, middle-class taxpayers giving large sums of money to this bank, will de-risk a high-risk project. That does not exist. That does not happen. By government putting money into a project, it does not suddenly reduce the risk magically, all it does is offset the risk. That way the company will still get paid. We do not de-risk a project that way. The risk is still there. Government participation cannot reduce the risks of cost overruns, natural disasters, supplies not getting there on time, or a worker strike. Government participation does not eliminate those risks for a construction project. What it can do is ensure that the rich, wealthy, and well-monied international elites get their share of the pie. They get their share of Canadian middle-class taxpayer dollars. That is why we have to remove it from the budget. This is the wrong time to be putting half a billion dollars of taxpayer cash into a bank that will never build an infrastructure project in Canada. That should be where we first look at infrastructure projects.
I understand why the government is doing this. If we look at its record in Alberta, it is terrible. There are 27 out of 174 projects completed. That is on its infrastructure website. Therefore, it admits willingly that it is failing in this regard.
I talked about the RFP process before. A lot of the regimes that the money is going to are not known as liberal democracies, they are more illiberal democracies at best and pseudo-democracies at worst. I do not blame countries like Azerbaijan for trying to better themselves. Of course they should be doing that, building projects, finding the financing wherever they can, both in the private and public sectors. That is up to them and their governments. However, I do not see why the Canadian government should be using taxpayer dollars to this end. We are running a $20-billion deficit. We should be financing and helping sustain good-paying, middle-class energy jobs here. The fact that this bank is going to be loaning money to sustain the TANAP line in Azerbaijan and Bangladesh is absolutely ridiculous.
Therefore, I look forward to a continuing debate on this. Hopefully, the government will listen and will remove it from the budget.