Mr. Speaker, I am excited to talk about Latin America. When people first said Latin Americans want a month, I actually thought that we need more than a month with all that Latin America has to give and all the things we need to explore in Latin America. Thirty days is not enough time.
I am pretty excited because I used to be the chair of ParlAmericas and now my good friend from Kenora has taken on that role. He has done a great job. Canada has really carved itself a niche in that entire region. We are looked upon. We are respected. We are kind of like a big brother in a lot of ways. They seek us for advice on legislation. They seek us for advice on all sorts of regulations.
Through ParlAmericas we have done a great job in actually building bridges in countries right across the whole hemisphere. Now I can pick up the phone because of ParlAmericas and talk to somebody in Brazil at a moment's notice, or in Chile, Peru, or Costa Rica. Those are the things that we have done through ParlAmericas, bringing parliamentarians together and sharing best practices, what works and what does not work, and learning from each other. That has made us an even tighter knit community. That is to our benefit, to Canada's benefit, and to Latin America's benefit.
When we look at the potential in Latin America we just say “wow”. Looking at the people, whether they are Portuguese, Spanish, or French, the entire region has so much dynamic to it, so much flare and ambiance with a love of family and a love of life.
My first trip to Latin America was actually to Brazil. I remember being out at a restaurant at 11 o'clock at night and looking over at the table next to me. There were two families having dinner together and they were laughing. I was thinking, it is 11 o'clock at night, why are these kids out? Then talking to a friend of mine he said that it was two teenagers out on a date. The teenagers were bringing the entire family on a date. That is part of their tradition. That is part of their culture. That is something that is appreciated and celebrated. It is quite a bit different from my kids who if they were on a date I probably did not even know about it until a week later. Right away, I could see how much family meant to them.
Then talking to them about what they do on the weekends and in the evenings, they have a love for life. They really know how to live life, appreciate the small things in life, and pull all that value out of those small things, and treasure them, and treasure each other.
Canadians, when we are doing the nine to five, or nine to 10, or, in this case, nine to midnight or 10 to midnight, sometimes we forget we need to express that love for life and to have that joyful time among family and friends.
The next trip was to Peru, Chile, and Costa Rica. I had the honour of going down there with the Prime Minister on two occasions. Again, in those scenarios, the world leaders in those regions really respected Canada. I think there are many reasons why. Part of it was that we never preached. We never went down there and told them they had to do this or do that. We always went down there with a manner of respect. We listened. We learned. We would give advice if they asked for it. We led by example. They appreciated that.
One thing I found when working with people from Latin America is that, when doing business there, the people want to know who we are. They want to understand where people come from and about their families. Once they have a comfortable relationship, then they are ready to get on to business. It is so different from other countries in the world where one sits down, has a business meeting, and that is it. Latin American people really want to know who they are working with and who they are doing business with. It is such a nice concept to have that in a business relationship.
I remember being in Cartagena, at the OAS, or the Summit of the Americas, watching President Obama. I remember sitting in the runway in the Prime Minister's jet looking out the window and there was President Obama's jet, and then there was a little jet that was Hilary Clinton's jet. I was laughing that they both came in separate planes. Maybe there were security reasons for doing that.
However, I remember talking to some of my friends down there. I said, “Isn't it nice the Americans are here?” They said, “Yes, it's nice but they only come once in a while and they write a cheque and then they expect us to do what they want. They don't get to know us. They don't actually understand who we are and what we are doing. They just drop in, drop out, and say, this is what we want.” They do not like that. They like the Canadian approach where they are treated as a friend and a partner, where respect is shown.
I think that is why we see the warmth that we have with the people and the countries in that region. I think that is why we have trade agreements with Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras, Chile, Peru, and Colombia. Hopefully, we will see something in Mercosur countries somewhere down the road. Hopefully, we will do something with the Pacific Alliance that will even bring us closer and closer together. There are so many opportunities to do business and trade in that region.
As we do business and trade in those areas, their standard of living and quality of life are going to get better. Their ability to purchase more goods and have the things we have here in Canada will become easier. As we look at security in the region, it will become safer.
I encourage everyone, especially when it is minus-40 in Saskatchewan or Winnipeg, to acknowledge that Latin America is our saving grace sometimes. A lot of people from Saskatchewan travel and participate in tourism in places like Mexico, the Caribbean, and the Dominican Republic. A lot of people in my riding go and live in Mexico in the wintertime. They love Saskatchewan in the summertime. I would encourage everyone to come to Saskatchewan in the summertime. It is cheaper to come to Saskatchewan and travel because there is no carbon tax. I just had to get that in there.
However, a lot of people like to get away in the wintertime, whether it is for a week, two weeks, or a month. Where do they go? They go to Latin America. Why? It is the guaranteed sunshine and the friendly people. They love Canadians. They like who we are. They like to talk to us. They like to visit with us. It is such a nice environment and we have become such close friends.
The other thing we have had from Latin America, especially for our honey producers, is a stable force of labour through temporary foreign workers who come in the summer, work in the beehives, and do the work we cannot get Canadians to do. Then they go home and take care of their families in the wintertime, because they do not like Canadian winters, and I do not blame them. It has created a scenario where we have all these people coming into Saskatchewan in the springtime, working right through to September or October, and going back home. Again, families and friends are being created, connections are being created, and it has been a win-win for everyone involved.
I also remember the time I went to Honduras and toured a plant of a company from Montreal, whose name escapes me right now. As we toured that plant I saw how modern it was. Talking to the people on the floor, they said it was so nice that a Canadian company would invest in their region and give them jobs. Those jobs are well appreciated. The company is providing great value to the community, but also it is not taking advantage of the people in the community. It is treating them with respect, offering health care, a fair wage, and excellent working conditions. In fact, we could put that facility in Honduras in Montreal and we would not notice the difference. That is where Canadian companies have played a proper role in the region.
I would be remiss not to talk about Canadian companies in the mining sector in Latin America. We all know that the TSX is the exchange for the mining sector around the world, and we have a lot of Canadian companies doing business in Central and South America, and in the Caribbean. Our companies have recognized the importance of being good corporate citizens.
One of the things I did when I was travelling with ParlAmericas was that I always tried to make part of my trip a tour of a Canadian facility. For example, when I was in Suriname I went to see IAMGOLD's gold mine. One can actually go there and see how it is operating. The nice thing to say about those mines, and this mine in particular, is that the safety standards were equal if not better than they would be in Saskatchewan, Quebec, or anywhere in Canada. That is, again, working well to build our Canadian brand around the world.
When we look at all these things, 30 days probably is not enough time to celebrate our relationship with Latin America. In fact, if we were to go country by country, we could probably do two or three days for each country, just talking about their culture and heritage, and getting a good understanding of who they are.
This is a really good first step, and I am really excited to see this come forward. I am glad to speak to it, and really look forward to working with the people in Latin America into the future, both in my role as a parliamentarian, and even after, some day when I am no longer a parliamentarian, perhaps in the role of a tourist.