Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Essex for the excellent speech she gave. She spoke at length about canola, and I will be focusing first and foremost on the diplomatic issue.
This situation has been going on for over three months. Our ambassador to China was fired, resigned or was “asked to resign” over some awkward remarks he made about the highly sensitive case of Huawei's chief financial officer being held here in Canada. This resignation or firing made sense, because he had definitely crossed the line.
However, as we have been saying from the beginning, this government's mistake was not having a plan B. For all his flaws, Mr. McCallum, the former ambassador, had a special relationship with China. He understood the spirit, the thinking and the diplomatic philosophy that was needed to approach the Chinese government. That is extremely important in diplomatic circles. Just as we hope that ambassadors representing other countries in Canada understand how the government operates, we need to be able to demonstrate the same knowledge at our embassies abroad. Mr. McCallum had that special relationship with China, but now it is lost. That is why it was doubly important to replace him promptly.
Three days after Mr. McCallum's departure, Guy Saint-Jacques, a former Canadian ambassador to China, said that if the ambassador could not be replaced immediately, we should at least send a special envoy. This would have shown that we take the situation and our relationship with China seriously. The fact that stand-ins and backups are currently representing the Canadian embassy in China is not necessarily an insult, but I must say that it does not show respect for China. This has created all kinds of problems, and the canola issue is one of them.
We know about Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, the two Canadians who are currently in prison. In three months, two Canadians have been sentenced to death. This is obviously in retaliation for Canada's inability to maintain sensitive, reasonable diplomatic relations with China.
I want to quickly address the canola situation. This is a problem because, as my colleague mentioned, this product is right at the top of the list. We know very well that China's decision to revoke the canola export permits has nothing to do with the quality of the product. The decision was quite obviously made in retaliation. Other Canadian products like pork, peas and soybeans are currently in jeopardy. What will happen if China decides to move forward and ban these Canadian products from the country? At what point will the government step up and say that this is unacceptable? We must fight and complain to the World Trade Organization. We must use the trade tribunals. My colleague mentioned that other countries do not hesitate to do this with us. If the reason truly is unfair, as is the case here, then we should start using the tools at our disposal.
What is the government going to do now that canola is under attack? If soybeans and pork are targeted, will it finally wake up and do something? In light of the government's inept handling of this diplomatic relationship, I am seriously starting to doubt it. This is a problem because things are not going to get better.
I believe it is now clear that China is feeling out this relationship and sees that we are not reacting. It sees that we have no intention of appointing a Canadian ambassador to China, that we have no intention of sending a special envoy to open the dialogue. The Prime Minister has not even bothered to call his Chinese counterpart. There is no acceptable line of communication open to Chinese representatives. Therefore, chances are that in order for Canada to get respect, it will also have to show signs of strength. I am not referring to military strength, as the parliamentary secretary seemed to allude to, but we have to establish our own means of retaliation. The issue of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, in which we have invested $256 million over five years, is part of this.
Why invest in an infrastructure bank when we have our own? In both cases, it is a bad idea. Infrastructure banks serve to facilitate the privatization of public assets and income.
Investors in an infrastructure bank, whether it be the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank or the Canada Infrastructure Bank, want a return on their investment. If they want a return on their investment, there must be some way to achieve that. This is done through user fees, such as tolls, which are forced sources of income. These are forced fees for these pieces of infrastructure. The public loses control to the private sector. Our governments have made us complicit in the way the private sector is taking over, taking control of our infrastructure, or Asian infrastructure in this case, with the government's blessing.
Some $256 million has been invested in that bank, with the goal of obtaining a 1% share of the bank. At first the government tried to sell us on this idea by saying that it would serve as a gateway for our businesses, which could benefit from contracts with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
Well, first of all, the bank's articles of agreement prevent it from giving preferential treatment to any country when awarding contracts, whether that country is a member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank or not. Second, no Canadian firm has been awarded a contract since the creation of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. That settles that.
If we want to send China a clear message that it is not playing by established trade rules and if we want to stand up for ourselves, we can pull out of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. We can also exert pressure by filing a complaint with the World Trade Organization, as the former Canadian ambassador to China, Guy Saint-Jacques, suggested. We also plan to have a delegation at the 2022 Olympic Games in Beijing. Chinese athletes are currently training in Canada. We can graciously send them back to their country to send the message that the situation is unacceptable and this is our way of standing up and expressing our displeasure. I am not saying that this would improve the relationship, but at this point, nothing can.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food said that this needs to be resolved through diplomatic channels. I agree, but we do not have an ambassador. Canada has not had an ambassador in China for three months, and the government has not given any indication that it intends to appoint one.
It is true that we need to use diplomatic channels. That only makes sense, but the government needs to make that the priority. The government needs to stop improvising all the time and start taking the situation seriously.
One can hope for the best by being nice to a giant like China, but that is not what has happened so far, quite the contrary. The government needs to hire or appoint an ambassador as soon as possible. The Liberals need to appoint someone who is very familiar with China and who understands the situation so that we can open a real dialogue.
If the government does not intend to do that, which appears to be the case right now, then we need to start thinking about sending a special envoy to open a dialogue, which should have happened three months ago. Right now, there is nothing to indicate that the government plans to do that. If it does not, then the Minister of Foreign Affairs or, ideally, the Prime Minister, needs to contact their counterpart in China to try to rethink and improve that relationship, to reach and understanding and to pave the way for the new ambassador.
We will support the Conservatives' motion in spite of its omissions. This is a complex situation, after all. We are going to support it because the Liberal response to the canola crisis and to our companies' exclusion from the Chinese market is unacceptable.
The Liberal response is unacceptable and far too tepid. The absence of a Canadian ambassador to China is compromising diplomatic relations, making it very difficult to resolve a number of problems. For various reasons, we should never have invested in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Pulling out of this bank would send a clear message that we are standing firm against the pressure being exerted on Canada.