That this House do install an accessible and functional telecommunications infrastructure so that virtual meetings between parliamentarians from here and around the world may be held for the purpose of participating in regular debates on matters of mutual concern.
Madam Speaker, as you may have noticed, this motion may look somewhat futuristic and appear to be coming straight out of Star Trek . I wish to explain why I have moved this motion, which unfortunately is not a votable item.
I believe that most of my colleagues are aware of my interest in issues relating to the globalization of economies and its consequences.
It is important to understand the globalization process and I have been trying to do just that since 1998. I call upon my colleagues to continue to ponder on this, examine the consequences—and there are several of them, especially when we deal with global economy. At the same time, the nature of the power of governments remains national.
We need to have some international organizations capable, to a certain extent, of overseeing globalization. At present, many international organizations have left themselves open to criticism on several fronts. One of those is their lack of democracy. Let us take for example the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank or the World Trade Organization. There is no perfect organization, but we must recognize that international organizations are playing an increasingly important role and that they are bound to do so increasingly in the future.
Over the past few years, international economic agreements, like the free trade area of the Americas that affects us so much, have taken on a new importance.
For several years now, negotiations on this very important agreement have been going on. All those international organizations and international agreements have one thing in common: the negligible role parliamentarians are allowed to play.
Of course, there are here and there some committees and parliamentarians are being invited to take part in some international meetings. However, the question we must ask ourselves is the following: we only talk and do not act, but as we are debating parliamentary reform and the role of parliamentarians, should we also turn our attention to globalization?
Twenty years from now, with the increasing globalization of the economies, what would it mean to be a parliamentarian? How would the world be governed? A number of questions could be raised.
I believe there is a consensus among parliamentarians, at least I hope so. I have heard several parliamentarians complain about their very limited involvement in international agreements. At the first forum of the parliamentarians of the Americas, held in Quebec City, the Conference of Parliamentarians of the Americas, participants expressed their concern about the fact that too few parliamentarians take part in these debates. Business organizations are involved, but unfortunately civil society is mostly absent and parliamentarians do not have enough say.
In the current system, parliamentarians are still in the best position to bridge the gap between the people and the decision makers or the executive branch of the governments. There are a lot of parliamentarians' associations throughout the world, and the Conference of Parliamentarians is growing. I could talk about the Interparliamentary Forum of the Americas, even if I have many criticisms regarding this even. My hon. colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot and I attended the first meeting of the forum held in this House. Even if parliamentarians from all over the world are eager to work together, there is still a problem. I think that, more than ever, parliamentarians from each and every country need to work together on issues that go far beyond their national borders.
I am thinking about economic agreements, environmental agreements, financial markets and world democracy. We would like to deal with these issues in this parliament, but a lot of questions go well beyond our borders. Should the ministers be the only ones to try to solve these issues? I think we should all be involved.
For all the reasons, I think parliamentarians should work together to balance and monitor everything that is going on. In this House, we have members constantly putting questions to the government and government members being held accountable.
There is no system of checks and balances at the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank or the World Trade Organization to review all the decisions being made. Of course, these are huge institutions, but at some point in time, we will have to establish some kind of opposition to make these agencies more transparent.
I think the role of parliamentarians has to evolve and all parliamentarians should co-operate with their counterparts from other countries and, in our case, the Americas. Of course, it is easier said than done because of one major obstacle, the distance.
I have just returned from Porto Alegre, where 55,000 participants from the civil society and approximately 1,000 parliamentarians met with goodwill. However, the problem is that we cannot continue this work before next year, in another forum of parliamentarians. Imagine, when one meets once a year, one cannot make much progress.
This explains my motion. Of course, this is a proposal and I do think that we have the telecommunications infrastructure needed. We were beginning to consider implementing the technology infrastructures that would allow parliamentary committees from all over the Americas to communicate.
Take for example the issue of genetically modified organisms. This issue must be resolved not only within a country, but all over the world. This issue involves all human beings.
It would be possible to have debates involving parliamentarians from every country, maybe 50 countries to start with. If we allowed a parliamentarian from each country to take part in a debate with the best experts in the world, and if that debate were on Internet, for example, thus easily accessible, I think that this would be one step toward the process of democratizing the whole debate. I am not saying that this will solve everything overnight. Of course, that is not what I think, but we would have the means to do much more serious work with the parliamentarians in the rest of the Americas.
I sit on one parliamentary committee a week, but perhaps I could sit on a second one that would be international. Of course, I would stay here in Ottawa and my colleagues from other countries would all be in their parliament. Through televirtuality, we could, once a week, go deeper into issues, make recommendations, promote some issues and serve as a counterbalance to this government. I believe this would help democracy a little.
Some people will ask me “Yes, but how do you want to implement this system?” This is not the issue today. The issue is not to ask what kind of instruments or technological infrastructure we will get. The question to ask ourselves, as parliamentarians, if we want our work to evolve with globalization, is this: if we were able to communicate, to share information regularly through video and audio means, what would be the result? Would we be able to do more work?
I believe so. All I say today is, let us get some new kind of telephone and then we will be able to talk to one another. When we are able to do so, then we will see the result.
If the economy is globalizing, parliamentarians' work and democracy must also globalize. This is what I am proposing today. My objective is to get a consensus from parliamentarians so we can say “Yes, we have the political will to give ourselves such an instrument”. Then, it will be up to computer engineers, or whoever.
They will be the ones to propose possible solutions. It has to be understood that attending a continental or international forum is very costly, takes time and reduces the effectiveness of parliamentarians. Stress added to jet lag reduces everyone's performance level.
We must invest to some extent in such a system. Maybe the telecommunications infrastructure does not permit such virtual communications right now. However, in four or five years, I think it will be possible. Technology evolves at light speed. We must prepare for that. This is why I submit this motion today.
What will the future be? It is clear that such a system will exist in the future. It is only a question of time. Some members might smile today when they hear my proposal, but it has happened before that people have laughed at what I have said to the House, for example when I proposed that we speak more extensively about globalization. Now we are doing it. I am not saying that I am responsible for that, but I think I was part of a trend. We must maintain the momentum. We must look ahead. We should not wait for others, but we should be proactive. This is why I am moving this motion today.
However, I am disappointed to see that it is not votable. It would certainly have been appropriate to have the members look into this matter and give their opinion on the subject. I cannot imagine that members would not want tools to make the communications with their foreign counterparts easier.
What form will this ultimately take? Does it mean that the work of the parliamentarians on this virtual committee would be formal? It is a little early to suggest any advance solution. In the beginning, it could all be done very informally. But with time, this informal work could become more formal, just like what happened in the European Union.
The European Union was not created in one day. Lots of preliminary meetings and exchanges took place. At one point, it all flowed together and we finally saw the establishment of a European parliament.
Could we not imagine a virtual or global parliament? I am not talking about a global government, but rather a global parliament, in which all parliamentarians in the world could have regular contacts? I believe we could.
Therefore, I am floating this balloon, so to speak, and I really look forward to seeing my colleagues reaction, particularly since I have already proposed this publicly by sending a letter to the 300 parliamentarians in the House. The very next day, during the Interparliamentary Forum of the Americas, the idea was presented again and supported by the Mexicans.
Let us see now where the support will come from. The idea is now public knowledge and we now have to debate how to make it feasible.