That, given the Prime Minister has supported a claim that the invitation issued to a convicted attempted murderer was the work of a foreign government attempting to interfere in Canadian foreign relations, while others in the government, including the Minister of Foreign Affairs, claimed that the invitation was an “honest mistake” on the part of the Canadian government, the House call upon the Prime Minister to instruct his National Security Advisor, Daniel Jean, to appear before the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security to provide the Committee the same briefing he gave to journalists on February 23, 2018, and that the briefing take place in public and no later than March 30, 2018.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from .
I rise in the House today to speak to an important issue, although one that is also sad and shameful. Yes, I want to talk about the 's recent disastrous trip to India, as well as our immense need to get to the bottom of the unfounded accusations made against the Indian government.
Our Prime Minister has been arrogant and disrespectful to the House and elected members from all parties. He is in the habit of sharing information with journalists ahead of Parliament and that is shameful. His arrogance, his lack of judgment, and his impetuous behaviour has spoiled our diplomatic relations with India. The relationship between our two countries is in shambles. That relationship was built over years with a great deal of effort. It is sad, but true.
We have a Prime Minister who is not very keen on coming to the House to answer questions. I guess that when he was young and dreaming of becoming Prime Minister, it never occurred to him that as leader of the country he would have to be accountable to Canadians. I guess that he thought it would be just like in the movies, where decisions and problems are neatly wrapped up in the end.
I honestly believe that the Prime Minister has woken up to the reality of his responsibilities and role and is in a state of shock. He rarely comes to the House, and when he does honour us with his presence, he does not answer the questions. He is all talk and no substance.
Let us review the facts. During the Prime Minister's family vacation to India, the media reported that a criminal convicted of attempted murder had been invited to one of the Canadian Prime Minister's events. To save face, the Prime Minister's first instinct was to do what he usually does and blame someone else for his own mistakes.
Usually, he blames our former prime minister, Stephen Harper, for all the mistakes that he and his ministers are making here in Canada. However, since he was in India, on the other side of the world, he could not find a Stephen Harper or a Conservative government, so he had to improvise. Since he is not overly skilled in the art of telling the truth, he made another mistake in an attempt to hide his first mistake. If you can imagine, our Prime Minister actually accused the Indian government of plotting to embarrass and undermine Canada by placing Mr. Atwal's name on the Prime Minister's guest list.
To lend some credence to his made-up story, the Prime Minister sent a senior official to a media-only briefing, to try to sell them this story.
Later, the Prime Minister said that he stood by the claims and accusations his official made against the Indian government. They did not hesitate to make allegations against India to Canadians, but they never provided any evidence or other information to justify their position. The Prime Minister ended up being the only one who believed the story he had made up.
That same day, both the and the Liberal member for readily, though clumsily, denied the Prime Minister's claims.
From the very beginning, the Indian government rejected the accusations. Even Mr. Atwal confirmed, with deep dismay, that India had not been involved.
Who are we to believe? We have two versions to choose from, the one from the Prime Minister and his national security adviser, and the one from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Atwal, the Indian government itself, and the member for Surrey Centre. This latter group all denied that the Indian government had played a role in extending this invitation to Mr. Atwal. They all affirmed that there had been no plot, and the minister even apologized to the Indian government.
On the opposite side, there is the isolated and unrepentant Prime Minister, who continues to level serious accusations at India.
This Prime Minister often uses big words to say nothing at all. This Prime Minister loves to hear the sound of his own voice. For all of these reasons, we need to shine a light on this affair.
Every major nation knows that it is important to maintain good relations with other countries.
Year after year, we, as elected representatives, work hard in partnership with our staff in diplomatic affairs and other services to sign free trade agreements and increase our exports to new markets. This work is crucial because it is the main driver of job creation in Canada.
In a fit of impulsiveness and wanton recklessness, our Prime Minister destroyed our business community's chances of securing business opportunities in the Indian market.
For all of these reasons, we need to hear the testimony of the public servant who could tell the House the whole truth about this infamous affair.
First, why did the force Daniel Jean to tell the media an unbelievable story? Now, that same Prime Minister is hindering the work of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security by preventing Mr. Jean from answering the questions of elected officials. Why? Does he have something to hide? The Prime Minister likes to brag about being transparent and about having cleaner hands than any other leader in Canadian history. He claims to be the Obama of the north.
We want explanations and we want answers. The only man—sorry, I meant to say the only person—
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Pierre Paul-Hus: One has to be careful these days, right?
The only person who has the power to resolve this issue once and for all is the Prime Minister himself. I am therefore asking the Prime Minister to do his job.
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to this issue. I will be taking a different tack on what we are discussing today.
Our motion is asking the to come clean with the conspiracy theories he has been putting forward. This is an issue of concern for Canadians across the country who want to ensure that their Prime Minister is being honest, especially in his dealings with countries around the world like India, a trusted ally and one of the largest democracies in the world.
I want to touch on the very real consequences of the lack of judgment of the , as a result of his actions in India, and the ramifications that we are feeling here at home. What should have been one of the top priorities for the when he went to India was the significant trading issue we have with one of our most significant trading partners when it comes to Canadian agriculture, certainly with respect to our pulses, lentils, peas, and chickpeas.
The Conservative government grew Canada's pulse industry to a more than $4.5 billion industry. Farmers in my constituency of Foothills in southern Alberta and throughout the province are now growing crops like soybeans, chickpeas, and lentils, which were never grown there 10 years ago. As a result of new innovation and new technology they are able to grow these very lucrative crops. One of the reasons that they want to seed these crops is the opportunity to access lucrative new markets like India. However, over the last few months and as a result of the 's actions in India, we have seen what was once a great opportunity for Canadian agriculture drop to not nearly that scope.
For example, in the days after the returned from India, the Indian government raised the tariff on Canadian chickpea exports from 40% to 60%. The Liberal government does not seem to understand the very real consequences for Canadians and Canadian entrepreneurs in agriculture as a result of its actions in India . Not only is this a question of the Prime Minister's embarrassing performance in India, but it is also having an impact here at home. I want to give the House some statistics with respect to just how profound this impact is.
The went to India to hopefully address some of these issues. When he came back, we found that not only had the issue not been addressed but it was substantially worse. To put that in perspective, the price Canadians were getting for a bushel of lentils prior to the fall was about $9 a bushel. Now we are getting just over $6.90 a bushel. That is a substantial decrease in the price that Canadians were getting for their product on the market. A great deal of that can be directly attributed to the Prime Minister's performance in India.
The fumigation issue was one that we were hoping the would be able to address on that trip. He said over there that they were able to bring that issue to the table, and I appreciate that, but they did not come home with any agreement, nothing was signed indicating that the fumigation issue was going to be addressed. In fact, there is no agreement. It is just maybe something that will be discussed further as we go through 2018. We have to understand the financial consequences of that.
When we talk about a shipment of these products that are going from Canada to India, we do not have the exemption on the fumigation, which we used to have. It sunsetted last December and the Indian government did not extend that exemption. It is now costing Canadian producers $700,000 per shipment on these products going to India. India is not asking us to necessarily fumigate our shipments, but it is charging us a fee when we send our products over there. India has also increased the tariffs on peas to 50% and on lentils to 30%. There is now a fear within the pulse industry in Canada that India could increase the tariffs on lentils to 100%, which is still within WTO rules.
My concern, and I think the concern that is shared by producers across the country, is that increasing these tariffs, including the latest one increasing the tariffs on chickpeas from 40% to 60%, is just a shot across the bow, just a warning shot that is saying to Canada that it must come clean with its actions when it comes to Jaspal Atwal and the claim that this was a conspiracy put forth by the Indian government. Until there is responsibility taken for the consequences, they are going to continue to take this out on Canadian farmers.
I certainly do not believe that is fair in any way, shape, or form, when our farmers or Canadian producers are the ones who are paying the very real consequences for the and his antics in India. Every single day here in question period, he continues to send mixed messages. Even in one single answer he is giving two different responses that simply do not mix. One cannot happen without the other. Either it was a conspiracy by the Indian government or it was an honest mistake, as the has said. It has to be one or the other, and it cannot be both. Until the steps forward, takes responsibility, and shows some accountability for his actions, we are going to continue to face some of these consequences, and it could get worse.
For example, there is a company in Saskatchewan that just recently signed a fertilizer agreement with India to supply India with potash. What makes this agreement so unprecedented is that it is the first potash mine in Canada that is being done in strong partnership with a first nation in Saskatchewan. The potash mine is actually on a first nation's land. This is something that the first nation community in northern Saskatchewan will benefit from. It is a memorandum of understanding between the first nation, the mining company, and India to supply potash. However, who is to say that they are not the next target? Will the next step for the Indian government be to say that they are not going to move forward with this agreement to supply potash from Canada to India? Is this another company or sector of industry that is going to be impacted by this?
I want to give my colleagues a quote from Gord Bacon who is the CEO of Pulse Canada, and was on that trip with the to India. Earlier on, when it came to the fumigation issue, Gord Bacon said, “There was never a science-based reason [for fumigation]. We were having to mix biological science with political science and the two never mixed well.” Thus, even with Pulse Canada and our producers across the country, they are raising alarms on the consequences of the 's actions in India and the very real implications that this is having on the ground.
We are asking the Liberal government to quickly take action on this. I have to be honest. I am not expecting them to take quick action because we have certainly seen over the last several months that when it comes to Canadian agriculture and rural economic development, these are certainly not priorities for the Liberal government. In fact, when a lot of these issues were going on, our was nowhere to be found.
When the pulse and lentil tariffs were raised last fall, the Liberals sent a trade mission to India. The fumigation and trade issues with our pulse products were not even raised, not to mention that the was not even part of that delegation that went to India to discuss possible free trade agreements with that trading partner. Then again, in January, the went back to India. He took almost 20 MPs and ministers to go on his taxpayer family vacation and photo op extravaganza. This is one of the top issues that we are dealing with here, yet the agriculture minister was not among that massive entourage that went with the on that trip.
Then we talk about the grain backlog, which is another huge issue for our agriculture sector. The said it is not really a very serious issue when our producers cannot get their products to market. The said that he is “satisfied” with what CN and CP are doing. Is he serious? At one point, sometimes only 6% of the railcars, the grain cars, that were ordered were actually being delivered. This tells me that when it comes to agriculture and rural economy, the Liberal government is more than happy to sacrifice our rural Canadians for their antics.
We need a who is going to take our global relations and our trading partnerships seriously. Canadian agriculture depends on it.
Madam Speaker, in response to an invitation from Indian Prime Minister Modi, the of Canada concluded his first official visit to India last month. He was accompanied by six ministers in the official delegation. Fourteen members of Parliament participated in key elements of the program.
Recognizing that the relationship is underpinned by people-to-people ties, the incorporated a strong focus on education and youth in the program, reflecting Canada's 1.4 million Canadians of Indian heritage, and cognizant of Canada's geostrategic and commercial interests in the Indo-Pacific region.
The 's objective was clear: to reaffirm that Canada stands with a united India. Recognizing that the relationship between Canada and India is based on a shared commitment to pluralism, diversity, and democracy, the Prime Minister visited cultural and religious sites of significance to people in Canada, India, and around the world.
During the visit, the met with India's Prime Minister Modi, India's President Kovind, the Minister of External Affairs, business executives and entrepreneurs, civil society advocates, academics, and thought leaders.
The visited the world's most populous democracy, the fastest-growing major economy in the world, and a society on the cusp of dramatic cultural, political, and economic transformation. India's economic heft is increasing. Its middle class is expanding, and its global influence grows stronger every day.
Over the past few years, Canada's relationship with India has thrived. We have expanded and deepened our traditional areas of engagement. However, Canadians expect the to do more, to welcome more skilled workers, to attract more students to study in Canada, to facilitate the ease of doing business with and investing in India. Canada's Prime Minister took the pulse of the change afoot in India in order to guide Canadian stakeholders through this transformation.
The relationship between Canada and India is strong and mutually beneficial. Two-way trade between Canada and India is estimated to have reached $8.34 billion in calendar year 2017. This represents an increase of 3.9% over 2016, and an increase of over 30% just in the last three years. There is an estimated 1,000 Canadian companies active in the India market, of which 400 have a physical presence in the country.
Despite these impressive figures, there is a palpable sense that Canada-India trade should be higher than it is right now, that there is enormous potential in India. The fact that our trade and investment numbers are low relative to the size of our GDP is just one example. On the same note, our negotiations on a comprehensive economic partnership agreement, known as CEPA, and a foreign investment protection and promotion agreement, known as FIPA, are important priorities for both countries.
Closing these bilateral agreements has proven to be long and arduous, and we are not quite there yet. However, Canada shares the same objective as India: to work together to create economic growth, prosperity, and good middle-class jobs and more opportunities for our citizens.
To this end, in the joint statement issued by the leaders on February 23, Canada and India agreed to intensify negotiations to finalize both CEPA and FIPA. As well, Canada and India finalized a memorandum of understanding between Global Affairs Canada's investment and innovation bureau and Invest India, which will enhance two-way investment between the two countries.
The welcomed the conclusion of, and progress on, co-operation agreements in areas such as civil nuclear science and technology, education, audiovisual production, information technology, intellectual property, sports, and many other areas.
The leaders agree to encourage the private sector to explore further investment opportunities, and they welcome the signing of the commercial agreement, which will create thousands of new economic opportunities and jobs for both countries.
Clearly, this was a valuable international trip to engage with an increasingly important global partner, India. This brings me to the subject of today's supply day motion.
Unfortunately, the subject the opposition has chosen to put forward in today's supply day motion calls into question the professionalism of some of our most senior public servants in the country. Canada's national security agencies are non-partisan, as well they must be. They are highly competent and highly effective. We trust them to protect and promote Canada's security. They continue to do an excellent job in serving and protecting the interests of Canadians regardless of what party might be in power. We respect our national security agencies and we respect the non-partisan public service. We respect their ability to provide non-partisan advice, including on operational issues that bear upon national security.
As has been explained to the House on many occasions, the invitation to Mr. Atwal should never have been sent. When the government became aware of the invitation, it was withdrawn. The member of Parliament who extended that invitation has apologized for doing so.
Our security and intelligence agencies are highly competent and do their jobs extremely well. Our government has been working to ensure they continue to do that work despite deep cuts that were made by the previous Conservative government. In fact, in their last four years in power, the Conservatives cut $1 billion from our national security and intelligence agencies.
By contrast, the Liberal government has been providing them with integrity funding as we undertake reviews to ensure they have the resources to match their mandates and the difficult tasks we ask them to do every day on behalf of Canadians. More than that, we are restoring the public trust and confidence in our security and intelligence agencies that eroded over the 10 years of the previous Harper government.
Last year, Parliament passed Bill , which created the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians. For well over a decade, experts, academics, and parliamentary committees, including ones that I was on, have called for a committee of parliamentarians that would be mandated to review the work of our security and intelligence agencies and who would have the appropriate clearance to review all classified material. That committee is now up and running. It is currently reviewing and taking a look at our national security and intelligence apparatus.
We are also enhancing and making major changes to the existing review bodies by combining all entities with a mandate to review an individual department or agency into one body. Some academics have referred to this for years as a super SIRC. This too was called for in Justice Iacobucci's report and Justice O'Connor's report. Certainly in my time as the critic for public safety when I was in opposition, it was something that we called for and something that the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security called for.
We are calling it NSIRA, the national security intelligence review agency. There are benefits of having one review body that can actually follow the evidence as it moves from one agency to another. As an example, if SIRC were currently reviewing a CSIS operation and found that at one point CSIS had turned it over to the RCMP for an investigation, SIRC would not be able to follow the trail to see what the RCMP had done with that information. In other words, the security and intelligence review of matters would be siloed and there would not be the ability to follow them from one agency to the other. This would make knowing exactly what went on or what went wrong nearly impossible.
The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, CRCC, could review what the RCMP has done with that information in the example that I gave earlier, but it would not be able to know what CSIS did in order to obtain it. Should Bill be passed by Parliament, the new NSIRA would have a mandate to look at every department or agency within the national security and intelligence function.
In line with Canada's feminist foreign policy and feminist international assistance policy, as well as the emphasis on gender equality in the budget tabled in Parliament, the goal of women's empowerment and gender equality featured prominently during the 's visit to India. He participated in a women's business leaders round table and launched the Canada-India accelerator program for women tech entrepreneurs.
Canada and India announced collaboration between Canada's Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and India's Department of Science and Technology to jointly promote and strengthen the participation of girls and women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
As well, Canada's International Development Research Centre, IDRC, announced research initiatives into the most important and effective ways to empower women, prevent gender-based violence, and make digital platforms work for inclusive development in India. New investments by the IDRC in 2018 will improve the working conditions of homeworkers and improve business practices in global supply chains. Canada announced $7.9 million for 40 Grand Challenges Canada projects in India, supporting women's empowerment, sexual and reproductive health rights, water and sanitation, and mental health. Finally, Canada and India launched the Nutrition International's Asia campaign called “She'll Grow Into It”. The campaign, supported by $11.5 million of funding through the right start initiative, works to empower the world's poorest women, adolescent girls, and children.
On the last day of the visit, the delivered a keynote speech before 5,000 youth at the 2018 Young Changemakers Conclave annual conference. At this event, captured live on Facebook, the Prime Minister emphasized the importance of gender equality, youth engagement, and diversity, and discussed the role of technology and innovation in empowering young leaders. Canada's Prime Minister heard directly from India's young leaders on how they are making their country and their world a better place in which to live. India has the largest youth population in the world, with more than 780 million under the age of 35.
Speaking about youth, I want to turn to the topic of education. India has one of the largest higher education systems in the world. With over 30 million students enrolled in higher education every year, the demand far exceeds the supply. As a result, more than 550,000 Indian students opted to study abroad in 2017, and Canada is increasingly a destination of choice. Canadian institutions currently have over 400 arrangements with Indian institutions, and approximately 50 universities and colleges have a presence in India. In addition, the government has been proactively targeting students from abroad with the result that a record number of Indian students, an estimated 124,000, held a permit to study in Canada for six months or more in 2017. Canada now trails only the United States as a destination for Indian students going abroad for higher education.
Academic collaboration is also moving forward at an accelerated pace. In 2016, Mitacs, a Canadian not-for-profit organization, brought 184 Indian researchers to Canada with funding of over $2 million through the Mitacs Globalink program and $736,000 in support from the Government of India. Since its launch in 2013, the India-Canada Centre for Innovative Multidisciplinary Partnerships to Accelerate Community Transformation and Sustainability, known as IC-IMPACTS, has delivered 38 projects that have resulted in 16 technology deployments in Canada and India in a variety of fields. Recognizing the importance of innovation, the and Prime Minister Modi welcomed a call for research proposals amounting to $4 million toward cleaning polluted bodies of water and mitigating fire hazards in buildings. Key partners in this initiative are IC-IMPACTS and India's departments of biotechnology and science and technology.
During the 's trip, a memorandum of understanding on higher education was renewed, and Canada announced it will host the 2018 meeting of the joint working group that oversees implementation of that memorandum of understanding. As well, the Prime Minister recognized the 50th anniversary of the Shastri lndo-Canadian Institute in promoting understanding between India and Canada through academic activities and exchanges, with the support of both governments to the institute.
To pursue this line further, if we continue to link youth and entrepreneurs in India and Canada and if we continue to encourage innovation and collaboration between academics, the private sector, and civil society, then government can back away and let these dynamics take over. There is nothing we wish for more than for the citizens of our two countries to drive forward this relationship and economic partnership.
A number of important security challenges face India and Canada in the Indo-Pacific region. On regional and global issues, the leaders discussed the prevailing security situation in Afghanistan, calling for an immediate cessation of violence, renunciation of links with international terrorism, and the dismantling of infrastructure of support for terrorism. The leaders reaffirmed support to the government and the people of Afghanistan to achieve an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled national peace and reconciliation process.
The leaders called upon the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the DPRK, to abide strictly by its international obligations and commitments. They called on all states to implement rigorously the relevant UN Security Council resolutions relating to the DPRK.
The leaders deplored the current state in the Maldives, and urged the Government of Maldives to allow democratic institutions, particularly the judiciary, to function independently in a fair and transparent manner.
The two leaders discussed the humanitarian and security crisis in the Rakhine State of Myanmar and across the border in Bangladesh, and called for the voluntary, safe, and sustainable return of the people displaced, while stressing the importance of ensuring law and order, and respect for human dignity in the process. The leaders also called for the restoration of humanitarian access for relevant UN and other international organizations to facilitate the return process.
In short, Canada and India resolved to work together, bilaterally and multilaterally, to promote a stable and rules-based Indo-Pacific region that would not only benefit Canada economically vis-à-vis India, but would serve to broaden our interests in the region and move us toward greater connectivity.
To promote and sustain collaboration, Canada's national interests call for a stronger relationship with India. To this end, the prime ministers of Canada and India reinforced the architecture of our security partnership. A dialogue of national security advisers was institutionalized. Canada's national security and intelligence adviser met with his Indian counterpart in New Delhi just prior to the 's visit, and concluded a framework agreement on countering terrorism and violent extremism. This framework agreement reaffirms the shared resolve of India and Canada to combat terrorism and violent extremism in all their forms and manifestations.
Canada and India agreed to step up bilateral collaboration under a newly-formed national security advisers' dialogue, the joint working group on counterterrorism and its experts' sub-group. Both leaders agreed to work collaboratively to address the threat posed by cross-border and state-sponsored terrorism, stop sources of terrorist financing, dismantle terrorist infrastructure, prevent the supply of arms to terrorists, and to counter violent extremism and radicalization to violence.
On broader defence and security issues, the leaders committed to develop bilateral defence co-operation by exploring possibilities in diverse fields, including cold climate training. They agreed that Canada and India would coordinate on cybersecurity and address cybercrimes at bilateral and multilateral fora going forward.
India sent a high-level delegation to the Vancouver peacekeeping defence ministerial meeting in November 2017. It is the world's third largest contributor to international peacekeeping operations. The two leaders decided in India to enhance co-operation on peacekeeping to provide an effective response to global challenges. They stressed the importance of integrating gender perspectives into peace and security activities, and interventions in line with the women, peace and security agenda, including prevention of conflict-related sexual violence.
Taken as a whole, this visit reflects an important step forward in the Canada-India relationship. There is much our two countries can offer each other, in commercial and security terms and in the fruits of collaboration in international fora. To recognize the future of this commercial partnership, Canada and India announced a new dialogue on innovation, growth, and prosperity. This is a collaboration between Canada's Centre for International Governance Innovation and India's Gateway House. It will convene subject experts, government officials, and business leaders to promote economic growth and innovation in today's digital economy.
It is unfortunate that, rather than celebrating all of the accomplishments, the opposition is using today to attack public servants and question their non-partisanship. I will say one more time that Canada's national security agencies are non-partisan, highly competent, and effective. We trust them to promote and protect the security of Canadians. That is why I will be voting against the motion.
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
The previous speaker, the , provided quite an in-depth look at some of the issues related to trade, economic connections, and social and cultural connections with India. Quite frankly, this motion does not get into all those elements. What it deals with is a parliamentary process that is key to our democracy, here in the chamber and in our committees, which is having a witness testify before our committee. What has taken place is that the Liberals have decided to use this person as an example of all public servants, apparently, in terms of their coming before this committee being seen as an attack. This is really a turning point that is going to be very much objected to by many union and non-union public servants across this country.
The mere suggestion that this would be an attack on the good men and women who serve this country every single day, whether it be at our borders or in our offices, internationally or domestically, is not only offensive but very unfortunate. It is very unfortunate that this has been characterized as an attack on the public service. I would impress upon the government that it move away from that discussion at this point. It is a rather unfortunate attempt to use the public service as a shield for problems the Liberal Party had with this trip.
The motion is about one individual, who provided information and advice, as per the job, to the that refute some of the public comments his own party has made on the problematic trip to India, not only from the get-go but during it and after. To use that person as a shield for the Liberals' personal and political embarrassment is insulting and certainly derogatory.
This request to have Mr. Jean come forward is reasonable and in order. It would only provide clarification. I would add that this person is probably not even representative of the hundreds of thousands of workers in the public service. There probably is a political appointment involved with this to some degree. If not, it does not matter. The Liberals should be ashamed. That they would actually politicize the collective work of our workers at their expense I think will make this a watershed moment.
What has happened is that the 's trip to India went off the rails. They admitted that 14 members and six cabinet ministers went along. They had 20 members go over there, and all kinds of things happened. These are things they are concerned about, whether it was flying chefs across the country and eventually to India, hiring for fashion design and photography, or the parties, where they ran out of booze. It became embarrassing. All those things happened, and their members were part of that and were there for that. It was supposed to be a positive public relations exercise and it has turned wrong.
The serious nature of this is the defence of the Atwal situation. We have a person convicted of a very serious crime in Canada, who went through our court system, who was put on one of these party lists. There has been controversy, blaming, and finger pointing about how he got on that list. What was serious was the blame that went to the Indian government.
They can write all they want about the positive things, such as trade with India and the cultural connections, all those things many of us experience in our ridings on a daily basis, but at the end of the day, with the finger pointing by the across the ocean to a foreign country, it became a very serious matter. It is one of the reasons they became an international laughingstock.
All one has to do is google this trip. For CNN, The Washington Post, and overseas media it not only became a story for the day but became a continuing story. Here we had the of one of the most important democracies in the world pointing the finger at another democracy, because he was politically embarrassed. That is not going to be un-watched, forgotten, or brushed under the covers. This is a pattern of behaviour. This is about a problem the government has.
Unfortunately, the government would like that to go away, but this was all done with public money. This was all done under the rules and regulations of the democracy we have, and part of that is accountability. That is what the official opposition and our party are supposed to be doing. That is part of our democracy. It is a principle element to make sure that we are going to stay true to being open and transparent. Maybe we could debate the level of that, but there are certain laws.
What happened is that we and the official opposition asked that this individual, in a key moment in diplomatic relations, which will not go away, come before committee. That is important, because he will have to give testimony, and it will have to be truthful or he will perjure himself. When people come before parliamentary committees, they have to provide the truth, or they will be subject to further punishment under the law.
The concern of the Liberals is that the person would then lose his cover, and most importantly, the Liberals would lose their cover on something very embarrassing and very serious.
Today's motion is very reasonable. The process would be televised. Canadians will be able to judge for themselves the politics of this. More importantly, the accountability of this House will be enshrined, and it will be determined whether appropriate things did or did not take place.
We have had these watershed moments in the past. I have been around here long enough to have seen everything from the sponsorship scandal to the Schreiber-Mulroney issue and any number of different things. I am working right now on the issues related to Facebook and data privacy breaches. It actually goes back to the Liberal Party, as it is one of their creatures who was involved in this.
The reality is that at least through that process at committee, there would be an accountable lens applied to our governing practices. The Liberals may not like that, but they have been on this end and they have been on that end. The reality is that this is what happens.
That is why I take great offence to the Liberals saying that this is an attack on our public service. Under the previous administration, the Conservatives had practices that I did not like and did not support. There needed to be some serious talk about what was happening to scientists and a series of other things. We have seen some of that change, but very little.
For the Liberals to suggest that the Conservatives are doing this as a broader attack on the people who get up every single day to provide services for Canadians is shameful, disrespectful, and harmful, and it further erodes the reasons people should be involved in the public service to begin with.
We are talking about a senior position. It is someone who reports to the ministers and the and is expected to provide information and intelligence. The Prime Minister and ministers decide what to do with that. That is now being repeated by government members with respect to the Atwal situation and whether he gets an invite or does not get an invite, and who is at fault and who is not at fault.
That has led to an international incident in the sense that we are now forever branded, under the current administration of the Indian government and our current Liberal government, as the government that is willing to point the finger and say that it does not really want to find out what took place on our soil with our own people. The Liberals will just say that it is that country's fault. That is not the way to go about work.
Madam Speaker, today we are discussing a motion to instruct one of our public officers to appear before a committee to try to shed some light on a situation about which we have heard far too many stories.
This situation occurred during the trip to India. I think is important to present some of the key aspects of the trip. First of all, most Canadians have absolutely no idea what the strategy was behind this trip and this is true of various aspects. For example, when it comes to the criteria the used for determining who would join him on the trip, there is no way of getting a guest list or understanding exactly the purpose of the trip. I think that there were a number of ministers who could have made a valuable contribution to the debate in India and that it would have been important to include them, but they were not there.
Why was the not there? That is an important question. I would think that in planning a trip to India, the Minister of International Trade would have a stake. What is more, if he had been there, then there would have been at least one person there who can speak French. I think we have every right to ask that question.
One of the people whose name came up the most often was the . I think that he should have been there, given the trade issues regarding chickpeas and lentils. India has increased import tariffs on chickpeas from 30% to 40%. That has a direct impact on our farmers and yet neither the nor the were there to talk about it. That alone raises a number of questions, but the list goes on.
Right now, there is an unprecedented labour shortage in our rural regions. Why did the not go on that trip to discuss the possibility of establishing partnerships to recruit workers who would be interested in coming to Canada to work? That would have been a very relevant and worthwhile discussion.
Recently, we learned that companies are now subcontracting the reading of X-rays to India. Hospitals are sending X-rays and other scans to specialized medical clinics in India to be read. Had the been invited, she could have raised the legitimate concern of the reliability of those readings. She also could have raised the question that many Canadians are asking about this practice, and that is whether their personal medical data is adequately protected when the analysis of X-ray results are subcontracted to India. That would have been a very relevant question, and in my opinion, the could have contributed to that debate. However, she was not there either.
They also chose not to take the even though India is among the countries where women have the most difficult living conditions. Absolutely horrible cases of gang rapes of women of the lowest castes have been reported by the media. I believe that the Minister of Status of Women could have had fruitful discussions with the Indian government about what is happening and assessed how to collaborate and provide India with tools to improve the quality of life of these women. However, she was not there either. What was the strategy and the purpose of this trip? What were they trying to accomplish?
I am going to talk a little about the schedule because MPs, when they are available, are asked to travel abroad to discuss issues. When I travel abroad, I always have an extremely busy schedule. Honestly, between my work day and a working dinner in the evening, I often have barely enough time to change. I change in five minutes and go from one event to the next. I do not understand how the had so much time to go sightseeing everywhere. It seemed much more like a sightseeing tour than a prime minister's state visit.
For such a trip, I expect the to attend a series of meetings on a tight schedule and have very little opportunity to go sightseeing, or at least keep it very brief. When a Prime Minister travels abroad, he is expected to meet with people, visit companies, and do a very serious job with specific objectives.
Unfortunately, there were not very many photos of the Prime Minister having meetings. Instead, we saw a lot of pictures of the Prime Minister visiting tourist attractions with his wife and children. That raises questions, particularly given his headline-making trip to the Aga Khan’s island. The Prime Minister should have shown restraint, and he should request that his trips be strictly professional from now on, so there is no longer any doubt as to what they are for. It is too bad that there were no specific visits or a structured, goal-oriented agenda for his India trip.
The disaster in question is the invitation sent to Mr. Atwal, who attended an event, by the way. It was only after the second event that this invitation was withdrawn, when it was realized that he was there. We heard different versions from a lot of people: from the Prime Minister, from the , from Mr. Atwal himself, from the member who decided to take the blame, and even from the Indian government. Nothing in this story holds water. Indeed, one of our public servants, who is non-partisan, is not permitted to appear before a committee. This makes absolutely no sense. If someone is able to provide the most impartial and accurate information, it would be precisely this person. It therefore makes absolutely no sense to refuse to hear from this individual in committee. We need some light shed on this, especially given the situation this has thrown us into.
Our diplomatic relations with India are a disaster, since the Prime Minister accused it of being behind this invitation. This is totally ludicrous. What is more, he did it without providing hard evidence, which makes it even worse. If solid evidence had been provided, I would have found it a little strange, but at least there would have been some proof. Not only did the Prime Minister suggest this, but he did so without providing any evidence to either the House or the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. It is all very disturbing.
This is a member of the Commonwealth, a country that swears allegiance to the same Crown as we do. I have had the chance to meet with several of its members of parliament. It is a country that we have a relationship with, and yet, this has been allowed to happen and nothing is being done to remedy the situation. The incident occurred almost a month ago and they are still sticking to the same story, despite its many holes and the fact that it is undermining our relationship, rather than putting a stop to all of this.
The trip was an unmitigated disaster, but now it is high time to end this farce. We need to know what really happened, and those who provided inaccurate information need to apologize so we can move forward and rebuild our relationship with India. Unfortunately, because both parties are determined to stick to their contradictory versions of events and refusing to shed light on what happened, our relations with India remain strained.
This situation could have consequences for months, if not years to come. This could even have repercussions on the relationships that subsequent governments will have with India. This is particularly worrisome. The least they could do is to allow Daniel Jean to appear before a committee, given the mess that the Prime Minister has put us in.
I look forward to my colleagues’ questions.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to announce that I will be sharing my time with the member for . I would like to read from page 24 of a document that was published almost three years ago. It says, “It is time to shine more light on government...” It is the Liberal Party of Canada who said that, and it is true. The time has come for the Liberal government to shine some light on the pathetic scandal concerning Mr. Atwal and the of Canada.
As the saying goes, one lie begets another, and that is exactly what happened with the scandal involving Mr. Atwal and the Liberal Prime Minister of Canada. Unfortunately for us all, our Prime Minister disgraced Canada and Canadians around the world during his infamous mission to India. There was a dramatic and appalling incident the likes of which have never been seen in the history of Canada: a criminal attended a diplomatic event that the Prime Minister was also expected to attend.
I will not discuss in detail the trip during which we saw the Prime Minister spend eight days with six ministers and 14 other members, take pictures of everything, change his clothes five times a day every day of the week and show up at events dressed up in native costumes while everyone else was wearing Western garb. I will not discuss that. Nor will I discuss the fact that the , and God knows that that was important, did not participate in the mission. However, I will discuss the biggest blunder, the presence of criminal Jaspal Atwal.
Who is this man? In 1986, Jaspal Atwal was found guilty of the attempted murder of an Indian minister in Vancouver. The House will probably remember that, during question period, my colleague, the hon. member for , described a situation that deeply moved me. He had witnessed the police operation leading to the arrest of the criminal when he was an RCMP officer. Jaspal Atwal was found guilty of attempted murder. The same Jaspal Atwal was present at the events surrounding the Prime Minister’s visit to India.
Here is the sequence of events that led to today’s motion to have Daniel Jean, the National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of Canada, appear before a parliamentary committee. The criminal Atwal was present at an official event during a Canadian diplomatic mission to Mumbai, and that is when our suspicions were aroused. Mr. Atwal had his picture taken with all sorts of people, including our Prime Minister’s wife. I call him our Prime Minister because he is every Canadian’s prime minister. Unfortunately, he has not been up to the task, and he has not acted with the dignity befitting his position. When these events unfolded, when Mr. Atwal was found in attendance at a diplomatic event in Mumbai, the CBC began asking questions and uncovered the truth, identifying him. It then began to ask what a criminal was doing at such an event. That is when the Prime Minister had to come up with an explanation. He immediately said that it was the hon. member for who had invited Atwal. He said that the hon. member took full responsibility for the event.
First of all, and I will be frank, it is very cowardly on the part of a prime minister to lay the blame on someone else. When you are a leader, you must assume full responsibility for your troops. You do not find a scapegoat and say, “You're responsible. You're taking the blame, I'm out of here.” A leader assumes full responsibility for his troops. In this case, he did not, and what comes next is even worse. Since the situation began to escalate, the National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of Canada, Daniel Jean, met with journalists to give them a technical briefing on the situation. I was a journalist for 20 years, and I have been to dozens, even hundreds of these meetings. They are always interesting, because they give us a glimpse of the details about very specific situations, numbers, data and statistics that are not necessarily interesting to the public, but that allow us to get a better grasp of the situation.
At that technical briefing, the National Security Advisor did not talk about how many Canadians eat cereal in the morning. What he said was far more political. According to the media, at that briefing, the National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of Canada said that the criminal Atwal’s presence was a plot orchestrated by the Indian government.
I like history, but try as I might, I could not remember one situation in the history of Canadian diplomacy that was as embarrassing, as shameful or as irresponsible as this one.
Need I point out that India is a Commonwealth country, that we have very close ties with India and that we need to preserve them? This situation with the criminal Atwal at a diplomatic event completely severed the bonds of trust and friendship that we need to have with a country as important as India. That the Prime Minister asked the senior official responsible for national security to meet with journalists to tell them something like that is of serious consequence.
That is where all the contradictions start. In the House on February 27, the Prime Minister agreed with the version given the journalists by his National Security Advisor to explain the presence of the criminal Atwal, in other words that it was an plot fomented by the Indian government. The next day, on February 28, India, highly offended, vigorously denied this version of the facts and squarely laid the blame on our Prime Minister. I say “our” Prime Minister because the entire country is now paying for the Liberal Prime Minister’s mistake.
So, on February 27, the Prime Minister told the House that he agreed with his National Security Advisor’s position that he was the victim of an Indian conspiracy. On March 3, we heard from the hon. member for , the guy the Prime Minister picked out of a hat and blamed, then tossed aside like an old slipper. The hon. member said that it was his fault, that he was the one who had invited Atwal. This contradicts what the Prime Minister said, in other words that India was behind it all.
That is not all. On March 9, the criminal Atwal, not without pointing out that he knew the Prime Minister very well, not without pointing out that he had participated in dozens and dozens of Liberal Party activities in his part of the country, said that he received the invitation from the High Commission, that he honoured the invitation and that India had nothing to do with it. This contradicts the Prime Minister’s version.
Lastly, on March 11, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who is not exactly a nobody in cabinet, said, “It’s an honest mistake.” It is an honest mistake on Canada’s part.
So who is telling the truth? Is it the Prime Minister, who is relying on his senior official who is telling all the journalists that it is a conspiracy, or is it the hon. member for Surrey Centre, who is saying that he is at fault? Is it the senior official who says one thing, or is it Atwal, who says that he is responsible, that he went on his own? Or is it the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who says that it was an honest mistake?
That is what I was saying. When you do not tell the truth, you end up stuck in a web of lies. That is the issue here, and that is why it is at the heart of the motion.
The motion put forward by my colleague from would finally allow Canadians to learn the truth.
Here is a senior official, Daniel Jean, who met with journalists to make serious accusations, to say that India was responsible for having the criminal Atwal show up at diplomatic events. That is what he said. Great. He said that to journalists, who wrote it down. Also great. Now, let him tell that directly to Canadians.
That is what we are asking, but, oh, what a surprise, these people who got elected by saying that it was time for a transparent government are refusing Canadians the most basic transparency: allowing people who said things to journalists to testify before a committee. Why such obfuscation? The best way for Canadians to finally learn the truth is for them to hear this guy testify rather than continue to cover it up.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this today. One of the things that we have noticed over the course of the last two and a half years is that the hallmarks of the Liberal government seem to be arrogance and attacks, constant arrogance and constant attacks.
We heard it today from the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader. He used a common approach earlier today. The Liberals use this approach oftentimes whenever anybody criticizes the government. They refer to the election of 2015 as though, somehow, because 40% of the people that voted in Canada voted for them, there should be no opposition in this country.
When we take a look at what Canadians voted for in 2015, it is kind of interesting. They voted for a promise of democratic reform, for example, a promise that was completely broken by the Liberal party. We had opposition members from all parties come together on a proposal for electoral reform. A committee put together by the government recommended to the government an avenue, but because it was not the Liberal avenue, the avenue the Liberals wanted, they rejected it wholeheartedly. Then what did they do? Of course, they blamed the opposition.
The Liberals promised modest budget deficits in their platform and a balanced budget by the next year. Of course, we are nowhere near a balanced budget. We are going to be running deficits for decades to come. However, every time the opposition raises a question, a legitimate question about a promise that was made in the platform and completely ignored, all we get is attacks from the government.
The Liberals promised a new era of accountability and transparency. How did that go for them? We saw over the course of the last year, as we discussed in this place, the 's visit to the Aga Khan's private island. There were legitimate questions that were ultimately borne out by the Ethics Commissioner in her report, a scathing report. All through that year, every single question, every legitimate question was met with accusations of mudslinging by the opposition.
We were promised sunny ways in this place, a new era of sunny ways. Then, this morning when we were raising a very legitimate question about our relationship with the world's largest democracy, the hon. parliamentary secretary referred to it as character assassination. Somehow by raising these legitimate questions it is character assassination because we have the gall to suggest as parliamentarians that a senior public servant would appear before a parliamentary committee. Somehow that is character assassination.
How did we get here? Let us take a look at that.
The parliamentary secretary talked about the contrast between former prime minister Stephen Harper and the current Liberal . I found a little research on that contrast. I found a Canadian Press article from 2012 after Prime Minister Harper visited India. Here was some of the coverage. This is symbolic of the coverage that came out at that point:
Harper has made encouraging the flow of trade between Canada and India the focus of his six-day visit to the rapidly growing South Asian nation.
He has said repeatedly that Canada needs to branch out past its usual trading partners if it wants to weather the international economic storm....
He went through all the elements of his government's strategy for bringing stability to the economy—the “five t's” he called it: more trade, lower taxes, more training, the transformation of government process to get rid of red tape, and support for technology and research.
Those were the good old days. Because the parliamentary secretary wants to contrast things today, we contrast this with a CNN article following the current Liberal 's trip to India. Here is what CNN had to say. This is how Canada's is viewed on the world stage:
[The] Canadian Prime Minister...'s scandal-ridden trip to India may be over, but the controversy surrounding it refuses to go away.
[The Prime Minister] has become embroiled in a fresh spat, following his apparent endorsement of allegations that factions within the Indian government had actively sought to undermine his visit to the country last week.
The comments, made during [the Prime Minister]'s first parliamentary session since returning to Canada, provoked a swift rebuke from the Indian government, with a spokesman for India's foreign ministry labeling the suggestion “baseless and unacceptable.”
The CNN story goes on to talk a bit about the background and describes some of the bewilderment that Canadians must feel when they are looking at the situation. The article states:
It remains unclear how Atwal, a known militant who in 1987 was sentenced to 20 years in a Canadian court for his part in the attempted murder of a visiting Indian state minister, managed to obtain a visa to enter into India.
Atwal was one of four men who ambushed and shot Malkiat Singh Sidhu, a then-member of Punjab's cabinet, who was visiting Canada for a relative's wedding, badly wounding him.
In the sentencing, the judge called the crime “an act of terrorism in order to advance a cause.”
This is CNN's story, which I will read one more quote from, because it is unbelievable that this is the face of Canada on the world stage today because of this trip. It quoted India's Ministry of External Affairs as stating:
The Government of India, including the security agencies, had nothing to do with the presence of Jaspal Atwal at the event hosted by the Canadian High Commissioner in Mumbai or the invitation issued to him for the Canadian High Commissioner's reception in New Delhi. Any suggestion to the contrary is baseless and unacceptable....
That is the way the world is viewing the situation, and that is what is leading to some of the confusion that we are dealing with today.
Then we come to the debate in Parliament and an opportunity for the opposition to question the government on these conflicting stories. We come to some interviews that have been conducted, and members who are involved in the story commenting on some of these things.
On February 27, our leader asked this question of the :
Mr. Speaker, will the Prime Minister tell the House whether anyone in his office arranged, organized or participated in the media briefing provided to reporters that included the allegation that the Government of India was somehow involved in his embarrassing blunder in India?
Of course the replied, “When one of our top diplomats and security officials says something to Canadians, it is because they know it to be true.”
We have the Indian government saying it is not true and we have Canada's saying it is known to be true. Clearly, we have a problem here.
Further on, the member of the NDP caucus for asked the another question. The Prime Minister, in his response, said, “The member responsible for the invitation has taken full responsibility, and I will be following up with that member later this afternoon.”
Now it is even more confusing. We have the , the same day in question period, saying that the story told by the senior diplomat is true but also that the member for is fully responsible, which are two conflicting things.
Then we move on and we have the weighing in with an answer in an interview recently. She said, “So Evan, what I'd like to say about that is that obviously it was a mistake that Mr. Atwal was initially invited to that reception in Delhi, and it was the right thing to do to appreciate that this was a mistake and to withdraw the invitation; and, you know, it's very good that we did that. I was in Delhi on that day, and I had a meeting with my Indian counterpart...the Indian foreign minister”, and this is really interesting, she said, “I started off the meeting by saying to her that it had been an honest mistake and that the invitation had been withdrawn”.
The Indian government is saying that none of what was said by the senior Canadian official was true and we have our meeting with her Indian counterpart and starting off the meeting by saying to her that it had been an honest mistake and that the invitation had been withdrawn. We can understand that Canadians would be rightfully confused by the situation we are facing right now.
I have been a member of Parliament for 12 years. I have sat on many committees and had the opportunity to hear from dozens of public servants on issues that matter to Canadians. I want to know from the Liberal Party why this case is any different.
Mr. Speaker, the motion specifically puts into question the professionalism of some of our most senior public servants. Members of the opposition parties can say whatever they like, but let us not forget the professionalism that is brought to the table day in and day out by our civil servants. These individuals are at the top of their careers. When they make these statements, they do it with professionalism. They bring to the table a great deal of experience and expertise and reflect what is in Canada's and Canadians' best interests.
When it comes time to vote on this resolution, I would encourage members to reflect on what the hidden agenda of Canada's official opposition party is. I would argue that we are doing a disservice by suggesting that the motion should actually pass.
There are a number of things I would like to share with the House. The mover of the motion talked very quickly and off topic. He was not really talking about why civil servants should be coming forward; rather, he attacked the , and a member made reference to my question about character assassination. The member continued to compare Stephen Harper's trip in 2012 to what has taken place this year. He said Prime Minister Harper went to India and promoted trade. However, he did not share the full story about that trip to India.
I was sitting in the opposition when Stephen Harper went to India. The member did not tell the House that Stephen Harper had to bring his car with him, I guess because he did not have confidence in the vehicles in India. It cost $1 million. That made some headlines.
Even if that had been in the headlines, I would still not underestimate the importance when a prime minister travels abroad in order to enhance relationships. When the mover of the motion talked about a comparison, members across laughed when I said I would compare the Harper administration any day to this administration. They are very proud of Stephen Harper and good for them. They can get behind him all they want, but I can tell them that the is very much in touch with Canadians. We have a prime minister who actually holds public town halls in the different regions of Canada affording Canadians the opportunity to ask the questions they feel are important. The has been in Winnipeg twice hosting those types of forums. That is one of the major differences between the two prime ministers.
When I look at the India trip, yes, there were some very important things taking place even back in 2012. I will acknowledge that. In 2012, not only did I criticize Stephen Harper for taking the car over, to the tune of $1 million, but I also acknowledged, whether I was speaking at gurdwaras or within my community, that having the prime minister travel to India is a good thing.
I believe that the opposition, a joint opposition nowadays, is doing a disservice to that wonderful relationship that we have with India today.
An hon. member: No way.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux: Yes, way.
Mr. Speaker, they do not even realize that.
We have a growing Indo-Canadian community. It is one of the fastest-growing communities in Canada today. We can look at the city of Winnipeg and the impact that community has had on Winnipeg over the last 10, 20, 30 years. It is virtually second to no other community. In fact, in the north end, it is one of the driving forces behind the economic activity we are seeing in a very real and tangible way.
One of the greatest assets we have as a nation is our diversity. If we look at the Indo-Canadian community in particular with over a million people of Indo-Canadian heritage, it should be a given that any prime minister would make India a priority, as this has done.
Somewhere in the neighbourhood of 1,000 Canadian businesses in one form or another today have some sort of economic link to India. That number is growing every year. Hundreds of those businesses actually have a physical presence in India. Those individuals are helping create jobs here in Canada and in India.
Do the Conservatives and their NDP friends, who want to help them a lot nowadays, recognize the many benefits that were derived out of that trip? They want to focus on an innocent mistake as opposed to talking about the opportunities. If they got in touch with their constituents, they would find that India is a country that warrants the attention this government is giving it. If we continue to develop those relationships, both countries will benefit. That is really what that trip was all about.
Imagine $1 billion of extra activity between two countries in good part because of that trip, at least partly as a direct result of the trip. That will generate thousands of jobs for Canadians. We do not hear opposition members recognizing that, but that is fine. They do not have to. We are not twisting their arms.
I would have been more encouraged by the debate if the opposition motion had been about how important it is that Canada build a stronger relationship with India, maybe even looking at ways to enhance trade between the two countries.
I was at a Canada House event one evening where businesses, non-profits, and others were in attendance. I was part of many of the informal discussions that were taking place. The addressed that group and talked about the importance of the relationship between India and Canada. Not only were people there appreciating what he had to say but there must have been dozens of phones recording what was being said by the Prime Minister, and I suspect it was all over social media.
When the of Canada makes a trip of that nature, we cannot buy that kind of advertising for Canada in India. It just cannot be bought. The amount of attention that was given because our Prime Minister went to India is significant among the people of India and also back home in Canada.
Many members of the Indo-Canadian community in particular have approached me and talked to me about the trip in a positive fashion. I can count on one hand, and maybe only use two fingers of that hand, the criticisms that have been brought to my attention personally on the issue. However, I would need a lot more than two hands to count the amount of appreciation that I have witnessed just from one community alone in regard to the benefits of the trip. I understand and appreciate just how important that trip was. It was about building relationships.
The New Democrats talk about the 14 MPs and I believe it was six ministers who went. I was one of those members of Parliament who went. I paid my own way to get there, but I can tell those members that I enjoyed the experience. I had the opportunity to meet with hundreds of individuals. I was able to speak to students at elementary and secondary schools and at colleges, to share all sorts of wonderful ideas and thoughts about how important it is that we continue to build those bridges. It was a fantastic experience. Most of my time was spent in the Punjab, one of the states I truly enjoy being in. I have been there before. Many of my constituents spend the months of January and February and even longer in the Punjab region of India. These ties give Canada a strategic advantage over other countries in the world. We should be fostering and encouraging that wherever we can.
Let us look at some of the benefits. I made reference to $1 billion. A billion dollars is a significant amount of money. On an annual basis, we are talking about 40,000 jobs, if we were to allocate it just to minimum wage jobs here in Canada. A billion dollars is a lot of money. More significant than that $1 billion is the amount of trade between Canada and India today. I believe it is just over $8 billion. In the last year or so, it has increased significantly. I suggest that if the opposition members were to open their eyes and get a better understanding of the potential that is there through an enhanced relationship between Canada and India, that number could increase dramatically, and I believe that it will. A good reason for it to increase is that we have a government in Canada today that has a very proactive approach on trade and is very much interested in what is taking place in India.
I was amazed. As I said, I spent most of my time in the Punjab. When the came to the Golden Temple, there were banners and thousands of people who wanted to see him. It is truly encouraging, and we should be proud of that fact, no matter what side of the House we sit on, because we cannot buy that type of public relations and advertising within the country of India.
I had no sense of what the international media were reporting here, but in India the was exceptionally well received, from what I could see. At the events that I participated in, a couple of them in New Delhi but otherwise in the Punjab, there was that recognition when talking to people, “Oh, yes, the Prime Minister of Canada is here.”
I have been to India before, and I have never seen a past prime minister receive the type of recognition this received in terms of having that physical presence in the country.
When we talk about that event, I posed this in one of my questions with regard to Mr. Atwal. Unfortunately, an invite went out that should not have, and when it was discovered it was rescinded. Rescinded means that it was taken away, and that the individual in question did not show up at Canada's High Commission. At the end of the day, at times mistakes happen. The government has been straightforward with that issue. However, what we see now is a concentrated attempt from the opposition to say that it wants this civil servant to come before a standing committee.
A couple of thoughts come to mind offhand. First and foremost, I believe we have a professional civil servant with an incredible career who acts in the best interests of Canadians, who did his job, and now, because the opposition wants to stir a pot and cause other issues, it says it wants him to come to committee. It wants to politicize it. Yes, that is what it is attempting to do. There is a standing committee for this. The Conservatives have already attempted to get the standing committee to deal with it. Standing committees operate on their own. Leave it with the standing committee, and let us see what happens.
I have been a parliamentarian for a good number of years, over 25 years or somewhere around there. At the end of the day, I have the deepest amount of respect for the fine work civil servants do. The Conservatives will argue today that this is an outstanding situation, and that they need to have this civil servant come before them, so they can ask him their politically charged questions. Well, they could make that argument for every public civil servant. On virtually any given day, they could be challenging civil servants to come before a committee of the House. Any opposition could generate why it believes a particular civil servant should be called before a committee of the House. Today, it just happens to be that civil servant.
If there was any sort of an official opposition that had confidence in the public service, as we do on this side, I do not believe we would be seeing this motion before the House today. If the Conservatives were true to their thoughts and feelings with regard to the importance of international trade, I would have suggested that today would have been a better day spent debating potential trade and other related issues with India. For example, I would like to hear what members across the way think we can do to continue to enhance those trade opportunities. We have so much in common with India, for example, a member of the Commonwealth, democracy, and a free market system. Most importantly, again from my perspective, we have an Indo-Canadian community of over a million people.
There are so many possibilities, and the sky is virtually unlimited in terms of how we can continue to build those bridges between Canada and India. The relationship today is far better between Canada and India than it was two years ago, and it will continue to get better. I predict now, and make it very clear, that we will continue to see more relationships being built, and more trade opportunities between both great nations.
Mr. Speaker, I am proud to stand in the House of Commons in this debate with my Conservative colleagues. Just seeing the degree of animation, vitriol, and concern from the Liberal kind of reminds me of something an old bomber command veteran told me. He said, “You know you're over your target when you're getting heavy fire from the ground.” The desperate machinations of the Liberal Party on this issue show us that this, I believe, is an attempt by the 's Office to obstruct Parliament from getting to the answers on the Atwal affair or to cover up the whole situation with Mr. Jean.
To illustrate that, in the time I have, I will start my remarks with a quote. My friend from Winnipeg, the deputy House leader for the Liberals, knows I love reading what people said when they were in opposition and comparing that to their positions in government. I am going to do that right now.
In opposition, with respect to public safety and security issues for Canada in October 2014, someone said, “being able to ask questions is essential in a democracy, even in difficult situations—especially in difficult situations.” The person who said that, when in opposition, was then the MP for Papineau, now the of Canada. I agree with that sentiment. I wonder what has happened to the Prime Minister. Difficult questions in difficult situations need to be asked when it comes to public safety and security. Remember, he said “especially in difficult situations”.
The difficult situation Canada finds itself in vis-à-vis the India Atwal scandal is perhaps the greatest diplomatic scandal Canada has ever witnessed. I do not say that with hyperbole, because India is a close friend to Canada. It is a Commonwealth partner. It is a country that bilateral trade doubled under the Conservative government of which I was a part. Many of us, and many Canadians, remember fondly. It is a Commonwealth partner with which we have enhanced relationships on security, nuclear technology, and bilateral relationships in trade. That has all been put at risk because of the careless and reckless actions of the . The trip was entirely premised on domestic politics. Virtually everyone who was on the trip, including the deputy House leader of the Liberal Party, my friend from Winnipeg, and virtually every event the trip had in its plan was based on currying favour and winning votes here in Canada, and it all backfired.
The denial by the and the to allow parliamentarians to ask questions has led to the Atwal India affair and the cover-up I am concerned about, and has brought us here today.
For Canadians watching at home, let us see if we are being unreasonable here. My friend, the deputy House leader, almost foaming at the mouth, suggests we are not bringing in appropriate debate, that we are overstating the scandal with the 's trip to India. Let us see what our request is.
All the opposition is asking for is that Daniel Jean, the national security adviser to the Prime Minister of Canada, provide members of Parliament with the same briefing and the same ability to ask questions that Daniel Jean gave to members of the media. Canadians, through the members of Parliament, deserve the same right to hear from Mr. Jean on this wild India conspiracy theory. Suggestions by the that this material is somehow confidential is wrong. Why? Because the Liberals' own conduct shows that. By putting forward the national security adviser to select members of the press gallery, who write stories that thousands or millions of Canadians read, the Liberals were directly saying that anything Mr. Jean was saying was not top secret, was not confidential, because he was briefing people who tell things for a living.
That same basic right belongs with each member of Parliament. I have before you, Mr. Speaker, a privilege motion saying that my privilege and my rights, as both a member of Parliament and as the foreign affairs critic to hold the government to account for the most disastrous foreign trip in the history of our country, are being fettered as a member, or hampered, by the 's unwillingness to allow the national security adviser, Mr. Jean, to appear before a committee of parliamentarians to give the same briefing and answer the same questions the Prime Minister's Office allowed him to do for the media.
Why did he allow the national security adviser to speak to the media? It was to save face in the midst of the disastrous India trip, where the was being mocked internationally for having no agenda, for having multiple elaborate costumes at events that made even Indian politicians and members of the arts community feel uncomfortable, for not taking the and the to India when, at the moment, the most pressing bilateral issue was a potential tariff increase to chickpeas and pulse products.
He did not take people to do work. The member for may have paid his own way, because this was a domestic, political trip. Everyone who went, the schedule, the photos, the agenda was all premised on preening the before his supporters, his fundraisers, and voters in a few ridings. When it backfired, it backfired on him and on all Canadians.
Our request, to quote Mr. Swift, is a modest proposal. Parliamentarians are entitled to the same information that the 's adviser gave to members of the media. That is our basic right as parliamentarians, which is why there is a privilege motion in front of you, Mr. Speaker, but also why we have brought this important debate to the House of Commons today.
For those following this debate, they have followed this saga for over a month. I have never seen such negative international headlines about a Canadian prime ministerial visit. One foreign columnist said that it was a moving train wreck. Is that what those members mean by “Canada is back”? Canada has a world-class, stellar reputation around the world, and it has been put at risk because of the and because of the India scandal with Jaspal Atwal.
Let us get to the bottom of the scandal and the two competing stories from the Liberal government.
One story was that the member for invited Mr. Atwal, admitting afterwards that he should not have, but took sole responsibility and resigned for it. He fell on his sword, saying, “My bad, it was all me.” Then, a few days later, when the allowed his national security adviser to meet with the media, the government floated this sinister and, we would submit, preposterous theory that Mr. Atwal was invited by the India government to embarrass the Prime Minister. Both of those things cannot be true.
When the and the deny parliamentarians their right to ask questions about which story is true, they are impeding Parliament and are covering up which story is true from Canadians.
I will show, directly in quotes by all the key figures, what I mean. Jaspal Atwal, himself, in a rather comical at times press conference he held a few weeks said this, “When I asked to consider attending the reception, I had assumed there would be no problem. No one at any point indicated there would be any issue”. He is confirming that he asked the MP for to go. He did not expect there would be an issue, because the calls him “Jas”. They are friends. We have seen pictures going back several years. Mr. Atwal said that the Prime Minister and him had a nice chat years ago in his Hummer on a visit to British Columbia.
At the press conference, Mr. Atwal also confirmed he had been to India several times. This was not a magical trip where he was first granted entry; he had been there several times.
This is what Mr. Atwal's lawyer said at the same press briefing. He stated, “He basically went to this occasion, put his name in, he assumes he was vetted appropriately, he has not hid who he was, he has not changed his name.” The lawyer for Mr. Atwal confirmed that Mr. Atwal asked an MP to go, and assumed his name would be vetted by both the MP for and by the Prime Minister's Office. Therefore, we have Atwal to the MP for . This is the chain of evidence.
What did the MP for say? He said:
As you know, an individual planning on attending tonight’s reception had his invitation rescinded. Let me be clear--this person should never have been invited in the first place. I alone facilitated his request to attend this important event. I should have exercised better judgment, and I take full responsibility for my actions.
I thank the MP for for admitting that he alone was responsible for the invitation.
Later, the MP for Surrey Centre said this to the Surrey Now-Leader, a paper in his riding:
“Look, I took full responsibility as soon as I found out that this had happened and I, you know, the name came from my office, I should have vetted them before I forwarded them, I should have looked a bit more diligently at it, I am a new, young Member of Parliament, a rookie you can say so obviously I am learning from my mistakes.”
He said, “my mistakes” and “I alone”, yet the of Canada had his national security adviser go to the media and suggest something else. Therefore, we have two conflicting statements from members of Parliament from the Liberal Party. One is from the member of Parliament for , which he still is, and also the Prime Minister, which means I hold him to a higher standard than I hold the MP for , because the national security adviser advises him. When he asks the national security adviser to go and say something that is contrary to what his own MP is saying, that is scandalous. All we are asking for is the right to ask Mr. Jean questions like the media did.
Let us go further. Let us go to the 's cabinet, and the responsible minister, someone I respect a great deal, the . What did she say on CTV when asked about her meeting with her bilateral partner, the Indian foreign affairs minister? The minister said, “I started off the meeting by saying to her that it had been an honest mistake and that the invitation had been withdrawn.”
We have the lead cabinet minister supporting the story from the MP for , which is also supported by Mr. Atwal himself, the person at the core of the scandal. However, the has risen in the House repeated times and has hidden behind a conspiracy theory from his national security adviser who he is now blocking parliamentarians from asking questions. That is scandalous. It is a breach of my privilege and the privilege of the whole House.
Therefore, I hope some of the MPs on that side, particularly the ones in areas near me, like Northumberland and Peterborough South, and I will be spending a lot of time there. People in Peterborough and Whitby are concerned about this. A lot of people will be very worried about this scandal. No one believes the 's story.
What does the Indian government say? Its spokesman said this:
Let me categorically state that the Government of India, including the security agencies, had nothing to do with the presence of Jaspal Atwal at the event hosted by the Canadian High Commissioner in Mumbai or the invitation issued to him for the Canadian High Commissioner's reception in New Delhi. Any suggestion to the contrary is baseless and unacceptable.
The Indian government is insulted by this, and it should be. It knows where the invitation came from, because the 's own MP has admitted to the invitation. Jaspal Atwal, who asked for the invitation, has admitted it was the Liberal government. The has admitted it was the Liberal MP, the Liberal government is causing this scandal.
Now let us look at this smokescreen story that came out of the 's Office through a civil servant I respect. Mr. Jean has had a great career for Canada and I am upset that officials in the Prime Minister's Office have sullied his reputation by forcing him to go to the media to concoct a story. Here is what CBC wrote after attending this briefing by the national security adviser.
After speaking to Daniel Jean, it wrote, “A senior government official with knowledge of the prime minister's security protocols suggested...rogue political elements in India may have orchestrated [the] embarrassing invitation” of a would-be political assassin to a formal dinner with the Prime Minister “in an attempt to make the Canadian government appear sympathetic to Sikh extremism.”
That CBC story was what the 's Office was hoping to get by sending Mr. Jean out to speak. Let someone who advises on top national security issues go out and create an alternate story to the one the MP for was already accepting responsibility for. I would suggest that is contemptuous of Parliament. That is knowingly sending a senior official to brief the media to create a parallel story to explain the Atwal invitation at a time when their own MP was taking responsibility for it.
Now we have a situation where Mr. Atwal, who asked for the invitation, the MP for , the , and the Indian government are all suggesting the 's story of the Indian conspiracy theory is a sham. That should trouble all Canadians because it has not only eroded our relationship with a close friend; it has embarrassed Canadians throughout our country.
As parliamentarians, our role here is to hold the government to account. When we are impeded in doing that, our privileges are fettered, they are obstructed, and Canadians by extension are being kept in the dark. The in his famous elevator press conference suggested that it was okay for the national security adviser to brief members of the media and take questions on this conspiracy theory, but that it was also okay for the government not to allow MPs to have that information.
I do not agree. That is a breach of my privileges. It is unethical. It is a cover-up. We deserve to ask Mr. Jean the same questions because we have two stories. They both cannot be true and most people globally believe it was the MP for . Most Liberal caucus members believe that too. The 's preposterous story and the smokescreen, and the human shield he is using his national security adviser as, need to be pierced and we do that here with a vote in the House of Commons.
All we are asking for is the same basic right to receive information and to ask questions of Mr. Jean that the granted media members. Is that unreasonable when there are two versions of a scandal that we have to ask questions about? As shadow minister, I have to ask questions. Our proposal is a modest one. If the Liberal government whips and votes against this motion, I think we will be spending a lot more time with you, Mr. Speaker. The good thing is that I like you a lot, because we will be here a lot.
However, it is a sign that the Liberals hold Canadians and Parliament in contempt and that this is a cover-up. The has the chance of showing it is not a cover-up. Make his official available to the public safety committee. We have Canadians appear all the time. If they are willing to send that person out to the media to deflect attention away from an embarrassing trip, they had better be prepared to give the opposition the same opportunity to ask Mr. Jean those questions.
The government was elected and still uses the phrase “open and accountable”. Today, the Conservatives are going to make the Liberals accountable.
Mr. Speaker, the answer with respect to the invitation is already very clear. In fact, the invitation should never have been sent, and once discovered, it was immediately rescinded.
Another point that needs to be noted is that this government has great confidence in the security and diplomatic advisers to the government who always act in an impartial manner and always in the best interests of Canadians.
The was given a strong mandate with respect to national security. Bill is a focal point of that mandate. It was drafted following unprecedented national public consultation. Through an online questionnaire, town halls, social media engagement and more, the consultations heard tens of thousands of views, which Public Safety Canada and Department of Justice collected, documented, and analyzed.
As members know, the standing committee held numerous meetings of its own on the national security topic, and I thank members here for their input on this priority issue.
Citizens, community leaders, experts from a broad spectrum of the security field, academics, and parliamentarians alike can see their views reflected in Bill . One of its core themes is central to today's debate, enhancing accountability.
The proposed creation of an intelligence commissioner along with a national security and intelligence review agency would complement the work of the newly established National Security Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians. I am pleased to say that the latter committee is now in place. The intent of its creation has always been to protect Canadians, and to safeguard our values and freedoms.
Let me turn to the recent trip to India, and the important things that were accomplished during that visit.
India, as has been noted, is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, making it a market of enormous potential. It is already the world's seventh largest economy, and projections are showing that it would be the third largest by 2030, barely more than a decade from now.
For these reasons and others, India is a priority market for Canada. It is Canada's seventh largest export market and 14th largest for imports. In 2017, two-way trade of goods between Canada and India totalled nearly $8.4 billion, almost double the amount we traded a decade ago. More than 1,000 Canadian companies and educational institutions are currently doing business in India, and 400 actually have a physical presence in the Indian market.
Our service exports have grown significantly over the last five years. Canada's institutional investments, especially those made by our largest pension funds, have also been growing rapidly, and are now estimated to exceed $15 billion.
There is so much more we could do. Exports to India totalling $4.2 billion represent less than 1% of Canada's total exports worldwide. In today's ever-changing connected global economy, Canada can only prosper by expanding markets for its companies.
True success in building strong and lasting commercial relationships demands sustained effort and long-term commitment from all stakeholders, whether government, business, or civil society, using a framework of formal structures and informal networks, or a new generation of economic agreements and extensive people-to-people links. This is all the more true when it comes to developing a mutually beneficial commercial relationship with an emerging economic power such as India.
During the recent visit to India, the led a range of efforts to expand and diversify bilateral economic and commercial relations and promote Canadian interests.
The strengthening of the government-to-government commercial framework was demonstrated through the conclusion of several MOUs and co-operation agreements, with significant progress being made on many others. These covered areas as wide-ranging as civil nuclear science and technology, education, audiovisual co-production, information technology, intellectual property, and even sports.
The also met with top Indian business and political leaders, including not only the leader of the federal government, Prime Minister Modi, but also the chief ministers of the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Punjab. These states are populous, enjoy a large degree of autonomy, are immensely influential economically, and buy large quantities of Canadian products and services.
The interacted with hundreds of Indian and Canadian business leaders through his participation in business-focused round tables and forums. At every opportunity he encouraged them to continue to explore all avenues for increasing trade and investment between our countries.
During his meeting with Prime Minister Modi, the secured a commitment from India to work closely with Canada on finalizing an arrangement before the end of this year, to enable the continued exports of Canadian pulses to that country. As the world's largest exporter of pulses, Canada plays a critical role in providing India with a long-term supply of this very important dietary staple.
Additionally, the announced commitments from businesses, worth more than $1 billion, which will help to expand both of our economies. These included a commitment from Indian companies to invest close to $250 million in Canada, leading to the creation of more than 5,800 good, well-paying middle-class jobs for Canadians. These investments are made by global innovation leaders who have confidence in Canada and understand the long-term advantages of doing business here.
There was a commitment from Canadian companies to invest close to $750 million in India. As is often the case with Canadian investments in India, a significant portion of this amount will go toward large projects aimed at earning long-term, stable income for Canadian investors and pensioners. In addition to the increase in direct company investment, the overall level of investment from Canada's institutional investors and largest public pension funds has surged in recent years, further demonstrating the wealth of opportunities that exist in India.
There was a commitment to provide opportunities in business for women. Reflecting one of the imperatives found in budget 2018, Canada and India will work together on initiatives that help women in both countries build thriving businesses by providing new access to funding, talent, mentorship, and potential customers.
There was an agreement to increase the level of creative collaboration between Canada and India. The cultural sector has huge potential. It will create good jobs in the creative sector, among other ways, and potentially help grow Canada's film industry.
There was an agreement to increase people-to-people ties even faster through education. India is Canada's second largest source of international students, with an estimated 124,000 holding a valid study permit for six months or more at the end of 2017.
Canadian universities and colleges are very active in India, and increased collaboration in education stimulates increased people-to-people ties, encourages joint research and development projects and spurs entrepreneurship and innovation in the decades to come.
There was a renewed emphasis on fostering innovation ties between Canada and India. There is an immense demand and enormous potential for innovative solutions whether in agriculture, food processing, skills development, financial technology, transportation, health sectors, clean tech, and aerospace. Canada has a long tradition of finding these innovative solutions, and is ideally suited to filling this demand from India.
In conclusion, Canada is, has been, and always will be a nation that depends on international trade and investment to prosper. Trade and investment are critical to Canada's prosperity, fuelling economic growth, supporting good jobs at home, raising living standards, and helping Canadians provide for their families with affordable goods and services.
As Canada challenges itself to retain and advance its place among the world's most progressive, innovative trading nations, the strength that comes from collaboration cannot be overstated. This government has invested billions of dollars in helping Canadian workers and innovative businesses become world leaders in their fields.
We have also recently agreed to sign a trade agreement with Pacific rim countries through the comprehensive progressive agreement on the trans-Pacific partnership. This, in addition to the implementation of our agreement with the European Union, will generate thousands if not tens of thousands of new jobs for middle-class Canadians.
Canada now has preferential market access through 12 trade agreements to 45 countries, with over 1.2 billion consumers and a combined GDP of $41.5 trillion. This represents over one-half of the world's output of goods and services, and demonstrates the critical importance of pursuing, with renewed vigour and negotiations, trade and investment agreements, especially with countries such as India.
As reinforced by the success of our expanding economic and commercial relationship with India, Canada is quickly becoming the bridge between Asia and the rest of the world, one that will offer business unprecedented access to new market opportunities. Now is the time to increase our global investment and partnerships, and make the most of this opportunity.
Trade keeps our economy open, dynamic, and competitive, and helps ensure that Canada continues to be the best place in the world to do business. We must emphasize to the world that Canada remains open for business, and is committed to expanding international trade and investment. India is and will remain a very significant part of that commitment.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time today.
I want to talk about how the diplomatic corps relies on our government to protect it and to serve our best interests abroad. I am very proud to have been at Global Affairs Canada for close to a decade and a half. I served as deputy head of mission, not once but twice, in fact, so I have a bit of experience in this. I am very proud to have been the chargé d'affaires in El Salvador for two years, at our embassy in San Salvador, as well our deputy consul general in Dallas, Texas. I am very proud to have had this experience.
The golden rule of diplomacy is one thing and one thing only, and that is to do what one's government asks one to do. That is what one is there to do: what one's government asks one to do. This is in fact a fundamental part of our training in foreign affairs in the diplomatic corps. Humility is a very big part of this. I will give two examples.
The first one is when I was receiving my accreditation in El Salvador. This was very exciting for me. A motorcade took me through the streets of San Salvador to the presidential palace. I went up the stairs of the presidential palace, and I took my place beside the ambassador to be accredited. The presidential aide came to me and put his hand on my shoulder and said, “No, always behind the ambassador.” That was a lesson in humility, the humility that diplomats face in serving their nations.
The second example was when I was negotiating the CA4 trade agreement. This was something that was very important for its impact on Canada in terms of pork prices and sugar prices. I prepared very hard for this. I took my communication from the classified computer at the time. I prepared my notes, and I went to visit the minister of trade. I approached the minister of trade. I showed up in my navy suit. I was there prepared to represent Canada as a proud and humble diplomat.
Frankly, the minister of trade took my papers and looked at me like I was a school girl, and she said, “You tell your government we will get back to them in two weeks.” Again, it was a reminder of my role as a diplomat for the Government of Canada. I was simply there to serve a function. I was only there doing what my government asked me to do. Nothing more, nothing less.
The peril in this as a diplomat is that, unfortunately, diplomats must wear what their masters give them. This is not always good. Sometimes it can be a trick. Diplomats can be so excited when they understand that a minister is coming to visit. They prepare the best hotel and the best restaurants. They make sure that they know the linens the minister likes. They make sure that they know their favourite foods. They do all of this, and then all of a sudden, it can be cancelled. It can be cancelled because of the changing priorities of the government. This is possible. I saw this in my diplomatic work in Argentina as well, during the Chrétien era. This is throughout government, indeed.
Diplomats must wear what the government gives them to wear. Sometimes it is a cancelled trip. Sometimes it is something much worse. This was the case in the Atwal mission at the event in India. This was something much worse.
Are members aware of the mission process to compile a guest list for a mission event? It is a complicated process. It is not something that happens lightly, where diplomats just sit down and make a list of their friends and the people they like. All areas of the mission come together to compile this list. That is what they do. Once the list is compiled, it is sent to Ottawa. It is sent to Ottawa for a complete and utter vetting. The geographical desk will go through the list and see if there is anything that could potentially be a threat or an embarrassment to the Government of Canada. After the geographical desk, it will be sent to security. Security should and will vet the list to see if there is anyone or anything that could embarrass the people of Canada, the reputation of Canada.
Is it possible that our professionals at Global Affairs Canada and in our security agencies could have possibly found out this information about Mr. Atwal prior to this event? I think it is very possible. If so, why would the 's Office, which certainly would have been made aware of the attendees at the event, not do anything in an effort to stop this terrorist from showing up at this event? Were they aware that this was happening, and if so, why did they not stop it?
Unfortunately, this has left an absolute, horrible outcome for the Government of Canada, for the public service, and for diplomats all around the world, and this is why.
First of all, there is the absolute embarrassment of knowing that a terrorist is an official guest at an event at which the Government of Canada is present. As a diplomat, I could not handle the shame. It would just be too much.
Second, I would be wondering what the other guests at the event thought about a terrorist being at the event. Would any of these guests go to future events of the Government of Canada and the missions of Canada? I am not certain that they would if they would be in the company of terrorists. This is something they would definitely be hesitant to do.
Also, this would impact the reputation of diplomats in the foreign service and among their colleagues. Diplomats would wonder if their colleagues thought they were the ones who had this terrible lapse in judgment and invited a terrorist to an event at which Canada was present. We talk in the foreign service about the actions of our colleagues and what they are doing.
What are the diplomatic impacts of this? Will we be able to get meetings with local ministers? What are the trade impacts this will have? What are the consular impacts because we had a terrorist at our event? It was a complete diplomatic embarrassment for our public service, for the diplomatic corps, and for Canada. How this mistake will affect mission contacts is a very important question.
The government has talked all week in question period about how it supports our public service and stands up for it. This incident sure made it a lot harder for diplomats to do their jobs because of the lack of credibility and oversight. Why would a government that says it supports its public service, that says it supports its diplomatic corps, allow an error like this to happen? That is not a government that supports its public service and its diplomatic corps.
How will this affect Canada on the world stage? Other nations will be looking at this in regard to trade decisions, consular decisions, and interactions with Canada. This is a diplomatic tragedy.
I should also say that it affects how diplomats feel about their country and how they feel about the government. Great leaders will always take responsibility, and the and the government did not take responsibility, and in doing so, failed their diplomatic corps. I cannot imagine the conversations in the corridors in New Delhi. I am certainly glad I am not posted there right now.
In closing, as a former diplomat, I know that diplomats put their trust in elected officials to guide them and to protect them, and the government failed. The government did not guide its diplomats and its public service. It did not protect its diplomatic corps. It did not protect the people at the mission in New Delhi.
That is all diplomats ever do. They do what a government asks them to do.
Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to this important motion today. It is important because in my riding, like many rural ridings across Canada, trade is the lifeblood of our economy. Trade is facilitated by building strong interprovincial and business relations. When our creates diplomatic incidents, he undermines those relationships, and consequently, trade suffers. This point leads into my final comments, which will be about the disturbing actions of our Prime Minister, who seems content to throw the reputation of his own Liberal members, and members of our professional public service, under the bus to protect his own skin. These are not the actions of a leader. This is shameful behaviour.
It goes without saying that the 's recent trip to India was a diplomatic disaster. This tour has undermined the confidence of the Indian government that Canada can be depended upon as both a trading partner and a trusted ally. The Prime Minister went to India with a trunk full of colourful costumes, ready to show off his dance moves, but he failed to do his number one job as Prime Minister: to advance Canada's interests.
Pulse farmers in my riding of Sturgeon River—Parkland and across Canada are suffering because the Liberal government failed to negotiate a deal on tariffs with India. Consequently, the prices for lentils have dropped significantly, and Canadian farmers are finding themselves increasingly shut out of global markets.
The increased tariffs on lentils announced after the 's trip illustrates his complete inability to get the job done. Prices are down for lentils across Canada, and India, one of Canada's top export destinations, continues to slap new tariff and non-tariff barriers on our world-class products. I see the impact of this in my riding. Farmers, including members of my family, are losing out because the Liberal government has failed to deliver serious and meaningful action on this critical trade issue.
Furthermore, on the issue of fumigation, the failed to gain an exemption from the Indian government that would prevent the use of an environmentally destructive chemical on our crops, a fumigant that is not required in Canada. Why was our not doing the hard negotiations in the backrooms while the and his taxpayer-funded entourage posed for selfies with extremists? Since the Liberals have failed to gain Canadian farmers access to the Indian market when it comes to lentils, how can they be depended upon to ensure that Canada's liquefied natural gas resources get to market?
The Indian economy is undergoing rapid reforms that will require the use of cleaner fuels in order to meet its climate change and economic growth goals. Currently, many impoverished families in India spend hours every day gathering biomass fuel that wreaks devastation on forests and burns even dirtier than coal. Biomass pollution harms the health of women and children. Canada has a solution, natural gas, or as we in Alberta call it, God's gas. Canada's environmentally responsible natural gas can provide the low-carbon intensity to power India's economic expansion. It will also provide the clean, reliable fuel that will ensure poor families have healthier air in their homes. India needs Canada's natural gas, but the government has failed to secure deals necessary to ensure that Canada and India can benefit from this mutual exchange.
Let us look at the record of this trip. The took 20 members of the Liberal Party on this taxpayer-funded junket and photo-op tour. What do they have to show for it? Supposedly, there is $1 billion in investment, but when looking closely, it becomes apparent that 75% of this investment involves Canada investing in India. Only a few short weeks later, the President of France announced 16 billion dollars' worth of deals with India and was even met at the airport by the Indian prime minister, not exactly a proud moment for Canada, as we struggle to attract foreign investment while this Liberal government relentlessly raises taxes and increases red tape.
What else did the Liberals achieve on this trip? Recent media reports paint a disturbing picture of the 's entourage. A Liberal member of Parliament argued with security officials tasked with defending Canada's embassy so that he could cut in line and sneak a few friends into a party. They drank the bar dry of Crown Royal, and succeeded in angering Indian officials who patiently waited in line. This sort of Animal House behaviour belongs in a dorm room, not on international trips meant to highlight Canada's serious commitment to our relationship with India.
It appears that the priority of this vacation, I mean diplomatic visit, was for the to show off his fancy costumes and dance moves. His reckless disregard for Canada's international reputation and the security of the delegation resulted in a convicted terrorist being invited on the trip, a terrorist who was convicted of attempted murder against an Indian politician while on Canadian soil.
What kind of message does this send to our ally when we invite on our delegations those who have promoted extremism and violence against the state of India? I know Canadians would not take kindly to a foreign government inviting advocates of separation in Canada, least of all violent separation, and yet that is exactly what the has done.
To make matters worse, the failed to take responsibility for the actions of his team. Real leaders understand that they have command accountability for the actions of those under their leadership, but this Prime Minister has once again abdicated that personal responsibility. He laid the blame on everyone, from one of his own Liberal members to the supposed actions of the Indian government.
I can certainly understand why the is frustrated. I am sure he truly believes he is a far superior prime minister to Stephen Harper, yet globally the evidence continues to mount against him. That frustration does not excuse his conspiratorial accusations that somehow it is the Indian government that is responsible for this disastrous trip. Even if there is a shred of truth to the Prime Minister's outlandish claim, surely it would make the best diplomatic sense not to make this claim publicly.
Now we have an important ally accusing our of making baseless accusations. It is bad for India and it is bad for Canada, and yet the Prime Minister has recklessly gone ahead. It will take a new government to restore that trust.
It is apparent that the places priority on his own image and not the best interests of Canada. By parading his national security adviser in front of a select media audience, he has chosen to use the non-partisan professional civil service as a shield for his own incompetence. When parliamentarians and Canadians ask for the same privileges that the media received, the Prime Minister refuses to allow his national security adviser to have these claims tested before committee.
It is clear to me that the national security adviser has been used by the to deflect from his embarrassing failure, and that is one of the great shames of the government. Despite the Liberals' claims to support a non-partisan professional public service, they are all too ready to use and abuse public servants to advance their own partisan ends.
Just a few years ago, I had the opportunity to watch as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi disembarked from his plane on the tarmac in Ottawa. This important visit from the leader of the world's second most populous nation and one of the fastest-growing economies in the world highlighted the respect held by India for Canada. A few years ago, the Liberal government declared that Canada is back, but now the Prime Minister of India could not even be bothered to meet with our when his plane landed.
The contrast is illuminating. Under our serious Conservative leadership, international leaders came to Canada and respected our prime minister. Under this incompetent , we have become the butt of international jokes, snubbed when visiting our most important allies. The only thing that will restore the trust for Canadians and for the Indian government will be a new government.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
Today's opposition motion puts into question the professionalism of some of the most senior public servants in our country. Canada's national security agencies are non-partisan and both highly competent and effective. We trust them to protect and promote Canada's security.
The answer in regard to the invitation and discussion is clear. In fact, the invitation should never have been issued, and when that invitation was discovered, it was immediately rescinded.
The government has great confidence in the security and diplomatic advisers to the government, who always act in an impartial fashion and always in the best interests of Canadians. They continue to do an excellent job in serving and protecting these interests. We respect our national security agencies, and we respect the non-partisan public service. We respect their ability to provide non-partisan advice.
Reflecting the 1.4 million Canadians of Indian heritage, and cognizant of Canada's geostrategic and commercial interests in the Indo-Pacific region, the 's objective during his recent visit was to reaffirm that Canada stands with a united India. Recognizing that the relationship between Canada and India is based on a shared commitment to pluralism, diversity, and democracy, the Prime Minister visited cultural and religious sites of significance to people in Canada, India, and around the world.
During this debate, we are also wise to reflect again on the importance of India in regional and global geopolitics. Given Canada's own strong global bonds and priorities, there is clear potential benefit in collaborating with India in many areas. As many Canadians clearly appreciate, India is the largest and most influential state in south Asia. It is the key actor in its immediate neighbourhood, with complex and important relationships with neighbours like Pakistan and China. It also plays a key role in Asia as a whole in its strategic interactions, especially, but not limited to, in the Indian Ocean region.
India is important for the pursuit of Canadian geopolitical interests across Asia. Not surprisingly, therefore, the recent meetings between our and Prime Minister Modi included consideration of this very question. As a result, the two leaders resolved to work together in bilateral and multilateral frameworks to promote a stable and rules-based Indo-Pacific region, which would not only benefit Canada economically but also serve to broaden our effectiveness and penetration as the region moves forward toward greater wealth, influence, and connectivity.
A number of important shared challenges face India and Canada in the Indo-Pacific region. During the visit, for example, the two prime ministers discussed a number of regional and global issues of critical importance.
With respect to the ongoing situation in Afghanistan, the leaders paid special attention to security matters. Both called for the immediate cessation of violence, the renunciation of links with international terrorism, and the dismantling of infrastructure to support terrorism. The leaders also affirmed support to the government and the people of Afghanistan to achieve an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned, and Afghan-controlled national peace and reconciliation process. Our relationship with India on these matters is important in order for lasting peace and prosperity in the region to be realized.
Our and Prime Minister Modi also called on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to abide strictly by its international obligations and commitments. They called on all states to implement rigorously the relevant UN Security Council resolutions relating to the DPRK.
Both prime ministers deplored the current state of affairs in the Maldives and urged the government of that country to allow democratic institutions, including parliament and the judiciary, to function independently in a fair and transparent manner.
Furthermore, the prime ministers also discussed the humanitarian and security crisis in Myanmar and across the border in Bangladesh, and called for the voluntary, safe, and sustainable return of the Rohingya refugees, while stressing the importance of ensuring law, order, and respect for human dignity in the process. The leaders called for the restoration of humanitarian access for relevant United Nations and other international organizations to facilitate the return process.
This is a matter that remains of great concern to many Canadians. In fact, a number of concerned constituents in my riding of Mississauga—Lakeshore have written letters to my office about the Rohingya crisis—