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View Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, congratulations on your election to assist the Chair.
I want to start by thanking the constituents of Beaches—East York, everyone who supported me in the campaign and at the outset of my political career when nobody knew who I was. It is a humbling experience, being a candidate in politics, where hundreds of people come together all acting on behalf of me and my party and helping us, as individuals, come to this place. I sincerely thank the hundreds of people who have contributed in this past election, but also over the years. Of course, I also thank my family and especially my wife Amy.
I am not sure whether it is because of the last four years in this place, or in spite of the last four years in this place, but I continue to think, in my role as a parliamentarian, politics remains a pathway to making one of the most positive differences we can make in the lives of our neighbours and our fellow citizens. It remains a noble profession. We have an opportunity to display that to our fellow Canadians over the next two, three or maybe four years, as we seize the opportunity of this minority Parliament.
Minority parliaments hold the potential for greatness. Peter Russell is an academic and long-time political scientist who studied minority and majority parliaments around the world, including here at home. He has called minority parliaments here in Canada some of the most dynamic in our history.
Of course, the throne speech makes reference to Pearson. When we look to the Pearson years, we see co-operation that was able to deliver the Canada pension plan, Canada student loans, public health care and the flag. During those five years in Canadian history, Parliament accomplished more than most parliaments we have seen before, so this minority situation holds potential for greatness. It is up to us, and how we conduct ourselves in this place, whether we seize the opportunity or succumb to partisan politics.
One of the jobs in this place, as we hopefully seize the opportunity, is to work across the aisle. In the last Parliament, I had the good fortune to work across the aisle with Murray Rankin of the NDP on cannabis amnesty and with Fin Donnelly of the NDP on the shark fin trade. I had the opportunity to work across the aisle with current members in this House from the Conservatives and the NDP to tackle election interference, platform governance and privacy protections. I think if people watched our committee in the last Parliament, they would be hard pressed to determine who was the Liberal, who was the member from the NDP and who was the Conservative. That is how this place should operate, particularly at committee.
I hope we see more of those opportunities in this place going forward. I also worked really hard in the last Parliament to carve out some space, it is not always the easiest thing to do in this business, for principled independence. If I heard anything from my constituents in this last election, it is that they want me and the people in this place to work together as much as possible to accomplish big ideas for our country. They also want us to be less partisan and to carve out more of that principled independence and to carry that with us.
I want to echo the clear message in the throne speech and that Canadians sent us here with, which is to work together, and I hope we all take that very seriously going forward.
Canadians were also clear about the need to tackle climate change in a much more serious way. I had the good fortune in early June to introduce a bill to require the government to reduce emissions to net zero by 2050. I was incredibly happy to see that as a core commitment in our platform, and as a core and early commitment in the throne speech.
Our principal goal in this Parliament is to set Canada on a credible path to net zero while we ensure a just transition for affected workers and affected regions. That is our principal challenge in the coming years. We have come a long way over the last four years. In early 2016, Environment Canada told us that projected 2030 emissions were 850 megatonnes. After four years of policy-making that included methane rules to reduce methane emissions by 40%; phasing out coal-fired electricity; the price on pollution; massive investments in public transit, clean tech and energy efficiency; and the clean fuel standard, which, as an aside, all of us in this place need to keep an eye on because it is in the process of being watered down, that 850 megatonnes is now 592, a 25% reduction.
For the first time in my lifetime, we had a federal government that took climate change seriously and acted. It did not just set targets and blow past them, and that was the fault of the Conservatives and the Liberals I agree, but for the first time set targets and took action to meaningfully reduce emissions. Now our task is to build on that progress.
We have promised a number of important initiatives in our platform, such as expanding electric vehicle charging infrastructure and planting two billion trees. We promised to incentivize clean tech businesses in a serious way. There will be continued investments in public transit and more. However, none of those measures add up to where we need to be. Therefore, we will require more serious action to meet our international, our intergenerational and fundamentally our moral obligations in tackling climate change and doing our part. What does doing our part mean?
We have a 2030 target right now that is 512 megatonnes, and that will be a challenge. However, if we take science seriously, the IPCC tells us that the world has to reduce emissions to 45% below 2010 levels by 2030. How many in this place have that number in their head? What does that number mean? It is 380 megatonnes. Our current target is 512 megatonnes. The minimum we ought to be doing is our best to reach 380 megatonnes, 45% below 2010 levels by 2030, and that is not an easy task. If we are not sufficiently ambitious in our goals, we will not be forceful enough in our actions.
On the matter of co-operation and climate change, I fundamentally believe in the platform we put forward, strong action, but I also saw a promise from the NDP on an independent climate accountability office, and that is really important.
A Conservative creation, the Parliamentary Budget Office, holds the government to account on our behalf as parliamentarians. It helps us hold the government to account when finance tables a budget. When we turn those long-term goals into a five-year carbon budget to ensure we have short-term practical climate action so too do we need an independent mechanism to hold the government to account on its carbon budget process. Whether that is housed in a PBO, or housed in the environmental commissioner or whether we adopt a different and independent framework, that promise of independent climate accountability is an important one. There is an opportunity to work across the aisle.
When we look at the promise in our platform on a just transition act, now we can say that the Bloc Québécois came back and that party represents a good portion of Quebec. However, if I am more honest about regional differences, and I see Alberta and Saskatchewan, I know, as a member from Toronto, that the Conservative Party best represents Alberta and Saskatchewan in this place. If I think about co-operation and working across the aisle, as we develop that just transition act, we absolutely must be learning from, listening to and heeding the advice of our Conservative colleagues.
The throne speech also talked about strengthening the middle class. Obviously, those of us in this place and those across the country have heard the Prime Minister and this government mention the middle class once or twice over the years.
Increasing the basic personal amount is an important step. It will affect many Canadians. These are big numbers. Twenty million Canadians will have their taxes reduced. Hundreds of thousands of Canadians will be taken off the tax roll. When we increase the basic personal amount from just over $12,000 to $15,000, it will mean that people who really ought not to be paying any taxes at all will not be paying them.
It will cost $6 billion, and there is a challenge here. It is not paid for. It is deficit finance. It is obviously going to be implemented as it is our platform promise. If I am to be somewhat critical and fair, budgets continue to be sustainable and I will believe that as long as the PBO tells me that.
Value for money is a different proposition altogether. We do need to ensure that there is fairness in spending between generations. I do worry, from a fiscal sustainability standpoint, about a broad-based tax cut or even the increase to OAS when they are deficit financed. They should be properly paid for.
Another area of both optimism, because of the success and progress over the last four years, but also a point of some criticism, when we talk about those working hard to join the middle class or low income Canadians, those struggling with poverty, we have made incredible strides over the last four years. We introduced the national housing strategy, and housing benefits come online this year. Thousands of people no longer live in poverty, almost 900,000 people according to Statistics Canada numbers. That is incredible progress.
As chair of the anti-poverty caucus in the last Parliament, taken over from Senator Eggleton, who continues to do incredible advocacy on a basic income, I would be remiss if I did not note not only the incredible progress, but also a lack of similar ambition in this place going forward.
We brought hundreds of thousands of Canadians out of poverty by increasing the Canada child benefit and the GIS. Going forward, I do not see similar promises from any party that will lift that same significant number of Canadians out of poverty.
However, there is good news with respect to another area of potential collaboration. I will provide a bit of history.
When Ralph Goodale was the minister of finance, he introduced a measure of basic income support, like the OAS, the GIS and the Canada child benefit, for the working poor. It was not implemented. It was a good Liberal idea at the time. However, it became a good Conservative idea when finance minister Jim Flaherty introduced it in this place and made it a reality.
In the namesake of his riding, it was WITB, the working income tax benefit. In the last Parliament, we increased that significantly. While I am not sure how many people were paying attention to the member for Timmins—James Bay and the leadership, he was calling for it to be increased. Therefore, we had a Liberal finance minister, a Conservative finance minister and an NDP troublemaker all calling for the same measure to be increased.
When we look at the total numbers, we see over $50 billion a year for seniors in OAS and GIS and over $20 billion a year for children through the Canada child benefit. However, even after the increases in the last Parliament, we only see $2 billion a year for basic income support for the working poor, the people who are working multiple jobs, who are struggling to get by and who need it the most. That is where the action should be in this place, on poverty reduction, when it is an idea on which we have already agree.
The throne speech also talks about keeping Canadians safe. There are so many different ways we can talk about keeping Canadians safe. For those members who were not in this place in the last Parliament, a member of my local chapter of Young Liberals, Reese Fallon, was killed in the Danforth shooting. The hardest speech I have ever had to give was at her funeral. It was a great honour for our community and the family that the Prime Minister was so engaged that he was able to come to the funeral. However, we need action. In his platform, we saw action. The question then becomes this. How do we make that action as effective as possible? It is a reminder to all of us in this place that defaults matter. Therefore, if we are to give cities the power to set their own rules, there ought to be a baseline set of rules that cities can opt out of if we truly want that policy to be effective.
With respect to keeping Canadians safe, I am happy to say that, working across the aisle in the last Parliament on privacy issues, we saw a great deal of that work and those recommendations from our committee become promises in our platform. We are going to keep Canadians safe online. As my three year old grows up, he will live his entire life online and we need rules to reflect his reality.
Thousands of Canadians continue to die because of a contaminated drug supply and our opioid crisis. To reference Statistics Canada numbers, for the first time in the last 40 years, life expectancy has stalled, which is attributed to the opioid crisis. Thousands of people have died. If it were not from substance use, I guarantee there would be more committed governmental responses from the provinces. As a federal government, we took significant action over the last four years, but we do not see that collective action across parties and provinces to address this real public health crisis.
The throne speech rightly says that we have done much, but there is more to do. I hope we all agree in this place with this simple premise; that we should treat drug use as a health issue. Yes, we must tackle traffickers and producers, but the very people who need our help, the patients, should be treated as patients and not criminals. If we do that for alcohol and gambling, we ought to do it for all substances. That is how we save lives. If we start with the premise that we treat drug use as a public health issue, and we all agree on that, then let us work together on what that means in legislation.
My constituents have also called for a faster strategy to tackle rare diseases and they continue to call for a universal and national approach to pharmacare. I know that was referenced in the throne speech and in our platform, and there was a lot of good work done in the last Parliament.
I have a 13-year-old constituent, Helena Kirk, who was diagnosed with cancer at the age of three and went through 841 days of chemotherapy. She met with the Prime Minister, the science minister and the former health minister. In our platform was a $30-million commitment to pediatric cancer research, largely because of Helena's advocacy. I want to thank Helena for her hard work and let her know that we will do as much as we can to save the lives of her friends.
It is not only about keeping Canadians safe; it is about all living beings in Canadian society who think, feel and love. That includes animals and more. We made progress in the last Parliament on animal protections and we have to continue to build on that progress.
Importantly, the throne speech talked about moving forward on reconciliation.
I will first talk about the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal case. I have heard the minister that say money is no object. At the end of January, we have to deliver submissions to the tribunal that properly set out a path for just compensation, saying money is no object, what it will cost and that we have a fair path forward. Having already spoken to the minister, I will be looking very closely at our submissions. We need to ensure that those in our society who have suffered discrimination by the government receive due compensation.
We have seen incredible progress on clean water, an issue I hear a lot about from the constituents in my community. Over the last four years, over 60% of long-term boil water advisories on reserve were lifted. We injected $2 billion into the system. When the PBO said more money was needed, more money was provided. We remain on track to lift all advisories within the five-year commitment.
There is another specific project in Grassy Narrows that needs to be made a priority. I was very pleased to hear the minister say that money was no object and that the facility would be built with federal support. Again, I will be looking at that very closely.
Then there is the implementation of UNDRIP. I ran into Romeo Saganash when he was here the other day. We spoke briefly about our promise in our platform that his bill would be a floor. I hope to see the amendments, which were not adopted in the last Parliament, made to his bill. I hope his bill will be a floor. We have a historic opportunity to implement UNDRIP and provide rights to indigenous peoples, which they fundamentally deserve.
On a final note on reconciliation, which is urban indigenous communities, I did not see enough in our platform or in the throne speech. We need a much stronger commitment to urban indigenous communities. In Ontario alone, some of the estimates I have seen is that over 80% of indigenous people do not live on reserve. We need to ensure that indigenous services understands that and is able to deliver services properly to urban indigenous communities.
On Canada's place in the world, there have been great successes over the last four years. We saw greater fairness in our immigration and refugee system. Just to be clear, we brought in more refugees last year than any other country in the world. We are doing our part, which is the right thing to do. My riding has a very strong Bangladeshi community. Those in that community called on me to be vocal on the Rohingya refugee crisis. I and this government were, on the recommendations of Bob Rae. I am very proud of the government's efforts on that issue in the last Parliament.
We need to continue to take that leadership on the global stage on human rights. We need to continue to defend and support our multilateral institutions. We are best at fundamentally supporting institutions. Whether it is training judges, election commissioners, parliamentary processes, we need to double down on what we are best at. We are doing it in some countries, but clearly, when we see what is going on around the world, other countries could use some of that stable support and democratic decision-making from the Canadian Parliament and the Canadian people.
On global climate action, we saw great leadership in the last Parliament on phasing out coal, not only domestically but also abroad. We were global leaders in helping the rest of the world chart this path. We need to continue to do that work, but we cannot do that if we do not do the strong work at home to meet our emission reduction targets. We have to help lead our country and the world on this defining issue of our time.
I will close by reiterating that we have in this minority Parliament a real opportunity to work together on these big ideas and issues that can make such a difference in the lives of Canadians and citizens of the world. Let us seize that opportunity and not waste it.
View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
2019-12-12 14:55 [p.410]
Mr. Speaker, yesterday, Raif Badawi began another hunger strike to draw the world's attention to his wrongful imprisonment in Saudi Arabia. He has begun another hunger strike to draw the attention of Canada, which has left him languishing in prison for seven years. He has begun another hunger strike that will cause even more worry for his wife, Ensaf Haidar, whom I salute, and their children. They miss him.
What will it take for the government to take action and finally get Raif Badawi released?
View Robert Oliphant Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Robert Oliphant Profile
2019-12-12 14:56 [p.410]
Mr. Speaker, the promotion and protection of human rights, including the right to freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion or belief, are an integral part of Canadian foreign policy. We remain extremely concerned about Raif Badawi's situation.
We have raised it at the highest levels. We have repeatedly called for clemency to be granted. We will stand with Mr. Badawi. We will stand with people facing human rights atrocities around the world.
View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
2019-12-12 14:56 [p.410]
Mr. Speaker, the time for talk is over.
It is scandalous that Raif Badawi is still languishing in prison after seven years without having committed any crime. If the government can sit down and work with Saudi Arabia at the G20, if it can sit down with Saudi Arabia to do business and sell the country weapons, then it can certainly sit down with Saudi Arabia to demand the release of Raif Badawi.
What meaningful action does the government intend to take to finally have Raif Badawi released?
View Robert Oliphant Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Robert Oliphant Profile
2019-12-12 14:57 [p.410]
Mr. Speaker, let me assure all members of the House that our hearts go out to Mr. Badawi and his family. The Prime Minister has spoken directly to the Saudi Crown Prince and to the King of Saudi Arabia about this particular case. We have raised the case directly to the Saudi minister of foreign affairs.
Our goal is not to grandstand; it is to work persistently, calmly and patiently to have Mr. Badawi reunited with his family.
View Heather McPherson Profile
View Heather McPherson Profile
2019-12-12 17:20 [p.430]
Madam Speaker, I would like to bring up another thought that I have in terms of the throne speech.
In 2015, I was working at an NGO in the international development sector, and I was delighted when the Prime Minister said that Canada was back. What I did not realize at the time was that Canada was back, way back, in the list of OECD donor countries.
Today, Canada is in the bottom half of donor countries. Currently, Canada gives approximately a quarter of 1% of gross national income, the lowest we have been at in over 50 years. Embarrassingly, despite the platitudes and good words from the Liberal government, we currently invest even less than the Harper government did in making the world a safer and more prosperous place.
Canadians like my constituents in Alberta are proud of Canada's history of punching above its weight on the world stage. When will this government commit to significantly increasing ODA, finally reaching the 0.7%, as promised by Lester B. Pearson and achieved by many countries around the world, including Ireland and Norway?
View Martin Champoux Profile
View Martin Champoux Profile
2019-12-12 17:21 [p.430]
Madam Speaker, I appreciate my opposition colleague's very worthy comment.
Indeed, Canada has alway had an excellent reputation internationally. While I appreciate the merits of the comment as well as the question itself and my colleague's good will, I do not think that question was really directed at me.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
View Andrew Scheer Profile
2019-12-11 14:29 [p.267]
Mr. Speaker, yesterday the House voted to take the crisis between Canada and the Government of China seriously by establishing a special committee to look at all aspects of the government's handling of that relationship. After China's unlawful imprisonment of two Canadians, after its putting blocks on our exports of canola and other products, the Prime Minister still has not stood up for Canadians.
Will the Prime Minister at least take the very practical step of withdrawing Canada's funding for the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank?
View Justin Trudeau Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Justin Trudeau Profile
2019-12-11 14:30 [p.267]
Mr. Speaker, over the past year, we have been working at all levels to ensure the safety of the Canadians being detained, and indeed continue to advocate for their release as we stand up for our canola farmers, as we protect our beef and pork exporters and as we continue to engage with this important trading partner, while at the same time standing up for human rights every step of the way.
We recognize there is an opportunity to collaborate further on the special committee on China. We just certainly hope the opposition parties will be careful not to play politics and endanger the lives of those Canadians with it.
View John Brassard Profile
View John Brassard Profile
2019-12-11 15:49 [p.280]
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte, a gentleman with whom I served on Barrie City Council. I am happy that he has joined us in the House.
Tributes have already been done for the hon. Deepak Obhrai but I want to say how much he will be missed not just by our party but by all parliamentarians. A member mentioned that he was quite quotable. I used to sit here in amazement every time Deepak would speak and how many times he would say “Mr. Speaker” or “Madam Speaker”. I think he said that more in his speeches than the content, but it certainly showed the level of respect he had for Parliament and for the Chair.
Since this is the first time that I have been up to speak in this 43rd Parliament I have a few people I would like to thank.
First and foremost, I would like to thank the people of Barrie—Innisfil for electing me for a second term. I am humbled. I am appreciative. I certainly will continue to work hard and smart on their behalf.
I also want to thank all of my volunteers who helped throughout the campaign, and my campaign manager. Most importantly, I want to thank my family, my wife Liane, and my children for their unwavering support and understanding for what I do as the member of Parliament for Barrie—Innisfil. I appreciate all of their support during the election campaign and their ongoing support as well.
As I rise today to speak about the Speech from the Throne, what I am going to focus on more than anything are the things that were not in the Speech from the Throne. There were a lot of things, a lot of platitudes and a lot of words, but there are issues that are facing this nation that were not in the throne speech and I am not quite sure why, because those issues that were not in there are issues of significant importance to this country. These are issues like national unity.
Coming from a province like Ontario, I do not think the people of Ontario really understand the magnitude and the depth of what is going on in western Canada. Obviously, we work with colleagues from western Canada and we hear on a daily basis what is going on there, and it is dire.
What we did not see in the Speech from the Throne from the government is how we are going to deal with the situation with respect to natural resources and how we are going to get our products to market. How are we going to deal with some of the legislation that was passed in the previous Parliament that is going to continue to affect our natural resource sector? This is causing significant unity issues.
Just this week the Premier of Alberta brought a delegation to Ottawa. We have heard the Premier of Saskatchewan and others speak about just how dire the situation is and yet the government is seemingly not paying as much attention as it should. Certainly it is not doing what it should and that is to repeal some of the pieces of legislation that are impacting our colleagues and our friends in western Canada.
Other things that were not in the throne speech were issues of economic and fiscal policy. There was no end in sight, nothing mentioned with respect to debt and deficit situations and the fact that the Liberal government will continue to spend. Although the Liberals call it investing, they are continuing to spend billions and billions of dollars. That is increasing not only the debt but it is also increasing the deficit. In a minority situation, we will be under tremendous amounts of pressure from the other opposition parties to increase that debt and deficit situation. That is quite concerning as well.
What concerns me the most and I know coming out of the election what concerns the people of Barrie—Innisfil is our fiscal capacity to deal with a downturn in the economy. That is going to be one of the biggest challenges. By all indicators the economy is stalling. We saw that there were 71,000 job losses last month. Canada's position in the G7 is diminishing in terms of the debt-to-GDP ratio. We are quite concerned about the government's ability to deal with that going forward if we do face those strong economic headwinds.
Our role in the world was not addressed in the throne speech. The Canada-China crisis is worthy of attention, but that was not mentioned in the throne speech, and it took an opposition day motion to move the government in the direction we need to deal with those issues.
Those are some of the things that were not in the throne speech that caused me concern. The amendments that were put forward by the Leader of the Opposition will address a lot of the issues that were not addressed in the throne speech. These include economic and fiscal policy, natural resources and how to work to make sure that we see an uptick in the economy of Alberta and western Canada and Saskatchewan. I am asking that the government take very seriously the amendments that were put forward in order for us to deal with those situations.
What we did see was a government that seemingly went all-in. Just as if it was a game of poker, they went all-in and splashed all their chips onto the table on the issue of climate change. There is not one person in this House or one person across Canada who does not believe that man-made climate change is having an effect. The challenge we are having right now is that we need to have a national conversation about it.
In the election there was a lot of rhetoric and political posturing of the parties with respect to climate change. I agree with the former premier of New Brunswick, Frank McKenna, on this issue, that if we are going to go to a zero-based carbon economy, we need to understand what the implications of that are on not just Canada's economy, but also Canada as a place around the world and how it can impact a global change.
Canada, quite frankly, is punching above its weight when it comes to the issue of climate change. We need to be free of that rhetoric. We need to get back to having a discussion of what that impact is going to look like and how we are going to position Canada to be economically competitive going forward when seemingly the rest of the world is not moving in that direction. That is a conversation that we should have and could have in this minority Parliament. Looking at the rest of the world, just recently China built a rail system. The sole purpose of that rail system is to move coal to coal-fired electrical plants. One of the things that we talked about throughout the campaign was that Canada has the ability to impact the global climate crisis. Even the Prime Minister acknowledged the fact that even if we were to go to a zero-based carbon economy tomorrow, it would have zero impact around the world, unless and until Canada leads the way when it comes to the type of technology and innovation that we can offer.
The other thing that I was disappointed in is the fact that during the campaign, one of the ministers came up to Barrie and announced that the Liberals were going to invest $40 million into Lake Simcoe. This was after the Conservatives had already promised an investment into Lake Simcoe and to reinstate the Lake Simcoe cleanup fund. I want to make sure that the government is aware of how important the health, vitality and sustainability of Lake Simcoe are to central Ontario and our ecosystem. We are going to continue to push the government on that.
Finally, the voters of Barrie—Innisfil asked me to represent them here. I am asking that the government listen to the voters of not just Barrie—Innisfil, but across Canada to protect our national unity, to protect our economy, protect our environment, protect the energy and agricultural sectors and keep life affordable for Canadians. I ask the government to support our amendment going forward so that we can move forward.
View Erin O'Toole Profile
View Erin O'Toole Profile
2019-12-10 10:11 [p.175]
That, in light of the prolonged diplomatic crisis with China, the House appoint a special committee with the mandate to conduct hearings to examine and review all aspects of the Canada–China relationship including, but not limited to, consular, economic, legal, security and diplomatic relations:
(a) that the committee be composed of 12 members, of which six shall be government members, four shall be from the official opposition, one shall be from the Bloc Québécois and one from the New Democratic Party;
(b) that changes in the membership of the committee shall be effective immediately after notification by the whip has been filed with the Clerk of the House;
(c) that membership substitutions be permitted, if required, in the manner provided for in Standing Order 114(2);
(d) that the members shall be named by their respective whip by depositing with the Clerk of the House the list of their members to serve on the committee no later than January 15, 2020;
(e) that the Clerk of the House shall convene an organization meeting of the said committee for no later than January 20, 2020;
(f) that the committee be chaired by a member of the government party;
(g) that notwithstanding Standing Order 106(2), in addition to the Chair, there be one vice-chair from the official opposition, one vice-chair from the Bloc Québécois and one vice-chair from the New Democratic Party;
(h) that quorum of the committee be as provided for in Standing Order 118 and that the Chair be authorized to hold meetings to receive evidence and to have that evidence printed when a quorum is not present, provided that at least four members are present, including one member of the opposition and one member of the government;
(i) that the committee be granted all of the powers of a standing committee, as provided in the Standing Orders, as well as the power to travel, accompanied by the necessary staff, inside and outside of Canada;
(j) that the committee have the power to authorize video and audio broadcasting of any or all of its proceedings; and
(k) that the Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Public Safety, and the Canadian ambassador to China be ordered to appear as witnesses from time to time as the committee sees fit.
View Erin O'Toole Profile
View Erin O'Toole Profile
2019-12-10 10:11 [p.176]
Mr. Speaker, this is a very important debate that our Parliament is seized with today and I want to thank the leader of the Conservative Party and our caucus for bringing this to Parliament. This is an example of how this Parliament can fulfill its function, challenging the government, holding them to account for a record on which foreign affairs is quite weak, but also propose methods that allow for better resolutions. That is what this opposition day motion and the proposal of a special committee of Parliament on Canada-China relations is all about.
I want to start off with two reflections. The first is that today marks one year since Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig were arrested by Chinese state authorities and detained without charge, and without access to a lawyer or to the rule of law. They were arbitrarily detained as a diplomatic response to a lawful extradition arrest performed by Canada, a rule of law country, on behalf of the U.S. and a decision by a U.S. court. Canada acted with full respect of its rule of law traditions and China's actions have reflected and reminded us that there is no rule of law.
I am sure I speak for all Conservatives, parliamentarians and Canadians in saying that we stand in solidarity with the families of the two Michaels. We want their well-being to be safeguarded and we want to see them return home to Canada as quickly as possible. Today, we will be talking about many facets of the Canada-China relationship with its many challenges and some opportunities. However, we are not going to speak further about the two Michaels, out of respect for that case and the need for a resolution.
What is promising about this motion is the specialized committee that we are proposing. It would be all-party and multidisciplinary, with the ability to look at all aspects of the Canada-China relationship from complex consular cases to national security issues, to trade, to global affairs, within the context of a committee that can go in camera and respect secret and sensitive information. That is probably the best venue to come up with a plan for a swift resolution for the situation of Mr. Spavor and Mr. Kovrig. I hope the government takes that into consideration when they consider voting on our motion later today.
I hope all members of this House realize this could be an opportunity to actually take the politics out of it, but allow us to do our job because Canadians are concerned about the well-being of these citizens. Canadians are well-seized with issues related to China from the South China Sea islands, to Huawei, to the situation with the Uighurs, to Chinese ambitions in the Arctic as a self-declared “near-Arctic state”, a new diplomatic term that really did not exist until they created it.
The challenge of the China relationship is the foreign policy challenge that Canada will face over the next generation. This is a perfect opportunity for a specialized committee of parliamentarians to examine it to make sure that Canada gets the balance right.
The second thing I will say at the outset of my remarks is that there are tremendous opportunities in China. However, for those opportunities, many of them business and many of them export-driven, Canada cannot and must not relinquish our unbridled support for the rule of law, for human rights and for standing up for our allies and friends around the world. In many cases, economic opportunities would not be worth it if Canada had to sacrifice the values that we are respected for and have been respected for since Confederation.
All governments in the modern era, going back to that of the Prime Minister's father, have tried to balance the need to engage trade, do business and help develop parts of China, alongside the need to push on human rights, democratic reform, rule of law and a higher standard in global affairs, so there is a tremendous opportunity.
I am frustrated that in recent years the Communist Party of China seems to be stepping back from its path of engagement as a serious law-abiding world power.
Years ago, before my election to Parliament, I spoke at a business luncheon in Toronto. The law firm I was at, like many exporting companies in Canada, saw the tremendous growth potential in China, the second-largest economy, with growth rates in the double digits in recent decades. I introduced the ambassador to China at the time, who was speaking to a Toronto business audience. I used a Chinese proverb: One generation plants the trees, the next generation enjoys the shade.
The hard work going into the early development of modern China was started by Pierre Trudeau and continued through all prime ministers, and goes back to iconic Canadians like Norman Bethune and hundreds of missionaries and other Canadian citizens who engage with China. These relationships have planted the trees. We have done the hard work. We should be enjoying the shade now. That proverb ended up being the ambassador's favourite expression, because it gets to the heart of diplomacy: We do the hard work so that future generations can benefit.
Canada has been a leading partner in China's development from its being a truly developing country into the world's second-largest economy, a global power. We have been at the forefront with Dr. Bethune and have been there to help with agricultural practices. We have been there with our CANDU technology to provide greenhouse gas emission-free power through nuclear generating stations in a country that is too reliant on coal. We have been there to trade. We have seen pandas come; we have seen trade missions go. We have tremendous companies in financial services, agriculture and transportation, leading companies like Manulife, Bombardier, Agrium and others that have done billions of dollars of business with China in the last decades. We should be very thankful for that but should also be very cautious.
In recent years, particularly in light of the 19th national congress, China has been stepping back from serious engagement on the world stage. The Communist Party has been exerting its influence through all levels of Chinese life, including through state-owned enterprises and their global effort. We have seen the belt and road initiative, making countries beholden and in debt to China for infrastructure and other projects.
We have to be cautious with the turn that China has taken in the last 10 years. Rather than this generation walking in the shade of the trees that were planted in the past, we are now almost lost in the woods on how best to handle this important relationship without sacrificing Canadian values.
Why are we bringing forward this debate on our first opposition motion? It is because we have had serious concerns with the Prime Minister's ability to govern in Canada's national interest on the world stage. All Canadians now have no confidence in the Prime Minister when he goes abroad.
We used to bemoan the fact that Canada was never talked about on the world stage. Now we cannot see a late night talk show or Saturday Night Live without seeing our Prime Minister being lampooned for his actions on the world stage, gaffes that hurt Canada's national interest. At the NATO meetings, the Prime Minister mocked the U.S. President, the very person we need to help us apply pressure for the release of our citizens in China.
This is at a time when NATO is being questioned by the President of France and the U.S. President. Canada could play its traditional role as a linchpin, as Winston Churchill described us, between Europe and North America. We are a G7 nation, we are a NATO nation, we are a NORAD nation and we are a Five Eyes nation. Canada is never the biggest, but we have those relationships that normally we could use to influence our national interest, the freedom and liberty of others and the interests of the Western alliance. That has eroded. Canada is now seen in a way that is probably best represented by the Prime Minister's state visit to India, where he put photographs, his brand and the Liberal Party's fortunes ahead of Canada's national interest.
With respect to China, our concerns have been grounded in the very earliest actions of the government. I am hoping many of the new Liberal members of Parliament listen, because their role now in caucus is to ask questions. They should be just as worried as Conservatives are when it comes to China.
Former Canadian ambassador to China, David Mulroney, has called the Prime Minister's approach to China naive, and I would agree. I will not make much of the comment he made before the election that he had admiration for the basic dictatorship. I am not sure if it was joke or if that is just how it was received, because it was such a ridiculous answer.
However, the influence of a very pro-Beijing element in the Prime Minister's core team was evidenced right in the earliest days. The Liberal transition team in 2015 was led by the president of the Canada China Business Council. He is now sitting in the Senate at the appointment of the Prime Minister.
In May of 2016, the first year of the Liberal government, the Prime Minister was revealed to have been in some cash-for-access fundraisers with major figures, oligarch-level people with close ties to the Chinese state. I remember my friend from Red Deer—Lacombe brought up the point in the House, with great delivery, that not only were the Liberal Party coffers being filled, but a $200,000 donation was made to the Trudeau Foundation by a wealthy business person connected to the Chinese state. In fact, money was put aside for a statue of Pierre Trudeau. These were the earliest days.
In their first few months of government, the Liberals also reversed a decision that stopped the sale of a technology company to a Chinese-controlled company. In fact, late in the Harper government, the sale of ITF Technologies to O-Net Communications was blocked by the Conservative government on security grounds. There was direct energy research and development that could have been weaponized or militarized, and the sale was stopped in July 2015. Within the first few months of the Liberal government, the Liberals set aside the blocking of that transaction and a few months later approved the sale, with military-related technology, for a Chinese state enterprise.
Mr. Speaker, do you not think our Five Eyes allies noticed that? It was seen as reversing a responsible security decision by the previous Conservative government because of the new Prime Minister's desire to engage with China on a free trade agreement.
It did not end there. The next year, the Liberals approved the sale of Norsat to Hytera, another Chinese-controlled enterprise, leading to outrage from the Pentagon, which had contracts with this Canadian military communications company. In fact, a trade commissioner in the U.S., a Democrat appointed by Obama, said about the sale:
Canada's approval of the sale of Norsat to a Chinese entity raises significant national-security concerns for the United States as the company is a supplier to our military....
Canada may be willing to jeopardize its own security interests to gain favour with China.
He also said that it shouldn't put the security of a close ally at risk in the process. This was the commissioner of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a Democrat appointed by the bromance partner of the Prime Minister, President Obama.
This is not agitating language. These are serious concerns that were brought up to the foreign affairs committee when its members travelled to Washington. Right off the bat we saw the ability to sweep through sales, which likely should have been stopped on security grounds, to curry favour in the relationship.
There are also a significant number of human rights concerns. I have raised in the House this week that millions of people over the last few months have been protesting on the streets of Hong Kong. The government has been virtually silent on that. There are 300,000 Canadians living there. Seventy-eight years ago this week, Canadians from the Winnipeg Grenadiers and the Royal Rifles were fighting in defence of Hong Kong. We lost hundreds in the battle that ended on Christmas day and lost hundreds more in POW camps in Japan. We therefore not only have our national interest and our citizens, but also our blood represented in Hong Kong, and the government has been reserved in its comments.
It has also been reserved in its comments on the very disturbing internment and re-education of up to one million Uighurs. This is an area where we must be able to balance our values as a country and the need for us to speak out with the commercial interest.
Under the Prime Minister, all other issues have taken a back seat. In fact, before his state visit there in 2016, the Liberals were pre-positioning for a free trade agreement announcement. It is clear that the commercial interest has been overriding with the Prime Minister and the Liberal government regarding national security issues, the Huawei decision that has never come, our virtual silence on many significant human rights cases and the fact that our Asia-Pacific partners are very worried about the militarization of artificial islands built in the South China Sea. Seventy per cent of global trade passes through those waters. The last Pacific naval visit by one of our frigates was surveilled by China the whole time the frigate was there. China is making efforts to keep Taiwan away from bodies like the World Health Organization, an organization meant to stop contagions from spreading around the world, isolating countries like that. Canada is once again not being as forceful as it should.
Conservatives are asking for this special committee so that Canada can make progress toward having a balanced position on China after four years of no balance under the Prime Minister.
Since we are acknowledging the one-year anniversary of the detention of our citizens, in the last year alone Conservatives recommended a travel advisory. It took the government three months to implement it. Within weeks we asked for the Prime Minister to engage directly. He refused and claimed it was just a regular consular case, when it was not. By the time he and the previous minister tried to engage, they could not get their calls returned. We said there was flexibility within the Extradiction Act to move Ms. Meng's trial to a faster jurisdiction. That would have shown, within the rule of law and the act, an expedited process in return for favour to our citizens. The Liberals did not act on that.
The committee called Mr. McCallum to appear in camera. I cannot talk about it, but I wish it had been televised. Members can probably understand why he is no longer the ambassador. He contradicted himself several times and had to resign. We wanted an ambassador appointed immediately and the Liberals waited until the election to appoint Mr. Barton, without consultation with opposition parties. We asked them to withdraw Canada's participation in the Asian Infrastructure Bank. We asked them to immediately bring a WTO challenge with respect to canola and other commodities unfairly impacted by trade. The Liberals waited until two days before an election, a delay of six months. Our allies are not there for us, because of the current lack of seriousness the Prime Minister has on the world stage.
Let me leave everyone with Mr. McCallum's final comments, which illustrate why we need this committee and need to be serious with China. When he was leaving for the assignment, he said:
When China and Canada have disagreed on something, and this sometimes happens, all three prime ministers I have served have drawn on this friendship to speak respectfully but frankly to their Chinese counterparts. I know this long tradition will continue.
It did not continue. With this special committee it can continue, and we can be serious and have a balanced approach when it comes to China.
View Robert Oliphant Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Robert Oliphant Profile
2019-12-10 10:32 [p.178]
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Durham for the concerns he raised, which I think every member of the House has, with respect to the very sensitive, and at times trying, diplomatic relationship we have with China.
I have a very simple question for the member. Last spring, the Canada-China legislative committee, the body that looks at the parliamentary relationship between Canada and China, took a mission to China.
The Conservative Party opted to send no members from its caucus on that trip. During that mission, we were able to meet with officials from the central committee, particularly members from the foreign affairs committee. We were able to raise sensitive issues around the consular cases, as well as other issues such as trade and the arbitrary detention of Canadians. However, new-found interest in this case has now come to Parliament.
Why did the Conservative Party choose not to send members on a very important trip to make sure that its voice was heard in a good parliamentary tradition?
View Erin O'Toole Profile
View Erin O'Toole Profile
2019-12-10 10:33 [p.178]
Mr. Speaker, I am glad the member for Don Valley West engages in parliamentary friendship groups and many of these very informal social engagements that many MPs can engage in, but that is not a serious diplomatic effort on behalf of Canada.
In fact I am disappointed, because at the time the member was the parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs and he would have known that if he sent a few lowly functionaries or higher than that, a parliamentary friendship group, and the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs were not seized with the matter, he was not showing seriousness regarding the relationship with China.
This is why last December, Conservatives and their leader asked the Prime Minister to engage personally, as Mr. McCallum said. His words were to engage personally to show how seriously Canada views the diplomatic dispute and the detention. Months later sending a parliamentary friendship-type group is not the way to show Canada how seriously we take the detention.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2019-12-10 10:34 [p.179]
Mr. Speaker, as it is my first time standing in the House, I just want to thank the voters of Elmwood—Transcona for sending me back to represent our community in Ottawa.
I want to make a point. When we talk about the Canada-China Legislative Association, it has a very different name from the other associations. I am familiar with this because my father actually had some bearing on the name.
There were Liberals and Conservatives at the time who wanted to call it a parliamentary association. However, by virtue of the fact that China is not a democracy, some people on this side of the House felt that it was inappropriate to call it a parliamentary association.
We have a Canada-China legislative friendship group for a very particular reason. I thought it might be nice to remind members in the House of that fact when they are speaking about it. There is an important point to that.
I know that, back in the Harper government, with some controversy Canada signed a trade deal with China, notorious for the fact that it allows a fair bit of secrecy in announcing the edicts of the adjudications under that trade deal.
Part of the member's speech had to do with the fact that we have had a lot of trade issues with China, including canola and other agricultural products. It is an agreement that does not seem to have done much for Canadian producers.
I am wondering if the member imagines that within the scope of this committee, we would look at that agreement and whether it has been a success or not for Canadian producers.
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