Interventions in Committee
 
 
 
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View Robert Oliphant Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I want to thank all the committee members on both sides for being here and for exercising both their privilege and their responsibility as parliamentarians. It really is a tremendous privilege to be a member of Parliament. It allows us to engage in issues and engage in conversation and engage in matters that are on the minds of Canadians every day. It is also a tremendous responsibility, and we bear that responsibility, I think, because our privilege is so great.
When I received the notice of this meeting and the request that had been made, I welcomed that. It's part of our privilege as members of Parliament that if any four of us request a meeting like this, it is incumbent upon us to give full and due consideration to that request. That's what we are doing, but that also comes with tremendous responsibility. Dispassionately, when I saw the notice of motion, I prepared my remarks, but I'm actually leaving them for a moment because I think that the responsibility we have is far greater than to score political points.
I am very distressed—actually more distressed than I was when I simply read the notice of motion—at the tone, at the idea and at the allegations that are being cast about by members of the opposition. I say that advisedly, because I've been on the opposition side and I've been on the government side and I know what opposition members do, because I have done it myself. But there are times in politics, there are times in public policy, there are times in our Canadian shared life when we let some of that go and we actually think primarily, as the government has been doing since December, about two Canadians who are wrongfully and arbitrarily held in detention in China in conditions that have been horrendous and belittling and that have demanded tremendous courage from both Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. I have talked to their family members, and we've had consular visits, and there should be nothing more on our minds right now than ensuring their safety and considering their well-being.
We have lives in the balance and we also have livelihoods in the balance, and those have to do with farmers and exporters of Canadian goods that are also being arbitrarily detained. That means we put aside trying to gain political points and trying to make specious arguments for the sake of some gain. I am well known for not having always been in favour of things that our government has done, and I have been quite free to vote against our government. There are times, whether you are in opposition or in government, when you rally together and offer constructive, important conversation and ideas to make sure that we are doing the right thing.
This government consults. This government engages. On every issue we do those things. On an issue like our current very tense and fragile relationship with China, particularly when lives are hanging in the balance, we consult with everybody. We would open the door. This government—I am speaking as a parliamentary secretary now—would open the door to all opposition parties and independent members to offer constructive, helpful ways to negotiate in a very, very difficult situation. We've been doing that with patience. We've been doing that with firmness. I think our foreign affairs minister has a spine of steel as she engages with all these partners in what is a very complex situation. Part of that is ensuring that our professional public servants are also engaged not only with the government but also with civil society, engaged with everyone who is an opinion leader, to make sure that we have an informed public discussion about key foreign issues.
The issue around China—and there are several issues around China—is no exception. Our very professional foreign service has regular meetings with the key people in government responsible for public policy with respect to China. That obviously engages elected officials from time to time. It obviously engages their staff from time to time, including the Prime Minister's Office. Those are important conversations that happen inside the government, and then we go outside the government to engage civil society, too, to ensure that we are not speaking with one voice but speaking with an informed voice. That's what this government is committed to doing.
Global Affairs Canada engages with people outside government all the time. They do that to ensure there is an informed discussion—not one voice but an informed discussion.
The public service issued a statement last week and I want to quote it so that it is on record. The media has already paid attention to it. This comes from Global Affairs Canada and I will just add my own comment. This is a very distinguished public servant, continuing in an extremely important position in Toronto. He said:
The call with Mr. Mulroney was made with this intention....
We welcome the views and advice of informed Canadians such as Mr. Mulroney on these complex issues and regret that this message was not clearly communicated. There was no intention, nor was there any instruction from anyone, including the PMO, that Mr. Mulroney clear his public comments with the government.
Let me be very clear. He said there was no instruction from anyone, including the Prime Minister's Office, that Mr. Mulroney clear his public comments with the government. The public service in Canada is an extremely professional and distinguished public service. They've been clear that the current assistant deputy minister was not acting under the direction of anyone when he made these phone calls.
Our government has the utmost respect for these two former ambassadors to China. We would never attempt to limit their right to speak freely. That doesn't mean we won't engage with them to ensure that we have a Canadian constructive discussion about important issues when lives are at stake.
For me, personally, it is absolutely our responsibility to come here to deal with a motion that is in order, and it is our responsibility to ensure that politics do not get in the way of doing the important work of being government. Whether it's the legislative branch or the executive branch, we share that responsibility together and it's given to us and we hold it in an earthen vessel and we do it the best we can. We should not be wasting public resources to drive down avenues that simply will not help save lives and there is no story there.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
View Robert Oliphant Profile
Lib. (ON)
On a point of order, Mr. Chair, we know that in the parliamentary rules, it is inappropriate to raise comments about anyone else in the room other than those sitting at this table. I know the member is relatively new, but I would ask the chair to please advise him that it is not an appropriate parliamentary thing to do at a standing committee of the House of Commons.
View Robert Oliphant Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Chair, I'd again ask that you enforce decorum and remind the members that all comments are meant to be directed to you and not directly across the aisle to the other side.
Thank you.
View Robert Oliphant Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Dhaliwal.
My question is for Ms. Dey from the Council of Canadians.
My question is regarding your modelling on the effects of a two-year patent extension to the biologics, which would affect biosimilars. Have you modelled in that and worked with groups like patient advocacy groups to understand the balancing of the need for new biologics and the extensive research that goes into them, as well as patient access, and then factored in reforms at the PMPRB, potential reforms at CADTH and CDR, as well as pharmacare plans, which are obviously being discussed after Dr. Hoskins' report?
View Robert Oliphant Profile
Lib. (ON)
I would actually urge you to look at it too for what's not in that study pertaining to all the other factors. If you only had one factor in and didn't look at all the other possibilities, then you really would not get data as good as you could get.
I just think patient groups are.... I was the president of a patient group for four years. We looked at access to medications, as well as development of biologics. We had a vested interest in both. I would hope the Council of Canadians has vested interests in the development of biologics as well as access for patient care.
View Robert Oliphant Profile
Lib. (ON)
There's no such thing as a quick 30-second question.
View Robert Oliphant Profile
Lib. (ON)
I would just go on more about pharmaceuticals and biologics.
Voices: Oh, oh!
View Robert Oliphant Profile
Lib. (ON)
Yes a voice without vote, my role.
Mr. Chair, thank you for this opportunity. It's great to be on this committee now as parliamentary secretary.
In the spirit of what Erin has said, exactly the same reason I would not support this is that the spirit of multilateralism is to truly respect the multilateral process. To truly respect the multilateral process is to allow the OECD to do its work, and to wait until it has done its work, to not do something independent of that, which would actually undermine it, or could potentially undermine it. That is what multilateralism is truly about.
Thank you.
View Robert Oliphant Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to all the officials for being here today.
I'm not a member of the finance committee. I've not been blessed with that.
It means that I come at it rather naively. As I'm reading this section, I see the intent is to forward the revenue directly to households most affected. My assumption is that, in that formula that was done to get the payments to households through their income tax, it was factored in that costs would proceed at several levels through the chain of expenses related to a price on pollution.
If there were costs on various organizations, whether they be large businesses, small businesses, medium-sized businesses or other enterprises, was that factored into that part of the 90%?
View Robert Oliphant Profile
Lib. (ON)
That's helpful for me because I was understanding that it generally passes through, because that's the way business works, and for those cases where it's determined that it would most likely not be able to be easily passed through, there is mitigation for that.
Then there are other possibilities to use some of the revenue to encourage the whole system because the whole thing is meant to tackle climate change not to produce revenue. Am I understanding that?
View Robert Oliphant Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you.
Thanks, Mr. Chair.
View Robert Oliphant Profile
Lib. (ON)
Yes. I have another concern from the other side of this equation, and it may be I'm seeing the glass half full, as opposed to the glass half empty.
Is there any concern that businesses that adapt and reduce energy costs and are incentivized to address climate change by reducing their carbon footprint, their electricity consumption, all of those things, or by changing the way they do business, and they drop their costs, such that...? I don't park downtown in Toronto very often, because it's $20, so I take the subway. But if parking was $2, I would probably drive, so I have adapted my abilities.
The businesses in my riding of Don Valley West may be different from other ridings. They're really smart and they're always cutting costs and they're always looking for.... They're also socially very responsible. They're attempting very much to address the problem of climate change and pollution, so they're dropping their costs.
Is there any guarantee they won't be oversubsidized, that the government won't give them too much money because they've dropped their costs so much?
View Robert Oliphant Profile
Lib. (ON)
—and socially aware businesses and smart businesses that are going to compete in the 21st century will figure it out. You might not want to comment.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
View Robert Oliphant Profile
Lib. (ON)
Let's go for dinner.
Voices: Oh, oh!
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