IN THE HOUSE ~ Speaking to Bill C-31, An Act to establish the Department of International Trade
February 8th, 2005 - 3:00am
38TH PARLIAMENT, 1ST SESSION
Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP)
Madam Speaker, I listened to the member of Saint-Jean's speech with great interest. I thought that the parallel that he drew was interesting. Indeed, the creation of a second department would mean further investments in limousines, instead of real treatment of the needs of the real people across this country, with respect to employment insurance, among other things.
For the last 15 years, we have been living under a free trade system. I would like to have the opinion of my colleague from Saint-Jean on the quality of jobs that were created during that period. Does he think that it is better than 15 years ago?
Madam Speaker, since the time provided for consideration of this bill is almost up, I will make only part of my remarks today. I should also mention that I will share my time with the hon. member for Sackville—Eastern Shore. When we again consider this bill at some other time, I will finish my remarks, and my colleague for Sackville—Eastern Shore will make his speech.
Madam Speaker, in speaking to Bill C-31, an act to establish the Department of International Trade, I would like to start by expressing my concern about the need for this division into two sectors.
In 1982 we integrated Canada's trade commissioner service into the then department of external affairs. At that time we had the integration of trade policy with our external affairs policy, foreign affairs, including our commitment to human rights. It took about 15 years under both the Conservative and Liberal regimes to actually get that integration working well. It did take some time but everyone does believe now, and comments from very qualified observers have indicated, that integrated relationship has now worked. Subsequent to finally getting it right, we are now looking at splitting them into two separate ministries. It does not make a whole lot of sense.
In the Speech from the Throne there was a comment from the Prime Minister, “Just as Canada's domestic and international policies must work in concert, so too must our defence, diplomacy, development and trade efforts work in concert”.
Subsequent to that there is Bill C-31 which will actually divide the two ministries. Therefore we are looking at less concert between those two divisions and those two important thrusts of Canadian foreign policy rather than more. Concerns have been raised from a variety of sources around this approach.
Bill Clark, a former ambassador in several senior postings, has said that many observers are wondering why this change is happening. He added that it is questionable whether a good open discussion was held before this bill was presented to the House. That was in the January/February 2005 issue of Diplomat & International Canada.
The Canadian Retired Heads of Mission Association, RHOMA, a group that could have provided very important information, a needed neutral perspective on this bill, has not been consulted. In fact the bill has come under criticism from that association as well.
This bill has been brought forward and those who should have been consulted are criticizing it. Many observers are wondering why this is happening at all because it does not make a lot of sense.
This is what is to be found in the bill and in the decision that is being proposed in the House of Commons. But this move is unjustified, because it contradicts what has been said in the throne speech.
It is hard to imagine why we should separate these two aspects of our foreign policy, international trade and foreign affairs.
Jeffrey Simpson wrote a column. I would like to read part of it into the record:
New governments like things that are, well, new. Newness and a political desire to be different often blind them to reality. Foreign affairs and international trade, joined together in one department in 1982, had their problems, but none had much to do with the fact of being together. Rather, their problems largely arose from a systematic dilution...of the assets needed to protect Canada's interests and project its values through diplomacy, defence and aid. Money, not structure, was the fundamental problem. New governments, however, are sometimes tempted to seek the wrong solution for the wrong problem, because it creates the impression of action, newness, fresh approaches. Empty action can sometimes camouflage a discouraging reality.
Mr. Simpson added that it is not possible, in the real world, to separate trade from foreign policy. When the trade minister complains about the lack of legal protection for investment, a trade matter, he is also raising a political question about how China views its obligations as a member of the international community. He concluded by saying:
Stripped of responsibility for trade, deprived of control over foreign aid, tussling with defence, bowing to other agencies for national security, helpless with immigration, and now subservient to central agencies for Canada-U.S. relations, Foreign Affairs is trying to determine what's left and how to do their job. So Foreign Affairs will soon announce another internal reorganization to do foreign policy better--which, of course, it cannot do now that international trade has gone away.
That was in the Globe and Mail just a couple of weeks ago.
This is the difficulty that we are encountering. We have a bill that is being put forward, that is being criticized by those who know best in the community. At the same time we do not see adequate justification for this bill.
Madam Speaker, I will conclude my remarks at our next sitting.