ABBOTT, The Hon. Jim, P.C.

Personal Data

Kootenay--Columbia (British Columbia)
Birth Date
August 18, 1942
businessman, manager

Parliamentary Career

October 25, 1993 - April 27, 1997
  Kootenay East (British Columbia)
June 2, 1997 - October 22, 2000
  Kootenay--Columbia (British Columbia)
March 27, 2000 - October 22, 2000
  Kootenay--Columbia (British Columbia)
November 27, 2000 - May 23, 2004
  Kootenay--Columbia (British Columbia)
December 23, 2003 - May 23, 2004
  Kootenay--Columbia (British Columbia)
June 28, 2004 - November 29, 2005
  Kootenay--Columbia (British Columbia)
January 23, 2006 - September 7, 2008
  Kootenay--Columbia (British Columbia)
  • Parliamentary Secretary for Canadian Heritage (February 7, 2006 - November 6, 2008)
October 14, 2008 - March 26, 2011
  Kootenay--Columbia (British Columbia)
  • Parliamentary Secretary for Canadian Heritage (February 7, 2006 - November 6, 2008)
  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation (November 7, 2008 - November 4, 2010)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 5 of 316)

September 24, 2010

Hon. Jim Abbott (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, contrary to what the member is presenting, the fact is that we have doubled our aid to Africa. We have increased our total contribution to the world to $5 billion a year, which is the highest this country has ever given.

Our government is taking leadership because we recognize the responsibility that we have to the world as Canadians. All Canadians are proud of what we are doing.

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   United Nations
Full View Permalink

September 23, 2010

Hon. Jim Abbott (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I am rising on a point of order regarding Bill C-300, An Act respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil or Gas in Developing Countries, introduced by the member for Scarborough—Guildwood.

I recognize that my colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader, rose on another point of order on this bill earlier this week. This also prompted submissions by members for Scarborough—Guildwood and Mississauga South.

I would like to submit my arguments as to why this bill would require a royal recommendation in order to proceed to third reading.

The member for Scarborough—Guildwood submitted that we have been at this bill now for some 13 or 14 months and here we are at the last minute raising the issue of royal recommendation. I would like to point out that it was not until the last possible opportunity that the member put forward amendments to his bill. None of these amendments address the need for royal recommendation so now we are faced with a bill that should not proceed.

Standing Order 79(1) reads as follows:

This House shall not adopt or pass any vote, resolution, address or bill for the appropriation of any part of the public revenue, or of any tax or impost, to any purpose that has not been first recommended to the House by a message from the Governor General in the session in which such vote, resolution, address or bill is proposed.

Mr. Speaker, as you are no doubt aware, as we see in the Journals from November 9, 1978, the imposition of new duties on an existing department or authority requires a royal recommendation. Bill C-300 clearly assigns new duties to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

On September 27, 2006, you ruled a particular bill acceptable because you could not speculate on the functions that the legislation would force the government to disburse. Fortunately, in this instance, you need not speculate. Section 4 starts by saying:

In carrying out their responsibilities and powers under this Act, the Ministers shall--

It is obvious and does not require speculation that this bill attempts to ascribe new responsibilities and powers to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

On November 9, 2006, Mr. Speaker, you ruled another bill needed a royal recommendation because it extended a program that would require funding. Bill C-300 required disbursement of funding in order for the ministers to carry out their duties ascribed to them.

I point out that I have information in hand that says that the World Bank's parallel investigations, for example, which is exactly what this bill is calling for, cost $3.3 million in 2009 to investigate 11 new complaints. Mr. Speaker, I submit that fact for your consideration as well.

We had the opportunity to hear expert testimony from our bureaucrats at DFAIT. Allow me to read into the record the testimony from the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development meeting of December 1, 2009:

[The member for Kootenay—Columbia]: I want to be careful that I'm not putting words in your mouth. I believe, in answer to a question of Mr. Patry, your response was that in your judgment it would require a new section or arm or department, which would require additional human resources or financial resources. Is that correct?

Mr. Grant Manuge: Yes, that is correct.

Further I asked:

Presuming that there is a finite amount of money in DFAIT's budget, which there is, where would you take those dollars from? What department or current function that DFAIT is doing would have to suffer? Or in fact would it be possible to do it without having to come to the Treasury Board for additional funds?

Mr. Grant Manuge representing DFAIT said:

Thank you for your question. In this case, at this stage in our analysis, we are indeed aware that additional resources would be required, not only human resources, financial resources, but also significant investment in training or in recruiting highly qualified individuals who provide the competencies that would be required to carry out that function.

At this point in our analysis, we would not be in a position to indicate whether that could be addressed through reallocations within our department, but our departmental resources are completely allocated, so this would be a decision that would have to be reviewed very carefully. As you say, there could potentially be impacts on the ability to carry out our mandate in other areas of the department.

Mr. Speaker, I recognize that you face a rather challenging situation in taking a look at the provisions relative to a royal recommendation, and that is it is not crystal clear that additional funds will be required. I am fully aware of that. If we take a look at the fact that we know from the World Bank that it cost $3.3 million last year to investigate 11 complaints, in the name of logic it is very obvious that additional funds will be required.

It is clear that this bill would directly affect the disbursement of public funds. It would assign new duties to an existing department where funds have already been allocated and functions have already been described for that department.

I realize there is often a good deal of discussion regarding royal recommendations. However, it is the Speaker who is duty-bound to protect the Constitution through the Standing Orders of the House and to assure that bills that should require royal recommendation do not proceed.

I would also like to quote from Hansard, June 1, 2006:

I am also aware that a bill may be repaired at committee or during report stage and also that a minister at any point in the legislative process can come forward. That is not a problem and I believe the member for Scarborough--Guildwood has a bill on international development which I think can be repaired in that fashion.

Clearly, the bill has not been repaired. Bill C-300 is the current version of the legislation to which I reference. The bill was recognized by the member for Mississauga South as needing a royal recommendation at that time.

The clauses in Bill C-300 still stand. The need for a royal recommendation still stands, even though the member for Mississauga South has apparently changed his mind. Fortunately, he is not the Speaker of the House.

It is clear that even at a time the Liberals realized this bill needed a royal recommendation or amendments to address the problem. That was a matter of a year ago.

The precedents are clear. The member for Mississauga South was clear in 2006. Without amendments addressing this issue, Bill C-300 does require a royal recommendation.

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   Points of Order
Full View Permalink

September 21, 2010

Hon. Jim Abbott (Kootenay—Columbia, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow MPs in this House will vote on whether to keep the wasteful and inefficient long gun registry.

On this side of the House we have listened to our constituents, and they know that we stand with them. But this is not the same for those Canadians who are being represented by the Liberals and their coalition partners.

Listen to the political flip-flop.

The NDP public safety critic admitted that the long gun registry is flawed. On April 21, 2009, he told this House, “There are some disadvantages to registration, and in fairness, those should be pointed out as well. It imposes a regulatory burden on legitimate, responsible and law-abiding gun owners”.

The member for Vancouver Kingsway goes on to say, “Registration systems have put a particularly onerous duty on first nations, hunters and trappers, and those who make their living off the land”.

We could not agree more and urge all NDP MPs to listen to their public safety critic, not the Liberal coalition, and to vote to scrap the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry.

Topic:   Statements By Members
Subtopic:   Firearms Registry
Full View Permalink

September 20, 2010

Hon. Jim Abbott (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud of Canada's record on the international stage. Canada is playing a part in advancing the millennium development goals.

Canada met its commitment to double international assistance to Africa from 2003-04 levels to $2.1 billion in 2008-09. We have forgiven more than $1 billion in debt to the world's poorest country and we are on track to make our commitment to double our international assistance from the 2001-02 levels.

This is a record that our government is proud of and I know all Canadians are, too.

Topic:   Oral Questions
Subtopic:   International Co-operation
Full View Permalink

September 20, 2010

Hon. Jim Abbott (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation, CPC)

Madam Speaker, it gives me a great deal of pleasure to stand and rebut the bunch of stuff that just came from the other side. I rise today to speak in strong opposition to Bill C-300. I had the opportunity to be fully engaged in the committee process and discussions. My presentation will lay the expert testimony and facts we heard onto the record for all members of the House.

The debate on Bill C-300 has been constantly muddied by partisan division and a cliché of anti-business rhetoric. I must say that was a great exhibition we just had. The partisan division is along party lines on the frivolous premise that one party is more virtuous in protecting human rights than others. It should be made clear right from the beginning of this debate that all members of Parliament, Canadians, indeed Canadian companies, want to ensure that human rights are protected. We all agree with corporate social responsibility.

It should be noted that we are very fortunate in Canada, in a country where the big bad corporations that the member has tried to make out just do not exist. There is no Avatar planet full of blue people and mysterious trees being destroyed by the big bad mining company. We live in a country where everyone realizes the value of human rights and corporate social responsibility. Canada has an independent corporate social responsibility counsellor who works with NGOs and companies to ensure that Canada is a world leader in respecting human rights abroad. Around the world Canadian companies are noted leaders, practising corporate social responsibility, contrary to what the member just said.

Bill C-300 should be defeated in the chamber for the following reasons. It is badly written legislation and it has extremely poor process in its implementation mechanism.

I want to be clear. The MPs who are voting against the bill are not voting against corporate social responsibility. None of us would vote against corporate social responsibility and human rights. Canada has its own independent CSR program, which involves consultations, public reporting, third party verification. Bill C-300 dismisses the existing collaborative approach and promotes an open-ended punitive one.

Bill C-300 would harm our businesses, which are already world leaders on corporate social responsibility. The bill is often referred to as the product of the national round table on corporate social responsibility. It does not deserve that title. The bill does not represent the round table.

The round table was very successful and it involved representatives from civil society, corporations and the bureaucracy. All participants were happy with the result of the discussions, but not all are happy with the bill.

As previously noted, the government response to the national round table was the establishment of Canada's independent corporate social responsibility counsellor. In contrast to the thoughtful government action, Bill C-300 was hastily drafted with no consultations, as we heard time after time during the committee process. The product we see before us is sloppy. The bill, if ever enacted, would have drastic consequences that were never ever envisioned by the round table.

In the bill the complaints mechanism is placed in the hands of the ministers of the Crown. Bill C-300 converts a process that should be fair and independent into one that is entirely partisan. The complaints mechanism should be run at arm's-length by an independent individual, who reports to the government and that is precisely the existing rule of Marketa Evans, Canada's corporate social responsibility counsellor.

In comparison, the bill would promote soapbox partisan antics on the issue. No minister would be able to deem a claim frivolous without that decision being derided by the opposition's partisan political agenda. However, the same claim could be deemed frivolous by an independent corporate social responsibility counsellor because he or she would be independent from politics.

Unfortunately, the problems with the complaints mechanism go further. Any claim will automatically be perceived as having credibility because of the involvement of ministers of the Crown. Even the most frivolous accusation could be perceived as legitimate. Bill C-300 does not have any mechanism to protect the system from frivolous claims and therefore even the most facetious claim could be given false credibility when the minister so-called investigated.

This issue is so obvious that several prominent Liberal politicians have put partisan politics aside and expressed their concern about the bill, stating that foreign governments could end up withholding or taking away permits from Canadian firms citing the minister's investigations. This could happen in spite of the fact that at the end of the investigation there still might be no evidence of wrongdoing against the company.

When Bill C-300 was in committee, scores of expert witnesses came to testify against the bill. Many of the witnesses had voluntarily participated in the national round table discussions. We heard from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Export Development Canada. These two organizations are representative of the leaders of the Canada's economy and the fact that they are strongly opposed to the bill should not be ignored.

We heard from countless Canadian companies that have outstanding reputations and are examples for the world when it comes to investing in the communities in which they operate. We even heard from the foreign minister of Burkina Faso, who appearing on a different topic, spoke of the immense contributions that Canada's private sector was making in his developing nation.

If we collect the committee witnesses, placing them onto a scale, those opposed to the bill on one side and those in favour of it on the other, the scale will overwhelmingly tilt in opposition to the bill. We cannot ignore the qualifications of the witnesses who spoke out against the bill. They are experts and came with precise concerns about specific details of the bill.

I will not deny there were witnesses in favour of the bill. However, they spoke in favour of corporate social responsibility in general and could not rebut the concerns about specific sections of the bill.

Let me restate that around the world Canadian companies are noted leaders, practising corporate social responsibility. Canada has its own independent CSR program, which involved consultations, public reporting and third party verification.

Bill C-300 dismisses the existing collaborative approach and promotes an open-ended punitive one. The bill would harm our businesses that are already world leaders on corporation social responsibility. In fact, it is important to note that many witnesses stated that the bill would jeopardize the ability of Canadian corporations to purchase mines from less reputable operators.

Frequently Canadian companies will purchase mines that were previously run with little regard for human rights and Canadian companies will correct the problem. Canadian companies invest heavily in local communities and bring mines up to acceptable standards. If Bill C-300 were to be enacted, we have been advised this will no longer be possible because the bill does not protect a company from the allegations of abuse that occurred before it acquired the mine in question.The Canadian corporation could be in jeopardy of liability for prior actions by previous owners.

If Canadian companies are unable to purchase previously poorly run mines, then the local communities will be left at the mercy of the less reputable companies from countries with lower human rights standards than those in Canada. We have also been advised that it will be difficult for Export Development Canada to partner with any mining operation overseas.

Mines are not entirely financed by one organization, but are a collection of international investors. This typically include Canadian companies, Export Development Canada, private investors from around the world and other investment sources. International investment partners would not agree to invest if EDC were at the table and C-300 were to become law. The bill would force EDC to walk away from its investment if any claim were made against the project.

This is highly problematic because Canadian direct investment abroad in the mining sector was $66.7 billion in the last two decades. Putting this at risk would cripple our Canadian companies. If international investors feel that the EDC is default-risk due to the poor complaints mechanism of the bill, they will only invest in EDC if other public organizations are not involved.

Canada's mining sector is a world leader. We have every right to be proud of the work that our companies do. Our companies have an excellent economic track record and have incredible corporate social responsibility programs that operate in communities around the world.

Canada is well positioned throughout the current worldwide economic crisis, but we are not out of the woods yet. The economic recovery is still fragile. Our commodity sector has led the way for our economy and we must not hinder its progress now. We must not cripple our strongest economic sector.

Supporters of the bill will argue that we are saying that if the bill is passed, there will be a mass exodus of companies from Canada. These are the same people who twist the debate into cliché anti-business arguments.

For every reason, the bill is sloppily written, does not reflect the national round table, does not create an arm's-length independent process, creates a partisan political process, has an inadequate complaints mechanism, hinders reputable—

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Corporate Accountability of Mining, Oil and Gas Corporations in Developing Countries Act
Full View Permalink