Mr. Roland de Corneille (Eglinton-Lawrence):
Mr. Speaker, very often it is the task of a critic to try to find fault with what has been presented in a Minister's statement, and certainly I will try to be loyal to that responsibility. There are some matters of great concern to the Liberal Party and as the critic for the Liberal Party on human rights and international development I would like to bring these to the attention of the Government and the Canadian people.
It is also the responsibility of a critic to commend the Government when it does take positive action. The Government has taken a number of very important, solid steps forward. I want to commend the Minister for the thoroughness of her statement in reply to the report made by the Standing Committee on External Affairs and International Trade entitled For Whose Benefit. That report was made after a year of study, consultation, and travel. The Minister has taken to heart many of the important issues which were brought up.
For example, she has reported today that the Government now intends to, first, emphasize aid to the poorest nations. She has also pointed out that human resource development will now take a front line role, an important priority. She pointed out that decentralization in the field, which the committee recommended, will take place. This means that the people most affected will have a direct input into what is happening in their country and will be partners in what takes place. She has pointed out that there will be a reduction in the amount of tied aid, especially for weaker and poorer countries. That, too, is a positive development. She has pointed out that there will be a much expanded student scholarship program and aid in education.
There are a number of other items on which she reported. We should all take heart from this and be pleased. I want to indicate the satisfaction of my Party and myself with these promised programs of action by the Government to follow the recommendations which we made in the all-Party standing
March 3, 1988
Statements by Ministers
committee which made a unanimous report entitled For Whose Benefit on what we thought should be done. I wanted to make those positive points at the outset.
While I realize that the Government has accepted a number of our recommendations, I do have a concern that there is an unwillingness by the Government to establish concrete and sound criteria for the examination of human rights violations in countries which receive our official development assistance and to determine what amounts of money we should be giving.
In the committee's report, which we hoped would be taken to heart by the Government, we recommended that as part of over-all Canadian foreign policy we apply a universal, consistent, and transparent manner in the way in which we assess human rights violations and make our grants.
Further, we recommended the development of a classification grid for recipient countries which would provide incentives for good behaviour as well as penalties for poor human rights performance. We made that recommendation because we were dissatisfied with the way in which the Government has been handling the granting of official development assistance to countries where there are human rights offences and violations and where Governments have been despotic.
We further recommended an annual ODA human rights review to be tabled in Parliament and referred to the Standing Committee on Eluman Rights. That was a serious effort to try to deal with a most serious area of concern, and the Government has not addressed itself to this other than with a promise that human rights will be reviewed by Cabinet. We are now told that Cabinet will judge the human rights record of receiving countries and determine the "appropriate channels for Canadian ODA and bilateral allocations for each country". Mr. Speaker, can you imagine Cabinet undertaking that responsibility? I myself cannot see Cabinet sitting in session assessing each nation.
We must seriously ask what the Government really means when it says that the Cabinet will be looking into this. Who is the Cabinet? Will it really be some faceless bureaucrats who will make recommendations? Will it be the Secretary of State for External Affairs (Mr. Clark), or will it be some claque of Neanderthal, red-neck Tory back-benchers holding up aid or development assistance because they do not like the political stripe of some recipient Government? Or will we perhaps have no guidelines at all, as has been the case until now, and continue to muddle around with no clear line of procedure as to how we will link our concern about human rights to the way in which we grant aid to other nations?
This is an area of real concern to us and I hope that the Government will realize that the Canadian people will not accept this program as a reply to what Canadians across the country were telling our committee was an outstanding concern of Canadian people, that being how we assess the human rights performance of other countries and how we link our policies in some fair, objective way that will allow us to give grants to countries which are, to some degree at least, respectful of human rights, and to withhold aid from countries that are grossly violating human rights and our bilateral
assistance. It must also raise the question of how we will deal with our multilateral grants.
The greatest concern that we on this side of the House have about this reply by the Minister is that it misses the most fundamental concern of all. The most fundamental issue before us today is the amount of aid this country is going to give. We were promised that at some point in the future the figure would be .7 per cent of GNP. In fact, during the last election campaign the Prime Minister (Mr. Mulroney) promised that Canada's ODA funding would reach .7 per cent of the Gross National Product by 1990. We have to ask what has happened to that promise.
At present our ODA is only at .5 per cent, not .7 per cent. It is going to be maintained at .5 per cent until 1991 and will gradually be increased to .6 per cent by 1995 and .7 per cent of GNP by the year 2000. That means that the promise which was made is completely broken. We are going to stay where we are. We are not going to reach .7 per cent by 1990. The Government is now talking about .7 per cent of gross national product by the year 2000. That is the bottom line.
The question is, what is the priority of the Government? Is it to buy nuclear submarines to patrol the Arctic Ocean to see where other nuclear submarines are and make note of it? Is that how we are going to spend our funds when we know perfectly well that much of the world's peace is at stake because of the unstable and tragic economic problems in other nations? Or are we going to carry out our traditional policy as Canadians of trying to carry a strong Overseas Development Assistance Program which will bring peace and stability to nations throughout the world?
The inability of the Government to deal with the most fundamental issue, that is, to provide the funds that are necessary for overseas official development assistance, is the critical issue which we wish to criticize. It is broken promises. By 1990 another $1 billion was supposed to be injected into this effort. Instead of increasing the amount of aid in order to keep that promise, the Government is saying that we will stay as we are, that we will not increase anything, and that there will be no effort for some time to come.
Therefore, while the program has some assets which I have noted in terms of the priorities of where our funds are going and the way in which they will be spent, there is no serious effort to live up to our promises and obligations and to reach the goals which this country has set for itself. The Government is once again failing to put its money and itself where its mouth is.
Topic: ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic: EXTERNAL AID