Bill C-24 (Historical)
Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Peru, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Peru and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Peru
This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in December 2009.
Stockwell Day Conservative
This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.
Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
November 17th, 2009 / 3:15 p.m.
Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON
It would be extremely irresponsible for the government to push for the passage of this free trade agreement with Colombia, a country with the worst human rights record by far in the western hemisphere and that is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for trade unionists.
The Conservatives' claim that trade will bring human rights improvements to Colombia is entirely contradicted not just by the facts I will raise in my address today, but also by the text of the agreement.
The full respect of fundamental human rights must be a precondition for any trade agreement. Before going into the facts of the argument, let us first trace the government actions that have led us to where we are today.
On November 21, 2008 Canada signed a free trade agreement and related side agreements with Colombia, the result of a year and a half of trade negotiations. The bill would legislate the implementation of the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement, also known as the CCFTA.
The agreement consists of three parts: the main FTA text, a labour side agreement and an environmental protection side agreement.
It is nearly identical to Bill C-24, the implementation legislation for the Canada-Peru free trade agreement.
In June of this year, the New Democrats, with the support of the Bloc members, and joined by the trade union movement and civil society, successfully prevented Bill C-23 from completing second reading.
At that time, New Democrats presented a subamendment to the Bloc motion on Bill C-23, asking that the House decline to give second reading to Bill C-23 because the government had concluded the Canada-Colombia FTA while the committee was still considering the matter.
Over the course of the debate on Bill C-23, our caucus critic has continued to work tirelessly with a large network of civil society groups, trade unions, lawyers, environmental groups, parliamentarians, members of the Colombian congress and concerned citizens to raise awareness and, ultimately, to stop this agreement.
In 2008 the critic travelled to Colombia with the standing committee to meet directly with stakeholders and opponents of this deal.
Various motions have been presented at committee to study the issue in depth and to stop this flawed deal. Petitions have been, and are being, circulated. To date our caucus has received almost 3,000 signatures from Canadians all across Canada who do not support the government's desire to put this agreement into action.
Now that we have looked at how we got here, let us go over the main flaws in the agreement and some facts about the current situation in Colombia.
The most appalling aspects of the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement are the following.
First and foremost, this agreement fails due to its lack of labour rights protection. Colombia is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for trade unionists. They are regularly victims of violence, intimidation and assassination by paramilitary groups. In fact, 2,690 trade unionists have been murdered in Colombia since 1986.
In 2008, the number of murders went up by 18% over the previous year. What is even more alarming, as we discuss this agreement, is that since September of this year, 27 trade unionists have been murdered.
Some important facts about the Colombian government of President Alvaro Uribe are as follows. Uribe's government has been accused by international human rights organizations of corruption, electoral fraud, complicity in extrajudicial killings by the army, links to paramilitary and right wing death squads; and of using the security forces to spy on the supreme court of Colombia, opposition politicians, government politicians and journalists.
Many government members, including ministers and members of the president's family, have been forced to resign or have been arrested in relation to many of these issues.
With this type of reality in Colombia, it is clear that the agreement, in its current form, does not include strong enough labour standards. The division of labour provisions in the main text of the agreement, in addition to not having any substantial enforcement mechanism, will do nothing to encourage Colombia to improve its horrendous human rights situation for workers.
In fact, in its current form, the agreement could justify the use of violence in many cases. For example, in the agreement, the penalty for non-compliance is currently determined by a review panel, one that has the power to require the offending country to pay up to $15 million annually into a cooperation fund. Unfortunately, this type of enforcement measure will do little to encourage the government to change its current approach to trade unionists. If and when a trade unionist is killed, under this provision, all the government is required to do is to pay into a development fund, capped at $15 million per year, essentially equating the murder of a trade unionist to paying a fine. That is shameful.
The second way in which this agreement fails is in its lack of environmental protection. Environmental issues are addressed in a side agreement, this time with no enforcement mechanism to force Canada or Colombia to respect environmental rights.
Here is a fact. Nearly 200,000 hectares of natural forest in Colombia are lost every year due to agriculture, logging, mining, energy development and construction. Another fact is that almost 4 million people in Colombia are internally displaced persons, 60% of whom have come from regions where there is a rich supply of minerals, agriculture and economic resources. In these areas, private companies and their government and paramilitary supporters have come in and forced individuals and local communities from their homes.
The side agreement process has serious flaws. In the past we have witnessed how these side agreements are unenforceable. For example, in the case of NAFTA, not a single successful suit has been brought forward under the labour side agreement.
The third major flaw in this agreement is found in the investor chapter. Copied from NAFTA's chapter 11 on investor rights, the CCFTA provides powerful rights to private companies. The provisions in this chapter give private companies the ability to sue governments, as is enforceable through investor state arbitration panels. The arbitration system set up by the investor chapter gives foreign companies the ability to challenge legitimate Canadian environmental, labour and social protections. This is not a standard that we accept.
The fourth most shameful aspect of this agreement relates to agricultural tariffs. Colombia's poverty is directly linked to agricultural development. In fact, 22% of Colombia's employment is in the agricultural sector. An end to tariffs on Canadian cereals, pork and beef will result in the flooding of the local market with cheaper products. This would ultimately lead to thousands of lost jobs and to more poverty.
In conclusion, Canada needs to set the example. It would be highly irresponsible to turn a blind eye to the Colombian situation. We cannot allow Canada to abandon its values and its support for internationally recognized human rights to gain economic advantage for our companies at the expense of millions of displaced and impoverished Colombians.
Let us remember Jorge Darío Hoyos Franco, the prominent union leader who was gunned down near his home in southeast Bogota on March 3, 2001, a year before President Uribe was elected to his first of two terms in power. In the words of his daughter, Yessika Morales, "You cannot give a reward before he”, meaning President Uribe, “fulfills his duty of improving human rights. This is like a father continuing to reward a child when he misbehaves, so that child will never change his conduct”.
I call on all parliamentarians to join me and my caucus in our strong opposition to Bill C-23.
Opposition Motion—Forestry Industry
Business of supply
October 19th, 2009 / 1 p.m.
Alexandra Mendes Brossard—La Prairie, QC
Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise in the House today to speak to this motion. This motion addresses a long overdue concern and it is certainly required in light of the government's lack of action.
To begin, I wish to get right to the point and confirm that the Liberal Party will be supporting this motion. This issue is too important to be indecisive about and to try to play politics when the viability of a whole national industry is at stake.
We must act immediately to provide the necessary resources to safeguard the thousands of jobs and expertise that the forestry industry provides our country. The government must understand that blaming world markets and sitting pretty, as it has done throughout the forestry crisis, is not the way a governing party should run our country.
Enough of blaming others. Enough of playing politics. The time to act is now. This motion provides a clear directive.
I received a copy of the motion and reviewed it carefully. Two things jumped out at me. The first is that this motion is good for Quebec. Of course, that is not surprising, as it is a Bloc Québécois motion.
As a member from Quebec, I am always looking out for my province's best interests, and this motion and its directives would most certainly help our forestry industry. The second thing that struck me was that this motion is manifestly good for Canada.
I do not think the Bloc members had this intention in mind when they drafted it, but this motion is helpful for all of Canada.
Mainly because the forestry sector is entrenched throughout the country, every corner of Canada is affected by this industry. It is one of the four founding industries of our country. It is hard to think of a Canada without a forestry industry.
As a country, we pride ourselves on natural resources. With the second largest land mass in the world, it is easy to see why. So, it is no surprise that our forestry industry is a cornerstone of our past, present and hopefully future economic greatness.
The Liberal Party understands this. The Liberal Party has tried to look at the long-term success of this industry, but the party opposite has consistently thrown roadblocks at these attempts.
On November 24, 2005, the Liberal government, together with forestry industry stakeholders, announced a concrete plan for the forestry sector known as the forest industry competitiveness strategy, with a budget of $1.5 billion over five years. The strategy included $215 million to develop new technologies to improve competitiveness, $50 million to develop bioenergy and cogeneration capability, $90 million to support forestry innovation and value-added products, $66 million to grow wood markets, $10 million to enhance professional skill levels in the forestry sector, $150 million to support economic diversification in communities that rely on the forestry industry, $800 million in loans to help forestry companies be more competitive, and $100 million in loans to help small businesses in the forestry sector.
When the Conservatives came to power in 2006, they tossed the plan out. Now Canadian forestry workers are paying the price for that decision. Instead of investing in improving technology, skills and competitiveness to strengthen the industry and save jobs, Canada is now losing tens of thousands of jobs. Canada has lost 20,000 forestry sector jobs since the Conservatives came to power.
These job losses and lack of vision on the part of the Conservative government hurt more than just the forestry industry. They hurt the people in the communities who rely on the forestry sector to survive. This is why we are here today. We are here to help the people, families and communities that rely on this industry throughout Canada for their very survival and future growth.
If we look back at the TV coverage of those critical days during the automotive collapse, the cameras often focused on the hard-working men and women walking out of the factories with long faces of despair and worry. It made a great 30 second clip on the 6 o'clock news. Now, do not get me wrong. I am not saying that the automotive industry was not in crisis and that it did not require government intervention. What I am saying is that the same thing is happening in the forestry sector. However, no one has brought to light the worried and concerned faces of the thousands of men and women facing this terrifying and unnecessary loss of a way of life.
These small rural communities do not attract the attention of the big television networks, and all we hear about are big companies that are trying to restructure financially in order to stay afloat. Small family-owned businesses and community forestry operations need our help, and they need it now.
Many people living outside these communities do not even realize that if the forestry industry ceases to exist, entire established communities will perish in turn. One feeds the other. These communities depend on the forestry industry, and if the main source of income dries up, the local restaurant will close as well, followed soon after by the corner store, which will likely be forced to close after the owner has laid off the only employee. The local grocery store, the garage and the gas station, all these small businesses will also watch as their clients leave to look for jobs elsewhere. Families will struggle to make ends meet at the end of the month, communities will struggle to keep their people, and young people will lose hope and leave to find work in major urban centres. Communities that used to be prosperous and independent will turn into ghost towns, deserted by the people who used to live there, where only a few die-hards hold out hope for renewal.
I do realize this is a worst case scenario. It is definitely doom and gloom. However, it could happen and it has happened, and all from a lack of government direction and a will to act. These stories need to be heard. These stories are the consequences of the government's lack of initiative to assist the people it represents when they are in need. The Conservatives do not want to believe that their own demagogic and narrow-minded refusal to intervene has led to this situation. They would rather blame it on all sorts of outside factors which, while real, are hardly the whole story.
The Conservatives are wrong in that they could have prevented it; they could have made a difference. Should they accept this motion as the right thing to do, they could still help these people and communities emerge from these tough economic times better positioned and better off to fight another day.
There are ways to help, there are ways to assist and there are ways to make a difference. I know that we want to make a difference for all Quebecers and all Canadians.
How can we make that difference? For starters, we have to listen to them. I am happy to say that my party has done just that. I have personally visited Quebec and British Columbia and listened to forestry sector representatives talk about what they need. I have spoken with company owners, plant supervisors, employee groups and numerous associations. I have been struck by how they have to struggle in these difficult economic times.
I have listened to their solutions for the present and their dreams for the future. My colleagues have also travelled and listened to similar stories and concerns in the Atlantic provinces and northern Ontario.
What is surprising about all these meetings, visits and consultations is that no one in the forestry sector expects the government to hand them a blank cheque. The industry has never asked for gifts or handouts. What the industry needs is tools. It has asked for these tools so that it can fight, survive, modernize operations and keep companies open and effective. That is how it is going to keep its skilled workers and keep communities viable.
The industry has asked the federal government for tools in the form of tax credits, loans and loan guarantees so that its companies would have access to the much needed capital to keep the lights on, the saws running and their employees paid. It did not ask for a free ride. It asked to have the chance to fight and that is what this motion is all about. More important, this is exactly what my party has offered the industry since 2005.
I will now go back in history somewhat and discuss the softwood lumber agreement. We all know that the government likes to rewrite history. If one stands idle a tad too long these days, history just seems to disappear from government websites.
The Liberal Party has always supported and encouraged a two-pronged approach to resolving the softwood lumber dispute: both adjudication in the courts and negotiations.
On September 19, 2006, the Liberal Party voted against the softwood lumber agreement, and on December 6, 2006, it voted against Bill C-24, the Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act.
The Liberal Party wanted to make sure the Conservative government would adhere to the North American Free Trade Agreement and keep its campaign promise to recover all customs duties illegally collected by the United States.
The Liberals believe that the softwood lumber agreement is deeply flawed, for the following reasons.
It represents a reversal of the position taken by successive federal governments and supported by NAFTA and World Trade Organization trade panels, that our softwood lumber industry is not subsidized.
It jeopardizes Canada’s ability to help industries that are already in trouble by handing over part of our sovereignty over the management of our natural resources to our American competitors. The consequences of that capitulation will be felt in future disputes that will certainly arise, not only in the softwood lumber industry but also in other industries against which the same charges are levelled by their American competitors.
It creates an export tax that is in fact higher, at the current rate, than the illegal American customs duties of the past.
It strips NAFTA of any credibility as the arbitrator of trade disputes and cancels out the principles that govern this trading relationship.
It forfeits $500 million to the American forestry industry, which is using it to fund attacks on the Canadian industry in the courts and the political arena, and forfeits another $500 million to the American government.
It contains anti-fluctuation provisions that will deny the Canadian industry the flexibility it needs to deal with unforeseen circumstances such as the pine beetle infestation.
Despite our strong legal position, backed up by many decisions of international and national trade tribunals in Canada and the United States, the Conservative government rushed the negotiations by setting arbitrary deadlines to get the most political mileage out of the agreement for the Conservative Party of Canada.
The Conservatives’ campaign platform took precedence over the interests of an industry that has a major influence in all regions of Canada. The Conservative government issued an ultimatum to force the hand of Canadian producers: accept this agreement or the government will cut you loose. The loan guarantees put in place before the 2006 election were cancelled and the Conservatives made it plain to the industry that it would not get any federal aid if it decided to assert its rights in the courts instead of accepting the agreement.
What it agreed to do—and this is what the Liberal government had proposed—was to accept a negotiated settlement or continue the fully justified legal actions, which we would have supported by providing loan guarantees, reinvestment support, community and worker adjustment and assistance with legal costs.
The Conservatives claim that their softwood lumber agreement put an end to the dispute, but the United States began consultations questioning the forestry policies of Ontario and Quebec within seven months of signing the agreement.
Nova Scotia, British Columbia and Alberta face the same attacks. The $500 million the Conservatives handed over to the Americans by signing the softwood lumber agreement is what is being used to finance these attacks.
On March 4, 2008, the London Court of International Arbitration handed down its decision concerning the first lawsuits the Americans filed against Canada with respect to the softwood lumber agreement signed in 2006. The court ruled that Canada had violated the terms of the agreement by calculating the quotas incorrectly for the first six months of 2007. The court's ruling forced Canada to remedy those violations within 30 days and imposed a 10% export tax on the provinces in question, to a maximum of $68 million.
That ruling was a direct result of the fact that, in 2006, the Conservative government agreed to the imposition of quotas and taxes on the volume of wood exported to the United States, when the price of softwood lumber was generally under $355 U.S. per thousand board feet.
We have lost all credibility on the international stage. The government sold out our forestry industry for political gains and is now claiming that global markets are the cause and effect of the problem. The irony in all this is that the Conservatives now claim that the government cannot support the requested loan guarantees to forest companies because it is a violation of the softwood lumber agreement.
I am sorry to dispel their illusions but the Conservatives are being dishonest. Government lawyers are arguing as we speak in the London Court of International Arbitration that loan guarantees are not a violation of the softwood lumber agreement. They have in fact posted their legal defence on loan guarantees on the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade's website.
One could be mistaken in believing that the story ends here. However, in the spring of this year, a report from the subcommittee on industry dealing with the difficulties that numerous industrial sectors are facing concluded with the dissenting opinion of the subcommittee on the forestry industry. It says:
In relation to a recommendation on the forestry industry, the Liberal Party of Canada supports a recommendation as follows: “That the government of Canada establish a credit facility specifically for the forestry industry”.
The Liberal Party continues to work actively with the forestry sector to assist it. We also realize that this is not a new problem, unlike the government which has stuck its head in the sand in the hopes that this problem will go away.
We must do more to support this industry on behalf of the thousands of men and women affected by this crisis. We must act now. We need solutions now.
We must help an industry in crisis, and we must do so immediately, with no more excuses. It is time to get the job done, and to make this Parliament work for the well-being of our struggling industries.
June 18th, 2009 / 5 p.m.
The Speaker Peter Milliken
I have the honour to inform the House that when the House went up to the Senate chamber Her Excellency the Governor General was pleased to give, in Her Majesty's name, the royal assent to the following bills:
Bill C-24, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Peru, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Peru and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Peru—Chapter 16.
Bill C-39, An Act to amend the Judges Act—Chapter 19.
Bill C-33, An Act to amend the War Veterans Allowance Act—Chapter 20.
June 16th, 2009 / 10:55 a.m.
Ambassador of the Republic of Peru to Canada, Embassy of the Republic of Peru
I'd like to thank you for this meeting. I think it's been a very important chance for Canadian parliamentarians to receive a representative from Peru who would put forward a very objective perspective on what happened in Peru.
Unfortunately, these events have occurred at a time when the Canadian Senate is in the process of approving the Canada-Peru FTA Implementation Act. I hope the process will not be slowed down or interrupted by these events, and so I would ask the committee, if it believes that this is important, that what we have said here be passed on to the Senate committee on international trade in order that it be informed. If they invite me, I could assist them there, but it's just so that they be made aware of what has gone on in Peru.
Unfortunately, what is published in the media is not necessarily the truth. In fact, the Globe and Mail from Friday stated that in fact it was Peru's Tiananmen Square. I believe it is an exaggeration to compare Peru with Tiananmen Square, because the majority of our deaths were of police officers, and there was no genocide.
I sent a letter to them, which was not published, and I don't believe it will be, but we simply wanted to put forward the information. I believe that we need factual-based information, because the most important thing is to talk about the facts and not about any hypotheses.
I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak to you, and I thank you for all your questions. Thank you very much.
Extension of Sitting Hours
June 9th, 2009 / 11:30 a.m.
Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC
Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the NDP to participate in this debate which is about extending the hours of the House.
We heard the government House leader rise earlier and move a motion under Standing Order 27(1) to extend the hours of the House for the remaining 10 sitting days of the House, although he excluded the Fridays. So that is what we are here debating today.
Certainly, first off, I will be the first to acknowledge that the government has an opportunity to do this. We know that on the calendar, as the government House leader pointed out, there is a series of dates where this is a permissible and enabling thing that can be brought forward under the House rules to extend the hours of the House.
However, it has to be done by the will of the House. It cannot be unilaterally imposed by the government unless it is in a majority and it can get something through, but certainly in a minority Parliament situation, which is what we face today, that opportunity to extend the hours of the House has to be done with the co-operation and with the support of the opposition, or at least part of the opposition.
Therefore, what we are really debating today is whether or not there is merit in the government's motion to extend those hours. I have to say that listening to the speeches today both from the government and from the opposition members, there is a genuine reflection and a voice about whether or not there is merit, whether or not those operating hours should be extended.
It is not something that should be done lightly. The government House leader, in his remarks earlier at the beginning of the debate, said that the purpose of seeking the extension of the hours was “to set a goal each day of what we”, and that means the government, “want to accomplish”.
Then he talked about it as being a management tool. On the surface, using that very sort of diplomatic language of setting a goal each day of what the government wants to accomplish, we have to examine that and decide whether or not it is a legitimate thing that the government is requesting.
I think one has to look at that in the context of what has actually taken place in the House in this second session of the 40th Parliament, and whether or not the government has actually used the management tools that it has wisely and properly, and whether now that we are down to the last 10 days, it should be granted that opportunity to extend the hours of the House.
In speaking to that, I am looking at the merit of that request that the government has put forward this day. I want to point out some of the numbers of what we have actually dealt with. I think it is important in deciding whether or not we are now in a situation where we should be looking at extended hours.
We have seen something like 38 bills introduced by the government in this second session. If we take away the bills that have special rules, like the supply bills, then we are down to about 34 bills. Of those 34 bills, 22 have actually passed through the House of Commons. That works out to about 65%.
In actual fact, the government has accomplished a lot of its agenda already and there has been the passage of a fair amount of legislation that it has introduced.
What is also interesting is that of the bills that have been approved, about 20% of them were actually done in a fast tracked way. Some went through in a few moments, all stages of a bill; some went through in one day; some went through multiple stages in a day; about 20%.
I think that is very significant. That happened because there was discussion among the House leaders at our regular meetings and there was a sense of co-operation about what it was we thought we could take on, what matters were urgent, or they were basically things that we agreed with and we could agree that they should go through in a much faster way.
That is a significant thing. Twenty per cent of the government's bills have actually gone through the House in that kind of fast tracked way.
We know that now with the remaining 10 sitting days there are seven bills that are still in the House. Actually six of them are justice or public safety bills and probably five of them require not an extensive debate.
There are a couple of bills, some of which have been noted here today, that are very problematic certainly for the NDP and other opposition parties. If those bills come forward, we in the NDP are going to do everything we can to ensure that they are fully debated. In fact, we will try to defeat them.
The reality is that with 10 sitting days left, the hours we have for debate and what is on the legislative agenda, and as my colleague from the Bloc just pointed out a few moments it is actually a pretty thin legislative agenda, it is very likely that most of the bills that remain will go through the House and there will not be any kind of holdup.
There are other pieces of legislation that are very problematic. Certainly for us in the NDP, one of the bills that we are most concerned about and will do everything we can to defeat it is the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement, Bill C-23. In fact, we were very disappointed when Bill C-24, regarding the free trade agreement between Canada and Peru, received approval, with the NDP voting against it, just a few days ago.
I will mention, in the last day or two, the violence that has taken place in Peru against indigenous people, where people have been oppressed and murdered by government forces. It has been absolutely horrific. Yet, that bill went through.
I want to put on the record that if the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement bill comes forward, which the government to this point has held back and put at the bottom of its agenda, the NDP caucus will be fighting it tooth and nail. Every single one of our members will stand to debate that bill to point out and expose what a bad trade agreement it is. We take that very seriously.
However, those are the exceptions. Most of the bills before us are bills that will not be contentious but will require debate.
I want to make the point that I find it very ironic that time and time again we have heard the government House leader or other ministers stand and allege that particularly the NDP is holding up legislation. This has really floored me. I have spoken to some of the exceptions, but on most of those occasions we were talking about debating a bill at, say, third reading for a day. Even debating a bill for a day is somehow now characterized as holding up legislation and a delaying tactic. I find this quite astounding.
In parliamentary history, in terms of the business we do, we are here to debate legislation. We are here to go through it in a serious fashion and decide whether we support it in principle, whether it requires amendments, to take it through committee, and bring it back to the House. To debate a piece of legislation at second reading, third reading or report stage for a day or less than that is certainly not a delaying tactic.
I feel very offended that the government has chosen to take the line that anything debated more than a couple of hours is somehow a stalling and delaying tactic. That is what we are sent here to do, to represent our constituents, provide the opinions and perspectives of the people of Canada, and debate legislation that has enormous impacts on the lives of not only Canadians but sometimes globally, as we saw with the Canada-Peru agreement.
NDP members are not about to forfeit their duty and responsibility to debate that legislation in a fulsome way and make sure that all of the issues we believe are important are put forward in the House of Commons, in the Canadian Parliament. That is what we were elected to do and we take it very seriously.
I will go back to the issue of the government saying that this is a management tool and that it is being ever so thorough in using it. The government says that it wants to set a goal each day to do what it wants to accomplish. It really is a blank cheque. The government wants to have its cake and eat it too, instead of using the practice we have used continually, a practice that has worked relatively well.
The government House leader acknowledged in his opening remarks that there had been co-operation with the opposition parties, that there had been agreement on any number of items. Now we see this blank cheque approach. The government will make a unilateral decision and on any given day over the next 10 days, we will discuss this bill and that bill. The government will keep the debate going until 10 o'clock at night and we will not have any input into that. It will be a government decision.
If the Conservatives see that as a management tool, then it begs the question as to how they have managed their political and legislative agenda overall. If we look at the way they manage their business, we see quite a different picture.
We are talking about a government that prorogued the House on two occasions and killed its own legislation because of short-term political expediency. We saw it just before December. The government shut down Parliament in reaction to the opposition parties working together to represent the public interest with respect to what we needed to do with regard to the recession. That was very undemocratic. From the Conservative point of view, that was an incredibly successful management tool, but it was not in the interests of Parliament or the Canadian people.
At what is now the eleventh hour in the second session of the 40th Parliament, the Conservatives need to have extended hours for debate. They have to make their case for it. In listening to the government House leader today, I do not think they have done that. They have shown us that they want to go into overdrive by using this so-called management tool to suit their own purposes. They need to recognize that they are in a minority Parliament, where co-operation should be sought and where discussion can produce a positive result.
The NDP reacts very negatively to the idea that extended hours are needed at this time, not that at some other occasion they might be needed, but that opportunity is there.
The government has failed to make the case that it needs extended hours for the next 10 days to get through the very few bills that are left. If the Conservatives are thinking of bringing back some of the other bills like the Canada-Colombia free trade bill or the matrimonial real property bill, the NDP will fight them tooth and nail on those bills. We are not prepared to let those bills come forward. They have the choice of what they want to put on the order of business each day, but they know we will fight them.
We have come to the conclusion that the motion is simply not warranted. It is that straightforward. The business we have before us can be conducted. A number of these bills deal with justice and public safety issues. The government has been trotting out these little boutique bills one Criminal Code clause at a time. There has probably been a dozen of these bills. If there had been discussion, a number of those bills could have been brought forward in an omnibus bill. The government decided, again based on its political agenda, to bring in one bill at a time, so it could make a little showcase. This is really all the government has.
The Conservatives have completely broken down when it comes to dealing with the recession. They have even failed getting their economic stimulus package into local communities. They have completely denied the will of Parliament by refusing to act on motions on EI, which came from the NDP, or on credit cards and consumers protection.
Instead, what have the Conservatives done? Their management tools, their agenda has been to move bills out one at a time to take up an inordinate amount of time in debating them. If they had wanted to, they could have had some serious discussion about how to package some of them. I know our justice critic would have been open to such a suggestion and we would have taken it seriously.
If we consider that five of the six remaining bills could have been dealt with in a different way, then we can begin to see the government really does not have a case at all. It makes one wonder why the Conservatives would even bring forward this motion.
At the meeting of the House leaders we discussed it and I think the Conservatives had an inkling it probably would not be approved. Obviously they have some kind of political agenda. Either they want to bring something forward and try to ram it through or maybe they just think it is the political optics. However, we have to examine the motion in its real substance.
As I pointed out today, if we seriously look at the legislative agenda that remains, it is very clear the Conservatives are in a good position to receive support and to get the remaining bills through in the House. Therefore, why would we consider the extension of hours?
The New Democrat members of the House take our work very seriously. Whenever there have been motions in the House to rise early or to adjourn early, we have been the party to always oppose that. For us, this is not about saying that we do not want to be here. We are here in our seats and we are in committees.
If we look at the members of the House and the activity that goes on, we will not find a harder working caucus, even though we only have one member on each parliamentary committee. Our members work hard to bring forward initiatives. Whether it is on EI, or on arts and culture, or agriculture, or food safety, the NDP members initiate those items. This issue is not about whether we are here or not. We are here. We dedicate ourselves 100% to doing our public business, working for constituents and raising these very important issues about the economy, about what is hitting working people, about the unemployment, pensions and the travesty of the EI system. We do that here day after day, whether it is in question period, or in committees, or in meetings with delegations.
We have no problem with the principle of sitting late. Whether it is for take note debates or emergency debates, we participate in all of that and we do so fully and with a great measure of substance.
However, that does not escape the need to examine the motion for extended hours. We have come to the conclusion that it is a vacuous motion. It is not built on a rationale based on the business before us. The government simply has not made the case. If it had and if there was that imperative, that rationale, we would probably see a different response.
The practice of looking at each piece of legislation brought forward at the House leaders' meeting, involving our critics, and discussing whether there is agreement to move more quickly has worked. Why would we not continue to do that in the last 10 sitting days?
We see no reason to extend the hours, so we will vote against the motion.
Extension of Sitting Hours
June 9th, 2009 / 10:10 a.m.
Prince George—Peace River
Jay Hill Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, I would like to move the following motion. I move:
That, pursuant to Standing Order 27(1), except for Friday, June 12 and Friday, June 19, 2009, commencing on Wednesday, June 10, 2009 and concluding on Tuesday, June 23, 2009, the House shall continue to sit until 10 p.m.
Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by stating what might be obvious to folks who watch the proceedings of Parliament closely. By and large, I would have to say that this session of Parliament has been quite amicable and cooperative. I appreciate the efforts by the opposition to help the government get its agenda through Parliament.
As I recently said at a fundraising event for the Children's Bridge Foundation, I was reflecting on this place and reflected that this truly is the house of the common people. I also reflected on that word “common”. I thought that during the time of a minority Parliament, it is important for all of us to reflect on what we have in common: the things that we share as legislators regardless of our partisan differences. Regardless of what it is we want to see for Canada, I do believe very sincerely that all legislators and parliamentarians have the best interests of the country at heart.
I think that it is important that we try to work on those things that we have in common. I believe that there have been many instances in the last five or six months in this place when we have done that. I want to begin my remarks by commending the opposition for oftentimes trying to look beyond partisan differences, look to what we have in common, and actually accomplish things for the people of Canada.
While I am pleased with the progress that we have made thus far, not only as a government but as a Parliament working collectively, there is much more that we can accomplish for Canadians. As I have been saying about this cooperative atmosphere that is sometimes prevalent here, I think that some people who watch the daily proceedings of the House of Commons would actually dispute that.
If one were to watch the 45-minute question period every day, one might be surprised to hear me say that we actually work cooperatively and quite well together. While question period serves an important purpose and is the main focus for the media, no acts are amended, no new laws are created, and no funds for important programs are approved during that period of time.
Today, for example, there are 285 minutes dedicated for government legislation and 60 minutes for private members' business. Lots of time and effort goes into these minutes each day. More importantly, they can also be productive minutes. Thus far this session, our House has passed some 25 bills, including Bill C-33, which restores war veterans allowances to Allied veterans and their families. This required all-party consent and we all agreed that this was in the best interests of not only our veterans but the country.
Bill C-14, our bill to fight organized crime, is currently before committee in the other place. Bill C-29, the agricultural loans bill, will guarantee an estimated $1 billion in loans over the next five years to Canadian farm families and cooperatives. This is all important legislation that we worked together on to further it along the parliamentary agenda.
Our Standing Orders include a specific provision for the extension of sitting hours during the last two sitting weeks in June. In fact, I reflect on my 16 years in this place. It has often been a point of confusion when members, and especially rookie members, look at the calendar and see the last couple of weeks with asterisks beside the dates. They think that those weeks are disposable somehow, but they are not. They are that way because the government has the right to serve, without notice, the motion that I am moving today to extend hours and work into the evening.
At this point in my remarks, I also want to inject the fact that up until quite recently in parliamentary history, the House of Commons sat into the evening for debate almost every night. It has been a relatively new phenomenon that we do not have evening sittings. The only exceptions to that in the recent Parliaments have been for emergency debates or take note debates. Other than that, we do not usually sit in the evenings. It is quite a new phenomenon.
What I am moving today is not something unusual. These rules provide a mechanism to advance government business before members leave Ottawa to work in their constituencies over the summer.
We have a lot of important work to do before the House rises for the summer. After we subtract the three days for opposition supply days and the time for private members' business, we only have 33 hours and 45 minutes remaining to complete our government business before the House rises on the evening of June 23.
Extending the House sitting hours over the next two weeks would allow us to make progress on government bills, such as: Bill C-26, legislation to tackle property theft, which we expect to receive back from the justice committee this week; Bill C-34, the protecting victims from sexual offenders act, which would strengthen the national sex offender registry to provide the police with more effective tools to protect children from sexual predators; Bill C-35, the justice for victims of terrorism act; Bill C-36, which would repeal the faint hope clause in the Criminal Code so that criminals who commit first or second degree murder will no longer be able to apply for early parole; and Bill C-6, the consumer products safety bill, which was reported from committee yesterday. Adopting this bill would protect the health and safety of Canadians by allowing the recall of unsafe consumer products. I urge members to adopt that bill with the utmost speed when we call it for debate later this week.
Other bills we would like to make progress on include: Bill C-32, which cracks down on tobacco marketing aimed at youth, which received unanimous support at second reading and we hope that health committee can report the bill back shortly so that the House can consider its passage before the summer; and Bill C-23, the Colombia free trade bill.
While not unanimous, I am grateful for the support of most members opposite in enabling the House to pass Bill C-24, the Peru free trade bill. Both Bill C-24 and Bill C-23 would expand market access for Canadian companies at a difficult time. I inject that this is especially important to our farmers who will have new marketing opportunities open up for them because of these two free trade bills.
This is just some of the important work to be done on our government's commitments. It does not take into account additional new legislation that we continue to introduce every week.
I notice the justice minister is sitting here and nodding as I relay a number of justice bills. The Minister of Justice has been extremely active in bringing forward a succession of important justice reforms. This is one of the reasons that I ran for Parliament 16 years ago. I know many legislators on both sides of the House hold near and dear to their hearts the importance of protecting victims and their families and of reforming and changing the justice system in our country to ensure that criminals are held accountable for their actions.
My intent regarding this period of extension would be, and I have discussed this with the opposition House leaders and whips, to set a goal each day as to what we wanted to accomplish. When we accomplished that goal, we would adjourn for the day. Even though the motion says that we would sit until 10 o'clock Monday to Thursday, it may not be necessary to sit until 10. We could work co-operatively and collectively together. If we actually achieved our goals that day at 7 o'clock or 7:20 p.m., we would see the clock at 10 and the House would rise. I think that is reasonable.
I am asking for a simple management tool to maximize our progress with the weeks that are left, a little over two weeks. I am not asking for a shortcut. I am not asking to curtail debate. I am proposing that we work a little harder to get the job done. As I said, I believe I am making a reasonable approach of adjourning each day after we meet modest goals. All parties would agree to these goals. This is not a blank cheque. I cannot adjourn the House without support from the opposition, nor can I prevent an adjournment motion from being adopted without opposition support. The motion has co-operation built right into it.
Sitting late in June is part of the normal process, as I referred to earlier. It is one of the procedures required to make Parliament work and be more efficient. According to the Annotated Standing Orders of the House of Commons:
Although this Standing Order dates back only to 1982, it reflects a long-standing practice which, in its variations, has existed since Confederation. The practice has meant that in virtually every session since 1867, in the days leading up to prorogation or, more recently, to the summer adjournment, the House has arranged for longer hours of sitting in order to complete or advance the business still pending.
A motion pursuant to Standing Order 27 has only been refused once and that was last year. Even under the minority government of Paul Martin, the motion had sufficient opposition support to be adopted. There is bound to be some business that one opposition party wants to avoid, but generally there should be enough interest on the part of the opposition to get legislation passed before the summer recess.
The House leader of the official opposition is often on his feet after question period trying to get speedy passage to some of our justice bills. Here is a chance for him, and collectively Parliament, to actually get that done.
The NDP members complain that we accuse them of delaying legislation when all they want to do, or so they say, is put up a few more speakers to a bill. Here again we are giving them the opportunity to do exactly that.
I am therefore seeking the support of all members to extend our sitting hours so that we can complete work on important bills which will address the concerns of Canadians before we adjourn for the summer.
Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
June 3rd, 2009 / 3:35 p.m.
The House resumed from June 2 consideration of the motion that Bill C-24, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Peru, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Peru and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Peru, be read the third time and passed, and of the motion that this question be now put.
Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
June 2nd, 2009 / noon
Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to follow my learned colleague from Ottawa Centre in this debate.
Quite frankly, this is the kind of debate we need to have in the House about the government's trade agenda, which is simply a carbon copy of the Liberals' trade agenda. On its trade agenda, the government essentially has shown that it is appallingly weak in negotiating and has shown an inability to set any objectives in line with what Canadians strongly believe they need to see in trade policy. The vast majority of Canadians are fair traders. They want to see a balanced approach on trade that actually provides for improvement in environmental standards, human rights and labour rights. They also want to see a trade strategy that allows for domestic growth and jobs here at home. They get neither with this bill, tragically.
Most Canadian families earn less now than they did when the Canada-U.S. free trade agreement was implemented back in 1989. We have seen an erosion for the vast majority of Canadian families. They are earning less. The ones who have profited are chief executives and corporate lawyers. They have seen their family income increase dramatically. The wealthiest Canadians now take more than half of all income in Canada, but for most Canadians in the middle class, Canadians in the lower middle class and the poorest Canadians, they have seen a substantial erosion in their income.
We are also facing a record trade deficit. Essentially we export raw materials to create jobs in other countries and we import increasingly the manufactured products that used to be manufactured here in Canada. How does the Canada-Peru free trade agreement change this? It does not change it at all. Fundamentally, even under the former Liberal government, most of the bilateral agreements that we have signed have led to a fall in exports. We simply import more from the country of origin, often with no standards applied, no labour standards, no minimum wage standards, but our exports actually fall.
To pretend that this bill is in any way part of any sort of comprehensive economic strategy is simply false. It is not the objective of the government. The objective of the government appears to be, more than anything else, just fancy ribbon cutting. Signing a trade deal has a lot of pomp and circumstance. People put their signatures on a piece of paper. They get to come to the House to say that they are doing something, but when most bilaterals have led to a fall in exports, when most Canadian families are earning less, we have to wonder. We have to think that somebody in the Conservative government would actually look at the results, would actually monitor what is going on and take measures to put in place a more comprehensive export strategy. That has not been done.
As we have cited in the House before, the Conservative government is just as bad as the former Liberal government. It is the same old, same old. One does not change the other's strategy. We are just as bad under the Conservatives as we were under the Liberals for actually providing any sort of product promotion support outside of Canada.
For the entire United States market, where 85% of our exports go right now, the Canadian federal government has a combined product promotion budget of $3.4 million for this massive United States of America market of 300 million citizens. I will repeat that figure, because it is stunning in its cheapness, that $3.4 million is the entire federal government product promotion support budget for the entire United States of America market. Is that unbelievable? Yes it is, but it is unfortunately true.
The government has no trade strategy. It provides no product promotion support. It seems incapable of understanding even the rudimentary elements of what a fair trade strategy would be.
In the OECD countries, in the United States, the debate is increasingly on fair trade as opposed to George Bush style unregulated free trade. In election after election, fair trade is winning out. People around the world want a balanced fair trade approach and not this radical, extremist, George Bush style, unregulated free trade approach. As a result of that, we are seeing elections such as the recent one in the United States where governments are changed and that agenda is stopped.
That is the approach the government has taken until now. Let us look at the specifics of Bill C-24.
The NDP voted against the softwood sellout that killed tens of thousands of jobs in Canada. We voted against the shipbuilding sellout that every single worker, manager and owner within the shipbuilding industry implored Parliament not to pass without a carve-out. The NDP proposed the carve-out and the Liberals and the Conservatives banded together. The Liberals drove the getaway car for the Conservatives and essentially adopted a bill they knew would kill the shipbuilding industry in Canada. It is a shame. We have the longest coastline in the world and we just voted a few months ago to kill progressively our shipbuilding industry.
The NDP voted against the Canada-Colombia trade deal, an egregiously bad deal. One cannot imagine how it was conceived. That regime is connected to murderous paramilitary thugs and drug lords and the government wants to give it preferential trade access to Canada. That is absolutely absurd. We will debate that if the government ever brings it back before the House.
I think the government was as embarrassed as we in the NDP were that it even proposed such an appalling concept as rewarding a regime with massive human rights violations and connections to murderous paramilitary thugs and drug lords who killed hundreds of people last year. The president has had connections with them since his initial days as the mayor of Medellin, Colombia when the Medellin cartel ran the place. In any event, we will debate the Colombia trade deal when it comes forward.
The Peru trade deal provides no protection for the environment and no protection on labour rights. The Peruvian government has essentially refused to put its signature on International Labour Organization agreements and the government does nothing with regard to the superficial, symbolic labour side deal to address that issue.
Now we find within the Peru agreement the same chapter 11 provisions that have been rejected by every other country on earth since NAFTA was implemented. The United States moved away from it. Every other country has moved away from it.
The investor state provisions allow corporate CEOs to override democratic decision making, whether it is on the labour code or environmental standards. Corporate CEOs can actually get compensation for any public measure that is taken in the public interest. It is a cash cow. They can go to governments and get millions of dollars for nothing, simply because the government has made a decision that is in the best interests of its citizens.
In Bill C-24 there are enhanced investor state provisions that allow corporate CEOs to milk the government in Peru. We learned just last week that there was a nationwide strike among Peruvian workers because in the northeastern Amazon region of Peru, a package of laws has been passed that will open up the lands of that region to mining and drilling without consultation with local communities.
There is a chapter 11 on steroids in Bill C-24. There is no protection for environmental standards or labour standards, and now there is legislation by the Peruvian government that allows mining CEOs to override local democratic decision making. Regardless of what anyone's political stripe is, one would think that every member of the House would understand that democratic decision making is the very essence of democracy. Once we give extraordinary rights to corporate CEOs to override that and get millions of dollars in compensation for nothing, we are doing something that is profoundly unfair to the people of Peru.
For all of those reasons, the NDP is speaking out against this agreement, but we continue to press the government to actually negotiate fair trade agreements. It is not a complicated concept. It means actually raising living standards in Canada and abroad. That is done by establishing tough environmental standards, tough labour standards and human rights. The NDP will be voting no on this bill.
Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
June 2nd, 2009 / 11:45 a.m.
Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON
Madam Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to rise to speak to Bill C-24.
Many have spoken of the concerns they have around this trade agreement. I think Canadians are listening carefully to the difference between what some call free trade and what we call fair trade. There is actually a shift in the debate around trade agreements and around how trade is done globally. I think we are going to see a change in the use of the term “free trade” because of the collective experience of countries with these agreements.
When we look at the details and drill down into some of these trade agreements, the notion that there is anything free is a misnomer. When we look at the give and the take, and what we end up with at the end of these trade agreements, many people have, quite rightly, been critical. I think we are going to move toward something more in line with a sectoral approach, that we really should not be doing these massive pieces of architecture to say that we are going to be all in or all out and give certain powers to certain sectors of society over others.
When we look at the experience with NAFTA, for instance, and chapter 11, and when we look at what was given up by Canadians to allow private corporations to meddle in the affairs of our governance, it actually undermines the fundamental premise of democracy. This is not free. This is actually a change of power where we end up with less and certain entities end up with more.
It has to do with the notion of sovereignty, as well. I think that most people would agree that our Parliament should be able to pass laws that are unfettered, in terms of outside interference, and be vigilant with respect to our obligations internationally, but also provide good governance for our citizens.
That is not the case when we look at the experience of chapter 11. In fact, not just people in this corner of the House have stated that but people outside who have critiqued these agreements have said that. That is one of the problems with this trade agreement. It continues down the ill-fated path of the chapter 11 experience. If we look at it, it really puts investors' rights over the rights of citizens. The fact that private companies can sue governments, with these chapter 11 provisions over our public policy choices, is a clear indication that there is something more than a free trade or an exchange or an opening of trade. It means that we are actually laying hands on certain people and giving them rights over others; in this case, private corporations.
I want to take that observation and align it with where Canadians are at and look at what is happening right now with another bill that is before us, Bill C-300, the corporate social responsibility bill. It is interesting. When people have critiqued Bill C-300, and I have a private member's bill that is similar to it and motions have been passed on corporate social responsibility, they have been concerned that extraterritorial provisions would be given to the Government of Canada over investments abroad in the extractive industries. It is interesting because when we take a look at chapter 11, what we are actually doing is legislating the rights of extraterritorial private interests to have influence on governance here. We do not hear them talk about that.
So, on the one hand we are saying we do not want to have too many rules for corporations when we are doing business overseas because that might interfere with the conduct of the business of certain countries, and on the other hand there is this chapter 11 cheque written out and handed over to private corporations with which we do these trade deals .
I think that is an important issue. I think Canadians want to know why these facets within these trade deals are being set. Who is benefiting? Is this helping the citizens of the countries with whom we are entering into these trade deals? I suspect not. I know that it is not. I think it is important because when we look at this trade deal, it again is reinforcing that.
When we look at this trade deal and we look at the side provisions on environment and labour, they are just that. They are side agreements. The language is voluntary. We cannot have voluntary human rights. Either human rights are embedded and we have strength in terms of support to ensure that those human rights are being granted or we do not. Having voluntary human rights, we might as well not bother. It really does a disservice to the whole concept and notion of human rights.
I can only think what John Diefenbaker would say to that. We have side agreements on human rights. I suspect that he would not be in favour of that notion and I think that is important.
I suspect that because the government thought there would be a furor over the lack of environmental and human rights provisions, it would do a little political inoculation and put a side agreement in, put a ribbon on it and everyone will be happy.
We on this side of the House see through that. We either have it embedded and strengthened with legislation or we do not bother. To have it on the side, as was mentioned by my colleague from the Conservative Party earlier in his intervention, makes it voluntary. It is like the response by the government to corporate social responsibility where it has taken a very robust report from both business and civil society about how we can do corporate responsibility and turned it into a suggestion box, that if we have a concern we can put the concern in this box and perhaps the government will deal with it. That is not good enough. We need to take this issue seriously because it affects the lives of ordinary people.
The trade agreement, sadly, is putting on the altar environmental protection and human rights protection for what? For profit. For the bottom line. As I said, I think people will see through that and we certainly do.
I would also like to point out where Canadians are in their view of where Canada should be when it comes to trade agreements. I want to reference a document that recently came out called “Back on the Map”. It is a very comprehensive overview of a study that was done for a new vision for Canada in the world. It was done recently by a non-partisan group called Canada's World during a national citizen's dialogue. The director is Shauna Sylvester whom I met with recently. She was pointing out to me the research that was done on what Canadians want to see in their foreign policy and in their trade agreements. One of the things in the research report said that Canadians wanted to see good governance as it relates to promoting good governance in trade deals. The report is based on researchers talking to Canadians about what they want to see in our foreign policy and trade deals.
They want to see the Government of Canada take a leadership role in convening and facilitating the reform of international financial development agencies; promoting fair trade practices and corporate social responsibility, particularly among Canadian companies with overseas operations; supporting a stronger voice for developing countries within international institutions; investing in public diplomacy; shielding effective programs from partisan politics; and instituting a federal process to help with that
What they want to see is Canadian governance in trade deals promoting fair trade, promoting corporate social responsibility and promoting the values that are embedded in our Canadian fabric, not to hand over to certain companies and interests a blank cheque to decide what they want to do with it and undermine not only our democracy but the interests of those in the country of origin; in this case Peru.
For those reasons our party will not be supporting this trade deal. I wish that we would have the support of the Liberals to oppose this trade deal because it is not good enough.