Bill C-2 (Historical)
Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Colombia, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Colombia and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Colombia
This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.
Peter Van Loan Conservative
This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.
- June 14, 2010 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
- June 9, 2010 Passed That Bill C-2, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Colombia, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Colombia and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Colombia, be concurred in at report stage.
- June 9, 2010 Failed That Bill C-2 be amended by deleting Clause 48.
- June 9, 2010 Failed That Bill C-2 be amended by deleting Clause 12.
- June 9, 2010 Failed That Bill C-2 be amended by deleting Clause 7.
- June 9, 2010 Passed That, in relation to Bill C-2, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Colombia, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Colombia and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Colombia, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at report stage of the Bill and one sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at third reading stage of the said Bill and, at the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to the consideration at report stage and on the day allotted to the consideration at third reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the stage of the Bill then under consideration shall be put forthwith and successively without further debate or amendment.
- April 19, 2010 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on International Trade.
- April 19, 2010 Passed That this question be now put.
- April 16, 2010 Passed That, in relation to Bill C-2, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Colombia, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Colombia and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Colombia, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the Bill; and That, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the Bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.
Business of Supply
June 17th, 2010 / 11:45 a.m.
Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC
Mr. Speaker, the Liberal opposition day motion covers some things that are already being done. A legislative committee is working on the prorogation issue. Still, the main advantage of this motion is that it gives us the opportunity to discuss the December prorogation again. The government realized that that was a serious mistake, and it is trying to make us forget about it. As this session comes to a close, I believe it is not a bad idea to look at the Conservative government's overall behaviour by means of this motion, which I must say is not the most original motion I have ever heard.
That said, though, I do think the motion gives us a chance to take stock of the anti-democratic behaviour of the Conservative government and the Prime Minister. Of course, we will not vote for this motion if the amendment is not passed, because it would be pretty odd to vote to set up a special committee that would have to report next Wednesday. We reserve our decision on this. The motion is an opportunity to take stock of how this government has behaved in the House since 2006.
Things would have been different if last December had been the first time the government had used prorogation, a perfectly legitimate mechanism in the British parliamentary tradition whereby the Governor General is asked to prorogue the session. We would have understood if the government had asked for a prorogation for the first time because it had nearly completed its legislative agenda and the bills it had introduced over the months had been debated, amended, passed, defeated or what have you.
But December was the second time the government and the Prime Minister used prorogation to avoid answering the opposition's questions and facing up to their responsibilities. So we are completely within our right to criticize and challenge the government's actions, because the only purpose of last December's prorogation was to suppress allegations that Afghan detainees transferred by the Canadian Forces to the Afghan authorities were tortured. We all know about it now, so the government's tactic did not work. But the fact that it did not work is not why it was the wrong thing to do.
Earlier the parliamentary secretary talked about what a waste it would be to create a new committee. Was there any bigger waste this year, in 2010, than the month of parliamentary work the Conservatives made us lose? They supposedly tried to make up for lost time by getting rid of break weeks. That was the biggest waste there ever was.
The money spent on the G8 and the G20, the fake lake and the virtual decor is one thing but this is on an entirely different plane. We are talking here about a month of parliamentary work that could have prevented what happened yesterday when the government pulled out of its hat a bill that was introduced in mid-May. The government did not bring the bill back to the House until June 6 or 7 and told us, a few days before the end of the session, that the bill was absolutely necessary for preventing a notorious criminal, Ms. Homolka, from applying for a pardon.
Why did the government not wake up sooner? In part because we lost a month of parliamentary work as a result of this unnecessary prorogation. And then the government tried, as it has many times before, to push through a bill that we are not prepared to accept without amendments. We voted to refer Bill C-23 to committee in order to study it seriously and to amend it. The government wanted to impose its agenda on us.
The Bloc Québécois stood firm. I am pleased to note that the other opposition parties did so as well. The Liberal Party in particular stood firm for once. We forced the government to accept a compromise that everyone could agree on. The bulk of Bill C-23 will be studied in committee and we will take the time to amend it in order to change what we dislike about it.
Our experience yesterday with the drama invented by the Minister of Public Safety and the Conservative government could have been avoided had we used the month of February to examine bills already introduced and if the government had better planned its work.
I will give an example. Why was it urgent to pass Bill C-2 on the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement? Was it really urgent that it pass? The government devoted all kinds of time, effort and resources to try to ram the bill down the throat of the NDP and the Bloc Québécois, even though our trade with Colombia is very limited. Furthermore, the human rights situation and democratic rights in Colombia are cause for a great deal of concern.
We could have used the parliamentary time to examine Bill C-23 earlier. However, the government decided otherwise. It is its right and responsibility, but it did not make responsible choices. This is all the result of the Prime Minister's decision of December 30, 2009 to prorogue the session until early March.
There is another negative aspect. Thirty-six bills died on the order paper, including 19 justice bills. That is an indication of the hypocrisy of the Conservative's rhetoric on justice. Once again, the government told us that it was proroguing to recalibrate its political and legislative agenda. Perhaps it understood that a number of its bills were not acceptable to Quebeckers and many Canadians. It told us it was proroguing in order to come back refreshed in March.
So, what happened? Two days after the start of the session, the government proposed a budget that was completely unacceptable to Quebec. There was nothing in the budget to meet the needs of the regions or the forestry and aerospace sectors. Nor was there anything for the unemployed in Quebec or in Canada. The government spent one and a half months to present the same, unacceptable budget that it presented in spring 2009.
During that month, no work was done. I wonder what the Conservatives were doing. They probably travelled around handing out cheques. In Quebec, that has led to the Conservatives dropping below 16% in the polls. The fact remains that they acted under false pretences.
That was the latest prorogation. With the other one, just a few weeks after the election, a few days after Parliament returned in November 2008, the Minister of Finance presented an economic statement that was nothing more than an ideological statement. No concrete measures were announced to combat the looming financial and economic crisis. Instead, it was an attack on the opposition parties, and on women's rights in particular. This attack was totally unacceptable to the three opposition parties and to a good number, if not the majority, of Canadians. I can assure you that the majority of Quebeckers were opposed to this dogmatic, ideological and provocative approach.
The government sparked a political crisis a few weeks after the October 2008 election. It should have realized that it was a minority government and that Canadians had given it a minority in the House, especially Quebeckers, who sent a majority of Bloc Québécois members to represent them in Ottawa. The Prime Minister should have realized that a minority government has to work with the opposition parties.
That is not what he did. Instead, he sparked a political crisis and the opposition parties reacted by proposing an NDP-Liberal coalition, supported by the Bloc, on certain conditions that we announced and that were respected by the NDP-Liberal coalition at that time.
A confidence vote was scheduled, and instead of submitting to the decision of the House, the Prime Minister chose to pay another visit to the Governor General to request prorogation and avoid being held accountable. His request was granted, but only after two hours of discussions I must point out.
I suspect that her attitude and the fact that she had the nerve to question the Prime Minister cost Michaëlle Jean her job as Governor General. Of course, we do not know exactly what they talked about, but the conversation took long enough to suggest that she did not say yes right away, which is what often happens, and may have asked for an explanation. At any rate, the House was prorogued once again at the Prime Minister's request to avoid a confidence vote.
The very same thing happened during the September 2008 election. The government built up expectations. We have seen some of that during this session too, particularly in the spring when they paralyzed the committees. Mao Zedong gave us the Little Red Book, and then the Prime Minister gave us a blue book about how any good, self-respecting Conservative can sabotage a committee's work. The government created an artificial paralysis in the committees. The Prime Minister and his Conservative members and ministers, with their sorrowful and utterly false statements, have apparently tried to convince Canadians and Quebeckers that opposition parties were to blame for this paralysis because they blocked committee work on legitimate government bills passed in the House.
After this buildup, the Prime Minister simply triggered an election in an attempt to not have to answer the opposition's questions on a number of issues and, in particular, to not have to respond to the allegations of torture in Afghanistan.
There again, this way of doing things seems fine according to British parliamentary tradition, but it is very questionable in terms of democratic legitimacy. Finally, the government is using all sort of tactics to not have to answer for its actions, to try and impose its backwards, conservative agenda on policy, economic, social and cultural fronts. And if that is not suitable, it provokes the opposition and tries, with measures that are, again, fully legal, to short-circuit the work of Parliament.
I think that it is important to use this opportunity provided to us by the Liberals to remind the public of that. At the same time, I must say that the Conservatives' provocative approach, which is extremely negative and undemocratic, has been encouraged by the Liberals' weakness because the government knew in advance that not all of the Liberal members would be in the House to vote against the budget implementation bill, Bill C-9. Again tonight, we will be voting on supply and it will be interesting to count the number of Liberal members in the House.
Benefiting from this weakness, the Conservatives try to impose their agenda on the opposition—on the Liberal Party in particular—and we have seen this throughout the session.
Another example of extremely questionable Conservative behaviour is the issue of the documents concerning allegations of torture in Afghanistan. A motion had to be passed in the House on December 10, ordering the government to produce a series of relevant documents that would reflect the work done by the Afghanistan committee concerning allegations of torture. The House adopted the motion by only a slight majority. A number of weeks after prorogation, we had to raise this issue and demand these documents again. Each time, the government tried to deflect the question by tabling highly censored documents that showed nothing that would lead us to believe that it was responding to the motion passed on December 10 requiring them to produce documents.
The fact that the requests for the production of documents do not die on the order paper following a prorogation, as government bills do, might come as a surprise for the Prime Minister and the Conservatives. Perhaps the Prime Minister had been misinformed and believed that by proroguing Parliament, the order to produce documents concerning allegations of torture in Afghanistan would disappear. That was not the case.
The opposition did not give up, and questions of privilege had to be raised so that the Speaker could intervene in the matter.
The Speaker's historic decision of April 27, 2010, was very clear: the documents must be handed over, while protecting all information related to national security, defence and international relations, and the opposition has always agreed with that. However, we had to pressure the government further to reach an agreement in principle. We also had to constantly brandish the sword of Damocles—contempt of Parliament—so as to obtain the compromises needed from the government in order to finally implement the mechanism. We only hope that it will be implemented quickly.
This shows how we had to push the government to the wall in order to obtain results that, theoretically, should not have posed a problem, since there had been a democratic majority vote in the House. The government should have simply obeyed the order of the House, yet each time we had to use every means at our disposal to force the government to respect the democratic decision made in the House.
We are still in the same situation today. The House is about to rise for the summer break and we will be in exactly the same position when we come back around September 20.
The government has decided not to let political staff appear before committees anymore. The Prime Minister no longer allows his press secretary and director of communications, Dimitri Soudas, to appear before the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics. The committee therefore gave Mr. Soudas an ultimatum: he must appear. But he is hiding. There is bound to be a new children's game called Where's Dimitri? after Where's Waldo? The bailiffs tried to serve him with a subpoena, but he followed the Prime Minister to Europe to avoid it.
The Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics legitimately and legally said that Mr. Soudas had to be aware of the subpoena requiring him to testify before the committee, because the newspapers had written about it. But perhaps Dimitri does not read the papers, which would be an unusual thing for the press secretary and director of communications with the Prime Minister's Office. Dimitri Soudas is well aware he has to testify before the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, and the deadline was yesterday.
Today, the committee is starting to write a report that will be tabled in the House. It may be tabled tomorrow, next week or when Parliament resumes. This report will serve as the basis for a new question of privilege and for making a case for contempt of Parliament.
We are leaving off at the same point as where we were at the beginning of this session. The atmosphere in Parliament is rotten, poisoned by the Conservatives' anti-democratic attitude, which has nearly reached the point of provocation a number of times.
Again, what happened yesterday was quite something. At the beginning of the day, the Minister of Public Safety, accompanied by the ineffable Senator Boisvenu, came to tell us that it was Bill C-23 or nothing. At noon, we were told it was Bill C-23 or nothing. Finally, they had to fold.
Instead of trying to get Bill C-23 passed with all its poison pills, it would have been much simpler for the government to tell the opposition parties that it wanted to prevent Ms. Homolka from being able to apply for a pardon, given that she was released from prison five years ago.
The government could have asked that, in light of the seriousness of the acts she committed, we amend the current pardon legislation—that is not actually the title—to change the period of time before an individual is eligible for a pardon to 10 years from the current five years. We would have been open to discussing that, but again, there was a pseudo political crisis provoked by the Conservatives.
I will close by saying that an anti-democratic attitude is poisoning the atmosphere. The government also has an anti-Quebec attitude that is supported more often than not by all Canadian parliamentarians and sometimes by MPs from Quebec in parties other than the Bloc.
I am thinking about the Canada-wide securities commission and Bill C-12 to reduce Quebec's political weight in the House, the GST and QST harmonization, where the government is not just dragging its feet, it has shut the door. I am thinking about the government's attitude with regard to climate change and culture, which is extremely important to Quebec's identity.
There are also the issues of equalization, employment insurance and the guaranteed income supplement. Not only is this government anti-democratic in the way it does things, but it is not meeting the needs of Quebec and the people.
Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
June 14th, 2010 / 6:55 p.m.
The House resumed from June 11 consideration of the motion that Bill C-2, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Colombia, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Colombia and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Colombia, be read the third time and passed.
CANADA-COLOMBIA FREE TRADE AGREEMENT IMPLEMENTATION ACT
June 11th, 2010 / 12:45 p.m.
Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB
Mr. Speaker, I am really thrilled to be speaking again. I am sure that this time around the hon. Conservative member will be recognized for a question when that time comes. I am sure he will be very eager and feverishly working on a question or two over the next 20 minutes. Nevertheless, he will have to wait for 20 minutes before he gets to ask his question.
We have gone through a very, very lengthy process dealing with this particular piece of legislation. I certainly want to compliment our critic for his enormous efforts over the last year or so on this issue. The member for Burnaby—New Westminster has been tireless in his efforts to stop this free trade agreement. It took the combined coalition of the Conservative government and the Liberal opposition to crush his efforts, and they did it in a very unsavoury way at the end of the day. The fact of the matter is, they denied key witnesses who should have been able to present on the bill.
Many key witnesses from Colombia, as well as Canadian and Colombian trade unions, were denied the right to appear at the committee, including the CLC, which represents 3.5 million workers. The National Union of Public and General Employees, NUPGE, one of Canada's largest unions with over 340,000 members, was refused. Several other organizations were cut out of the process by this unholy alliance between the government and its Liberal servants in this case.
I only have to look back to two years ago historically to see that there was a point at which the Liberal Party was on side, more or less, in terms of opposition to the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement. Under the previous leadership and the previous critic, the Liberals were in agreement to have an independent human rights study, which is what has been demanded and still is being demanded as something that is absolutely necessary in this process.
As soon as the Liberal Party changed leaders and the leader changed the critic, the position of the Liberal Party on the Colombia free trade deal turned right in line with that of the Conservatives. The Conservatives received a bit of a gift, because they knew that the deal was dead. They knew this deal was as dead as the Colombia-United States deal.
Let us deal with that for a moment. The George Bush administration signed the agreement with Colombia and the United States in 2006, four years ago, and the U.S. Congress to this day has still not ratified that deal. The member for Kings—Hants and I were in Washington on February 19 and 20 meeting with up to 40 individual members of Congress and the U.S. Senate.
While we did not include this item on our agenda, we let them bring it up. There were at least three Republicans, not Democrats, but Republican members of Congress who said, “We love Uribe. We love the Colombian-U.S. free trade deal, but it is dead. It will never make it through the Congress of the United States. It is very sad, but it will never happen”. Why does the Conservative member opposite cling to this hope that passing it here in Canada will somehow revive it in the United States? Maybe that is the government's intention, to basically show, in the Conservatives' own minds, leadership and pass the Canada-Colombia free trade deal and ratify it so that it will be an example. Perhaps that is the strategy here. The Conservatives could go to the United States Congress and say that Canada passed it and the U.S. should follow suit.
We have argued all along that this is absolutely the wrong way to deal with free trade, particularly with a country like Colombia. As I indicated before, this deal was dead in the House in terms of ratification until single-handedly the member for Kings—Hants resurrected the whole process through some late night partying with the Colombian leadership. I think he claimed he was dancing until the sun rose. He did get a signature on an amendment which he felt would make the agreement fly.
The Conservatives were only too willing to go along with this because they had nothing to lose. They were going nowhere until the member for Kings--Hants saved them. He has brought in an amendment which essentially says that the Colombian government will make up its own human rights annual reports. Is that not sweet? That is the standard to which the Liberals are prepared to hold the Colombian government. Essentially it would put full trust and faith in the Colombian government to police itself.
It is going to be business as usual in Colombia. There is no real incentive now for the Colombian government to clean up its act in terms of human rights. Before we ratify this free trade deal, we have the power over the Colombian government to say that unless and until it can show that it has changed its approach and cleaned up human rights abuses we will not ratify this agreement. What have the Conservatives done? They have simply laid down, given up, and rolled up the white flag. The government is going to ratify the agreement regardless of what happens in Colombia. Colombia can come up with its own annual reports and self-assess its progress on human rights.
That is a terrible way for the Liberal Party to approach agreements like this. I feel worse for the Liberals than I do for the Conservative government because they actually believe all this stuff and they got what they wanted.
It has been pointed out that the NDP has given more speeches than there are members in the NDP caucus. The government said that 40 NDP members have spoken but there are only 36 members in our caucus. I have no idea how the government does its math. Suffice it to say that we have fought this agreement for as long as we could.
People must wonder why this agreement is such a high priority for the government. In 2008, two-way merchandise trade between Canada and Colombia totalled more than $1.3 billion. We have always said that there is trade with Colombia and there always will be trade with Colombia, but there is just no reason to implement a free trade agreement.
Canadian merchandise exports to Colombia totalled $703.8 million in 2008. Major exports include agriculture goods such as wheat, barley and lentils, as well as industrial products, paper products and heavy machinery.
Canadian merchandise imports from Colombia totalled $643 million in 2008. Major imports consisted of coffee, bananas, coal, sugar and flowers.
Bill C-2 has attracted considerable attention from the media and various civil society groups, many of which were opposed to Canada's implementing a free trade agreement with Colombia because of its human rights record and because of the fear of the impact of free trade on investments and the environment.
We have experience. We have dealt with NAFTA for a number of years now and in the case of agriculture, for example tomato growers, in certain parts of Mexico, we have found that indigenous farmers have been put under a lot of pressure and put out of business because of the free trade agreement. If that could happen under NAFTA, it can be suggested that the same could happen under this type of free trade agreement.
I will deal with this later if I have enough time, as it is hard to fit in all of the points, but the fact is that there are indigenous farmers all over South America and certainly in Colombia who have sustained themselves for many years with their small farms. Free trade will flood that market with imported foreign food and will put those farmers out of business. That is what happened in Mexico and that is not good for the long-term sustainability of the local population.
We seem to think that somehow trucking produce around the world and spending a huge amount of money on fossil fuels, gasoline and trucks to get the produce there is the way to go. The reality is that we should probably be pulling back and trying to produce as much of our product in the local market. We should be encouraging the Colombian farmers to improve their farming methods but also certainly to produce the products there so they become more sustainable, rather than simply specializing in nothing but one product to export to Canada, and then of course have other products sent from Canada to Colombia, as opposed to developing independent self-sustainable enterprises.
The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-2, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Colombia, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Colombia and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Colombia, be read the third time and passed.
Mineral Exploration Abroad
June 11th, 2010 / 12:15 p.m.
Meili Faille Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC
Mr. Speaker, I received a response to a petition from the Minister of Foreign Affairs. The response indicates that Canada recognizes the right to participation and the right to consultation.
Some citizens in my riding and across Quebec signed a petition, because they learned from different countries that mining companies often organize botched consultations. The scheme consists of creating division among people by promising benefits to others.
In light of Bill C-2, this petition is very pertinent. Young people are worried and are calling on the government to ensure that, beforehand and with full knowledge of the facts, all exploration projects in certain countries come with a complaint and redress process, along with compensation for the victims.
Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
June 11th, 2010 / 10:50 a.m.
Jean-Yves Laforest Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC
Mr. Speaker, Bill C-2 is now at third reading, and I would like to begin by saying that I find this rather strange and even a bit anachronistic. I am very disappointed that we have gotten to this point.
Both in committee and in the House of Commons, we have seen the Conservative government use closure to put an end to extremely important, interesting and relevant debates, especially about respect for human rights, and to prevent witnesses, including Colombians, from testifying about what their lives are like. The issue of human rights affects them directly, yet the government is using procedural tactics to prevent them from talking to the committee and is putting an end to this debate to prevent witnesses from being heard.
Moreover, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster raised a question of privilege in the House about what happened in committee, where, with the Liberals' support, the government denied members access to the committee clerk to check some information.
So it is disappointing that this bill is at third reading today, especially since the government has imposed closure to put an end to this debate. With the issue of human rights a top priority, it is particularly significant that the government is using closure, seeing as how it is bound, bent and determined to do whatever it takes to implement an extremely controversial bill.
What the government is doing goes completely against the unanimous position of the Standing Committee on International Trade, which had unanimously recommended two years ago that the government wait before implementing this agreement, because the Colombian government's respect for human rights was highly questionable.
A number of people have still not had a chance to be heard to this day. Even though Colombia has one of the worst human rights records in Latin America, the Conservative government keeps on saying that Colombia's human rights situation has greatly improved.
In all honesty, the situation may not be as bad as it was a few years ago, but it certainly is not ideal or worth celebrating, as the Liberals and Conservatives are doing by implementing a free trade agreement with a country whose trade with Canada is quite insignificant compared to other countries.
Is trade the real reason the Conservative government is so eager to implement such a trade agreement with support from the Liberals?
It begs the question. We believe that the government is not trying to promote trade through this agreement. The government is instead trying to help Canadian mining companies exploit the natural resources of another country.
They want to go after the natural resources at the expense of human rights. I said earlier that Colombia has one of the worst human rights records. It is a country where the government tolerates extreme violence. I will continue after—
Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
June 11th, 2010 / 10:45 a.m.
Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC
Mr. Speaker, first, as far as the Conservatives are concerned on agricultural policy, after the vicious attacks on the Canadian Wheat Board, after the fact that Alberta has the lowest farm receipts in the entire country, and after putting supply management on the table in the Canada-E.U. negotiations, this party takes no lessons from the Conservatives on agricultural policy.
I would like to go back to the member now. The Conservatives' record is very clear. Alberta has the lowest farm receipts in the country. So, farmers are not being well-served by the current government.
I like the hon. member. I find her a little disingenuous, to say the least, on this particular issue. I know that she is not a member of the trade committee and has not been to Colombia. However, the reality is the Liberal Party systematically obstructed and refused to hear from the Canadian Labour Congress; refused to hear from the National Union of Provincial General Employees; refused to hear from the Public Service Alliance of Canada; refused to hear from the free and democratic labour unions in Colombia, where over 90% of Colombians who are workers and unionized are in that sector; refused to hear from African-Colombians; and refused to hear from aboriginal people in Colombia. It shut off all debate before the committee.
Two years ago, when we went down to Colombia, the trade committee came back with a unanimous recommendation to not proceed with this agreement. That is the one time when the trade committee did its job.
It did not do its job on Bill C-2 because of Liberal interference and Liberals refusing to hear from the groups that actively requested to come before the committee.
For the Liberals to say they are for human rights when they have accepted and in fact promoted closure, and cut off all of those important witnesses who wanted to come before the trade committee is disingenuous, at best.
I know that many activists have expressed this to Liberal members. The Liberal leader has simply said to all of the members within the Liberal Party caucus who have misgivings about this tragic turn of events with no human rights override at all in the Colombia trade deal, that the only thing the Colombian government is obliged to do is produce a whitewashed report on itself once a year.
My question for the member is very simple. Will her leader allow a free vote on the Colombia free trade agreement? Will her leader actually say that those many Liberal MPs who have expressed misgivings about this Liberal sellout on human rights will have the opportunity to vote on this agreement without being bludgeoned through a whipped vote here in the House?
Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
June 11th, 2010 / 10:05 a.m.
Peter Van Loan Minister of International Trade
moved that Bill C-2, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Colombia, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Colombia and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Colombia, be read the third time and passed.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to again speak in the House to the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement. This agreement is an important part of the government's ambitious free trade agenda, an agenda aimed at supporting Canada's economy, Canadian workers, Canadian businesses and building prosperity for our economy.
The fragility of the global economy emphasizes the value of expanding trade and investment relationships by improving access to markets abroad.
Our government is committed to pursuing this initiative and building Canadian prosperity through bilateral and regional trade relations. Canada's economy is export-focused, and as such, it is in our best economic interest to find as many new foreign markets for our producers and exporters as possible.
By improving access to foreign markets for Canadian businesses, we support economic growth and create new jobs for Canadian workers. That is the experience of the North American free trade agreement and the experience of new free trade agreements under this government with Peru and with the European Free Trade Association.
We have had other free trade agreements, one before this Parliament on Jordan and another one recently signed with Panama, and we are currently negotiating a very ambitious free trade agreement with the European Union. This Canada-Colombia free trade agreement before the House today is an important part of that agenda.
Canada's exporters, investors and service providers are calling for the opportunities that all of these free trade agreements provide, and this government is listening.
Colombia is a significant trade partner for Canada. In 2009, our two-way merchandise trade totalled $1.3 billion and, over the past five years, Canadian merchandise exports have grown by over 55%. Clearly, Canadian businesses and producers see potential in this market.
However, the reality is that Canadian exports, particularly commodities, are at a disadvantage when compared to many of our main competitors, like the U.S., for geographic reasons.
Speedy implementation of our agreement with Colombia will help our exporters strengthen their position. Canadian exporters are in danger of finding themselves at an even greater disadvantage in this important market. Once in place, the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement will benefit Canadian exporters by removing a number of major trade barriers to the Colombian market. For example, Colombia will eliminate duties on nearly all current Canadian exports to Colombia, including wheat, pulse crops and mining equipment.
In 2009, Canada exported agri-food products worth $247 million to Colombia. In fact, Colombia is the second largest market for Canadian agricultural exports in South America.
Once this free trade agreement is in place, over 85% of Canadian agricultural exports to Colombia will be duty-free immediately. The removal of these duties is a significant advantage for Canadian agriculture and agri-food producers. This government is standing up for Canada's agricultural producers. This sector is critical for Canada. It contributes about $100 billion to the country's gross domestic product and employs over two million Canadians.
The benefits of this deal extend across the Canadian economy. It is also expected to have a positive impact on the Canadian manufacturing sector. This sector has been hit particularly hard during these recent difficult economic times and it is a sector that would benefit from new market opportunities.
With rapid growth in the Colombian economy in recent years, Canadian companies made important investments. The strong presence of Canadian companies has also created many export opportunities for Canadian exporters of industrial goods, particularly oil and gas and mining equipment manufacturers.
Some of Canada's leading exports to Colombia include off-road dump trucks and auto parts. The manufacturers of these products would benefit under this agreement, and I need not point out the obvious, that auto parts manufacturers in the auto sector have been hit hard in recent years and the workers in this sector would appreciate the economic opportunities this would present.
Knowledge of infrastructure needs and the production of industrial goods are areas in which Canada excels.
These export sectors are integral to our economy. They are part of every Canadian community, large or small. That is why our government is seeking access to new markets.
Colombia is also a strategic destination for Canadian investment, and two-way investment is an absolutely critical driving force in today's global economy. It is important for Canada to maintain both inward and outward investment with our global partners, partners including Colombia, with the stock of Canadian investment in Colombia reaching approximately $800 million in 2009, and thanks in great part to Colombia's oil and gas a mining sectors, this number is expected to grow over the coming years.
Those are just a few areas where Canada has significant interests and can offer a lot to our Colombian partners going forward.
The Canada-Colombia free trade agreement offers both Canadian and Colombian investors an unprecedented degree of stability, predictability and protection.
This agreement establishes a stable legal framework and strict obligations to guarantee freedom of investment capital transfer and to protect investors from expropriation. Thanks to this agreement, investors will also have access to transparent, enforceable and impartial dispute resolution procedures.
In terms of services, this sector is a primary driver of the Canadian economy. It is responsible for 71% of our gross domestic product and for three in four Canadian jobs.
The Colombian market holds many opportunities for growth across this service sector in areas such as financial services, legal services, engineering and architecture, and high technology, for example. Canadian service providers already have a substantial presence in the Colombian market. Our services' exports to Colombia are in the area of about $80 million to $85 million each year. Propelling these numbers are Canadian financial, mining, engineering, petroleum extraction sectors and tourism.
Service sectors like these in Canada have a lot to gain. This agreement would afford service providers a secure, predictable, transparent and rules-based trading environment, and would provide an added measure of confidence.
Under this agreement, Canadian service providers can plan for the future knowing that they will receive the same treatment as Colombian service providers.
In addition, the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement will provide direct benefits in other areas that are important to Canada. Thanks to the procurement provisions in the accord, Canadian suppliers will be able to bid on requests for proposals for goods, services and construction issued by most Colombian federal departments.
There are also comprehensive provisions covering the temporary entry of business visitors, intra-company transferees, traders and investors, spouses, technicians and an extensive list of professionals. This would ensure timely processing and transparency in the review of temporary entry applications. Businesses would directly benefit from this expedited process and the people to people movement would mean that Canadian investors and Canadian professionals would be better positioned to benefit from the opportunities offered in the Colombian market.
Those are just a few examples of the many benefits that would be achieved and accomplished by this free trade agreement.
In difficult economic times, we cannot hide behind walls or behind barriers. We need to seek out new opportunities on the global stage, and that is why this government has been committed to securing access to foreign markets for Canadian businesses through negotiations with the European Union, Ukraine and others across the Americas.
It is now time to move ahead with this legislation. it has been debated at length by this Parliament, by numerous speakers and by extensive evidence at committee. It has been studied as thoroughly as any other agreement, perhaps even more than the North American Free Trade Agreement, I hasten to suggest. Of course, we believe that in this agreement, our parallel agreements on environment and labour help address the concerns that some have raised with regard to Colombia.
I ask for the support of all hon. members for the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement and the parallel labour co-operation and environment agreements. This would be a great step forward for Canada, another addition to our overall free trade agenda, which is leading to growth and prosperity for the Canadian economy and for the benefit of Canadian workers, which is why we think this is a long overdue agreement.
Canada would lead the way, ahead of those in the European Union and in the United States that have agreements in place but have failed to ratify them as yet. We would be in a position to do that. This agreement would provide an advantage and an opportunity to our Canadian workers, an advantage that this government is committed to capitalizing upon.
Standing Committee on International Trade—Speaker's Ruling
June 10th, 2010 / 3:15 p.m.
The Speaker Peter Milliken
I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on June 3, 2010 by the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster concerning events which took place in the Standing Committee on International Trade on June 1, 2010.
I would like to thank the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster for having raised this matter. I would also like to thank the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and the member for Calgary Centre for their comments.
The member for Burnaby—New Westminster argued that the manner in which the Standing Committee on International Trade conducted its clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-2, the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement implementation act, violated his rights and the rights of two other members of the committee.
Specifically, he complained that the chair had not informed the committee that it was reverting to a public meeting from its in camera status and that the chair and the majority of the members on the committee had systematically frustrated his attempts to speak, intervene on points of order, and have access to the procedural resources of the committee.
While recognizing that traditionally the Speaker does not get involved in matters that should be dealt with in committee, the member argued that this clearly constituted an abuse by the majority in the committee of the privileges bestowed on it by the House, and as such was a contempt of the House. For his part, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader contended that a prima facie question of privilege did not exist as there was no report to the House from the committee on this matter. The member for Calgary Centre, the chair of the standing committee, reiterated this and stated that the committee had conducted its meeting fairly and in keeping with the rules of procedure.
All members who have intervened in this matter have acknowledged that the Speaker does not sit as a court of appeal to adjudicate procedural issues that arise in the course of committee proceedings. Indeed, on numerous occasions, Speakers have restated the cardinal rule that committees are masters of their own proceedings and any alleged irregularities occurring in committees can be taken up in the House only following a report from the committee itself. There have been very few exceptions to this rule.
The ruling of Mr. Speaker Fraser on March 26, 1990, to which the member for Burnaby—New Westminster alluded, does state:
—that in very serious and special circumstances the Speaker may have to pronounce on a committee matter without the committee having reported to the House.
However, having reviewed the evidence submitted, there is little to suggest that in the case before us the circumstances warrant the chair breaking with the entrenched practice of allowing committees to settle issues related to their proceedings, particularly since the member himself stated that “the chair had the support of the majority of the members of the committee”.
Thus, as Mr. Speaker Fraser declared in that same ruling, on page 9,758 of the debates:
I have chosen not to substitute my judgment for that expressed by a majority on the Finance Committee, unless that majority decides to report its dilemma to the House.
While it is clear to the chair that the member is unhappy with the decisions taken by the committee, the committee has not reported this matter to the House. It may be of assistance to the member to refer to pages 149 to 152 in the chapter “Privileges and Immunities” in House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, where the procedural steps associated with bringing committee-related privilege issues before the House are fully described.
In the meantime, I regret to inform the member for Burnaby—New Westminster that unless he can persuade the committee to take some of those procedural steps, there is little the chair can do and there is certainly no basis for finding a prima facie question of privilege at this time.
I thank hon. members for their attention.