Evidence of meeting #31 for International Trade in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was trade.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

12:15 p.m.

Labour Lawyer, United Steelworkers

Mark Rowlinson

I've been practising labour law in Canada for 17 years. The reality is that workers choose whether to have a union or not. Workers are entitled to express their opinions in the workplace or outside the workplace as to whether they want to sign a union membership card or not.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

I guess I'm out of time. I think the chairman took some of it at the start, complimenting our team here.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rob Merrifield

We'll allow a quick answer.

Do you have anything to add to that?

12:15 p.m.

Labour Lawyer, United Steelworkers

Mark Rowlinson

The fact is that Canada increasingly doesn't reflect ILO. It doesn't respect ILO core labour standards either, as far as the right to strike and freedom of association. But we like to think that in Canada workers and trade unions have at least some mechanisms by which to try to enforce those rights. In Jordan it's less clear.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rob Merrifield

Fair enough.

Mr. Côté.

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

Just like my esteemed colleague, Gerald Keddy, I think that nothing is perfect in this world. However, I disagree with him completely when he says that this agreement, which was negotiated with the Kingdom of Jordan, could not be improved. On the contrary, I think that that reveals the government's total absence of will in that regard.

Do you think we could find some way of improving the agreement? I don't want to make you repeat anything, but I think you mentioned several possible interesting solutions. Do you sincerely think that the agreement which was negotiated with the Kingdom of Jordan could be improved?

12:15 p.m.

Executive Director, Council of Canadians

Garry Neil

I believe that if a human rights impact assessment were done prior to entering into the agreement, it would reveal a number of things. If you improved the environmental side agreement and the labour side agreement, it would certainly make it better. Then we would look at the outcome and balance that against the reality that still prevails that there are significant problems in Jordan.

I'm not sure if that answers the question or is as definitive as you'd like it to be, but we would urge you to make recommendations to try to improve it.

12:15 p.m.

Labour Lawyer, United Steelworkers

Mark Rowlinson

I agree with that. I could go on at length about specific clauses I would change, and so on. I'm not sure that would benefit. I think there needs to be an overall impact assessment on these kinds of agreements. Then there needs to be a more inclusive, transparent, and democratic process by which these agreements are conceived and then negotiated.

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Thank you very much, gentlemen. I am led to conclude that had there not been a will to improve industrial workers' conditions during the Victorian era, that type of condition may have been perpetuated right up till today.

Mr. Chairman, I am going to give the rest of my time to my colleague, Marc-André Morin.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rob Merrifield

I'll give you two and a half minutes.

April 24th, 2012 / 12:20 p.m.

NDP

Marc-André Morin Laurentides—Labelle, QC

My question is for Mr. Neil.

In Jordan, water is an extremely precious commodity. A truckload of water is more valuable than a truckload of oil. That water comes from the water tables. It has been in there for tens of thousands of years. In all of the countries in that region, water is wasted on all sorts of questionable projects, like intensive farming.

Local populations that have small wells and live around the water sources and oases see the water table that feeds their wells diminish every day. The day there is a confrontation between, for instance, Potash Corporation and 200 or 300 Bedouin goat farmers, the only possibility left to the Bedouin will be to sell dried goat meat. That is my concern.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rob Merrifield

We'll allow a quick answer. Go ahead.

12:20 p.m.

Executive Director, Council of Canadians

Garry Neil

Oh, I absolutely agree. I think the situation in Jordan with respect to water is very serious. It's becoming more serious. Water is becoming more scarce, and the Jordanian government absolutely needs both to take action and to have scope to take action to protect the water as far as possible for humans.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rob Merrifield

Okay, thank you very much.

Mr. Easter had a final question. I'll allow a few minutes.

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

It's a short one.

In the previous exchange, on the labour side and the environmental side, Mr. Neil, you talked about making the agreement...that those particular sections, if they were improved, would make it better. But how do you gain any ground with making it enforceable? The key in these trade agreements is in enforcing them.

We have a number of cattlemen here, Mr. Chair. You know some of them. We have an agreement with the United States. The most integrated industry in North America at one time was the beef sector. The U.S. brought in country-of-origin labelling. It decimated our beef industry for a while. I forget how many years ago that was now. We won the challenge at the WTO. They've now appealed it, and we're—I don't know how many—four or five years down the road.

The problem is, if there isn't quick enforcement on some of the rules around these trade agreements, the damage is already done. In my province the beef industry is half what it was.

How do you institute in trade agreements enforceability powers that deal with actions by one side or the other that can virtually destroy industries? How do you do it in a quick way to protect the investment on either side that has been made in those industries?