House of Commons Hansard #52 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was trade.

Topics

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10:25 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I am very proud today that the leader of our party has chosen this topic to use for our opposition day. At least this party is standing up for the rights of Canadians as we seek to defend our interests in the face of these global trade agreements.

She made reference to some of the brokers that are negotiating these deals and their attitude about the preservation of public services. Would she comment on the opinions of one such key figure, the former head of the WTO, when he said that there was a surplus of democracy in the world today that was interfering with the free movement of investment and capital?

Would she comment on what kind of a mindset could lead someone to say that kind of thing in an era where we value democracy above all else? In an era where our parents went to war to fight for democracy there are actually people out there negotiating deals on our behalf who believe there is a surplus of democracy.

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10:25 a.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Madam Speaker, I think all Canadians and in fact many people around the world know that democracy was the galvanizing force behind some 50,000 to 60,000 Canadians and others throughout the Americas gathering in Quebec City.

We heard a lot of talk from the government in the run up to the FTAA negotiations at Quebec City about how this was to strengthen democracy, but before the Quebec City summit took place people had begun to familiarize themselves with what exactly the FTAA was, with how it fit into the new world order as visualized by the World Trade Organization, and with the fact that governments were willing to weaken democracy.

My colleague has raised a question about an astounding ominous quote from a former WTO official who said there was a surplus of democracy in the world and that democracy was interfering with the free flow of capital and investment.

When we ask Canadians what they care about, when we ask free people around the world what they care about, what they care about more than anything else is governments that can act in the public interest, governments that will respond to their needs and concerns about health care, basic public services, education and a safe, clean environment. The health of their children is the future of the planet.

Some 50,000 to 60,000 peaceful demonstrators in Quebec marched with the slogan “This is what democracy looks like”. People were speaking to and through their governments to insist that they retain the right to act in the public interest and not forfeit the right to do that to multinational corporations.

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10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Pat O'Brien London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, I heard the estimate of the number of people in attendance. It seems to grow every time I hear the number quoted by the NDP. The leader of the NDP said that there was nothing for peaceful demonstrators. I should like to ask her a couple of questions.

Is she unaware of government funding to help the parallel summit take place? Is she totally and completely unaware of the extensive consultations that took place for several months by the government or of the hearings that took place by the standing committee before the election and after?

She talks about ordinary citizens having tear gas. Are they the ordinary citizens who were throwing chunks of cement and cans, which I stepped over, at the police? Are they the same ordinary citizens that she is speaking about? Does she fail to acknowledge that there was a minority of irresponsible violent people there and the police showed tremendous restraint?

Quite frankly we have had a lot of rhetoric from the leader. I should just ask her another question, very pointedly. I challenge her to tell me one trade negotiation that Canada has ever been involved in that has been more open and transparent than this one.

Her trade critic and repeated witnesses have failed to ever answer that question. Maybe the leader could tell us just one trade negotiation that has been as transparent, let alone more transparent, than this one.

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10:30 a.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Madam Speaker, the member opposite asked a lot of questions. I doubt I will be given the opportunity to answer them all. However let me say this right up front.

Yes, I am absolutely aware. I will quote directly what the member when he said that there was a minority of violent protesters in Quebec City. Indeed there was. We have been absolutely unequivocal in saying that violence was not acceptable.

Let me ask the member this. Does he think it is responsible to keep painting a picture of some 50,000 to 60,000 peaceful protesters as being somehow in favour of the violence of that tiny minority?

It is grotesquely irresponsible for the government to keep characterizing democracy seeking Canadians in such a vile way.

Second, I am absolutely aware of the people—

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10:30 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

I am sorry but the hon. member's time is up. I did allow some flexibility over the time limit. The hon. members have ample time during questions and comments to put the questions to the other hon. members. I would like some order please in the House.

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10:30 a.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to participate in this debate and to follow the leader of my party on this very fundamental question about democracy itself, about corporate power and the power of people in the country and in the Americas.

I will respond briefly, because unfortunately the time is limited, to the comments made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Trade when he trumpeted the great transparency and democracy surrounding the FTAA process.

Surely the hon. member recognizes that this is completely ludicrous. Instead what the government has clearly demonstrated is total contempt for democracy in this process. I can give many examples of that. The fact is that today on May 1 we still, as parliamentarians and as peoples of the Americas, are not entitled to view the text that is being negotiated.

The minister said we would see the text and that it was tough to translate. Frankly there is something absurd about a debate taking place on a document that still has not been made public. The government has refused to make public its own negotiating position on some very fundamental issues such as investment, intellectual property, services and dispute settlement.

Even worse we see a continual erosion of the minister's original position with respect to the most undemocratic provision of the existing NAFTA agreement, and that is the investor state provision in chapter 11. This is the thrust of our motion today because it illustrates so clearly and transparently how profoundly undemocratic the process is, as well as how undemocratic the substance is of the FTAA.

It was a little over a year ago, in response to my colleague from Winnipeg—Transcona in the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, that the Minister for International Trade was clear and unequivocal. He said “I can assure you that we are not seeking an investor state provision in the WTO or anywhere else in other agreements”. My colleague pursued. He asked “Not at the FTAA?” The minister responded “No, no, no. Not on FTAA either”.

That was in April of last year. Seen since then we have seen backtracking, reversal and betrayal of the government's fundamental commitment that it would not allow this destructive and undemocratic provision to be a part of any broader trade deal throughout the hemisphere.

Just a little over a month ago, in response to my question in the same committee, the minister said:

—we would of course not sign another agreement that would have the kind of clauses that we are seeking to clarify right now...we will not go to the sort of thing that we are seeking to clarify in chapter 11...

Yet, in the wake of the summit of the Americas, the Prime Minister said to forget all that and that chapter 11 was working reasonably well. The minister himself said after the summit of the Americas that things were fine, that there was no problem and that everything was working just fine.

What is the position of the Government of Canada? According to the minister's spokesperson, its position on chapter 11, investment provisions, is set out in the government's website. If we go to the government's website, here is what it says:

To date, Canada has made no submissions to the Negotiating Group on Services. Any submission made by Canada will be made available on the website.

When we asked the minister's spokesperson what was Canada's position on this fundamental issue of investor state, the minister's chief assistant said “We have not made our position known yet because we do not have one”.

The government may shamefully not have a position on investor state on chapter 11, but more and more the people of this hemisphere do because they have witnessed already the destructive impact of chapter 11 on the environment and on the fundamental rights of workers.

It is no coincidence that today is May Day, a day when we pay tribute to and honour the contribution of working men and women throughout the hemisphere and throughout the world. It is just a couple of days after the Day of Mourning for workers who were killed and injured on the job. More and more we have witnessed under NAFTA, under this regulation of growing corporate power, deregulation and privatization, an erosion in the rights of workers.

I attended, along with my colleagues, the people's summit. One of the most powerful and moving forums was the forum of women. It talked about the impact of the existing trade deals on women. I will never forget hearing a speech by a Mexican woman who worked in the maquiladoras. She spoke of the dramatically increased level of violence directed against women and yes, also violence at the workplace. That is what is being entrenched in this new FTAA.

We still do not know if there was a leak on the proposed investment provisions in the FTAA with respect to chapter 11. However we already know all too clearly what this means for us under NAFTA. On a number of occasions my leader has referred to a study which was just published by Professor Howard Mann, a respected director of the International Institute for Sustainable Development, who documented clearly and eloquently the problems with chapter 11 of NAFTA.

The study points out that the current interpretations of NAFTA's chapter 11 can have a significant and determinative negative impact on government decision making in relation to public interest. In fact they already have. The list goes on too long. A small community in Mexico, Guadalcázar, was told that it had no right to protect its citizens from the impact of a toxic waste dump. The company, which wanted to exercise its corporate rights under NAFTA, was awarded some $20 million because the citizens of that community said no.

More and more we see that local governments in Canada are recognizing the potential impact of chapter 11. Cities like Vancouver, Halifax and others adopted unanimously a motion condemning the investor state provisions and called on the Government of Canada not to sign any trade deal that would prevent them from making these decisions. As New Democrats, we stand in solidarity with those citizens and with citizens throughout the hemisphere.

We saw the MMT case as well in which the Canadian government was forced to abjectly apologize to Ethyl Corporation for having made a decision to ban this destructive gasoline additive. Even the Liberal member of parliament for Lac-Saint-Louis said in the wake of that decision “I can't believe that a foreign corporation can almost dictate its terms and we as a sovereign nation are completely powerless to do anything about it”.

It is astounding that the onus is on us as a country to prove MMT is not harmful. We saw it with Metalclad and Ethyl Corporation MMT decisions. We are certainly witnessing it now with the challenge by UPS to the Canada Post Corporation. This is a shocking challenge to the power of government to ensure that the public sector can operate in an effective way on behalf of the citizens in that country.

I am very pleased to note that the Council of Canadians and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers have launched a constitutional challenge to these sweeping and unprecedented powers given to secret tribunals to take away the right of government to make decisions in the best interests of its citizens.

I know that my time is limited and I hope I will have an opportunity in the question and comment period to talk a little bit about some of our positive alternatives to these proposals because the Hemispheric Social Alliance and the people's summit of the Americas came out with a strong, positive and eloquent statement of alternatives.

The fundamental issue before the House is the issue of democracy as opposed to corporate power. I appeal to all members of the House to support the motion because it simply reaffirms the principles the government indicated it was committed to, which was that the investor state provision had no place in this agreement.

In closing, I move:

That the motion be amended by inserting after the words “Committee” the words on “April 5, 2000”.

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10:40 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The amendment is in order.

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10:40 a.m.

Edmonton Southeast
Alberta

Liberal

David Kilgour Secretary of State (Latin America and Africa)

Madam Speaker, the member who just spoke and I are both from the class of '79. There are only three of us left in the House, so we have to treat each other well.

Virtually all the nations of the Caribbean have asked for a free trade agreement with Canada, and we are negotiating one with them. All the nations of Central America have asked for a free trade agreement with Canada, and we are negotiating one with them. We signed one last week with Costa Rica.

One or two per cent of our trade is with countries outside of the United States and Mexico. Why is the New Democratic Party so excited about possibly having a free trade agreement of the Americas with these other countries, which are all virtually asking for this trade agreement?

Why does the New Democratic Party not talk about the plan of action which deals with all of the issues which I thought were important to it such as: transparency and good governance; electoral processes; fight against corruption; strengthening human rights; human rights of children and adolescents; freedom of opinion and expression; rule of law; the drug problem; preventing violence; communications; and education?

Why does it only want to talk about chapter 11? Could it be that the NDP knows that the people of Canada and the 800 million people who live in this hemisphere are also concerned about all these other things? Could it be that it does not want to talk about the fact that the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank are agreeing to finance this plan of action?

Could it be that members of the NDP have picked out one thing, chapter 11, that they think Canadians might support them on and have ignored all the other good things about the summit, which was probably the most important event ever to take place on Canadian soil?

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10:45 a.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Madam Speaker, it could be but it clearly is not. The reality is that one of the reasons we are focusing on the investor state provision, which gives sweeping powers to corporations at the expense of elected governments and citizens, is the fact that there is no protection whatsoever.

The hon. member talked about a declaration that referred to human rights, sustainability and the environment. He referred in glowing terms to the provisions of the summit and a final agreement on workers' rights. If the government and the member are serious about the importance of respect for fundamental human rights, workers' rights, as set out in ILO conventions, and the environment, why is it that there are no tough, enforceable provisions on those particular sections in the trade deal that the government is pushing? Why only corporate rights? Why is that the Holy Grail?

If the government were serious about these things, it would recognize those provisions, as the peoples' summit recognized them in its closing statement.

We are not opposed to globalization that puts the environment and human needs front and centre. However, the corporate driven globalization which is exemplified and has as its heart the investor state provision, is what we reject. That is why we are focusing on it.

I will close by quoting from one of the largest industrial groups in the world. Percy Barnevick, the president of the ABB Industrial Group, said:

I would define globalization as the freedom for my group of companies to invest where it wants when it wants, to produce what it wants, to buy and sell where it wants, and support the fewest restrictions possible coming from labour laws and social conventions.

That is the corporate and Liberal model of globalization. That is the heart of an investor state and that is why the New Democrats say no to that model.

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10:45 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, the toxic Texan of the United States is talking about opening up energy expropriation at the expense of the environment. A great alternative was put forth by many people at the summit. Could the member for Burnaby—Douglas elaborate on the alternatives that were offered at the summit?

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10:45 a.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Madam Speaker, there was a declaration at the peoples' summit that talked about another possibility. It set out a clear alternative that would focus on an assurance that human rights, the rights of the environment and the rights of indigenous peoples would be put front and centre, ahead of corporate rights. I would be pleased to share it with members of the House.

Business Of The House
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May 1st, 2001 / 10:45 a.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River
Ontario

Liberal

Derek Lee Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There have been consultations with respect to an order passed earlier today. I believe you would find unanimous consent for the following amendment. I move:

That the order with regard to Bill C-16, made earlier this day, be amended to read as follows:

That the motion to refer Bill C-16 to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights be amended to refer the bill to the Standing Committee on Finance.

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10:45 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The House has heard the terms of the amendment. Is there unanimous consent?

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10:45 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Amendment agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion and of the amendment.