House of Commons Hansard #111 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was agreement.

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The House resumed from November 16 consideration of the motion that Bill C-51, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on January 27, 2009 and to implement other measures, be read the third time and passed.

Economic Recovery Act (stimulus)
Government Orders

3 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

It being 3 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at the third reading stage of Bill C-51.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #128

Economic Recovery Act (stimulus)
Government Orders

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried.

(Bill read the third time and passed)

I wish to inform the House that because of the deferred recorded division, government orders will be extended by eight minutes.

Remarks by Member for Scarborough Southwest
Points of Order
Government Orders

3:10 p.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I am in fact saddened to rise on this point of order because I had hoped members in the House would not sink to this level. However, this morning the member for Scarborough Southwest made an entry on Twitter that I find particularly demeaning, discriminatory and unbecoming of a member of Parliament.

This morning, in the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, I had to put up with the abhorrent behaviour of a partisan chair, who pays no attention to the rules governing parliamentary committees whatsoever. However, during that meeting, I provided the respect that each member is due.

The member for Scarborough Southwest wrote on her Twitter, and I apologize as I will have to use my name, “In committee this morning. M.P. Del Mastro should grow up (not out)”. I hear some people in the House laughing and that is unfortunate. I apologize for not being perfect and perhaps my stature does not meet the criteria that some members in the House set, but I have battled that problem since birth. I apologize for not actually fitting into the requirements.

I still hear the chastising going on. It is this kind of arrogance and elitism that will be the downfall of the Liberal Party if this continues. I am giving the member the opportunity to apologize. The actions of the members in committee this morning do nothing to discourage me. They only encourage me.

I would ask the member to take the opportunity to apologize for what she wrote. She may wish to consider that a number of her own constituents are less than perfect and she represents them as well.

Remarks by Member for Scarborough Southwest
Points of Order
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, for the benefit of the member, the lion's share of the quips and giggles were coming from his side of the House.

Remarks by Member for Scarborough Southwest
Points of Order
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Michelle Simson Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, I, too, sat through the committee meeting today and listened to a great deal of disparaging remarks about myself and my party.

That said, if there is anything I said that offended the member, I am sorry. To say one should grow up and not out was out of line and I do apologize. Growing up and growing out is not something I should have said to the hon. member.

Remarks by Member for Scarborough Southwest
Points of Order
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very glad the hon. colleague has apologized. However, I think it speaks to a bigger issue.

Remarks by Member for Scarborough Southwest
Points of Order
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Remarks by Member for Scarborough Southwest
Points of Order
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am sorry, but this is not a clown show. We are elected to represent our people. We go to committee to do serious business. I believe the issue of members sitting on committee with their inane Twitters about what happens at committee demeans the work of all parliamentarians. I am not going to speak on this party or that party. We have an obligation to represent the best of our country and I would like members of Parliament to put the inane little games away and get down to business of serving their constituents.

When I saw that Twitter, I was appalled because I thought it could happen at any of our committees. I am asking all—

Remarks by Member for Scarborough Southwest
Points of Order
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Order, please. I think the point of order has been dealt with. Perhaps we could move on to orders of the day at this point.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very glad to join other members of my caucus and our party's trade critic, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, in voicing my strong opposition to Bill C-23.

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.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Saskatchewan

Conservative

David Anderson Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, did I just hear the member say that one of the main reasons the NDP is opposing this is that it will give opportunities to Canadian farmers to access markets in Colombia? He just said that a couple of minutes ago.

I stopped what I was doing, because I think this explains why the NDP has so far removed itself from its grassroots. At one time it used to be a rural party representing rural areas and said that it represented farmers. Now we understand why it does not get support across the rural areas of this country.

He stood up and actually said that the NDP was opposing this bill because it would allow Canadian products to go into Colombia's markets as a result of the tariffs and barriers coming down. Does he not understand even the basics of free trade, that those Colombian farmers would have opportunities to come into our markets as well?

It is hard to believe that the day has come when the NDP is actively opposing Canadian farmers in the interests of its ideology.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, the member does not want to bring up any of the bad things about this bill. We can look past the 2,690 trade unionists who were actually murdered in that country. We can look past the poverty and the environmental damage. They do not matter.

We could create a few jobs, but the unfortunate thing with this bill is that it does not do anything for fair trade, and that is what the New Democrats are talking about: fair trade, not free trade.