House of Commons Hansard #65 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was countries.

Topics

Canadian Products Promotion Act
Private Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

It is becoming increasingly difficult for the Speaker to hear the member who I can normally hear with no problem, so I will ask for a little bit of order until the member has finished his remarks.

Canadian Products Promotion Act
Private Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, we should point out to the hecklers on the other side that I have the floor and it is my turn to talk. This drives me nuts.

We started a postcard campaign and 5,000 postcards came into the Government of Canada to explain the folly of this decision. This is only one concrete example. It happened just last year and it is a top-of-mind issue, but this happens all the time. My colleague for Rivière-du-Nord put forward a bill that respects international trade agreements. It simply says that preference should be given to made-in-Canada products providing it does not offend existing or future trade agreements.

Where is the problem with that? What is the matter with being patriotic enough to say that we will, to the greatest extent, show preference to Canadian made products? We should declare that with pride instead of being on our hands and knees to some phantom god of the free market that those people are foisting on us. This is folly. The rest of the world does not play by these rules. The United States has had a made-in-America procurement policy since 1927 and it is not in any contravention of NAFTA with that. In fact, it ignores trade agreement rules whenever it is convenient. We respect trade agreements but we will not to be suckers.

Frankly, this bill makes me proud. I thank my colleague for Rivière-du-Nord again for raising this on behalf of all of us.

One of these postcards has a picture of three monkeys. One is supposed to illustrate the Minister of Public Works and Government Services, the other is supposed to illustrate the Prime Minister and the third one is supposed to illustrate the Minister of National Defence. All three ignored reason, logic and even economics by giving these buses to Germany. This was a $60,000 difference on a $34 million contract. The military officers who go over to inspect the manufacture of those buses during their construction would have spent more than $60,000 going back and forth. It is completely irresponsible. Whoever was in charge of that file should be dragged into the streets or, at the very least, fired because they are not representing the best interests of Canadians.

We were sent here for a specific purpose by the people we represent and that is to look after their best interests. No one can tell me that it is in anybody's best interest to give our job away by some blind ideology that has not borne results or fruit. The people at Motor Coach Industries are the ones bearing the brunt. The people at Prévost in Quebec, who also could have quite capably built those buses to carry our troops, are the losers.

Once again, it falls to us, the two smallest parties in Parliament, to stand up for the best interests of Canadians. Those guys are playing games that no one can understand and they certainly do not advance the interests of the manufacturing sector in this country.

My colleague for Rivière-du-Nord and my colleague for London—Fanshawe have carefully crafted bills that will succeed without offending existing trade agreements. My colleague for Rivière-du-Nord went even further to say that these jobs, to the greatest extent possible, should be spread among the regions of Canada so that not too many of them are concentrated in any one part of Canada. These are sane considerations that any procurement policy should be crafted around.

By what pretzel reason and logic is it that Canadian taxpayers are better off creating jobs in Germany with their tax dollars? I know we have agreements with our NATO allies when it comes to military procurement but this bus contract did not apply to that. These are troop carriers. We had no obligation to buy those buses. It had the lowest bid by a razor thin margin and somehow we got screwed and it got the jobs, which is fundamentally wrong.

I will be voting in favour of this bill when the first opportunity arises. I will be voting in favour of Bill C-392 when it comes to the floor. Hopefully, our relentless pressure on the Government of Canada's procurement policies will bring some reason, logic, patriotism and nationalism to our procurement policies and not be strangled by some misguided ideology and some Boy Scout attitude that we play by a set of rules that the rest of the world ignores. That is a sucker's game.

On behalf of the people in my riding of Winnipeg Centre, I will spend what little time I get to spend in the House of Commons protecting their jobs, standing up for their jobs and looking after their best interests. Canadians do not need representatives to come to Ottawa to sell them out. They need representatives to come to Ottawa to look after their jobs, not trade them away to a low bidder. For the price of a set of tires, we sold out the workers at these two bus manufacturing plants.

Members should read some of the comments on the postcards that I have brought with me today. Perhaps the one that sums it up the most is in large font that says, “We got screwed”. That is a quote from the member for Winnipeg Centre. That is actually my own opinion.

Canadian Products Promotion Act
Private Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Robert Vincent Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise in the debate on Bill C-306, introduced by my colleague from Rivière-du-Nord.

I prepared a speech on the bill this morning, but after listening to the Conservatives and Liberals, I do not think I will need it. I am just going to talk a bit about whether these representatives of ridings all across Canada are aware of the consequences of voting against a bill like this.

Are the hon. members in touch with their constituents? Or do these Conservative and Liberal members always stay in Ottawa and never get out to meet the people? I think that must be it.

If these members met the workers in their individual ridings, they would know that these people want to work. Even though we are talking about protectionism and keeping jobs in Canada, Bill C-306 is not the end of the world. It is hardly the Buy American Act. It does not talk about 40%, just 7.5%. We chose very small numbers precisely because we did not want to frighten off the Liberals and Conservatives, but those numbers are still too big for them. It seems we should keep giving and doing nothing, and should not protect our jobs.

We are talking about $600 million here, in the knowledge that $300 million would create 21,000 jobs a year. The Liberals ask the Conservatives every day what they are going to do about the crisis in softwood lumber and how they are going to create jobs, but the Conservatives never answer. Twenty-one thousand jobs could be created now in a very reasonable way, but the party in power refuses to do it and the power that aspires to power refuses as well. We are not going to create jobs by sitting on our hands and wondering what the rest of the world would say.

The Liberal member just said we would be an international laughing stock. Do they know what it is to be an international laughing stock? It is when Olympic athletes go to other countries dressed in clothes made in China rather than in Canada. That is what it is to be an international laughing stock. We cannot even make clothes for our own athletes. We have them made elsewhere.

We took this a bit further than they wanted. It is the same as when the NDP reacts to buses being purchased in Germany, something that I objected to as well. It is quite the situation. Canadian companies build buses, but we turn our backs on them and award these contracts to Germany. I understand the situation, but we have jobs to protect right here.

The Conservative government will not stand up for Canadians and the Liberal Party, the official opposition that aspires to power, says it is ready to defeat the government at the first opportunity. Neither of these parties is really able to stand up to the Americans and tell them that they could do a bit better with their steel products. It is only fair and reasonable for us to present our proposals. We are not talking about $600 billion here, just $600 million.

I think it is very reasonable in all respects to proceed with this kind of bill, and that cannot be said about the Conservatives and the Liberals with their fear of the Americans and of what they might do and what they might say.

Canada is being colonized by the Americans, and we are incapable of standing up to them. We cannot even stand up in front of our working people and say we will try to protect their jobs, will go to any lengths to save their jobs and are even going to create some new ones with Bill C-306. That is all perfectly clear.

I cannot understand how we can enter into free trade agreements with Peru and Colombia, and in all of that, the Liberals and Conservatives are focusing their interests on other countries. You can talk to them about the workers, people who work every day to earn a living, who work 40 hours a week and give half their pay to the provincial and federal governments, but they laugh in their face. I find this disappointing.

I hope that the people listening to us today will see how wishy-washy the party that aspires to power is. Today it is a little too far left, and not in a protectionist way, compared to the voters. The official opposition can forget about asking the public to elect it to form the next government when it cannot even step up to the plate for $600 million. These poor Liberals want to trigger an election campaign when they cannot even take a stand. In my riding, people will know that we tried to enact a few little measures to keep the jobs that are available and create jobs at home and that two parties in this House of Commons were strongly opposed to it and said we would be an international laughingstock. The laughing stocks in Canada and Quebec are the Liberals and the Conservatives. I am not even weighing my words because I could say even more than that.

We do have to assume that things might change fairly quickly. Ultimately, if they agreed to give this bill second reading and refer it to committee, we would be able to see its value. Today, it is being brushed off by those two parties without giving us a chance to consider it or hear witnesses such as representatives of unions, companies and industries who could tell us whether it is a good bill and a good start. The bill is small step, but at least it is a start.

We just want to refer it to committee and they want to pull the rug out from under our feet. They do not want to hear about it so as not to upset their American friends. I have some news for them. All they have to do is ask Canadians and Quebeckers what they think about a little protectionism to keep and create jobs here at home. All of these members, sitting here in this House, have not gone out to see the public they represent, to learn whether or not they agree with the protectionist measure in Bill C-306. I firmly believe that these members sit in this House and listen to one or two people, and are afraid that some people will not like them as much.

Does a country that decides to take a stand at some point think about what the country next door is going to say? It works for its people. We are talking about a people, but some individuals are unable to think of there being a people. They recognized the Quebec nation, but they are unable to keep their word. We want to give our workers, our workers who are in trouble, a little more. We are in a recession. The budget the Conservatives have proposed was supported by the Liberals, but today they are telling us they do not know where we are going. We find that we are short $50 billion.

For all these reasons, I completely agree with Bill C-306 and I hope we will move forward with it.

Canadian Products Promotion Act
Private Members' Business

Noon

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Prince Edward—Hastings will have about three minutes before private members' hour is concluded.

Canadian Products Promotion Act
Private Members' Business

Noon

Conservative

Daryl Kramp Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will take the opportunity to start my comments today. I rise today to speak to the hon. member's private member's bill, which clearly is a protectionist bill and which the member is regretfully presenting for the third time.

It is no coincidence that both the NDP and the party of the member presenting the bill have never and will never form a government, for the simple reason that they have a myopic approach to this, which is to look after their own backyard rather than the common good of the Canadian people, which is the responsibility of responsible members in the House. This is why I will be speaking out against this it.

The bill would require that every department and agency of the Government of Canada would give preference to Canadian products when purchasing goods, services and natural resources. This preference would be in the form of a price premium of up to 7.5% across the board for Canadians. The bill also contains the option of giving Canadian products either exclusive access or a price preference exceeding 7.5% when deemed advisable.

The bill, regretfully again, would not only apply to every department and agency of the Government of Canada, but to any crown corporation as well and any foundation or trust, with 75% of its income or its funding from the government. It would also require the government ensure an equitable distribution of acquisitions across each and every province in our country.

The grounds for opposing the bill are many. With the limited time I have today, I will start on one. I will proceed with more at a later time.

Today I will focus on the major one, which is the perils of protectionism. This has been commented on by members across the House and we welcome their like-mindedness on an issue on which we share the common good of the Canadian people.

I encourage the hon. member who presented the bill to read her history books. It was protectionism that helped end the golden age of trade in the 1930s and it was protectionism that turned a severe recession into the Great Depression. Even the sectors that demanded protectionism regretfully ended up losing from it.

Trade, on the other hand, is vital to our well-being. Some would say it really is our true lifeblood. Trade touches all of us, and each and every Canadian somehow shares in its benefits. Trade reduces the cost of living. Protectionism, on the other hand, raises prices. We are not only talking about goods in front of us, such as computers and televisions. We are talking about services as well. For example, trade liberalization in telephone services has made phone calls cheaper.

I see my time is winding down, and I will finish at another time.

Canadian Products Promotion Act
Private Members' Business

Noon

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member will have seven minutes left in his time slot the next time the bill is before the House.

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has expired and the order is dropped from the order of precedence to the bottom of the order paper.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Act
Government Orders

Noon

Bloc

Serge Cardin Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure and conviction that I rise again to speak to 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.

Once again, the environmental and labour issues are being dealt with in side agreements, which aim for the minimum requirements established by the country with which we are signing the agreement rather than promoting the environmental and labour rights and laws in that country. Every free trade agreement always contains a section on investment. We agree that there should be a minimum of protection for foreign investment and that it should be properly regulated. However, there must be limits on the powers given by agreements, for example NAFTA's chapter 11.

We are in an era of innovation. We must innovate not only in the sciences, social sciences and business, but also in free trade agreements. We are discussing bilateral agreements. We must be innovative and promote environmental rights, labour rights and, in some countries, human rights.

This innovation could start today, in the free trade agreement between Canada and the Republic of Peru, simply by our telling the government to redo its homework. The government must do it again and innovate in terms of bilateral free trade agreements, as in this case.

An aside, if I may. The Bloc Québécois strongly advocates multilateral agreements. It must be pointed out that, in this sort of agreement, the same set of rules applies to everyone. Even the WTO must protect human rights, labour rights and environmental rights. That is the end of my aside.

The government talks of liberalizing trade. An American author said that increasing the freedom of trade index by 1% could and would increase trade. Hence the mad race by all countries to establish agreements with other countries to liberalize trade. However, we must never lose sight of the fact that freedom must also rhyme with responsibility. When the government makes an agreement with another country it must be responsible for its actions and for the decisions and agreements it makes. They can create a multitude of problems for people in emerging countries who want to improve their situation.

We see this responsibility clearly in the mining sector, among others. At the moment, Canada's mining companies operating abroad cause damage to the environment and displace many people. They are responsible only under the environmental laws of the other countries. This agreement does not promote environmental rights strongly enough to ensure our mining companies are responsible. Their responsibility is voluntary, to all intents and purposes. It is why a significant number of mining companies from around the world incorporate in Canada, for then they are not responsible for their actions abroad.

Thus they can save a lot of money. But they create catastrophes as well, and they should be responsible for them. If I have the time, I will come back to the subject of mines.

In my remarks, unlike in the speeches we often hear, I would like to return to the testimony given before the Standing Committee on International Trade. This testimony was heard long after the agreement was signed and long after the parties had indicated what stands they would take on this bill.

I have notes on a number of witnesses, but not all, because I could have spent an entire day on it. A number of things were said in committee that most of the Liberal and Conservative members did not hear, unfortunately. Perhaps it would be a good idea to tell them that this might be the perfect opportunity for this agreement to become the model of agreements for Canada in the future. We oppose this agreement and hope to have the support of the majority of members in this House in order to innovate. Although we would prefer multilateral agreements, when bilateral agreements are made, they must be made in the best possible way.

For example, I will quote a witness who appeared in committee on May 7, the president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, which is the largest agricultural association in Canada with over 200,000 producers. In Quebec, there is an expression that the witness used at the beginning of his testimony. He said that this agreement ce n'est pas le Pérou, meaning that this agreement is not perfect, it is not a cure-all for all of the current trade problems or irritants. But it is being signed with Peru.

The president said that it is obviously not perfect, far from it. But he and his producers would still like it to move forward as quickly as possible. He also criticized the negotiators. I would make a distinction. There are negotiators who negotiate. Often, the negotiators negotiate what the government asks them to negotiate. The negotiators focus on things chosen by the government. The negotiators also negotiate by leaving out some aspects, because the government has asked them to leave them out. The government asks the negotiators to sign, at any cost, almost any condition, whether or not it is favourable to the people, to entrepreneurs and to businesspeople. He criticized the negotiators because, according to him, if we compare this agreement with the one signed with the United States, the reduction was faster in the United States than in Canada. The quotas were also much larger and there was no most favoured nation clause. He said that some sectors benefited more—grains, wheat, barley and pulses. Of course, some sectors lost out. We never saw an impact study from the government or the negotiators. According to them, some sectors stand to gain, and others stand to lose. However, we have never seen an impact study and projections of these impacts, not only for the business of people who export, or for the benefit of some who import, but also for all workers in Quebec and Canada.

Impact studies would tell us what will happen in a given industry or in a given sector and what the gains and losses will be. We should also ask ourselves what our priorities are and why. We never had impact studies on free trade agreements. We are not asking anyone to tell the future by looking into a crystal ball. In fact, it is obvious that there are not too many crystal balls around. I know a government that went from a zero deficit to a $50 billion deficit in a span of a few weeks or a few months. So we do not really need a crystal ball.

There are various other products, but I will not name them.

Of course, the president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture was aware of deficiencies with regard to labour and environmental laws. He still argues that even though our farmers do not enjoy the same treatment as American farmers and even though progress is slow, we should sign the agreement. Again, there has not been any impact studies on producers and farmers, nor on the population as a whole whose quality of life we must look to improve to a certain extent. For example, to show the difference, in the United States, the tariff on certain products, including pork, will be eliminated within five years. However, in Canada, it will take 17 years. So the difference is quite substantial.

The president of the federation told us also that the federation agreed to multilateral negotiations. That being said, he kept repeating that negotiators would have to adjust, but also that ,in turn, it would be mostly up to the government to adjust.

We heard from other witnesses, including the Canadian Wheat Board. The wheat sector is obviously among the biggest winners.

I mentioned pork. I want to show the relative importance of that agreement for Canadian pork, for instance, on international markets. Director General Jacques Pomerleau said:

Knowing that we would never get what the Americans received, our negotiators became very creative in ensuring that we would still get some benefits. They accepted a longer tariff elimination period, 17 years instead of ten, but they were able to get for us a duty-free quota that will allow our exporters to better position themselves at the very beginning. We have to admit that this quota of 325 tonnes, that will progressively extend to 504 tonnes over 10 years, is relatively small for an industry that exports over one million tonnes every year.

There are little aberrations like that. Others, like the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, are very much in favour. The only thing, really, is that we do not want to be overtaken by other countries that could sign a FTA with Peru, among others. The same holds true for other agreements. Because Colombia and the United States were negotiating an agreement that did not get Congress approval, Canada raced like mad. It was intent on signing and implementing an agreement before the United States did. This was crucial to the government, even if it meant doing so at the expense of Colombia or human rights. Globally, a mad race was on, with businesses from all countries trying to globalize, as we do. Soon, every country on this planet will have bilateral free trade agreements with the 199 other countries. Naturally, variances and differences will develop. Why not focus primarily on multilateral agreements? I think it would be the most sensible way to go.

I was talking about environmental laws earlier. The Canadian Environmental Law Association was represented in evidence given before a committee on May 26, 2009. Ms. McClenaghan, executive director and counsel in that association, criticized the fact that investors can access the states. She said it was a serious problem. Particularly when we talk about investors, we must of course refer to the investment agreement that echoes chapter 11 of NAFTA whereby investors have access to the state, which could be problematic. We know that investors can sue countries for various reasons under the major heading of expropriation, which includes two elements. There is direct expropriation, that is, in the true sense of the word, and indirect expropriation, which, no matter what happens, relates to a business' loss of anticipated profits.

To give an example of such a free-trade agreement, Ms. McClenaghan referred to the agreement between Australia and the United States whereby no investors had access to the state. It was also a model of social and environmental protection. In terms of labour laws and occupational health and safety, Canadian businesses are operating in a country where little attention is paid to people's rights.

I must briefly come back to the topic of mining. Regarding mining companies and corporate responsibility, we have motion M-283, moved by the hon. Liberal member for Pierrefonds—Dollard, and Bill C-300 introduced by the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood. The Bloc Québécois supports both items—the motion and the bill—because their goal is to make mining companies accept greater responsibility in countries like Peru and Colombia. If the Liberals are to be consistent with their bill and their motion, they must also, for that reason, vote against the Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act. I therefore call on all Liberal members, including those from Quebec, and all members to vote against this implementation act.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with considerable interest to my colleague, the hon. member for Sherbrooke. I work a lot with him on the Standing Committee on International Trade. I am happy of course with the Bloc position. The same cannot unfortunately be said for the softwood lumber agreement and the sellout agreement on shipbuilding. The Bloc unfortunately voted in favour of these two bills, which led and is leading to job losses in Quebec. It is too bad, but it does not matter, the Bloc is on the same wavelength as the NDP now and everyone can be glad.

I do in fact have a question for my colleague from Sherbrooke. He spoke eloquently on the subject of labour rights. As we all know, Peru is unable at the moment even to honour all its WTO obligations. Agreements already signed to permit unionized labour, to entitle people to organize under the protection of a collective agreement, all these protections, which should exist internationally, have been ignored by the Peruvian government. We heard that in testimony before the committee. It is unfortunate. It undermines the credibility of this agreement. If it provides no protection and if the Peruvian government is in the process of rejecting all the agreements it has signed, questions need to be asked. What real protection does the agreement provide?

I wanted to put these questions to my colleague from Sherbrooke. Does he see any sort of protection at all in this agreement for people seeking the protection of a collective agreement?

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do indeed work with the member for Burnaby—New Westminster. We are not, obviously, going to start quibbling over who follows whom or who is on the same wavelength as whom. We agree on some fundamental principles and considerations, but not others. Overall, however, as regards this agreement, this implementation legislation, we oppose this free trade agreement.

Naturally, as we have criticized it and will continue to do so, this is not the right approach. This is a time for innovation and not for including these side agreements. And they are just that, off on the side, separate. So they will never be part of the main agreement. They must be included in the main agreement along with clear aims and obligations. Good intentions are set out in the side agreements and warrant a response at least. Is there agreement with the ILO principle and international environmental rights? Who can say not? No one. And yet, when ask ourselves whether these agreements will enable us to improve legislation on labour in Colombia or on human or environmental rights, obviously everyone—at least half of the members on this side of the House—believes we should not proceed because labour and environmental rights along with the agreements on investments would not improve the situation in the country we are doing business with. With a good trade or economic agreement, both sides emerge as winners, especially their peoples.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague on his excellent speech on the Canada-Peru agreement, which is somewhat similar to the Canada-Colombia agreement. The agreement allows mining to occur in situations where, often, neither the country nor the investors respect human or environmental rights or labour standards. This bilateral agreement also includes chapter 11, which protects investors from future policies that could help workers in countries with mining activity.

This morning, the House considered Bill C-306, and the Liberals and Conservatives spoke against it. That bill would have created jobs here at home, in our regions. The bill would have strengthened our position vis-à-vis free trade agreements with the United States, but they were against it anyway.

I would like my colleague to comment on the corporate social responsibility motion moved by a Liberal Party member and supported by the Liberals. Why does he think the Liberals voted for a foreign corporate social responsibility motion, then turned around and voted for bills that do not respect workers' rights?

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is perfectly right. There is indeed a discrepancy. There is a problem and I would even say that it is a serious problem. That is where we find more or less the same direction followed by government negotiators in free trade agreements and, let us face it, that direction comes from the government.

Whether we are talking about side agreements on labour or environmental laws or about the chapter on investment, they are just good intentions that hide a huge possibility of wrongdoing and abuse.

There is a fundamental problem if the Liberal Party wants, on one hand, to make mining companies and oil and gas companies accountable with its bill and, on the other hand, to vote in favour of implementing the free trade agreement with Peru. There is the truth, and then there is make-believe. Right now, there is every indication that, both in the motion and in the bill, it is just make-believe. We know full well that they think they will form the government, which means that they must also please large corporations.

So there is a significant gap between what is the truth and what is make-believe. If the Liberals bring forward a motion on mining companies and oil and gas companies and a bill to make them accountable, then accountability must also be included in this free trade agreement. The time has come to step away from what the Canadian government has done historically in free trade agreements. I strongly suggest to the Liberal Party to vote against this agreement if it wants to follow its own motion and its own bill.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, we see nothing about workers' rights in this agreement. We have been hearing that this agreement is inferior to the one negotiated by the United States and the American Congress.

My question is quite simple. If workers have fewer rights and there is less protection for the environment, it is an inferior agreement.

Why does the member for Sherbrooke believe that the Liberals are prepared nevertheless to support this agreement, which is clearly inferior to the one that the U.S. and the American Congress were able to negotiate and amend subsequently?

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is a fundamental question. First, what are the Conservative government's motives behind its instructions to its negotiators for negotiating agreements of this type? One word comes to mind, but it is unparliamentary. Second, what are the Liberals' motives for not putting a stop to these types of agreements? During his speech on the Colombia agreement, the Liberal Party critic for international trade raised the fact that it was because his party was aspiring to power. Does that mean that you have to set aside your values in order to be in power?

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise this morning to voice my opposition to Bill C-24.

One of the things I was reminded of as I sat here is that in the early to mid 1980s we started a free trade agreement with the United States. I recall that a certain Conservative member said it was like sleeping with an elephant and if the elephant rolled over we would be in some difficulty.

That particular debate went on, and ultimately the free trade agreement was signed. Then the elephant rolled over and from 1988 to 1990 Canada lost 524,000 manufacturing jobs. We have progressed, some people might say, to NAFTA, and the repercussions are still being felt.

What I see as a change in this proposed agreement is that we are somewhat of a dominant partner in this one. With that dominant partner status comes a responsibility. As a nation, we could have been taking the lead on the environment and labour rights in this particular country. We know that many of the South American countries have some tremendous problems in the area of human rights. The records are disastrous down there.

Bill C-24 is a bill 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. With regard to labour cooperation, we had an opportunity to enhance the labour standards in this country by setting benchmarks that should have been in the agreement.

Nobody in this place will dispute the necessity of trade. We all understand that Canada is a trading nation. Canada has taken a leadership role in human rights in the world for many generations now, and it is highly regarded and respected. This is a lost opportunity. We had an opportunity to similarly move the benchmark forward in the negotiations around the free trade agreement with Colombia. As we know, Colombia has the worst human rights record on the face of the earth. Some will say, and I am sure they are sincere, that by having trade and having an agreement with Colombia, Peru and other countries, that this will enhance and bring forward their human rights. Personally, I believe we should have been pressing for human rights prior to even entering into negotiations.

Members may recall that there was a report prepared on the corporate and social responsibility. In fact I believe the member from Sherbrooke commented on it in his remarks. Well, that particular report never made it to this House. That report was returned to the government a year ago last November. It was talking about situations, particularly of Canadian enterprises operating in South America and other countries.

There has been a question in our communities as to why that was never tabled in this House. Why was that document not brought forward? The NGOs, the civil society and other people came together across this country to prepare it. I think the evidence is now here as to why the government would not want the corporate and social responsibility document tabled; it is because it would directly impact on these two agreements.

From time to time in our offices we are visited by guests from other countries. Just last week we had a young woman, Yessika Morales, who visited us from Colombia. Yessika's father was shot and killed by the paramilitaries in 2001. She came to us with her concerns about that particular trade agreement with Colombia.

They have a great fear in that part of the world. In no way am I suggesting Canadian companies are directly complicit, but in South America, if a corporation from any part of the world working there were to be something like King Henry when he said, “Will nobody rid me of this troublesome monk?” and Thomas Becket died, in a similar fashion, if the executive board or the executives of a mining corporation or other enterprise were to suggest that there is any kind of problem with a labour leader, that labour leader would be gone.

The example is Colombia, where 2,690 trade unionists have died since 1986. Some people ask how I know that is part of that; it's because in the same period about 17,000 people died. Amnesty International's Human Rights Watch and others have documented these cases.

We had a great opportunity with this dominant position that I referred to before to take our place as an international leader on human rights, to sustain that position and to move forward to help countries like Peru. We failed to do it.

In the particular agreement, once again, labour rights and environment rights are side agreements. I come from the labour movement, and in my time I was part of the negotiations between Bell Canada and the union, on the union side. During negotiations in 1988, and then again in 1990, we went to the employer with our list of our proposals and the employer would have a list of their proposals. It is interesting that ours were called demands and theirs were called proposals, but that is another issue. At some point in the negotiations we reached a place where we said we could not resolve this. But we had to have something. In that case, the employer wrote a letter of intent.

That was all well and good. When the collective agreement was signed and we were back in the workplace and workers' rights seemed to be impinged, we went to the union and said we wanted to grieve. The union said it was sorry it could not because that was only a letter of intent; it was not binding.

These side agreements are exactly the same thing as this letter of intent. It is a nice way of masking that we do not have any powerful, sustainable actions we can take to protect the environment in Peru, or protect the workers' rights, or the workers' lives, in many cases. It is very troubling when we look at an agreement of this nature.

I will give some credit to the government, because it has moved somewhat away from the Bush agreements of the past. We would probably find that some of those have been getting a very rough ride in the Congress of the United States, but it has moved somewhat past that. Still, it does not do what is needed to protect the workers of this country. As we demean or lower the rights of any nation in the world, it takes the rights of all nations and lowers them.

It is important to consider who will benefit from trade agreements of this nature. I will give an example of one company, the Bank of Nova Scotia, that will be moving to higher investments in Peru. I am sure that on the investment front there will be some reciprocal trade that happens, and it is to the benefit of the countries involved.

I must point out, Peru is not a major trading partner with Canada to begin with. Our two-way merchandise trade between the two countries only reached $2.8 billion in 2008, and Canadian imports were over $2 billion, of which 50% was from Canadian gold companies operating in Peru.

I go back again for a moment to corporate social responsibility. That highlights the importance of having a framework of the responsibilities we expect of Canadian companies when they operate in a nation like Peru, whether we have a trade deal or not.

With that initial trade deal, the negotiations were started as far back as 2002, under Mr. Chrétien and the Liberals at the time. They first held discussions with Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia. Our trade minister in 2007 launched the formal trade talks with Peru, and the government signed in May 2008.

There are critics around the world on trade issues and trade agreements. Mary Tharin, from the COHA, Council on Hemispheric Affairs, was talking about the U.S.-Peru free trade agreement, and she suggested the agreement has given the president of Peru the excuse to start dismantling labour rights and what regulations they do have on the environment in Peru.

From my perspective, the good news is that since the president started doing that, his approval rating has dropped or has almost vanished. However, we are not talking about a democracy like Canada when we are talking about the impact that would have on him and how that might sway him not to proceed to a greater degree of damaging those particular rights.

In the United States in 2007, there was a considerable debate and, as indicated, some compromise was made and it approved a free trade agreement with Peru designed to drastically reduce import-export tariffs, hypothetically putting an end to protectionism on both sides.

We hear the government saying that we cannot have a buy Canadian strategy because that would be protectionist in this worst of times. As the member from Winnipeg pointed out earlier in his remarks, in 1927 the United States undertook protectionism, if we want to call it that, but it was buy American where procurements of local governments and state governments were intended to spend their taxpayer money on, heaven forbid, American goods, which is, in my opinion, precisely what we should be doing in this country.

The approval for that free trade agreement in the United States has been delayed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives due to concerns, mostly on the part of the congressional democrats, I would say, about Peru's environmental and labour standards. It took quite a while for that to ultimately get resolved.

Despite the free trade agreement's conditions, which state that labour standards must not be lowered, a number of President Garcia's recent decrees have put the country's public service workers in jeopardy. In May, the Federation of State Employees got to the point where they felt desperate enough to organize a strike.

The whole problem is that these agreements are about trade at all costs. We should think about that for a moment. Yes, I said in my opening remarks that trade is important, and we all accept the necessity of trade, but Canada as a country has always been a country that took principled stands, a country that stood up for human rights and for the values that are necessary to sustain a healthy country.

Tomorrow there will be a demonstration outside of this place by a group of labour unions and labour activists. As we close in on June 6, the anniversary of D-Day, we are reminded how the veterans of this country fought in the war against Nazi Germany to have Canadians sustained and have the right to demonstrate outside of this place.

Canada has gone far and wide to protect the rights of citizens in other countries and in our own country and has done a wonderful job in doing so. However, when we move to agreements with nations with questionable human rights records and questionable records on the environment and we fail, as the dominant partner in those negotiations, to improve areas of the environment, environmental regulation, labour laws and rights, then we fail as a nation.

I am really troubled that in the two agreements, the agreement with Peru and, more particularly, the agreement with Colombia, I think our government has failed us. In the particular case of the free trade agreement with Colombia, I am quite ashamed of the fact that we would even negotiate with a government that is as tied to the drug trade as that nation is.