House of Commons Hansard #66 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was young.

Topics

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

11:40 a.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Sherbrooke, QC

Madam Speaker, we are not calling for the status quo but, simply, for the government to resume negotiations and improve this free trade agreement. We refer to environmental and labour rights laws because the entire agreement honours only what already exists, the fundamentals. Our businesses, however, can take advantage of the gap between the fundamental conditions in Peru and those in Canada.

So the government would do well to renegotiate. Witnesses have said so clearly. The government's negotiators were not up to scratch. They did not manage to negotiate things that should have been negotiated, and the quality of what was negotiated left something to be desired. So it must redo its homework. We will support this free trade agreement with Peru when the government incorporates rights and the side agreements into the principal trade agreement and negotiates shorter periods. We know for a fact that the US has negotiated much shorter periods in connection with rights than those Canada and Peru negotiated.

So Canada must do its homework over, and the government's directives must be more specific so that we may promote labour and environmental rights.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to raise a question with my colleague from the Bloc that stems from a related bill in front of the House right now, Bill C-300, which addresses corporate social responsibility.

In light of my friend from the Conservative Party raising the issue, if we really want to deal with corporate social responsibility, I want to get his take on whether it would be better to have it embedded in a policy, not just for trade agreements and voluntary, which is the problem with this trade deal, but to have that kind of approach, that legislation, embedded in the Canadian governance model right across the board, for all companies.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

11:45 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

The hon. member has 30 seconds in reply.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Sherbrooke, QC

Madam Speaker, the Bloc Québécois is, in principle, in favour of Motion M-293 on the accountability act and Bill C-300, which also deals with accountability.

We agree in principle. Canadian companies abroad should be made more responsible, so this is an important step. There may, however, still be a sizeable gap between the laws and regulations of the country with which we are negotiating a free trade agreement and our own laws and regulations.

Accountability should also impose severe regulations relating to protection of the environment of these foreign countries. I believe that these two aspects can, and must, complement each other.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

June 2nd, 2009 / 11:45 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to rise to speak to Bill C-24.

Many have spoken of the concerns they have around this trade agreement. I think Canadians are listening carefully to the difference between what some call free trade and what we call fair trade. There is actually a shift in the debate around trade agreements and around how trade is done globally. I think we are going to see a change in the use of the term “free trade” because of the collective experience of countries with these agreements.

When we look at the details and drill down into some of these trade agreements, the notion that there is anything free is a misnomer. When we look at the give and the take, and what we end up with at the end of these trade agreements, many people have, quite rightly, been critical. I think we are going to move toward something more in line with a sectoral approach, that we really should not be doing these massive pieces of architecture to say that we are going to be all in or all out and give certain powers to certain sectors of society over others.

When we look at the experience with NAFTA, for instance, and chapter 11, and when we look at what was given up by Canadians to allow private corporations to meddle in the affairs of our governance, it actually undermines the fundamental premise of democracy. This is not free. This is actually a change of power where we end up with less and certain entities end up with more.

It has to do with the notion of sovereignty, as well. I think that most people would agree that our Parliament should be able to pass laws that are unfettered, in terms of outside interference, and be vigilant with respect to our obligations internationally, but also provide good governance for our citizens.

That is not the case when we look at the experience of chapter 11. In fact, not just people in this corner of the House have stated that but people outside who have critiqued these agreements have said that. That is one of the problems with this trade agreement. It continues down the ill-fated path of the chapter 11 experience. If we look at it, it really puts investors' rights over the rights of citizens. The fact that private companies can sue governments, with these chapter 11 provisions over our public policy choices, is a clear indication that there is something more than a free trade or an exchange or an opening of trade. It means that we are actually laying hands on certain people and giving them rights over others; in this case, private corporations.

I want to take that observation and align it with where Canadians are at and look at what is happening right now with another bill that is before us, Bill C-300, the corporate social responsibility bill. It is interesting. When people have critiqued Bill C-300, and I have a private member's bill that is similar to it and motions have been passed on corporate social responsibility, they have been concerned that extraterritorial provisions would be given to the Government of Canada over investments abroad in the extractive industries. It is interesting because when we take a look at chapter 11, what we are actually doing is legislating the rights of extraterritorial private interests to have influence on governance here. We do not hear them talk about that.

So, on the one hand we are saying we do not want to have too many rules for corporations when we are doing business overseas because that might interfere with the conduct of the business of certain countries, and on the other hand there is this chapter 11 cheque written out and handed over to private corporations with which we do these trade deals .

I think that is an important issue. I think Canadians want to know why these facets within these trade deals are being set. Who is benefiting? Is this helping the citizens of the countries with whom we are entering into these trade deals? I suspect not. I know that it is not. I think it is important because when we look at this trade deal, it again is reinforcing that.

When we look at this trade deal and we look at the side provisions on environment and labour, they are just that. They are side agreements. The language is voluntary. We cannot have voluntary human rights. Either human rights are embedded and we have strength in terms of support to ensure that those human rights are being granted or we do not. Having voluntary human rights, we might as well not bother. It really does a disservice to the whole concept and notion of human rights.

I can only think what John Diefenbaker would say to that. We have side agreements on human rights. I suspect that he would not be in favour of that notion and I think that is important.

I suspect that because the government thought there would be a furor over the lack of environmental and human rights provisions, it would do a little political inoculation and put a side agreement in, put a ribbon on it and everyone will be happy.

We on this side of the House see through that. We either have it embedded and strengthened with legislation or we do not bother. To have it on the side, as was mentioned by my colleague from the Conservative Party earlier in his intervention, makes it voluntary. It is like the response by the government to corporate social responsibility where it has taken a very robust report from both business and civil society about how we can do corporate responsibility and turned it into a suggestion box, that if we have a concern we can put the concern in this box and perhaps the government will deal with it. That is not good enough. We need to take this issue seriously because it affects the lives of ordinary people.

The trade agreement, sadly, is putting on the altar environmental protection and human rights protection for what? For profit. For the bottom line. As I said, I think people will see through that and we certainly do.

I would also like to point out where Canadians are in their view of where Canada should be when it comes to trade agreements. I want to reference a document that recently came out called “Back on the Map”. It is a very comprehensive overview of a study that was done for a new vision for Canada in the world. It was done recently by a non-partisan group called Canada's World during a national citizen's dialogue. The director is Shauna Sylvester whom I met with recently. She was pointing out to me the research that was done on what Canadians want to see in their foreign policy and in their trade agreements. One of the things in the research report said that Canadians wanted to see good governance as it relates to promoting good governance in trade deals. The report is based on researchers talking to Canadians about what they want to see in our foreign policy and trade deals.

They want to see the Government of Canada take a leadership role in convening and facilitating the reform of international financial development agencies; promoting fair trade practices and corporate social responsibility, particularly among Canadian companies with overseas operations; supporting a stronger voice for developing countries within international institutions; investing in public diplomacy; shielding effective programs from partisan politics; and instituting a federal process to help with that

What they want to see is Canadian governance in trade deals promoting fair trade, promoting corporate social responsibility and promoting the values that are embedded in our Canadian fabric, not to hand over to certain companies and interests a blank cheque to decide what they want to do with it and undermine not only our democracy but the interests of those in the country of origin; in this case Peru.

For those reasons our party will not be supporting this trade deal. I wish that we would have the support of the Liberals to oppose this trade deal because it is not good enough.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Ron Cannan Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Madam Speaker, as a member of the trade committee, I understand the importance of free trade as I believe all members of the House do. We talk about fair trade, but we have to look at it from a different perspective and ask what fair trade means.

I have talked to many constituents about the importance of diversifying our trade around the world, and I know committee members have discussed this also with witnesses from across the country. Over 80% of our trade is with one trading partner and this has caused a lot of the economic downturn that we are seeing today.

We have the toughest side agreements with labour and environmental agreements. There are different ways of negotiating. The U.S. signed an agreement with Peru on February 1.

We talk about fair trade, but I would like to ask my colleague how this agreement is fair to Canadian businesses? They are at a competitive disadvantage every day that goes by. Quebec farmers and Prairie farmers are losing business. Businesses across the country are losing business.

How is it fair by delaying and dithering, and dodging the fact that we need to expand our market share because this agreement is going to help Canadian businesses?

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to correct the member on something. The side agreements have been noted as being inferior to the agreement that the Americans have negotiated with Peru.

We on this side of the House think Canada can do better. Canada has had a solid history in the past on human rights, on labour rights and hopefully environmental rights. It is not good enough to have inferior side agreements on these kinds of critical issues.

I also want to underline the importance of getting it right. Trade agreements are about values as well as about trade. We cannot rush to get an agreement done that will leave behind our values.

Joe Clark put it well at the foreign affairs committee recently when he said that we can have trade agreements but we need to be able to pronounce our values to the world. If we give up our values in trade agreements, then our reputation is sullied with respect to diplomacy and our place in the world.

We on this side of the House think the government has to get it right. It has to take the time to get it right and protect the values that are so important to all Canadians, and to the people of Peru for that matter. The government has to make sure that due diligence is done.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Madam Speaker, my colleague is absolutely right. We should not be turning a blind eye with regard to the environment and human rights.

The U.S. had over two years with respect to its agreement with Peru and it obviously has a lot of flaws. The president of Peru, Alan Garcia Perez, actually did 102 legislative decrees on the agreement. The concerns are, based on these decrees, that they are actually unconstitutional. The activists have basically indicated that the agreement is detrimental to labour, the environment, the agriculture industry, and indigenous rights.

Perhaps my colleague could explain a bit more about why it is important that we make sure that we get it right.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

Noon

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I am going to reference yet again not my point of view or my party's point of view, but the point of view of Canadians. I want to reference a comprehensive study that was recently done on the point of view of Canadians. That is important data for all of us. This review was done by Canada's World, which is a centre for dialogue in British Columbia.

Canadians want the federal government to make Canadian companies responsible for environmental damage when carrying out overseas operations. They want the federal government to pass mandatory, not voluntary, regulations for Canadian corporations overseas on human rights and environmental standards. That is what Canadians think.

I am asking the government to please listen to Canadians as well as members in this place and put this agreement aside because it is not right. Canadian values are not in this agreement.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

Noon

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to follow my learned colleague from Ottawa Centre in this debate.

Quite frankly, this is the kind of debate we need to have in the House about the government's trade agenda, which is simply a carbon copy of the Liberals' trade agenda. On its trade agenda, the government essentially has shown that it is appallingly weak in negotiating and has shown an inability to set any objectives in line with what Canadians strongly believe they need to see in trade policy. The vast majority of Canadians are fair traders. They want to see a balanced approach on trade that actually provides for improvement in environmental standards, human rights and labour rights. They also want to see a trade strategy that allows for domestic growth and jobs here at home. They get neither with this bill, tragically.

Most Canadian families earn less now than they did when the Canada-U.S. free trade agreement was implemented back in 1989. We have seen an erosion for the vast majority of Canadian families. They are earning less. The ones who have profited are chief executives and corporate lawyers. They have seen their family income increase dramatically. The wealthiest Canadians now take more than half of all income in Canada, but for most Canadians in the middle class, Canadians in the lower middle class and the poorest Canadians, they have seen a substantial erosion in their income.

We are also facing a record trade deficit. Essentially we export raw materials to create jobs in other countries and we import increasingly the manufactured products that used to be manufactured here in Canada. How does the Canada-Peru free trade agreement change this? It does not change it at all. Fundamentally, even under the former Liberal government, most of the bilateral agreements that we have signed have led to a fall in exports. We simply import more from the country of origin, often with no standards applied, no labour standards, no minimum wage standards, but our exports actually fall.

To pretend that this bill is in any way part of any sort of comprehensive economic strategy is simply false. It is not the objective of the government. The objective of the government appears to be, more than anything else, just fancy ribbon cutting. Signing a trade deal has a lot of pomp and circumstance. People put their signatures on a piece of paper. They get to come to the House to say that they are doing something, but when most bilaterals have led to a fall in exports, when most Canadian families are earning less, we have to wonder. We have to think that somebody in the Conservative government would actually look at the results, would actually monitor what is going on and take measures to put in place a more comprehensive export strategy. That has not been done.

As we have cited in the House before, the Conservative government is just as bad as the former Liberal government. It is the same old, same old. One does not change the other's strategy. We are just as bad under the Conservatives as we were under the Liberals for actually providing any sort of product promotion support outside of Canada.

For the entire United States market, where 85% of our exports go right now, the Canadian federal government has a combined product promotion budget of $3.4 million for this massive United States of America market of 300 million citizens. I will repeat that figure, because it is stunning in its cheapness, that $3.4 million is the entire federal government product promotion support budget for the entire United States of America market. Is that unbelievable? Yes it is, but it is unfortunately true.

The government has no trade strategy. It provides no product promotion support. It seems incapable of understanding even the rudimentary elements of what a fair trade strategy would be.

In the OECD countries, in the United States, the debate is increasingly on fair trade as opposed to George Bush style unregulated free trade. In election after election, fair trade is winning out. People around the world want a balanced fair trade approach and not this radical, extremist, George Bush style, unregulated free trade approach. As a result of that, we are seeing elections such as the recent one in the United States where governments are changed and that agenda is stopped.

That is the approach the government has taken until now. Let us look at the specifics of Bill C-24.

The NDP voted against the softwood sellout that killed tens of thousands of jobs in Canada. We voted against the shipbuilding sellout that every single worker, manager and owner within the shipbuilding industry implored Parliament not to pass without a carve-out. The NDP proposed the carve-out and the Liberals and the Conservatives banded together. The Liberals drove the getaway car for the Conservatives and essentially adopted a bill they knew would kill the shipbuilding industry in Canada. It is a shame. We have the longest coastline in the world and we just voted a few months ago to kill progressively our shipbuilding industry.

The NDP voted against the Canada-Colombia trade deal, an egregiously bad deal. One cannot imagine how it was conceived. That regime is connected to murderous paramilitary thugs and drug lords and the government wants to give it preferential trade access to Canada. That is absolutely absurd. We will debate that if the government ever brings it back before the House.

I think the government was as embarrassed as we in the NDP were that it even proposed such an appalling concept as rewarding a regime with massive human rights violations and connections to murderous paramilitary thugs and drug lords who killed hundreds of people last year. The president has had connections with them since his initial days as the mayor of Medellin, Colombia when the Medellin cartel ran the place. In any event, we will debate the Colombia trade deal when it comes forward.

The Peru trade deal provides no protection for the environment and no protection on labour rights. The Peruvian government has essentially refused to put its signature on International Labour Organization agreements and the government does nothing with regard to the superficial, symbolic labour side deal to address that issue.

Now we find within the Peru agreement the same chapter 11 provisions that have been rejected by every other country on earth since NAFTA was implemented. The United States moved away from it. Every other country has moved away from it.

The investor state provisions allow corporate CEOs to override democratic decision making, whether it is on the labour code or environmental standards. Corporate CEOs can actually get compensation for any public measure that is taken in the public interest. It is a cash cow. They can go to governments and get millions of dollars for nothing, simply because the government has made a decision that is in the best interests of its citizens.

In Bill C-24 there are enhanced investor state provisions that allow corporate CEOs to milk the government in Peru. We learned just last week that there was a nationwide strike among Peruvian workers because in the northeastern Amazon region of Peru, a package of laws has been passed that will open up the lands of that region to mining and drilling without consultation with local communities.

There is a chapter 11 on steroids in Bill C-24. There is no protection for environmental standards or labour standards, and now there is legislation by the Peruvian government that allows mining CEOs to override local democratic decision making. Regardless of what anyone's political stripe is, one would think that every member of the House would understand that democratic decision making is the very essence of democracy. Once we give extraordinary rights to corporate CEOs to override that and get millions of dollars in compensation for nothing, we are doing something that is profoundly unfair to the people of Peru.

For all of those reasons, the NDP is speaking out against this agreement, but we continue to press the government to actually negotiate fair trade agreements. It is not a complicated concept. It means actually raising living standards in Canada and abroad. That is done by establishing tough environmental standards, tough labour standards and human rights. The NDP will be voting no on this bill.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Jonquière—Alma
Québec

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn Minister of National Revenue and Minister of State (Agriculture)

Mr. Speaker, I have listened to the hon. member's speech, as well as those from several representatives of the Bloc Québécois.

The hon. member said that it was not good for the Canadian economy to have a free trade agreement with Peru and other countries. If our country produced goods just to meet the needs of Canadians, does he think that he and I and those watching us would have a more prosperous life? The answer is no.

Canada's strength is that we are very productive and in a position to export our products throughout the world, which gives us an economy that is far stronger than that of other countries.

That said, I travelled to Peru when I was Minister of Labour to discuss, among other things, the side agreement on labour rights. From my discussions with my Peruvian counterpart, the labour minister of the day, as well as other representatives of that country, I understood how well Canada was perceived internationally as far as workers' rights are concerned. I also understood the leadership role Canada could play in these countries.

The hon. member is likely not aware that between 50% and 60% of companies in Peru are currently not registered with the state, which means that the state does not collect any kind of taxes and is unaware of working conditions. With this agreement, businesses will now have to be registered and this will be to the advantage of the people of Peru and the workers. What is more, the agreement respects—

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I really liked the minister's question. I also like his region, Saguenay—Lac-St-Jean, where I lived for several years.

The people of that region understand that it does not come down to a choice between no trade at all and the bad trade agreements negotiated by this government. They understand that our borders will not close if we do not sign these agreements. My argument, as I said before, is that most of the time, bilateral agreements actually reduce exports. There is an ethical issue in this, and a lack of strategy.

Signing this agreement will not create prosperity here in Canada, that is for sure. The fact that the government is signing an agreement with the Government of Colombia, a country where union members are killed on an almost-weekly basis, where people disappear every day and where the regime is linked to paramilitary organizations and drug dealers, shows just how sincere—

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Questions and comments.

The hon. member for Berthier—Maskinongé.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague on his excellent speech. I am not surprised that the Conservatives plan to vote in favour of the agreement. After all, they have already signed it. It is in line with their right-wing ideology, as we have seen in other trade agreements.

However, I am surprised that the Liberals will be voting for the agreement. They tabled Bill C-300 in the House, a bill to ensure that Canadian mining companies behave responsibly in terms of workers' rights and the environment. They also moved Motion M-283, with which I am sure my colleague is familiar, to implement the recommendations of the National Roundtables on Corporate Social Responsibility and the Canadian Extractive Industry in Developing Countries advisory group.

I would like my colleague to comment on that. In his opinion, why did the Liberals vote in favour of those two measures if they are voting against—