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 tobacco.

Topics

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-24, which is the free trade agreement between Canada and the Republic of Peru.

First of all, I want to thank all of my NDP colleagues who have spoken so forcefully in the House over the last few days on this bill. I think the concerns we have raised in the House about this agreement very much reflect what we have heard right across the country.

I have to say that often when we debate legislation in this House, the various bills before us, sometimes there is a sense that not many people are watching what is going on, that things just go through and nobody is paying attention. On this particular issue of the trade agreement between Canada and Peru, as well as the one that is to come back to the House which is the Canada-Colombia trade agreement, there is a huge constituency out there watching what happens to this bill.

There are people who are organized both in the labour movement and in civil society, people who work on human rights, who work with NGOs in Peru, Latin America and elsewhere who are very concerned that this trade agreement is going to go through.

I would like to make that point first of all. I am very proud of the fact that the NDP caucus has stood so strongly against this bill because we understand that this trade bill, like so many other trade bills that we have seen over the years, of the so-called free trade agreements, are agreements that basically put the vested interests of multinational corporations ahead of public interest, ahead of the interests of labour rights, and ahead of the interests of strong environmental standards.

Even though we are now at the final stage, we are happy that our colleagues in the Bloc are also standing together with us to try to stop this bill. We think it is very important that we do due diligence, that we expose the flaws of this bill, and that we alert more Canadians to the fact that our government conducts these kinds of negotiations basically in secret, behind closed doors, and comes out with these free trade agreements with various other nation states that really, in the bigger picture, are not in the public interest.

I find it ironic that on the one hand we often find that these trade agreements are based on the premise that these multinational corporations want governments to have as little to do as possible with regulating and overseeing what should be done in terms of trade or labour standards or the environment or social standards, and that the underpinning of this agreement, and so many like them, whether it is the North America free trade agreement, the agreement that we had in the House a few years ago dealing with the FTA that was the subject of many demonstrations in Quebec City, is to basically transfer power from democratically elected governments to corporations.

When we see things like chapter 11, which is contained in NAFTA, being mirrored in this agreement, and of course will be included in the Canada-Colombia trade agreement, that confers nation state rights to multinational corporations, we are looking at a fundamental violation of the democratic principles of a democratically elected government.

I think that is why so many people take issue with these trade agreements. I find it ironic that while on the one hand there is so much pressure from these private interests globally, as well as here within our own country, to adopt these agreements, on the other hand we see huge corporations, like General Motors just yesterday expecting to have massive bailouts of over $10 billion Canadian. We see the Canadian government coming forward and saying “Oh, yes, of course, no question that is going to happen”.

It seems to me that there is a huge contradiction here, that on the one hand we have had this globalized regime that has been a race to the bottom, where we have seen these trade agreements undermine very basic human rights of workers and of people generally, and on the other hand those corporations want a hands-off kind of approach from government.

However, when they are in trouble, they are the first in the line-up to say that they want the government to be there with these massive line-ups. That kind of point is not lost on us.

As one of my colleagues said, it is the old adage that the former leader of the NDP, David Lewis, pointed out of the corporate welfare bums. Those kinds of contradictions exist and we are very mindful of that when we debate these trade agreements.

It is important to us in the NDP to advocate for fair trade agreements and trade agreements that do not put labour standards and environmental standards in some kind of side agreement. It used to be that they were not even mentioned at all. I can remember attending many demonstrations and forums where a huge amount of organizing was done by the Canadian Labour Congress, federations of labour across the country and by NGOs to bring forward this issue of the need to ensure that trade agreements place on par the question of labour rights, environmental rights and social rights.

Historically, those rights were not even part of the agenda. Now we are beginning to see, particularly in this one with Peru, that there are side agreements. However, when we examine this agreement that is before us, we believe that to have a side agreement is completely inadequate. There should be strong labour standards and environmental standards contained within the agreement.

I think this really speaks to the heart of the matter. We certainly support and understand that trade needs to take place between nations but the rules by which that happens and what it is that we consider to be the priorities have been completely negated and missed in the agreement that is before us.

I would also point out that the actual bill before us is enabling legislation. If we had the ability to amend the agreement, if we could send it to committee and if we could deconstruct it and make the amendments that are needed, maybe we would be looking at a different situation.

Unfortunately, with the bill that we are now debating, Bill C-24, because it is enabling legislation, it is basically a take it or leave it proposition. Therefore, we have no recourse but to say that this agreement, as it was negotiated by the Canadian government, should not be approved by Parliament.

We are glad that it has come forward and that we actually have the opportunity to vote on the agreement but, in our opinion, the agreement is very flawed. It is basically a copycat agreement of NAFTA. We feel that this mirrors the outdated George Bush style approach to trade. As the situation financially changes, as we see the global crisis in capitalism, such as the situation with General Motors, then, surely to God, what we are doing with these trade agreements should also be changing. We should be recognizing that these agreements, as they have been negotiated in the past, are not even serving the corporate interests any more. Even those corporate interests are now in trouble, but they are certainly not serving the interest of average people.

When it comes to the situation in Peru, a lot of evidence shows how workers have been disaffected and how they have minimal rights. Therefore, we are insistent that this trade agreement should put at the top of the agenda the inclusion of those labour rights. We care about workers, whether it is here in Canada, Peru or in any other country, but to have this race to the bottom where workers pay the price and Canadians lose their jobs is a situation that we find intolerable.

We are against this bill. We believe there is very strong public support to defeat this agreement, to go back to the table and to renegotiate something that is based on fair labour standards, on protection for the environment and on protection for social conditions.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to congratulate the hon. member on her excellent speech. The Bloc Québécois has long been concerned with the issue of the social and environmental responsibility of Canadian companies abroad, and most particularly Canadian mining companies.

Canada and some mining companies maintain that mining operations in the southern hemisphere provide a means of fighting poverty. We often hear the argument that mining is a benefit to populations in the southern hemisphere. However, we believe that quite the opposite is true. Indeed, under chapter 11 of NAFTA, mining companies can exert pressure on the social, economic, and cultural policies of the governments of these countries.

Can my colleague explain to the House how this agreement will be detrimental to the progress of these developing populations?

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, my colleague from the Bloc is entirely right. There is a very negative history when it comes to Canadian mining companies, whether it is in Peru, Colombia or in other countries. In fact, there is a very strong movement within our own country to hold these companies to account for operating in a way that undermines local conditions and violates workers' rights.

The illusion that those companies are somehow there to help that developing country is a fallacy that we now understand, which is another indication of why this agreement is so flawed. This agreement does nothing to address the harmful practices of those Canadian corporations. They are exploiting labour and the environment and we want it stopped. Unfortunately, it will not be stopped by this trade agreement. It will only be made worse.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to follow up on the answer the member just gave.

The bill does nothing to address the labour difficulties in labour law in Peru, so let us stop any effort to improve our competitive trading position in Peru, which is in a trade deficit situation, so we can demonstrate our concern about labour practices.

At the same time, however, since the United States and a number of other countries have already signed these agreements with Peru, it means that Canadian businesses will not be competitive and we will lose that business and lose jobs in Canada.

The question is quite simple. Is it our role here to balance the needs to create jobs or retain jobs in Canada or to demonstrate that we are concerned about labour laws and practices in Peru?

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, as I pointed out before, the bill before us today does not allow us to amend the agreement. We either support it or we do not. We think that the agreement is fundamentally flawed.

Our position in the NDP is that we defend and advocate for good quality jobs here in Canada. Heck, we do that day after day in the House, which is more than I can say the Liberals have done, but we do not do that at the expense of labour rights in other countries. That is why these trade deals are so important in terms of examining what is really going on. For example, in the U.S.-Peru deal, the environment and labour sections are not side agreements but are part of the agreement. Why do we not have that in Canada? Why have we relegated them to side agreements where the compliance mechanisms are very minimal?

This is not an issue of pitting one against the other. This is saying that if we have trade agreements, we need to ensure they protect Canadian interests but, at the same time, that they do not violate the rights of workers in other countries. What kind of position is that? It is quite shocking that the Liberals are going along with this but they do have a history of promoting and advocating these kinds of agreements. We are not prepared to do that. We are prepared to say that we want fair trade agreements that respect labour rights both in Canada and in Peru.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Madam Speaker, it is an honour for me to speak to this bill. As I have already indicated, the Bloc Québécois does not support this free trade agreement, basically because it does not meet a number of criteria and objectives that are necessary when concluding trade agreements that will create fairer, more equitable trade, rather than trade that fosters inequalities.

We believe that all new free trade agreements must contain clauses requiring that minimum standards concerning human rights, labour rights and respect for the environment be met. The free trade agreement with Peru, for example, would open many doors to Canadian investments in mining in Peru, but it does not include adequate provisions to protect workers and the environment.

There is no doubt that Canada is a leader in the mining sector. The federal government uses tax credits and financial and logistical aid to support companies operating abroad. The current federal government promotes Canadian companies' activities, but does not seem too concerned about whether any particular company complies with minimum human rights and environmental standards. The federal government, with support from the Liberals, of course, refused to adopt mandatory social responsibility standards for Canadian mining companies operating abroad.

It is ironic, if not downright pathetic, to see the Liberals oppose the adoption of mandatory standards even though they are in opposition. People say that when the Liberals are in opposition, they have a New Democratic agenda, but when they are in power, they have a Conservative agenda.

On the one hand, they support this agreement, but on the other, they introduced two legislative measures this session: Bill C-300, An Act respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil or Gas in Developing Countries, by the member for Scarborough—Guildwood; and Motion M-283 on the social responsibility of the Canadian extractive industry in developing countries, by the member for Pierrefonds—Dollard. Despite supporting the agreements with Colombia and Peru, they have introduced motions to support and, as they put it, encourage companies to respect the environment and labour rights abroad. They introduce bills like that, then they turn around and vote in favour of agreements between Canada and Colombia or Canada and Peru. That is a major contradiction. I would like to expand on that.

Take Bill C-300, which the Liberals introduced in the House. The purpose of the bill was to ensure that Canadian mining companies behaved responsibly and complied with international human rights and environmental standards. The Liberals introduced that bill, but now they are voting for the Canada-Peru agreement and the Canada-Colombia agreement. Unbelievable. That is a basic contradiction. That is what I call political hypocrisy. It is unthinkable that a party could take such positions.

For some years now, a number of Canadian mining companies have been directly or indirectly associated with forced population displacements—it happened in Colombia—significant environmental damage, support to repressive regimes, serious human rights violations and sometimes even assassinations, as has occurred with many union members working in Colombia, for example. That is why Bill C-300 was introduced and that is why the Bloc will support the Liberals' bill.

That is why the Bloc Québécois has always defended the need to impose standards of social responsibility on companies operating abroad. But the federal government has always defended the principle of laissez-faire, preferring a voluntary approach.

I would like to point out that the Liberals have not taken a consistent position in this House. It is disgraceful for the Liberals to be voting in favour of this agreement. I would like the Liberal members to explain their logic because I have a great deal of difficulty understanding it.

They support the Conservatives and refuse to include mandatory standards in the agreement with Peru when there is clearly a need to adopt mandatory standards for the social responsibilities of Canadian mining companies. Now they are presenting these two legislative measures. It is a contradiction.

What can we say about the Liberals in this debate? I hope they will go and hide. Fortunately, stupidity and ridicule are not deadly; otherwise there would not be many Liberals left in this House. I would say they are being devious in this matter. I have been listening to them since yesterday and I am amazed.

As I was saying, rather than imposing mandatory standards, the government continues, on the contrary, to believe in the myth that Canadian companies act responsibly. It naively continues to defend the idea that a voluntary commitment is enough to guarantee that the activities of Canadian companies abroad will be conducted in a responsible manner.

It is important to remind the Conservative and Liberal members that the radical reforms imposed by the government of Alberto Fujimori between 1990 and 2000 reduced the size of the state and undermined its capacity to intervene effectively and to impose standards over its entire territory. We must not forget that.

Since then, yes there have been reinvestments, and Peru is currently in a phase of good economic growth. We must, however, consider Peru a developing country.

The Canadian government is responsible for ensuring that its legislation does not run counter to the needs of the populations concerned. Development must be sustainable, fair and equitable. It must be harmonious and respect local populations.

It is not enough just to say that our legislation creates jobs or stimulates local economies. This is why the Bloc Québécois has always favoured the adoption of mandatory standards and accountability measures with respect to the activities of mining companies in other countries.

This bill does not even reflect the recommendations by committees whose representatives had been to the field. The industry has studied the matter. By turning its back on the numerous recommendations by industry and civil society contained in the report by the advisory group to the National Roundtables on Corporate Social Responsibility, in which all parliamentarians took part and which dealt with the Canadian extractive industry in developing countries, the Canadian government has made itself complicit in the human rights abuses and environmental damages caused by the actions of certain offending companies. I cannot accept that.

This is why the Bloc Québécois is voting against these agreements. A trade system that results in the exploitation of developing countries is not viable.

Contrary to what the government may say, increasing exports through a free trade agreement between Canada and Peru will not automatically resolve the economic inequalities, social problems and poverty related to that country's development.

Including in the agreement a clause protecting investments, patterned on NAFTA's chapter 11, will allow businesses to sue the government. This clause will, I am sure, limit the Peruvian state's capacity to ensure equitable social and economic development for its population.

In this context, the free trade agreement with Peru contains some basic elements that prevent us from supporting this bill.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

John Weston West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his speech.

I do not understand why the two parties disagree. Is there a lack of communication or a real difference of opinion? There are at least three good reasons to support this agreement. First of all, there is a need for free trade, especially since the global problems are affecting both the province of Quebec and the rest of Canada. There has been only one free trade agreement in recent years, but more are needed to improve the economic situation.

Another reason to support this agreement is the pursuit of social justice. Like the Bloc Québécois and the NDP members, I am on a quest for social justice. I went to Peru and worked with Canadian Food for the Hungry. We must make a commitment to resolve the problems and NGOs cannot do it alone. They need help from companies and other Canadians.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Madam Speaker, I will not applaud those remarks, because I find them very naive. A study was conducted in Peru in 2004. The figures I have show that 97 disputes between communities and mining companies were reported. Some 60% of Canadian companies in Peru work in the mining sector. These disputes related to issues of access to lands and the destruction of the environment. In Colombia, thousands of people have been displaced because companies are taking away their lands and displacing populations in order to mine there.

We support free trade, but free trade that is fair and equitable, and that fosters sustainable development while respecting all local populations.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to ask my colleague if he has any concerns that labour standards and environmental standards are not part of the main agreement but part of side agreements in this Canada-Peru free trade agreement.

Some analysts have noted that while there is a similarity between this agreement and the one that the United States entered into with Peru, in the United States agreement environmental and labour standards are part of the main agreement. They also point out that the Canadian environmental standards agreement is much weaker than what the Americans have in their agreement but that this has not slowed President Garcia from making changes to the environmental policies of Peru that do not help the environment and have been very detrimental to the people of Peru.

Given those problems, I am wondering if he could comment on those particular issues and the problems associated with the Canadian agreement in this regard.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Madam Speaker, my NDP colleague is also alluding to chapter 11 of NAFTA, which was reproduced in this agreement. The Bloc Québécois is in favour of multilateral rather than bilateral agreements. Under a multilateral agreement, companies must adhere more closely to these standards. There are things that could be done but that are not being talked about with regard to this agreement. We need a fair and equitable agreement that would require mining companies to report annually on their activities abroad and comply with the standards. An independent ombudsman office could be created to receive complaints about the activities of non-compliant Canadian companies abroad.

There is nothing in this agreement that talks about the recommendations we made. A tripartite committee could be formed to monitor compliance with the standards. This committee would be made up of representatives of government, civil society and the extractive industry. There are ways to mine in compliance with environmental standards. There are even mining techniques that create less pollution. But there is nothing about any of this in this agreement with Peru.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, members have all received substantial input from various stakeholders and constituents about trade deals, probably more about the proposed deal with Colombia, but also about the Peru agreement. There is a form letter that starts, “I'm shocked and dismayed”, which has been going around.

Much of the debate that has taken place with regard to this particular bill, Bill C-24, the Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act, has been dealing with the more substantive concerns that Canadians have about entering into agreements with countries that have reputations on human rights issues that cause them concern, particularly with Colombia and the cocaine trade.

Having been a member of Parliament for some 15 years, one of the key lessons I learned from former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien was that it is very, very difficult, if not impossible, to achieve several objectives in terms of promoting Canadian values and interests at the same time. Sometimes we have to take a complex situation and deal with it separately.

Former Prime Minister Chrétien said that if we wanted him to be a boy scout, go to China and tell the Chinese what they should do about human rights, that would not do any good because then he would be out of the loop. Canada's trade relationship with China would become impaired and there would be consequences for being a boy scout where he could not do anything. He said that he would rather be at the table. He would want to be there, show them how Canada works, share the value system we have and show them we are concerned about and look for every opportunity to advocate for human rights issues, for environmental issues, for fair and free trade issues.

These bills raise all these kinds of concerns. On the Colombia deal, the Standing Committee on International Trade would probably say we should have a human rights assessment. That human rights assessment would show that there is a terrible drug trade and a lot of nastiness going on there. The human rights situation is terrible compared to Canada and this is really unacceptable.

This is a wonderful thing to do when we are talking about doing more business with that country. It rubs in its face the realities that we know. I understand it is important to keep the message in front of the world about the challenges that many countries have, whether they are human rights issues or environmental issues, or corruption, which is rampant. If we did a human rights assessment on all countries that we traded with and they did not pass the smell test, as it were, then we would say we will not trade with them.

Why do we not look at China? Would China pass a human rights assessment? Probably not. Would India pass a human rights assessment? Probably not. Would Colombia? Probably not.

How about the United States? There has been a lot of debate in this place about torture and tactics and even accusing people in this chamber who have views that in certain circumstances we need more aggressive techniques to get information from terrorists. It is totally unacceptable to many members in this place even to think that maybe there is a scenario under which more aggressive techniques should take place. I think the consensus would be that there should be no human rights abuses, no torture.

If we are to apply the same criteria that we want to apply to Peru about having a human rights assessment before we consider trading or expanding trade, that means we have to reconsider our trading relationship with our largest trading partner, the United States.

It is bizarre and it is probably a stretch, but it can be argued. I wanted to speak today because I receive so many communications from people who have been told that this is terrible and we should not be doing business with these people. Most of them unfortunately do not understand that we already have a trading relationship with all of these countries. We already do trade.

With regard to Peru itself, we have a significant trade deficit. We have $390 million in exports to Peru, including cereals, paper, technical instruments and machinery, but we import from Peru about $2.5 billion, mostly in minerals such as gold, zinc and copper ores, as well as animal feed and vegetables.

We have to ask ourselves whether or not Canada is prepared, notwithstanding the current recession and the economic climate, to sacrifice doing more business, growing our economy and creating jobs for the opportunity to say to them that the way they run their country, the laws that they have with regard to human rights, labour and the environment are the kinds of things that we have a problem with, and we would rather forgo the additional business with them because we are good boy scouts. We are the messenger. We would like to do trade with them but they have not passed our test.

That seems to be overly simplistic but if we listen to the debate that has gone on for some days now, it always comes back to the need for fair trade practices. We need responsible and fair labour practices. We need respect for the environment.

When I look at Canada's situation on the environment, who are we to lecture somebody else about our priority with regard to the environment? Who is Canada to lecture them, when our own government first of all cancelled every program that was set up to get Canadians onside to start dealing with greenhouse gas emissions and the consequences of global warming, which are horrendous?

The government also wants to set standards which tend to protect and insulate current industries and current practices. It came up with one scheme which said that they could pollute up to the same levels that they are doing right now. If they are going to produce more oil, for instance, as long as the incremental pollution and greenhouse gas emissions created are no greater than they are already averaging, then that is okay. In other words, the current level of pollution is acceptable. That is the position of the current government, to go ahead and pollute at the same levels.

Anybody who knows anything about the environment knows that at our current rate the damage is going to be tremendous. The book Sea Sick talks about phytoplankton and that the carbons being assimilated and dissolved into the water are reducing and killing the growth of phytoplankton. These are the kinds of things I wanted to raise because the seas are more sacred than the land, and if the seas go, the land is going to go right after them.

We have some serious problems on the environment, but I wanted to rise and say that we should not try to achieve all objectives every time we have a deal or relationship with another country. We do some trade now. Other countries have already entered into similar trade agreements. They have a competitive advantage over Canada. If we do not enter this deal, if we do not deal with those tariffs that we presently are facing, even the existing exports into Peru will disappear because we cannot be price competitive. That would cost jobs in Canada.

We have to think more carefully about what our objectives are.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Madam Speaker, I was listening to our colleague, whom we very much appreciate in the House and who often speaks. However, I do not necessarily always agree with his positions.

I would like him to explain why the Liberal Party—which may form the government in future, because it aspires to power—voted in favour of Motion M-283?

This motion says that “the government should act immediately to implement the measures of the Advisory Group report “National Roundtables on Corporate Social Responsibility and the Canadian Extractive Industry in Developing Countries” by creating, in an appropriate legal framework and with the funds needed, an independent ombudsman office with the power to receive and investigate complaints”.

You are familiar with the motion, and you voted for it. This agreement contains no provision that has to do with any funds, even though the motion called for providing funds. Yet you will vote in favour of the free trade agreement between Canada and the Republic of Peru. I would like to hear what you have to say about this.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
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10:50 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

I would like to remind the hon. member that he should address the chair. The hon. member for Mississauga South.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
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10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, this is precisely the point. I do not think there are many people in this place who do not believe in having a national round table or an international round table forum to discuss how we can address the issues that are being raised by that private member's motion by the member for Scarborough—Guildwood. Yes, I support it.

It is a definable, focused effort to do something concrete in regard to, for instance, mining standards, et cetera, and dealing with those who invest in things and destroy the environment. It does not have anything to do with trade, though. If we link that with something else and say that we will not do something unless something else is fixed, there are three or four issues on the table as well as the trading issues that this bill deals with, and if one of those things should fail, then the whole thing would fail.

The question for the House to consider is whether or not we should sacrifice trade, jobs and opportunities to continue to influence our actions and the actions of other countries with regard to commercial activity which negatively impacts the environment.