House of Commons Hansard #85 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was help.

Topics

Employment Insurance Act
Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

Employment Insurance Act
Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

I wish to defer the vote until the end of government orders tomorrow.

Employment Insurance Act
Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The vote will be deferred until tomorrow.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The member for Berthier—Maskinongé has five minutes for questions and comments.

The hon. member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I had the opportunity to listen to my colleague's speech more than 10 days ago. He reminded us how bad the Canada-Columbia free trade agreement was for Canada and for Quebec.

This was 10 days ago, and not all of our honourable colleagues heard the speech. I would like the member for Berthier—Maskinongé to tell us again why he opposes this bill.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert for her question.

Of course we are opposed to this agreement for many reasons. First, we know very well that it is not a free trade agreement that targets trade. It focuses more on protecting investments. Therefore it is an investment-protection agreement.

Furthermore, I am a member of the Standing Committee on International Trade, which travelled to Colombia to meet with unions, management and all kinds of social groups. They all told us outright that Colombia is a corrupt country. Last week Ingrid Betancourt was in Quebec and she told us that there are major problems in Colombia at present.

A free trade agreement that protects investments—especially one that protects mining companies—will not solve the problems and improve the lot of thousands of Colombians who have been displaced by these large companies.

Supporting a free trade agreement will not improve protection for union workers who are the targets of paramilitary assassins. For these reasons, my colleague and I, as well as the entire Bloc Québécois, are opposed to the signing of this agreement with Colombia.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my hon. colleague because he hit the nail right on the head with this issue. On this bill, the Liberals and the Conservatives are only interested in protecting the ability of capital to move wherever it wants.

However, when we raise the numerous human rights violations, the 28 or 29 workers who have been killed this year alone, not by drug cartels or violence and street gangs, but people who are organizing in their workplace, the response we have received from the Liberals and the Conservatives is that every country has problems, even Canada, but that the best way to help the country is to ignore the problems. Their response seems to be to ignore people who are being killed working in the very plants in which we are looking to invest. They tell us that as long as we allow capital to do whatever it wants without any obligations, somehow conditions will improve in Colombia.

Given the member's experience with the people he has spoken with, why does he think the Liberals and the Conservatives are showing no interest whatsoever in the killings that have taken place this year while this thing was being debated under their watch?

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his question.

Why is that the case? When it comes to free trade agreements—and we know that the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement does not address any real issues—both the Liberals and the Conservatives have basically said that if we do more business with a particular country and that country generates more income, there will automatically be better redistribution of the collective wealth to support society's poor.

But it is not automatic at all. Quite the contrary. For example, the Americans have a lot of money in circulation, but they are still fighting for a public health system.

So it is not true that, if a country amasses more dividends and income, things will be better for people with problems and high crime rates like Colombia's will come down. That is what we keep hearing in the House, but I disagree completely.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is great to rise in the House today and speak on behalf of this bill; in support of my colleague the Minister of International Trade, who is doing an absolutely fantastic job on this file; and on behalf of our Prime Minister, who is espousing the virtues of trade around the world and doing a great job on the international stage.

I want to touch on something that is near and dear to my heart and near and dear to the hearts of my constituents: the agricultural sector. That is the part I will be focusing on in my remarks today with regard to Bill C-23. Our government is pulling out all the stops to help ensure that Canadian farmers succeed and to build a strong future for the agricultural sector as a whole.

The Canada-Colombia free trade agreement is a strong example of how the government is working to maintain and expand markets for our agricultural exports. Our Conservative government has been working very hard to build new opportunities in global markets for our producers. Our government has negotiated free trade agreements with key markets including: Colombia; Jordan; Panama; the European Free Trade Association, including the countries of Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein; and also Peru.

During the constituency break that we all had just recently, farmers and producers, particularly in my riding of Wetaskiwin, told me how happy they were with our progress on market access and the initiatives that we put forward. We produce so much more beef, pork, grains and oilseeds than we could possibly use here in Canada. Because we are an exporting nation, it is absolutely critical and fundamental to our producers that we have market access and a level playing field for our producers to trade and compete on. That is absolutely vital to the producers that I represent. I am proud to represent them and I am proud of the work our government has done on this file.

The government signed the Canada-Colombia bilateral free trade agreement on November 21, 2008. This free trade agreement will strengthen our existing trade relationship with Colombia. It will provide Canadian exporters and producers with improved access to this very important market.

Colombia has been an important partner in agricultural trade. In 2008, Canada exported agrifood products worth $212 million and imported $297 million worth of products, mainly coffee, bananas, flowers and sugar. In fact, Colombia is the second-largest market for Canadian agricultural exports to South America. It is a very important trading partner indeed.

Canadian producers will benefit from the elimination of tariffs on exports into Colombia. Many agricultural exports such as wheat, barley, lentils and peas will receive immediate duty-free status. That is very important. Commodities such as beef and beans will also benefit from immediate duty-free access within specified volumes. Canada is not alone in pursuing an ambitious bilateral free trade agreement agenda. Colombia has concluded similar agreements with the United States and is negotiating another one with the European Union.

Allowing Canadian agricultural exporters to remain competitive with other preferential suppliers to Colombia is key to maintaining a competitive sector. This free trade agreement will ensure that Canadian exports compete on par with exports from the United States to the Colombian market for products such as beef, beans, whisky, vodka and maple syrup.

To the benefit of our processors and consumers, Canada will immediately eliminate tariffs on nearly all agricultural imports from Colombia. Signing a free trade agreement with Colombia has also provided momentum for Canada to engage the Colombian government in substantive technical discussions toward lifting Colombia's ban on Canadian beef and cattle.

Step by step, our government is reopening markets to Canadian producers. This strategy is sending a strong message to the rest of the global community that it is time that their consumers once again enjoy our top quality Canadian products.

Our government looks forward to exploring new and expanded opportunities for Canadian agricultural exporters and farmers. As we move forward, the government will continue to consult closely with the entire agricultural industry regarding how best to advance Canada's interests. We are working with our trading partners to establish bilateral and regional agreements and we are working with industry, all with the common goal of building our agricultural trade and opening up new opportunities for our farmers and processors.

Opening and expanding markets around the world creates opportunities for our producers to drive the Canadian economy. During this time of global economic uncertainty, we have to maximize trade opportunities on the world stage. As our Prime Minister has said:

Canada will be watching how the United States implements the “Buy American” clause in its stimulus package, because it could quickly send the world economy from recession into depression.

That is how serious the threat of protectionism is at this time. That is why it is so important that our country engages other trading partners around the world. It is good for Canada. It is good for the partners that we trade with and it is good for their respective citizens.

Furthermore, protectionism does not help farmers or Canadian businesses, but our government's trade initiatives do. They help all farmers and all Canadians by creating jobs and long-term prosperity.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

Bloc

Jean Dorion Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the member opposite a question.

We know that trade between Canada and Colombia is minimal compared to our overall trade with the Americas. Yet Canada has a great deal of money invested in Colombia, especially in the mining sector.

What is the real reason for signing this treaty? It is called a free trade treaty, which gives the impression that it is primarily about trade. But is it not true that it is designed to protect Canadian investments and that the goal is to create conditions that unfairly favour Canadian investments?

In fact, clauses in the treaty provide that, as in many other treaties signed by Canada with southern nations, investors whose profits decrease as a result of the adoption of progressive labour and environmental protection policies can sue the Colombian government and prevent Colombia from making social and environmental progress.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my colleague's question. He is asking me a question about mining after my speech primarily focused on agriculture. He wants to talk about mining and I would like to talk about wheat, but that is okay. I will answer his question anyway.

The free trade agreement that we are signing with Colombia is progressive. I always ask myself: Who do I have the most influence with? Do I have influence with somebody who is my friend, or do I have influence with somebody who I do not have a relationship with? When it comes to creating relationships with our friends, I like to think that Canada has much more influence with its friends than it does with people with whom it does not have a relationship.

Colombia is emerging. It is doing the right things. Yes, there are some troubles but these things have been overcome. Crime and killings are on the decrease. The government is getting focused on providing security and a safe environment for its workers and its citizens.

Canada is a model in the way we do business, in the way we conduct ourselves around the world. It will be great when Canada's influence in Colombia is extended through this agreement because it will bring further prosperity, further harmony, and produce great benefits not only for the people of Canada but for the people of Colombia as well.

Helping to bring people up creates more human rights and a better quality of life for all citizens involved on both sides of this agreement.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to acknowledge the member for Burnaby—New Westminster who has been tireless in raising the important issues around this free trade agreement.

I would like the member for Wetaskiwin to specifically comment on the fact that in 2008 the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade recommended that no agreement be signed with Colombia until the human rights situation there had improved. As well, the committee recommended that a human rights impact assessment be undertaken to determine the real impact of a trade agreement.

This is in the context of the fact that indigenous people in Colombia are going to be affected by any free trade agreement. Appropriate consultation is consistently called for in Canada when first nations are going to be impacted by any kind of potential development.

I wonder if the member could specifically comment as to his views on this human rights impact assessment on the indigenous people in Colombia.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, my comments in my speech were mainly regarding agriculture but if nobody in the New Democratic Party or the Bloc Québécois wants to talk about agriculture I am fine with that as well.

The reality is that there have been some issues. Absolutely. The member for Burnaby—New Westminster has been asking many questions in the House with the precision of a frisbee thrown in a hurricane.

The labour agreement that is covered is a side agreement. There is an environmental agreement, a labour agreement and the right to freedom of association. That is a great improvement for the citizens of Colombia. The labour agreement would ensure collective bargaining agreements and that is a great thing. One would think the NDP would be solidly behind collective bargaining. For some reason those members are going to vote against collective bargaining.

The abolition of child labour is another great thing in this agreement and that is consistent with the United Nations declaration. Other great things include: the elimination of discrimination, providing protections for occupational safety and health and employment standards such as minimum wages and overtime pay. I have no idea why the Bloc Québécois and the NDP are so outraged by these things.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

NDP

John Rafferty Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to make some comments on the former speaker's remarks, but maybe I will try to include those in the points that I am going to make today.

I would like to speak about four particularly egregious parts of this free trade agreement, and then I would like to talk a little bit about the difference between free trade and fair trade, which I think is an argument and a discussion that we need to have.

This free trade agreement really is a failure regarding labour rights protection. It does not include tough labour standards, and by putting it into a side agreement, outside of the main text without any vigorous enforcement mechanism, it is destined to do absolutely nothing. There are problems with that.

The second egregious aspect of this free trade agreement is a failure regarding environmental protection. The environmental issue is also addressed as a side agreement. It has no enforcement mechanism to force Canada or Colombia to respect environmental rights. It is as simple as that.

The third egregious part of this free trade agreement is the investor chapter. I have been out on this and my party has been out on this for a number of free trade agreements, including NAFTA. This investor chapter is almost copied directly from NAFTA's chapter 11 on investor rights. The bottom line is that it allows companies to sue governments. That is dangerous. It involves the sovereignty of nations.

The fourth egregious part, and this is what the previous speaker was talking about, is agriculture and agricultural tariffs. Colombia's poverty is directly linked to agricultural development in a country where 22% of the workforce is agricultural. Now an end to tariffs on a number of Canadian goods could very well flood the market with cheap goods and could lead to the loss of thousands of jobs in the agricultural sector of Colombia.

Those are the four aspects of this agreement that really cause me some grief, and I think cause the rest of the NDP some grief.

Let me talk about free trade and fair trade. What do I mean when I talk about fair trade? We hear this expression all the time. Fair trade is really trade rules and agreements that promote sustainable practices, domestic job creation and healthy working conditions, while allowing us to manage the supply of goods, promoting democratic rights abroad and maintaining democratic sovereignty at home. All of those are elements of fair trade.

Free trade agreements that we have entered into, and I have spoken back in my riding and in this House about NAFTA and softwood lumber and other agreements, really fall quite short of being considered fair trade.

The question remains, how do we promote fair trade? When we make agreements, we can have new agreements which encourage improvement in social, environmental and labour conditions rather than just minimizing the damage of unrestricted trade. Federal and provincial procurement policies should stimulate Canadian industries by allowing governments to favour suppliers here at home.

How else can we promote fair trade? Supply management boards and single-desk marketers, like the Canadian Wheat Board, can help to replace imports with domestic products and materials. Lastly, we can promote fair trade with local, community and individual initiatives to buy fair trade imports and locally-produced goods.

Why fair trade and not free trade? Fair trade policies protect the environment by encouraging the use of domestically and locally-produced goods. We hear all about the 100 mile diet and all sorts of things going on in this country. I have a large agricultural sector in my riding of Thunder Bay—Rainy River.

What using locally-produced goods basically means for the environment is less freight, less fuel and less carbon. By promoting environmentally-conscience methods for producers who ship to Canada, we can make a positive environmental impact.

By contrast, free trade policies, even those created with the environment in mind, do little to impede multinational corporations from polluting with abandon. The environmental side agreement of NAFTA, for example, has proven largely unenforceable, particularly when compared with other protections for industries and investors.

A system of fair trade that encourages the growth of Canadian jobs, both in quality and in quantity, fair competition rules and tougher labour standards will put Canadian industries on a level playing field with our trading partners and slow the international race to the bottom. That has resulted in the loss of thousands of Canadian manufacturing jobs.

Free trade rules, on the other hand, have hurt Canadian job quality. Since 1989, most Canadian families have seen a decline in real incomes. Fair trade can also protect labour rights by fostering the growth of workers' co-operatives and labour unions.

Like the environmental side accord, NAFTA's labour agreement has gone mostly unenforced, giving industries that are willing to violate workers' rights incentives to relocate Canadian jobs. Fair trade policies which favour co-ops, unions and equitable pricing will protect workers in the developing world who might otherwise be exploited and take away reasons for Canadian producers to export jobs.

Fair trade rules would also protect societies and human rights right around the globe. Although some predicted a human rights benefit from unrestricted free trade, this has yet to be seen. In contrast, conflicts between locals and multinational corporations in such places as Peru have become violent. A fair trade policy that aims for benefits for all parties can protect the most vulnerable from human rights abuse.

Here are some facts about Colombia.

Colombia is not, in the grand scheme of things, a very significant trading partner for Canada. It is our fifth largest trading partner in Latin America.

We have heard before in this debate, from various quarters, about the problems and the violence that goes on in Colombia. I have been to Colombia recently and while things have improved in the last six years in terms of numbers, it is still a country where three people a day on average are killed by land mines. That is the highest in the world. It is a dangerous place to live and it is a dangerous place to work.

What we can do with a trade agreement is help to promote a country that is healthy and respects human rights. Maybe that should be one of the most important things about a trade agreement, certainly a fair trade agreement.

If we think about the environment, nearly 200,000 hectares of natural forest are lost in Colombia every year due to agriculture, logging, mining, energy development and construction. The rights of indigenous peoples are trampled upon. Many people do not know that the very southern border actually runs along the Amazon River, where many of the indigenous peoples in Colombia live. It is a very important spot environmentally and a very important spot for indigenous people and indigenous rights.

Almost four million people in Colombia are internally displaced, and 60% of this displacement is really in regions of mineral activity, agricultural and other economic activities.

I do not believe that this free trade agreement is very well thought out. I do believe that improvements could have been made. We could end up with, rather than a free trade agreement, a fair trade agreement, if only the government had the will to do so.