House of Commons Hansard #85 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was trade.

Topics

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to join the debate on the free trade agreement with the country of Panama. It is an opportunity that I would not want to miss.

Trade is important in my part of the world on the east coast of Canada and in the province of Nova Scotia. We have a long history of trading with all of the east coast areas, such as the Caribbean and Panama. For the life of me, I find the opposition to this agreement a bit difficult and ingenuous.

We already have a long-standing trading relationship between Canada and the country of Panama. We are only trying to set clear parameters and rules and have them apply to that trading relationship but for some reason some people and parties in this place are completely against having rules-based trading. For the life of me, it makes no sense.

As all members in this place know, this is a time when we need to open doors for Canadians, to level the playing field, to create new commercial opportunities and to work with our partners around the world to help Canadians succeed. Panama is a perfect example of a partner with great potential. Canadian manufacturers, exporters and producers, including small and medium-sized producers, need access to markets like this one in order to compete.

In 2009, our two-way trade in merchandise totalled $132.1 million. Key Canadian products, including machinery, motor vehicles and parts, pharmaceutical equipment and pulse crops were some of the driving forces behind this success. Canadian businesses want a deeper partnership with Panama so that they can take full advantage of this dynamic market and what it has to offer.

It is time to deliver on what our businesses and economies need to succeed.

Once the Canada-Panama free trade agreement is in place, trade in these and other products, like pork, beef, fish and seafood, paper products, construction materials and equipment, would become easier for Canadian companies.

Members of the House should recognize just how the Canada-Panama free trade agreement would benefit other regions. Let us take Quebec, for example. In 2009, Quebec merchandise exports to Panama totalled $30 million. These exports fell mostly in the areas of meat, vehicles, machinery, pulp and paper board, pharmaceutical products and scientific precision instruments.

Once implemented, the free trade agreement will eliminate current Panamanian tariffs on vehicles of up to 15%. It will eliminate current tariffs on pork of up to 70%. These are just a few examples of how this agreement would benefit Quebec sectors of export interest.

We have also mentioned in the House, Panama's focus on infrastructure investments which also present great opportunities for growth and infrastructure-related exports, such as machinery, a strong sector in Quebec and Ontario. I do not understand why the Bloc Québécois is against the bill that would provide so many economic opportunities for Quebec.

In Ontario, merchandise exports to Panama totalled $29.3 million in 2009. The key products driving these exports were pharmaceuticals, industrial and electrical machinery, vehicles and scientific and precision instruments. The free trade agreement would eliminate current Panamanian tariffs on a variety of products that are of interest to Ontario exporters. For example, once in force, the agreement will eliminate current tariffs on pharmaceuticals of up to 11%. The agreement will also eliminate current tariffs on industrial and construction machinery of up to 15%.

As everyone in the House knows, these difficult economic times have made our manufacturing sector vulnerable. This sector, in particular, needs new opportunities for growth and our government is acting by providing these opportunities through the Canada-Panama free trade agreement.

Canadian exports, particularly goods, are already at a disadvantage when compared to many of our main competitors. If we delay the passing of this agreement, like the NDP and the Bloc Québécois would want us to do, we risk seeing Canadian exporters and investors further disadvantaged in Panama. We would be setting our companies up to compete on an uneven playing field in a market where we see economic potential.

The Canada-Panama free trade agreement would also benefit Canadian businesses in the western region of our country. In 2009, total merchandise exports from western Canada amounted to $22 million.

In Manitoba, producers of precious stones and metals, as well as those of iron and steel, would benefit from the elimination of current Panamanian tariffs of up to 15% on their exports. Our agricultural producers in Saskatchewan would be able to export their pulses and cereals without facing tariffs of up to 15% and 40% respectively.

More broadly, Panama maintains tariffs averaging 13.4% on agricultural products with tariffs reaching peaks as high as 260% on some of those products. This agreement would eliminate tariffs on 94% of agricultural exports from Canada to Panama.

The power-generating machinery and information and communication technology sectors in Alberta would benefit from the elimination of Panamanian tariffs of up to 15% on their exports to that market.

In British Columbia, exporters of fats and oils would see the elimination of Panamanian tariffs of up to 30%, while wood producing exporters would be able to export their product to Panama without facing tariffs of up to 15%.

Closer to home, in Atlantic Canada, we would also benefit from the Canada-Panama free trade agreement. In New Brunswick, producers of frozen french fries would no longer be faced with Panamanian tariffs of up to 20%. Paper and paperboard producers would see the elimination of tariffs of up to 15%.

Nova Scotia exporters of Christmas trees would be able to have their products enter the Panamanian market without tariffs of 15%. Vehicles and parts exporters from the province would also benefit from the elimination of current Panamanian tariffs of up to 20% on their products.

I want to raise one more point before I conclude my speech. I am sure everyone in the House read the Edmonton Journal this morning and Paul Vieira's article out of the Financial Post that was in there. He states, which is worth repeating:

It's easy to brush off or ignore the federal government's attempt to play up the virtues of its recently negotiated free-trade deal with Panama. The country has a GDP of $28.2-billion, which pales in comparison with Canada's $1.5 -trillion economy, and exports to Panama were a rather meagre $91-million last year.

If that is all that people can see in this agreement, then it all stops there. We need to look to the future, and not just for the future of Canada but also for the future of Panama.

Rather than focus on the country's size, we should focus on the crucial piece of infrastructure in that Central American country, the Panama Canal. Experts tout that the super tankers coming from China will need to pass through a bigger and refurbished canal set to open in 2014 to drop off goods to the U.S. ports and the Canadian ports in the Gulf and Atlantic coasts.

The way Asian trade has been growing and will resume growing once we get a recovery with momentum, it will overwhelm existing Pacific ports. Panama is the key country in the trading block known as the Central American and Caribbean region, or the CAC. This part of the world is small but its economies are indeed growing and are expected to advance at a slighter faster pace than many of the advanced economies in the years ahead.

There are advantages for Canadian companies in this region, as the companies are relatively easy to get to. They are in the same time zone. At least, when it comes to most of the Caribbean, language is not a barrier as English is widely spoken or understood, as well as French, leading some companies to eye the area as possible locations for call centres or other back-office operations. Canadian banks have invested heavily in the Caribbean. Mining companies are also active in the region.

Why would we not want to increase trade with Panama? Why would we not want to put rules-based trading in place where we already have trading? Why would we not want to strengthen our trading agreement with Panama with the inclusion of an agreement on labour and the inclusion of an agreement on the environment? Why would we not want to see life for Panamanians improve?

I, for the life of me, cannot understand the opposition to this deal.

Finally, it has been a pleasure to speak to this bill and I move:

That this question be now put.

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The motion is in order.

Questions and comments on the speech, the hon. member for Halifax West.

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, at the beginning of his speech, my hon. colleague from South Shore--St. Margaret's spoke about the long trading history our province of Nova Scotia has had the Caribbean region.

I think of the Caribbean region as a little more than Central America as the history of trade because we think of the many years over which Nova Scotia would ship fish to the Caribbean and then the ships would not come back empty. They would come back with things like molasses and sometimes some other liquid products from sugar cane that were well known and a source of considerable wealth in his part of Nova Scotia and other parts of Nova Scotia. Particularly during the time of prohibition in the U.S., the region was known for the movement of some considerable quantity of rum.

What does the member see in this agreement in terms of benefits for businesses in Nova Scotia and their workers but also in terms of the benefits for people in Panama.

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is certainly true, particularly in the coastal areas of the riding that I represent, that there was a lot of trade and there still is ongoing trade with the Caribbean and Central America. One of the main products that was shipped down to Central America was fish. However, interestingly enough, a lot of dynamite out of the Dynamite Wharf on Mahone Bay Islands was shipped down. A lot of the schooners coming out of LaHave shipped a lot of fish and dynamite down there and absolutely brought rum back. It was a great commodity with a great marketplace in Atlantic Canada.

Based on that history, we can see the advantages for Panama, for Canada and particularly for the east coast today.

I will go back to my original statement. Panama is an area that is growing and it is looking for partners throughout the world. We will see the twinning and the opening of the second Panama Canal in 2014. The infrastructure development that is going on there today is tremendous. There are opportunities there now for Canadian companies and businesses, including east coast companies. We have the ability to provide logistical support when the traffic moving through the Panama Canal increases by about 30%. This is a part of the world that is growing already by 3% to 4% and we expect will grow by much more than that when the economy starts to improve. It is also a part of the world, as I mentioned before, that is not only in our same time zone and has the ability to dialogue with Canadian companies in English and in French, but it is also a part of the world in which we should be interested. We should want Panama, the rest of Central America and the Caribbean countries that need opportunity. They have a growing population and we want them to do well, and they will do well, especially if we reinforce the trading opportunities that we already have with them.

It is not as if we are not trading with Panama now. We will continue to trade with Panama. To have rules based trading only strengthens those trading opportunities for Panamanians and for Canadians.

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I hope the hon. member is aware that the Bloc Québécois' position has always been clear: Panama is a country on the OECD grey list of tax havens. Before the treaty is ratified, we would like the government to sign a tax information exchange agreement banning income tax exemptions for subsidiaries created by Canadian companies in that country. I want the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade to get the message that the Bloc Québécois will never promote setting up Canadian subsidiaries in tax havens. I hope he will support the Bloc's request.

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Mr. Speaker, the question goes back to my original statement that rules-based trading can only improve the situation that already exists for trade between Canada and Panama. However, we should be clear that the Minister of Finance has already written to his counterpart in Panama, asking that it undertake its obligations. The government of Panama has made a commitment to undertake obligations for tax information sharing with the OECD. That should answer the hon. member's question.

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to have the opportunity today to speak to Bill C-46, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Panama, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Panama and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Panama. I will allude to those agreements as well with respect to the environment and labour co-operation. We definitely need to have a holistic approach when we talk about trade.

The Liberal Party supports sending the bill to the trade committee for further study. The Liberal Party, as the party of free trade, has always promoted efforts to expand the access of Canadian companies to foreign markets. We understand the importance of allowing companies to succeed not only domestically, but abroad as well. After all, we are a trading nation and 80% of our economy depends on exports. Therefore, we must always look for new opportunities to break down barriers and bolster trade.

Ideally, we would like to see Canada open up markets on a multilateral basis. It is important that we recognize we can do much better if we have a multilateral approach. However, with the Doha Round negotiations of the World Trade Organization currently stalled, that means Canada has to focus on bilateral agreements, and that is understandable. The agreement with Panama is one of those agreements that should be pursued. It will provide access to a small but very important Panamanian market.

I have a few key statistics to set the context when I talk about market size. First, Panama has a population of 3.5 million, but, more important, it also has a GDP of $26.2 billion and it is growing. There is some economic growth there as well. Last year we exported over $90 million to Panama and imported $40 million, with a total bilateral trade of $132 million. There is definitely some potential there.

However, the current expansion of the Panama Canal is where there are real opportunities for Canadian companies. Construction, environmental engineering and construction firms will have the opportunity to hopefully gain access to that major initiative.

In 2008, I had the distinct pleasure, along with my colleagues from the trade committee, to travel to Panama to see the canal first-hand. I had the opportunity to look at Panama as a possible jurisdiction for free trade and to pursue a free trade agreement with it. I saw the canal, which carries such a large portion of the world's trade, and marvelled at the engineering that allowed for its creation. I also saw the dynamic and modern city of Panama, which is a business hub for that region. The message conveyed to us was that Panama was stable. It is a modern country that has made significant progress in terms of development and democracy over the years.

Panama has also taken tremendous pride in reclaiming the canal from American control back in 1999. The canal's ambitious expansion is part of a sense of ownership and the understanding that the canal is key to the country's future prosperity.

However, there are some concerns I want to raise with respect to this debate. It is good that we are pursuing this free trade agreement, but it has very minimal impact in the context of our overall trade. While our competitors, other countries, other jurisdictions are pursuing aggressively courting other major developing economies like China and India, Canada is lagging far behind. I believe we are going about this in the wrong way in how we pursue our trade policy.

Canada should be focusing its trade agenda on larger growing markets like Brazil, India, China and Russia, where there are more opportunities for Canadian companies. By focusing on large markets, we can set the template that can be easily transferred to small markets, thereby speeding up the overall negotiation process.

To that effect, the Liberal Party recently presented, as part of our platform and as part of our international outlook, a global networks strategy, which really articulated a trade policy agenda going forward. That would work as a means to generate economic opportunities with the countries I alluded to before, the emerging major powers.

This proposed agreement would provide an opportunity to look at areas of trade and investment, financial services, transportation, higher education, research and development, energy, natural resources and a whole range of areas. I wanted to take this opportunity during the debate in the House to mention this because it is so important that we do this.

It is important for us to look at trade as a means to gain access to markets. This is the first time in over 30 years that we have had trade deficits, something which has alarmed many businesses. Small and medium-sized enterprises in my riding have had to close their doors because of lack of opportunities, not only in the domestic market but in the foreign market as well.

Panama is a first good step, but the real opportunities are in countries like China, Indian and Brazil.

Going back to the comment I made earlier, with respect to having a holistic approach when it comes to free trade. I mentioned that the agreements on the environment and labour co-operation were very important. We also need to talk about this when it comes to trade.

As Canadians, we value market access and market fair play. We want to reduce tariffs. We want to promote economic opportunity. However, we have a responsibility that goes beyond that, too. We have a responsibility, as global citizens, to invest and ensure that we hold ourselves and our trading partners to the best possible environmental standards, that we take this opportunity to talk about labour co-operation and labour standards and ensure that countries comply with international standards. We also have a responsibility to address issues of human rights.

The Liberal Party has always talked about this kind of approach. We have not only talked about free trade but fair trade as well. We have also very much promoted the importance of the environment and labour. It is something we have discussed with regard to many trade agreements and it is important we do not miss the opportunity in this debate.

Tremendous progress has been made in Panama. I saw it first hand. However, I believe we can continue to improve the situation there and also create a framework of going forward for other free trade agreements as well.

As I indicated, in terms of investment abroad, it is not only important to simply to have a free trade agreement with Panama. It is also important that we invest in the trade commissions and foreign embassies abroad that provide support to businesses.

There are many examples in my riding of businesses, particularly the small and medium-sized enterprises. Larger corporations tend to have that infrastructure in place. The small and medium-sized enterprises are looking for opportunities. Not only do they need market access, but they need the market intelligence, the data, the relevant information to better understand the market so they can better position themselves.

I would encourage the government, when it does invest or does pursue these free trade agreements, to also look at areas and means as to how we can really bolster our foreign embassies and trades abroad because it is so important.

Above and beyond pursuing a global network strategy in terms of free trade agreements and investing in foreign trade commissions, we also need to start putting together Team Canada missions. The Liberals pursued this very aggressively in the 1990s. It was an opportunity for us to really brand Canada. I realized this as a result of my travels abroad, even when I was in Panama, Colombia and other jurisdictions. It is very difficult to talk about free trade because some of the perceptions and stereotypes that exist do not necessarily reflect the economic reality and potential of Canada.

It is important that we brand Canada. It is important that we work together, all parliamentarians, in travelling abroad with business leaders and leaders from all sectors of the Canadian economy to brand Canada and to show that we have enormous potential. It would give us the leverage needed to ensure we could successfully pursue other bilateral trade agreements. This would be a step in the right direction. However, we need to ensure that we also pursue some of those key markets, as indicated, which are very important to our businesses, as well.

I would like to take this opportunity again to say that the Liberal Party looks forward to this debate and discussion. We would like to take this into committee, study it, bring forward witnesses, talk about issues that have been raised in the House and ensure that we promote trade in a manner that really benefits the economy as a whole. However, I would like to, from a local perspective, from my constituency of Mississauga—Brampton South, take the opportunity to emphasize the importance of focusing our resources and our strategies around promoting small and medium-sized enterprises and giving them the tools they need to succeed not only domestically, but abroad as well.

There is enormous potential with Panama because of the expansion of the canal. I am confident the Canadian companies that have expertise in engineering and infrastructure would ensure we could meet the requirements of Panama. We will be able to pursue that after we push forward this free trade agreement. This is really encouraging because a lot of companies in my riding and across the country would benefit from that. I hope all parliamentarians take it under consideration as part of our economic recovery going forward.

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my colleague. We lament the fact that he is no longer the trade critic for the Liberal Party. The one time, since I have been in Parliament, where the Liberal Party did not act as a sock puppet to the Conservative trade deals, regardless of how bad they were, was when he was trade critic. He came back from Colombia and stood with the New Democrats and the Bloc and said no to the Colombia trade deal. That was a proud moment for the Liberal Party. It was the last time that it took any principled position at all on trade and it was under his leadership as trade critic.

As the member well knows, the biggest problem with the Panama trade deal, and the elephant in the room, is the dirty drug money laundering that takes place in Panama. It is tied for worst in the world, according to the IRS, for drug gang, dirty money laundering. It is a tax haven. It is a fiscal paradise.

The Hells Angels are listening to the debate and saying, “Great, the Conservatives are helping us yet again by bringing absolutely no regulation on dirty money laundering in Panama”. We had the parliamentary secretary saying that the government would send a letter and ask the Panamanians to stop the dirty drug money laundering. The member knows that this is a crock. It is ridiculous.

Given that there is nothing that deals with dirty drug money laundering, with the Hells Angels use of Panama as a tax haven, why is the Liberal Party supporting a deal that so clearly goes against the interests of Canadians, against our Canadian police officers who are trying to fight dirty drug money laundering? Why is the Liberal Party capitulating yet again to the Conservatives on a trade issue?

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I take exception to the comment made about the current trade critic. The member for Willowdale has done an exceptional job for the Liberal Party, for our caucus and for her constituents in representing trade issues. She very much promotes free and fair trade. She is very much concerned about human rights and so is the Liberal Party.

When it came to the free trade agreement with Colombia, we worked very hard in committee to raise legitimate issues with respect to free trade. We worked very hard with the then trade critic as well to ensure we had a side agreement to address those issues. This party is not only committed to free and fair trade, but also to human rights. I am confident that our member for Willowdale will address these concerns if the bill is sent to committee.

With respect to the question around money laundering, again this has been raised on numerous occasions. If this is a legitimate concern, then I legitimately believe that this can be addressed during the committee hearings. I am confident that we can find a solution to deal with this issue, if it does exist to the extent that the member describes it.

This is an opportunity for all of us to come together and find a solution. As I said before, it is absolutely critical that we pursue free trade agreements. It is unfortunate that any time we talk about free trade, the NDP finds some excuse to oppose it. It is frustrating because we need to find opportunities for companies, especially in foreign markets, to expand, grow and create the jobs that we need, so we can have a quality of life not only for ourselves but for future generations as well.

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act
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10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I want my Liberal colleague to be well aware that the Liberal Party's current position is in line with the position it has taken in the past. When Paul Martin was prime minister and Liberal leader, he signed a tax treaty with Barbados that did not include an information exchange agreement. That encouraged Canadian companies to set up subsidiaries in order to evade Canadian income tax. I know that Paul Martin himself benefited from this.

Once again, is the member aware that this is the good old Liberal way: signing agreements with tax havens where friends of the party can set up subsidiaries and avoid declaring and paying tax on income, because they would be exempt from declaring it here in Canada?

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act
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10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I remind the member, when he asks his question, that referring to the integrity of the former prime minister is something I do not think is a proper assessment in this debate. When he pursued free trade agreements, he did so keeping in mind Canada's national interests, and that includes Quebeckers as well.

The businesses that had opportunities to succeed in these free trade agreements not only existed in other parts of the country but in Quebec as well. Quebec companies very much rely upon free trade agreements and opportunities abroad with respect to economic opportunities, for creating jobs and ensuring they have an opportunity to succeed and create a footprint that can really make Quebec and Canadians proud of the opportunities we have with free trade agreements.

As I indicated, any questions on money laundering or tax evasion will be addressed in the committee hearings. This is where some of the work will be done and it will allow us to have the opportunity to ensure we deal with it in a manner that is in our national interests.

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act
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10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on behalf of the Bloc Québécois to Bill C-46, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Panama.

This is important because we are talking about the position of the Conservatives and the Liberals. The people who are watching have seen what their position is. The main reason why the Bloc Québécois is opposed to this agreement and will not support it is that Panama is on the OECD grey list of tax havens.

I will read the four OECD criteria for determining whether a country is a tax haven: nil or nominal taxation; a lack of transparency; laws or administrative practices that prevent the effective exchange of information; and indications that the country is attempting to attract investments that are purely tax-driven and not for economic activity.

One way a country can deal with one of these criteria is to sign a tax information exchange agreement with other countries, and that is what the Bloc Québécois is calling for. The European Union and the United States are working to that end. They have shown that they want to sign a free trade agreement with Panama, but they are dragging their feet because, with the recent financial crisis, the leaders of those countries are very reluctant to develop trade with countries that promote tax evasion. That is a fact.

I understand that the Liberals support this agreement because, when they were in power, they led the way with this sort of agreement. None other than the Liberal leader, who was the prime minister of Canada at the time, promoted a free trade agreement with Barbados. His own companies benefited and got huge tax breaks. The problem is that, when we ratify an agreement with Panama, we will be telling Canadian companies that if they set up a subsidiary that has its own income in Panama, they will not have to declare that income here in Canada.

We do not want that. We do not want the government to encourage Canadian companies to evade taxes and use their income to create subsidiaries in Panama just so they can avoid declaring that income here in Canada. Why would they not do that if there were an agreement that let them do business with Panama? And to top it all off, it would be legal to create subsidiaries whose declared income would not come back to Canada.

What the Bloc Québécois is asking for is simple. We want a tax information exchange agreement, which is what the OECD calls for. Such an agreement must not exempt Canadian subsidiaries in Panama from income tax. This would be equitable and logical.

All the taxpayers here in Canada pay their taxes and work hard to pay those taxes. They are seeing their pension income decrease. It is happening, and the media are telling us that the main pension funds have a solvency ratio of 87%, which means they have a shortfall of 13%.

I think that the people of Quebec and Canada should expect the government not to sign trade or free trade agreements with countries that are on the OECD's list of tax havens. This is not Canada's list; it is the OECD's. In response to that, the Conservatives told us today, through the parliamentary secretary, that the Minister of Finance wrote a letter to the leaders of Panama. He told them that they must do what is necessary to be removed from the OECD's list of tax havens.

A lot of good that does to have the Minister of Finance write a letter. They will take that letter and file it away in the circular file. Thank you very much. Why? Simply because being a tax haven has its advantages. That is the reality. These countries have no intention of co-operating, and that is why Panama is on the OECD's grey list of tax havens. If Panama had wanted to co-operate in the past, if it had wanted to be respectful of other countries, it would not be on the grey list of tax havens.

Why does the government want to sign an agreement at any cost and as quickly as possible, if not to encourage Canadian businesses to set up subsidiaries there? Sure, they want to do business in Panama, but by setting up subsidiaries that will enable them to evade taxes on their revenues.

The Liberal member says that we can discuss this in committee, but a discussion will not work. Either we sign an information exchange agreement that prohibits tax evasion by Canadian companies or we do not sign the free trade agreement with Panama.

The Liberal Party and the Conservative Party want to sign the agreement anyway, without requiring a tax information exchange agreement and without requiring that Canadian companies not establish subsidiaries, whose revenue they would not have to declare in Canada. This inevitably encourages tax evasion. What will happen? The same thing that has happened over the past two months. At France's request, the HSBC Bank had to provide a list of clients with Swiss bank accounts, which included some Canadians. Canada did not care. In the past, the Liberals did not care, just as the Conservatives do not care now. France did care because the French people were tired of paying taxes while the rich evaded taxes.

Today, Canada has had to come around because we have a minority government. The Conservatives were afraid of paying the political price. Canadians on the list given to France are being asked to pay up. We know very well that tax evasion is a Criminal Code offence. However, the Conservative government has not indicated that people who evaded taxes will face criminal sanctions.

Today, the Conservative Party, supported by the Liberals, will sign a free trade agreement, supposedly for the sake of potential trade between Canada and Panama. By the way, Panama is a small country. That is not the issue. Yes, we can do business with Panama, just as we can with other countries. It is worthwhile. However, we cannot do business with a tax haven and legalize it in an agreement, in an international treaty, that would allow our Canadian and Quebec companies to create subsidiaries that would be exempt from paying tax on their Canadian revenue. We would be encouraging them to evade tax.

The Bloc Québécois stands up for all Quebeckers, not for the few rich people who might take the opportunity to establish subsidiaries in Panama and, with the free trade agreement, legalize the situation. That is what the Liberals did with Barbados when then prime minister, Paul Martin, had interests in that country. He signed a free trade agreement with Barbados to legalize his own personal business. The Conservatives are doing the same thing for some of their friends.

I find that sad. Quebeckers and Canadians work too hard in order to pay their taxes to then have a few rich and privileged people do business with a tax haven and establish subsidiaries that they would then be allowed to use to hide revenues that should be declared in Canada and therefore taxed in Canada. It is simple: when a subsidiary is established in a tax haven, which, as the OECD explains, imposes no or only nominal taxes, the company pays no tax on business done with that country. In this case, the country we are talking about is Panama. And the company would be crazy not to do this, because the Conservative Party, with support from the Liberals, would ratify this agreement without requiring a tax information exchange agreement, which the Bloc Québécois and the OECD are calling for, and without requiring that tax-exempt revenues be covered by this agreement. A company that establishes a subsidiary in Panama would then be subject to Canadian laws and tax rates, not Panamanian tax rates. This would be a good way for Canadians and Quebeckers to do business.

This would also be a good way for the public to know that everyone doing business with Panama is paying their fair share of taxes, just like the citizens. Once again, the Conservatives are succumbing to the Liberal phobia of allowing the rich to avoid paying taxes.

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10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the economic arguments for free trade agreements are very compelling on a number of points.

There are some side issues, and they are part of this debate. The United States signed an agreement with Panama three years ago, and the Panamanian Congress ratified it 13 days later. But here we are three years later and the U.S. Congress has still not ratified the Panamanian agreement.

Is the member aware of the reasons that the Americans have not proceeded with ratifying that agreement?

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10:45 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, at a time of financial crisis and stock market crisis, I can understand why the Americans do not want to sign or ratify any agreements with countries that are known tax havens.

I appreciate my colleague's question. Of course he was on the Liberals' side back when he was defending the treaty with Barbados, which is also a tax haven. I am very disappointed that the Liberals are siding with the Conservatives and have not examined their consciences regarding some of the bad decisions they made when they were in power. Once again, the Liberals are not offering any change. It is not surprising that they are having such a hard time these days, and it will only get worse in the weeks and months to come.

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10:45 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, as with the Canada-Colombia agreement, the Liberals and the Conservatives are refusing to listen to the public. As the member is well aware, only the Bloc Québécois and the NDP were able to address the constant human rights violations in Colombia. The Conservatives, on the other hand, wanted to support the government in Colombia. Panama has some of the worst tax loopholes in the world. Yet the Liberals and the Conservatives want to endorse the actions of a country that is a known tax haven.

Why are the NDP and the Bloc Québécois the only parties that are listening to Canadians? Why do the old parties—the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party—always go along with the lobbyists instead of listening to people who want a fair and equitable tax system and want us to put an end to tax havens instead of helping them grow?

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is absolutely right. He was against the free trade agreement with Barbados for the same reason we are discussing today.

At the time, the most powerful and most significant lobbyist was the Prime Minister of Canada; he had interests in Barbados. I can understand why friends of the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party force the government to sign a free trade with a country, when signing such an agreement legalizes the business they do with that country.

I am very surprised. The Liberal Party and the Conservative Party say we will improve the treaty in committee, but there is nothing to improve. Either we sign a tax information exchange agreement before signing the free trade agreement, or we do not. There is no room for negotiation. That is how it works all over the world. The OECD is asking that exchange agreements on personal information, tax information in particular, be signed.

The Conservative Party and the Liberal Party, on behalf of a few of their supporters who will make money in Panama, a known tax haven, are thumbing their noses at the right approach to politics, an approach the Bloc Québécois has been using since it arrived in the House in 1993 and the approach the NDP seems to be using.

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, after hearing interventions from the Conservatives and the Liberals around this bill, I am saddened to have to stand in this House, although I have enjoyed hearing the speeches from the Bloc.

As members are well aware, when we talk about Panama we are talking about a country that is tied for the worst money laundering tax haven on the planet. That is according to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. This is the reason the U.S. has not ratified an agreement with Panama, and yet the so-called anti-crime Conservatives are pushing ahead with this deal with a drug gang, drug money, money laundering, tax haven country.

The Conservatives are bringing it to the House of Commons with the explanation that the reason there is not one word in this agreement that in any way would close off the money laundering, close off the drug money, is that they sent a letter to the Panamanian government. They did not say how, whether it was sent by snail mail or by email. That somehow resolves the money laundering issues that made the U.S. Congress say no to this deal, say it is not going to pass this deal, and which are the reason the U.S.-Panama agreement has not been ratified.

For the Conservative government to pretend it is somehow anti-crime is a real crock when put in the context of presenting this bill, because this bill does not deal in any way with money laundering or drug money and does not in any way close those loopholes. The bill in fact widens them. Hells Angels across the country are rejoicing. The Conservatives have done something incredibly stupid and appallingly irresponsible, but they expect members of Parliament to ratify it.

In a normal functional Parliament, all three opposition parties would say, no, this is irresponsible and they are not going to ratify this deal. Sadly, the Liberal Party is once again endorsing Conservative action. We have seen this before. We saw this with the softwood lumber sell-out, which cost tens of thousands of jobs across this country and crippled many of our softwood lumber communities, and yet the Liberals just rubber-stamped it.

We saw this with the shipbuilding sellout. We had in this House hundreds of shipyard workers from across the country pleading with us that members of Parliament should put in place protections for this key strategic industry, our shipbuilding industry. The Liberals endorsed the Conservative action. That was irresponsible.

We have already cited the Colombia trade deal, a massive sell-out of human rights, a complete repudiation of Canada's principle, a principle and a value that the vast majority of Canadians share, that we do not reward regimes for killing trade unionists and human rights activists in their countries. Yet the Conservatives and the Liberals endorsed that government and the actions of its intelligence service and paramilitary and military groups and the ongoing killings of human rights advocates and trade unionists in Colombia.

Now this bill has been brought forward, which implicitly endorses the idea that Panama can be a tax haven for dirty drug money laundering.

When the IRS says Panama is tied for worst in the world, one would expect the Canadian government to be a bit more responsible. The Conservatives have not been responsible. They have not dealt with it in any way, and that is why the NDP is standing up in the House and saying this is irresponsible.

Canadians are calling out for a fairer tax system, calling out for an end to the shell game where big Canadian corporations and the wealthy can transfer their money overseas and not have to pay taxes on it, while the hard-working middle class and poor Canadians have to work and pay their taxes. They contribute to their country. Here we have the Conservatives, with Liberal support, saying they will facilitate money laundering, facilitate tax havens and let people move money to Panama and not have to pay taxes on it. That is absolutely irresponsible. It is the only word one can use to describe it.

Then we have to think that because the Conservatives have taken this irresponsible action that there must be some merit to it and maybe it is because they have some strategy around trade. Sadly, not even that is the case.

When we look at all the bilateral agreements Canada has signed, such as those with Israel and Chile, the famous shipbuilding sellout, the EFTA deal, the one with Costa Rica, when we look at all those FTAs, in case after case after case we sign the FTAs and exports to those markets from Canada drop. That is the absurdity to all of this. We have a lot of free trade cheerleaders but not a lot of them are doing their homework. They are actually not looking at the export statistics.

The government will say it is going to throw out some figures that are in constant dollars and say that shows a growth in trade. However, yesterday the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, a man who I admire, actually was able to say that we have to take real terms to talk about the cost of the Canadian deficit and debt. He actually talked about that. There is one financially literate member among the Conservatives.

Here we have a situation where not a single Conservative, in real terms, has looked at the export figures that have actually declined. I compliment the parliamentary secretary because he understands the difference between current dollars and constant dollars. Nobody else on that side appears to know the difference. People who know the difference know that our exports have declined in every single bilateral market. Therefore, there is a fundamental problem.

Now, Conservatives will say that maybe exports have declined in real terms, maybe we do not know what we are doing with money laundering, but surely this contributes to prosperity. Again, we have to look in real terms and talk about constant dollars to get the most recent figures about what has happened to family income in Canada. If we go back to the NAFTA days and the signing of the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, sadly, we will see that for middle class and poorer Canadians, in every single case there has been a decline in real income.

We sign these bad trade agreements, transfer out Canadian raw resources and have them processed and value-added overseas. We outsource the jobs that were in Canada before, take the good family-sustaining jobs and replace them with service industry jobs that are lower paying. We have more burger flippers than we have ever had before in this country, but we have lost half a million good manufacturing jobs largely because many of these trade agreements are structured so that Canadian companies can take their factories and manufacturing capacity overseas.

When we look at the overall income of the average Canadian family, it is no secret why the debt load of the average Canadian family has doubled over the past 20 years. It is because real income has declined for every single income category except one, and that is the real reason why we are seeing this dirty drug money laundering bill today. The wealthiest of Canadians now take 52% of all Canadian income, most of the Canadian income pie, and those are the folks who would love to take their money to Panama and not have to pay taxes on it. We are seeing a hollowing out and a very bad, dysfunctional export strategy.

In this corner of the House we are standing up for the average Canadian family and saying that, if the government has such dysfunctional trade and export strategies, it is up to us in this NDP corner of the House to say no to bad trade deals and no to deals that are irresponsible. That is what we are doing.

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act
Government Orders

11 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

There will be five minutes for questions and comments on the hon. member's speech when the debate resumes.

Patro de Charlesbourg Multisport Stadium
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Daniel Petit Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, in September, I had the pleasure of participating in the inauguration of the Gérard-Chiquette multisport stadium at the Patro de Charlesbourg, in my riding. The new artificial turf field makes playing sports like soccer, football and rugby safer and more fun. The project also involves the construction of two buildings, the conversion of the running track into a paved pedestrian trail, the acquisition of a new lighting system, and the addition of a scoreboard.

The Government of Canada is proud of having invested in this project—which cost just over $3 million—along with the Government of Quebec, the Patro de Charlesbourg and its partners. Our financial contribution of $1 million to the Patro de Charlesbourg, a facility created by the Order of Saint Vincent de Paul, was made possible through the recreational infrastructure Canada program.

The quality of life and the health of the people of Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles are important to us, and that is why we are proud to have invested in infrastructure to help them prosper.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Gerard Kennedy Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to officially welcome His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who is arriving in Toronto today for a three-day visit. Thousands of Canadians will gather in the Rogers Centre today to hear his inspiring message of peace, compassion and hope.

Tomorrow the Dalai Lama will attend a community ceremony at the Tibetan Canadian Cultural Centre to visit with members of the strong local Tibetan-Canadian community as well as members of the Parliamentary Friends of Tibet.

Tibetan-Canadians have sacrificed much to make this centre available for the wider communities, a facility for peaceful dialogue between cultures. While the centre did receive federal funding towards its renovation, I invite Canadians to provide a truly Canadian welcome to the Dalai Lama by donating some of the matching funds it must have to be completed.

The other way to commemorate the visit, of course, is to ensure that Canada remains vigilant and consistent in its support of international human rights at all times.

I invite hon. members to join me in extending an official welcome to honorary Canadian citizen, the Dalai Lama.

Ninon Delude
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

Bloc

Roger Pomerleau Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, Ninon Delude, a farmer from my riding who lives in Saint-Germain-de-Grantham, has seen her passion for agriculture rewarded twofold. During the annual general meeting of the Syndicat des agricultrices du Centre-du-Québec, which took place in Saint-Wenceslas on September 22, this mother of 12 was named female farmer of the year. In addition, during the Saturn gala held in Drummondville on October 17 by the Fédération des agricultrices du Québec, Ms. Delude was named passionate female farmer of the year.

She and her husband, Pierre Labonté, who specialize in raising grain-fed calves and growing organic crops, have had their work recognized many times over the years. At the Bal des moissons in 2008, they won an environmental farm trophy and they were finalists in the category recognizing good agricultural practices. Congratulations Ms. Delude!

Brian Dyck
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honour the life of Brian Dyck.

Brian was a genuine hero who served his community as a police officer and his country as a member of the Canadian military. Brian died on October 8 from ALS.

The last time I saw Brian was last spring when members of this House participated in a charity hockey game with the Ottawa police to raise awareness and money for the ALS Society of Canada. At the time, we were all moved by Brian's determination not only to fight this disease but also to make a difference.

Brian knew he would eventually succumb to his disease, but he fought to ensure that members of the Canadian military who suffer from ALS would have the support they and their families need. He continued his fight even when the disease was consuming him, and he won.

To his wife, Natali, and two-year-old daughter, Sophi, we send our condolences and prayers.

To quote Natali, “We are very proud of what we have accomplished for our family and all vets and military members in the future”.

I thank Natali, and I thank Brian.

Member for Prince George—Peace River
Statements by Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, about two weeks ago, the four House leaders paid tribute to the member for Prince George—Peace River. As today is his last day in the House, I thought I might say a few additional words in his honour.

I have had the privilege of serving directly under him for the past two years, but my acquaintance with him goes back to 1993.

The first Reform MPs came to Ottawa with the most honourable goals of public service, but they were greeted by a press corps determined to defend the status quo at all costs. Their inexperience was skewed as incompetence and their idealism as bigotry. The test of character for the Reformers in the class of 1993 was to respond with restraint but also with a determination to carry on. Not everyone passed this test, but the member for Prince George—Peace River did.

I witnessed all this as a caucus staffer and my admiration for him grew as I saw him mentor new cohorts of MPs. His service as government House leader over the past two years shows him to be as adept at tight-rope walking or juggling as anyone has ever been. I am not sure which circus metaphor best applies.

As a man of principle and as a skilled political actor, the member for Prince George—Peace River has few equals and no superiors. I will miss him.

Justice
Statements by Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, two years ago a promising grade 12 student and constituent, Boris Cikovic, was gunned down by teen thugs trying to rob him. His accused killer is out on bail enjoying life and allegedly refusing to assist police in identifying his accomplices.

It is impossible to imagine the despair and sorrow felt by Boris' parents, Vesna and Davorin. As Vesna explained to the Toronto Sun:

I have no chance to see him growing up to [become] a beautiful man. Justice is not going to give me grandchildren....

And the other guy, he is out, he is free on bail.

In memory of Boris and in the hopes of stopping this from happening in the future, I introduced Bill C-537 to toughen bail conditions and adding offences involving firearms to those that may only be tried by a superior court.

By passing this bill, those accused of a firearm offence would have to demonstrate to the court why they should not be detained in custody before trial.

As Boris' mother, Vesna, says:

[S]omething has to be changed. My son's life shouldn't be in vain

Nova Scotia Fruit Growers' Association
Statements by Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Mr. Speaker, yesterday I had the great pleasure of delivering to this House four boxes of Nova Scotia Honeycrisp apples.

These apples were supplied by the Nova Scotia Fruit Growers' Association, which has been promoting Nova Scotia fruit since 1863. From its beginning, the Nova Scotia Fruit Growers' Association has ensured the advancement of agriculture in our area. The association was a leader in establishing the Wolfville School of Horticulture in 1894, and the Kentville Experimental Farm in 1910.

Nova Scotia apples have been displayed by the association at many world exhibitions and were praised and rewarded for their fine quality.

Presently the association continues to play an important role in the lives of Nova Scotia apple growers and the apple industry. Today the association's goal is to create an economically viable and sustainable Nova Scotia tree fruit industry.

I, and I am sure all members of this House, thank the Nova Scotia Fruit Growers' Association first, for the great work it continues to do, and second, for its absolutely delicious Honeycrisp apples.

The LEED Rating System
Statements by Members

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, construction of the Tour St-Martin in my riding is slated to begin next spring. This 11,985 square-metre, eight-storey building will be the first LEED-certified office building in Laval.

The LEED, leadership in energy and environmental design, rating system is based on “five key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water efficiency, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.”

In the Tour St-Martin, amenities such as showers will be installed so that walkers and cyclists can get their day off to a good start. In addition, “the building will be equipped with geothermal technology and devices for water and air energy recovery.”

The contractors involved in this project will be working towards LEED silver certification. My Bloc Québécois colleagues and I wish them well in this endeavour.

Human Smuggling
Statements by Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, on Monday in Vienna, I delivered a speech at the 10th United Nations conference against transnational organized crime. I had the opportunity to reaffirm the government's commitment to combatting human smuggling.

This goes hand in hand with the bill introduced by the member for Kildonan—St. Paul, which has been given royal assent. The member has worked relentlessly on this issue.

As well, yesterday our government introduced a bill that targets those who prey and abuse our immigration system through illegal human smuggling activities.

Let me be very clear: legal migration enriches us all. Canada is determined to maintain trust in its regular immigration and refugee systems, ensuring they work effectively and fairly for everyone. Their manipulation by criminal networks will not be tolerated.

Our government will continue its fight against human smuggling and protect the integrity of our immigration system.

Monument to the Fallen Soldier
Statements by Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Crombie Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was honoured to join the Canadian Museum of Hindu Civilization for the unveiling of its memorial monument to the fallen soldier.

Donated by the families of Shylee and Ajit Someshwar, Christine and Bhupinder Khalsa, and Jaya and Vasu Chanchlani, the monument is designed to show the heroism of Canadian soldiers, particularly those who lost their lives in Afghanistan.

This stunning and humbling monument, shaped as a maple leaf, is carved in black granite and imperial red granite, sourced from India. Standing tall next to the statue of Mahatma Gandhi, the monument is dedicated to the Canadian armed forces for their exemplary service as peacekeepers all over the world.

Ms. Shylee Someshwar summed it up best when she said:

The Indo-Canadian community's involvement speaks of its dedication to the causes Canada supports. It's our humble way of saying - we care, we belong and we truly appreciate.

I highly recommend that all residents of the GTA and visitors passing through take time to visit this important monument.

Human Smuggling
Statements by Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, human smuggling is a criminal enterprise that happens around the world. Smugglers are paid to help people enter Canada illegally. This practice is fundamentally unfair to legitimate refugees who are patiently waiting to begin new lives here in Canada.

Yesterday the Minister of Public Safety and the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism announced legislation to crack down on criminals aiming to profit from Canada's generosity. Human smuggling is a serious criminal offence that puts human lives at risk and benefits only criminal organizations.

With this bill, our government is sending a clear message: we will not tolerate the abuse of our immigration system by human smugglers and we will do everything we can to keep Canadians safe and secure.

Canada will remain compassionate towards immigrants. We have a proud tradition of welcoming refugees, but we must protect our borders, which is exactly what this bill will do.

Health
Statements by Members

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to share with the House the heroic efforts of the citizens of Castlegar, B.C.

Not long ago they learned that the only ultrasound machine in our health centre was scheduled for permanent removal to another location at the end of the month.

With the closure of the Castlegar Hospital a few years ago by the IHA still fresh in their memories, this was the straw that broke the camel's back. They were absolutely determined to reject any further erosion of their medical services.

Two days ago, more than 300 concerned and angry citizens, seniors, youth, medical professionals, elected officials and many others, marched down the main street of Castlegar to deliver a strong message to the provincial government.

Many also worked tirelessly to convince the IHA to suspend the removal of the ultrasound equipment until a full community consultation has taken place.

Hopefully the IHA and the provincial government will work with our community not only to retain the ultrasound machine but also to expand and improve hospital services in Castlegar.

I thank the citizens of Castlegar and congratulate them.

Immigration
Statements by Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Jim Abbott Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday our Conservative government listened to 55% of Canadians who think human smuggling is unacceptable. Our action will ensure Canada's immigration laws are respected and that criminals are sentenced properly.

The proposed bill to prevent human smugglers from abusing Canada's generosity will make it easier to prosecute human smugglers and will implement mandatory minimum sentences for those convicted of this serious offence.

The proposed reforms reflect our government's strong commitment to fight the scourge of human smuggling through stronger criminal laws.

The bill has received glowing praise from cultural groups across the country. The United Macedonian Diaspora stated yesterday that they were pleased to see the government taking strong action to deter human smugglers from coming to Canada's shores and abusing Canada's generosity.

Our government is sending a clear message to human smugglers: the abuse of our immigration system will not be tolerated.

Employment Insurance
Statements by Members

11:15 a.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, when a person wants to have a dog put down they say the dog was violent. When a government does not want to vote for a bill, it exaggerates the economic impact. That is what the government did with the Bloc Québécois' Bill C-308, which it estimated would cost $7 billion.

Last year, the Liberals and the Conservatives set up a puppet committee to restore the 360-hour threshold for employment insurance eligibility. At the first opportunity to vote in favour of this measure included in Bill C-308, they turned their backs on the workers.

Today, we are debating Bill C-280, which would fill in some of the gaps that Bill C-308 sought to remedy. That is why the Bloc Québécois is voting in favour of the bill. We hope the Conservatives and the Liberals will follow suit and that they will not use cost as an excuse again, because the costs, which are estimated at $2 billion—

Employment Insurance
Statements by Members

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Order, please. The hon. member for Westmount—Ville-Marie.

Infrastructure
Statements by Members

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are being stubborn and irresponsible with the March 31 deadline.

This policy is causing major problems. It is artificially inflating the cost of many projects, and is jeopardizing a ton of others, for example, 2-22, the flagship building of Montreal's Quartier des spectacles.

Let us look at a riding like Compton—Stanstead, where major PRECO projects are in jeopardy in East Angus, Weedon and Martinville, not to mention the Pat Burns Arena, which the Prime Minister himself announced.

According to the Fédération québécoise des municipalités, one-third of the projects are in jeopardy because of this ill-advised policy. That is why the Quebec National Assembly has unanimously called on the federal government to finance the projects that have been announced, regardless of their completion date.

The Conservatives must reconsider this decision and stop being so ridiculously stubborn.

Immigration
Statements by Members

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

David Sweet Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, our government has a long and proud tradition of welcoming newcomers. Last year alone we welcomed almost one-quarter million new immigrants to this country.

Through the Balanced Refugee Reform Act introduced last year, we committed to resettle 2,500 more refugees and increased their funding by 20%. It is obvious that Canada is a generous and compassionate country, but Canadians are not naive and are not pushovers.

Yesterday our government introduced the preventing newcomers from abusing Canada's generosity bill. This tough but fair bill would give law enforcement officials the tools they need to crack down on human smugglers and ensure the safety and security of Canadians.

The Peel Tamil Community Centre released a statement yesterday congratulating our government on this bill stating, “We are pleased to see the Government taking...action to deter human smugglers”.

Cultural groups across the country are congratulating and thanking our government for introducing this important bill. Why are the opposition parties so quick to criticize what so many Canadians think is an important and necessary policy?

Potash Industry
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, to the notion of selling off Canada's vital potash industry, putting half of the world's reserves into the hands of a single foreign company, the Premier of Saskatchewan has been very clear. The answer is no.

Even before the government heard the premier's advice, the Prime Minister tainted the process. He maligned Potash Corporation as non-Canadian.

How can anyone now believe the federal regulatory process will be fair when the Prime Minister, who brags about making all the rules, is so blatantly biased?

Potash Industry
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I say to my friend from Wascana that the Prime Minister just pointed out the fact that some 51% of the shares of this company are held by non-Canadians.

The government is undertaking a very rigorous review process, and I will commit that the government will only approve the deal if it is of net benefit to Canada.

Potash Industry
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, 53% of the world's richest reserves of potash are in Saskatchewan. This strategic resource is crucial to farmers, to food production and feeding a hungry world. Its value has only begun to rise.

“This is not a normal market transaction”, says the Premier of Saskatchewan.

Never before in history has a takeover bid involved so much of something as strategic as potash. Why is the government so dismissive of what is so important to Saskatchewan?

Potash Industry
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the government has taken the issue incredibly seriously. There is a rigorous review under way. As I said, we will commit that we will only approve the deal if it is of net benefit to Canada.

As for the people of Saskatchewan, they can count on a very strong team of Saskatchewan members of Parliament forcefully representing them in the government caucus.

Potash Industry
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, the industry minister says he is neither the head waiter to Saskatchewan nor the butler for BHP, but we do know that he is the handmaiden to the Prime Minister and he will do what he is told.

The Prime Minister's taint and bias are unmistakable. He will impose his opinion on Saskatchewan, no matter what, and the premier says that puts jobs, investment and public revenues at risk, $5.7 billion.

When this deal goes sideways, who will pay the bills for a bad decision these Conservatives pushed down Saskatchewan's throat?

Potash Industry
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the last time the people of Saskatchewan were asked who they wanted to be Prime Minister, I think they spoke very favourably to the custodianship of this Prime Minister.

Let me say this to the member for Wascana. The government is undertaking a rigorous review of this request, and we will only approve it if it is of net benefit to Canada.

The House and the people of Saskatchewan can count on this government always doing what is best for Canada.

Government Spending
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a choice: megaprisons even though crime rates are dropping and fighter jets without a bidding process but with sky-rocketing costs, as we know now, or the Liberals' choice to help Canadian families.

How can the minister look Canadian families in the eye and defend his choices?

Government Spending
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Proudly, Mr. Speaker, because we have made sure that Canadian families have jobs. That is the most important thing to Canadians. If they do not have a job, they cannot support their family. It is that plain and it is that simple.

There are 420,000 Canadians who now have jobs who did not in July 2009. That speaks volumes.

Government Spending
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Governor of the Bank of Canada has confirmed that household debt is one of the biggest challenges facing the Canadian economy.

One of the biggest contributors to household debt is the cost to families of home care and of looking after our elderly and our sick.

Why is the government choosing to spend money on megaprisons and on unaffordable tax cuts instead of helping Canadian families with the burden of home care and of helping look after our elderly and our sick?

Government Spending
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

As I have said, Mr. Speaker, that is our priority, to help Canadians.

All of us in the House remember what happened in the 1990s. The Liberals, trying to balance their deficit, passed that debt on to the provinces and the municipalities through cuts in transfers, somewhere around $25 billion in cuts.

We continue to increase social transfers to the provinces by 3%. We continue to increase health transfers to the provinces by 6%. It is their choice how they spend that money.

Public Works and Government Services
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, the company awarded the contract to renovate West Block here on Parliament Hill was not qualified. Observers were surprised to see the small company, once run by the Hells Angels, on the short list of eligible companies. In fact, apart from the $140,000 paid by LM Sauvé to a Conservative supporter, that company was not qualified to do the work.

Will the government admit that the process of awarding contracts is tainted, and that this mess is the result of partisanship and favouritism?

Public Works and Government Services
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Edmonton—Spruce Grove
Alberta

Conservative

Rona Ambrose Minister of Public Works and Government Services and Minister for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, the company to which the member is referring has no contractual relationship with the Government of Canada. In fact, this is a dispute between two private entities.

Public Works and Government Services
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, the proof that this company was not qualified is that it went bankrupt. If not for its connections to a Conservative lobbyist, it would never have been given the contract. Since then, a bond company that has funded the Conservatives has taken over the work, but problems persist. At least three subcontractors have not been paid.

Does the government realize that by awarding contracts based on a company's political stripe rather than its qualifications, it is responsible for the current mess in the West Block?

Public Works and Government Services
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Edmonton—Spruce Grove
Alberta

Conservative

Rona Ambrose Minister of Public Works and Government Services and Minister for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, as I indicated, this company has no contractual relationship with the Government of Canada. The dispute that she is talking about is a private dispute between two entities.

Conservative Party
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative riding association in Bourassa has folded. It had not produced any financial reports in a long time. In fact, it seems to have done nothing other than collect donations from contractors who were awarded government contracts. The Conservatives set up a bogus association, collected $35,000 from a few cocktail parties and fundraisers, then closed the books. It was a fly-by-night affair.

Is that more or less the story behind the dissolution of the Bourassa Conservative riding association?

Conservative Party
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, it is clear that we always follow a process with a great deal of transparency and integrity.

I would like to quote an appointee of the Parti Québécois government, Marcel Blanchet, the chief electoral officer in Quebec, “A thousand dollars per individual per year; one cannot imagine that it could have a major influence on a political party”.

I agree with this appointee of the Parti Québécois.

Conservative Party
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative Party does not exist in Bourassa. The defunct Conservative riding association seems to have done nothing but collect donations from contractors involved in renovation work on Parliament Hill. How else to explain a businessman from Markham, Ontario, making a donation to an obscure Conservative Party candidate on the Island of Montreal?

Will the Quebec lieutenant recognize that the Bourassa Conservative riding association was nothing but an empty shell for collecting donations from contractors involved in renovation work on Parliament Hill?

Conservative Party
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, in Quebec, the Conservative Party has 74 recognized riding associations. I understand that with Elections Canada, there are only 58 recognized riding associations that collect funds for the Bloc Québécois. That is an interesting fact.

Taxation
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, this government is letting wealthy tax evaders off the hook. Today it is bragging about a tax treaty with Switzerland that will do little to recover billions of tax dollars hidden overseas by tax cheats and corporations. What little information we do have on Canadian tax evaders is the result of the efforts of other countries, France and the United States.

When will the government devote the necessary resources to stop this massive tax evasion scam?

Taxation
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, Canadian families, Canadian corporations, the overwhelming majority work hard and pay their taxes fairly. They have every right to expect that their government will take every reasonable effort to ensure that those who evade paying their fair share face the full force of Canadian law. That is the commitment the Prime Minister and this government have made.

Taxation
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the reality is the government is doing just the opposite.

In 2007, the finance minister pretended to be tough about tax fairness, but since then, the Conservatives have imposed the HST on Ontario and B.C. They have announced a new payroll tax on workers and employers. They have rolled back corporate income taxes and have left tax cheats a free field. After promising to beef up the CRA, the Conservatives have cut the compliance division by 16%, ensuring that tax cheaters are let off the hook.

How fair is that?

Taxation
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, with great respect to my friend from the NDP, having the NDP talk about fairness in taxes is a bit rich. It is this government that has taken unprecedented measures to reduce the tax burden on Canadian families. Tax freedom day in Canada arrives more than two weeks earlier than it did just five short years ago.

Whether it is cutting the GST, whether it is cutting income taxes, whether it is cutting taxes on job creators, every single time we stood to do that, the NDP voted against it.

Taxation
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives, in their fine tradition of negotiating with questionable regimes, have signed a free trade agreement with Panama. Panama is one of the most secretive tax havens in the world, and the Conservatives have done absolutely nothing to change the tax evasion practices there. In fact, there is not one word in the agreement on eliminating tax evasion.

Why do the Conservatives want to promote tax evasion by signing agreements with questionable regimes that encourage this practice?

Taxation
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, that very question was answered this morning in the debate on Panama. However, I will answer it again for the member.

The reality is that the Minister of Finance has written to his counterpart in Panama asking that Panama undertake its obligations. Indeed, the Government of Panama has made a commitment to undertake its obligations under the OECD.

I do note that the party that is speaking here is inclined to look for any excuse to avoid creating trade opportunities for Canadian workers, for Canadian businesses. On the other hand, we are interested in seeing our workers and businesses prosper.

International Trade
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, once again, the Conservatives' indifference is putting our cultural industries at risk.

This time, the culprit is the Minister of International Trade. He enjoys making a mockery of the concerns of our artists about the cultural exemption in our negotiations with the European Union. We cannot accept that.

Will the minister accept his responsibilities, realize the importance of culture and require a cultural exemption in this agreement?

International Trade
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, again, this question has already been answered in the House. However, just for clarification, we are at a time of economic uncertainty and our government is committed to opening markets for Canadian workers and businesses. A trade agreement with the European Union would mean a $12 billion boost, minimum, to the Canadian economy. We are seeking the normal cultural exemption that we seek in all of our trade agreements and we are confident that the 27 members of the European Union will be seeking similar cultural exemptions.

International Trade
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is obvious that the government is downplaying this matter. It does not understand.

The minister tells us, while trying not to laugh, that there is very little risk of our cultural industries being inundated with Latvian cultural goods.

On the one hand, I am not sure that he realizes what Latvia produces. On the other, I wish to remind him that there are major cultural players in Europe, including France, England, Germany, Italy and Spain.

NAFTA already contains an exemption clause. Why does he not have the courage to defend this very position when dealing with European countries?

International Trade
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I am a bit surprised that the hon. member would stand in this place and try to play one culture against another. It is simply bad manners and poor taste.

Outside of that, the reality is there are 27 member states in the European Union. Each and every one of those member states is interested in protecting its own culture and those member states will be looking for their own cultural exemptions. I am sure Canada will not have any difficulty with our cultural exemptions.

Office of the Prime Minister
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, on November 8, Nigel Wright will be joining the Prime Minister's Office on temporary loan from his private equity firm that owns a little bit of everything, from defence companies, to private health care companies, to casinos.

With only 10 working days left before Mr. Wright is leased to the PMO, will the Conservatives release the terms of the work agreement, or will they continue to hide from the public his potential conflicts of interest?

Office of the Prime Minister
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the language used by the member for Malpeque is regrettable and is certainly inflammatory to an outstanding Canadian who is willing to put aside his private sector career to come to the nation's capital and make a contribution to Canada. Would it not be great if we had more Canadians who were prepared to do that?

Office of the Prime Minister
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

For five years, Mr. Speaker, the Conservative exchange program has ensured privileged Conservative staffers get to use their political connections to advance their private sector careers. We know where a few went. Kory Teneycke is now lobbying to sell off Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan, Robert Valcov and Brant Scott are being paid to utilize the Conservatives' connections to lobby against gun control. Now, the PMO is renting its senior employees from private equity companies on a short-term basis.

When will this revolving door stop?

Office of the Prime Minister
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I know the harsh words that the leader of the Liberal Party had for career politicians just last week and now, of course, the Liberals do not want anyone from outside of government to come to Ottawa to make a contribution to public service.

Mr. Wright has sought and will follow all the direction and counsel of the Ethics Commissioner. This government is the government that brought in the Federal Accountability Act and it will always uphold a high standard of ethical conduct.

Oil and Gas Development
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Jean Dorion Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Government of Quebec is trying to negotiate an agreement like the ones that Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia got. This type of agreement would allow Quebec to better protect the St. Lawrence and to evaluate the environmental risks associated with oil and gas development.

Will the government commit to signing an agreement that does not force Quebec to give up its claims regarding ownership of the St. Lawrence seabed?

Oil and Gas Development
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Mégantic—L'Érable
Québec

Conservative

Christian Paradis Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, it is intriguing to see the Bloc's new-found interest in fossil fuels, given that it has practically spat on these types of energy since it has been here.

We are negotiating in good faith with Quebec. We will not negotiate with the Bloc, but with Quebec. Ms. Normandeau, Quebec's Minister of Natural Resources and Wildlife, has said that talks are under way. That is how we will proceed.

Oil and Gas Development
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Jean Dorion Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, for years Quebec has been trying to negotiate an agreement like the ones that Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia got. The Government of Quebec is hoping that this issue will finally be resolved this fall.

Will the government commit to signing an agreement this fall that does not force Quebec to give up its claims regarding ownership of the St. Lawrence seabed?

Oil and Gas Development
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Mégantic—L'Érable
Québec

Conservative

Christian Paradis Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, it is always amusing to see a new-found interest in fossil fuels. The Bloc has practically spat on these types of energy for years. Now it is using this issue to divide the federation, as per its ideology: stir up trouble with Newfoundland and Labrador, stir up trouble with Nova Scotia, stir up trouble with everyone. That is the Bloc's ideology. We will not get involved. We will not negotiate with the Bloc. We are negotiating in good faith with Quebec.

Infrastructure
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is the only party in the House that rises every day to defend the interests of Quebec. That is the truth.

Municipalities in Quebec want the government to push back the deadlines for infrastructure projects. The mayor of Laval, Gilles Vaillancourt, said, “municipalities answered the call when it was time to implement the plan. Now, they are hoping that the government...will answer the call by heeding their demands for more flexibility.”

Why does the minister not push back the deadlines, as called for by municipalities in Quebec and by the National Assembly?

Infrastructure
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca
Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

In June of this year, Mr. Speaker, the FCM asked the committee and the government to be fair, reasonable and flexible and the government has said that it will do exactly that.

Let us be clear about the facts here. If it were up to members of the Bloc Québécois, who voted against Canada's economic action plan, there would be no arenas and no recreational centres in Quebec. There would be no roads or bridges repaired in Quebec. There would be no trails and no new buildings.

This Conservative government stands up for the people of Quebec while those people do not do anything.

Infrastructure
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, for years, the Bloc Québécois has been calling for a fair infrastructure program. The president of the Fédération québécoise des municipalités, Bernard Généreux, made some excellent comments about the deadlines. I would like to put his question to the minister.

What difference would it make to the federal government if the amounts committed were used past the set deadline, so that these projects can be completed?

Infrastructure
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca
Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the member's statement is false. The Conservative government is working hard and is producing positive results for Quebeckers.

Let me continue. There would be no water supply to Canadians in Quebec, no waste water for Quebeckers. No universities or colleges would be upgraded and there would be no green infrastructure for Quebeckers.

If those Bloc Québécois members had their way, there would be no economic action plan in Quebec, there would be no money for Quebeckers and there would be no good economy in Quebec.

This Conservative government acts in the best interests of Quebeckers.

Natural Resources
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, last week the Minister of the Environment expressed his support for shale gas and announced plans to regulate Quebec's shale gas industy. However, a representative from Natural Resources Canada, who was taking part in a conference on shale gas in Toronto, said that the federal government has no role to play in developing that industry. Issuing water permits, for instance, is a matter of provincial jurisdiction.

Can the minister clarify this contradiction? Who is telling the truth here, Environment Canada or Natural Resources Canada?

Natural Resources
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Mégantic—L'Érable
Québec

Conservative

Christian Paradis Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, shale gas represents a potential energy source that could contribute to Canada's energy mix. One thing is certain: we support the responsible development of our natural resources, but unlike the Liberal Party, we will not tell the provinces how to use their lands.

Natural Resources
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, the environment commissioner has said that the federal government lacks the data on fish and fish habitat necessary for establishing healthy water flows in fish-bearing waterways. In other words, DFO lacks the aquatic census data to regulate water takings.

How can the minister make regulations on water takings by the shale gas industry without this basic scientific data?

When will the Conservatives establish a floor on water takings by the oil sands industry in the Athabasca River where the flow is dropping because of climate change? If the minister is waiting for the industry to agree to a floor, the industry's past obstructionism means that he will wait a long time.

When will he take action on water quantity issues in the oil sands?

Natural Resources
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Langley
B.C.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I am really glad it was that member who asked that question. He well knows that this government has appointed a panel to look at whether the monitoring in the oil sands is effective. It was not the Liberals when they were in government.

The member talked about water. Our government has introduced waste water regulations. Do members know where the most affluent that goes into the St. Lawrence comes from? It comes from that member's riding. We are cleaning up the Liberal mess.

International Co-operation
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are quite concerned to see the Prime Minister return to the world stage. This week, he has the nerve to attend the Sommet de la Francophonie, where he will face the Franco-African countries he has abandoned in terms of international aid.

In February 2009, he dropped eight African countries from his priority assistance list, including the following Franco-African countries: Benin, Cameroon, Rwanda, Burkina Faso and Niger.

How does the Prime Minister plan to rebuild these relationships after turning his back on these countries?

International Co-operation
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Kootenay—Columbia
B.C.

Conservative

Jim Abbott Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, the way the member has constructed his question is just simply not accurate in any way, shape or form.

The fact is that our government doubled aid to Africa in a faster period of time than any other G7 nation. Further, we are at a point now with the African nations that, notwithstanding the misinformation that people like him are bringing forward, they are beginning to understand the generosity and the co-operation there is between Canada and the African nations.

International Co-operation
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Francophonie is a major international summit, with thousands of delegates, 600 journalists, 53 member nations, including observers, and over 70 heads of state expected to attend, yet the Swiss government is managing to hold this summit by spending a modest $31 million in security costs.

How can the Swiss, with the fifth highest cost of living in the world, hold a bigger summit, with more leaders to protect, for only $31 million when it cost the Conservative government 30 times more in security costs alone to host a summit?

International Co-operation
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Calgary East
Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, we are delighted that the Prime Minister is going to the Francophonie summit this weekend. The PM's presence at the Francophonie summit demonstrates our engagement toward this important international organization. We will continue to support this great organization.

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Bruce Stanton Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, no one thinks it is acceptable for criminals to abuse Canada's immigration system, especially through the despicable crime of human smuggling. Our government is taking action to crack down on these criminals. Those opposition members who think the status quo is acceptable are ignoring the fact that human smuggling is hugely profitable for crime syndicates, and that it is dangerous and exploitative.

Could the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration please inform the House what our government is doing to crack down on human smuggling?

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

St. Catharines
Ontario

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Simcoe North for his commitment to this legislation, for supporting it in this House and for his hard work on immigration and for all individuals who come to this country.

The government has delivered on its commitment to crack down on human smugglers who seek to abuse Canada's immigration system. If passed, the preventing human smugglers from abusing Canada's immigration act would impose tough but fair measures that would help deter human smugglers from coming to this country.

Organizations across the country have come out in support of this bill. In fact, the Armenian National Committee stated yesterday, “This is insurance that human smuggling--

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Order. The hon. member for British Columbia Southern Interior.

Rail Transportation
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, an independent study released by the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, the Canadian Wheat Board, Keystone Agricultural Producers, the National Farmers Union and Wild Rose Agricultural Producers shows that farmers are being gouged for rail service to the tune of $200 million a year. Calls for a railway costing review have gone unanswered for years and the Conservatives continue to do nothing.

When will the minister put a stop to this robbery by the railways? The money that hard-working farmers have already overpaid needs to be returned.

Will the minister finally do his job and commit to a full costing review of railway charges?

Rail Transportation
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca
Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, all Canadians know that when it comes to farmers, they cannot depend on the NDP to perform in any way. It is this Conservative government, as usual, that performs for farmers and acts in the best interests of farmers.

We will not take any lessons from members of the NDP who want to close our borders and close our export markets. We will listen to the farmers and to all Canadians and do what is in the best interests of Canada.

Rail Transportation
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is no surprise that we still have no answers on calls for a full costing review.

Top Shelf Feeds in Cowichan has seen its freight prices skyrocket 20% in just one year. It is the only feed mill on Vancouver Island and it is being gouged right out of business. It is not just the feed mills suffering. These prices are hurting our dairy and chicken farmers as well.

When will the minister acknowledge that rising rail rates are hurting farmers all across Canada and agree to take action?

Rail Transportation
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca
Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, this government is already addressing concerns about rail freight. We review it through the rail freight service review. The independent panel leading the review released its interim report on October 8 and will present its final report and recommendations later in 2010.

We all know what the members of the NDP want to do. They want to close our borders and close our industry. If they had their way, that is what they would do.

This Conservative government will not do that. We will open markets to ensure Canada's economy remains strong and Canadians have jobs.

Use of Wood in Federal Buildings
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Gérard Asselin Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc has presented an innovative and environmentally-friendly alternative in Bill C-429, which promotes the use of wood in the construction of federal buildings. The Minister of State for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec has just returned from a tour of Italy and France, where he learned about European expertise in this area.

Did the member for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean realize on this tour that Bill C-429 is a good measure? Will he finally support it?

Use of Wood in Federal Buildings
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Mégantic—L'Érable
Québec

Conservative

Christian Paradis Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, our economic action plan helped forestry communities. We invested $170 million in FPInnovations. We then invested $1 billion in black liquor and green transformation initiatives. In addition, we invested $100 million over four years for another renewable power initiative.

The forestry sector is looking for new opportunities and markets. That is what we are working on, and we are getting results. However, the Bloc again voted against all these initiatives.

Use of Wood in Federal Buildings
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Gérard Asselin Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, the president and chief executive officer of the Quebec Forest Industry Council, Guy Chevrette, said that if the government bothered to assess the environmental impact of the materials used to build federal buildings, it would realize that wood is considered to be the greenest material, in addition to being durable and easy to maintain. What is the government waiting for to promote the use of wood in the construction of federal buildings?

Use of Wood in Federal Buildings
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Mégantic—L'Érable
Québec

Conservative

Christian Paradis Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, what is the Bloc waiting for to support promising initiatives? We have identified new markets and opportunities. Recently, in Windsor, we made an announcement about nanocrystalline cellulose, an extremely promising material. What has the Bloc Québécois been doing all this time? It has been voting against initiatives.

I challenge Bloc members to go to their ridings, talk with forestry producers and tell them that they voted against all the fine initiatives that were recently passed.

Pensions
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is official. The Conservative senators have turned their backs on sick and disabled Canadians. By refusing the quick passage of Bill S-216, Conservative senators have said they care more about junk-bond holders than about the hundreds of disabled Canadians who will lose their benefits by the end of the year.

Why can the Prime Minister find hundreds of millions of dollars to buy the real estate holdings of Nortel, but cannot find just a couple of hours to pass legislation to help Nortel's former employees?

Pensions
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont
Alberta

Conservative

Mike Lake Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, it is a complex issue. It is of concern to this government. We are carefully studying this issue. We realize that there are several bills, not just one, that address this issue both in this place and the other. As with all pieces of legislation, we will carefully review these bills. We welcome any ideas that members of any party may have to offer.

Pensions
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, all they have to do is pass the legislation, bring it in the House, and we will pass it. That will solve the problem.

Yesterday, Josée Marin and Peter Burns stood before the TV cameras and begged for the Conservative-dominated Senate to pass Bill S-216. Josée said that the bill's passage would mean the difference between her living in her home and dying in her car.

As Conservatives continue to put junk-bond holders ahead of sick workers, I wonder if the Prime Minister can tell Peter and Josée why is he prepared to throw them out onto the street?

Pensions
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont
Alberta

Conservative

Mike Lake Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned earlier, it is a complex issue. It is important to this government, and we are carefully studying the issue. There are many bills that have been before this House and the other house that are being considered. The hon. member's office is two floors below mine, and I would welcome her at any time to come up to my office and discuss this issue.

Pensions
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Ontario minister of finance joined with the Minister of Finance in endorsing New Democrats' call for an expansion of the Canada pension plan. By doing this, that minister has placed himself in the middle of a growing consensus. Considering the importance of this development to Canadian workers, will the minister advise the House of the status of discussions with other provinces in securing their support for an expansion of CPP?

Pensions
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, this is a matter of joint jurisdiction between the provinces and the federal government, and I am glad that the member recognizes this. Many people do not.

We have had a broad consultation with Canadians on federally regulated pensions. We are in serious discussions with our provincial counterparts. There will be a finance ministers' meeting in December where we will hear back from the officials on their findings. After those findings are in, we will apply them in our efforts to help our seniors.

Pensions
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, as important as this increase is, it does nothing to help the nearly 300,000 Canadian seniors who are currently living in poverty. Supporting these seniors is something that is doable and right. It would cost the government about the same as the corporate tax giveaways it is giving to the banks this very year.

These are the people who built this country and they deserve better. When will the government do the right thing and increase the guaranteed income supplement to lift all seniors out of poverty?

Pensions
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Calgary—Nose Hill
Alberta

Conservative

Diane Ablonczy Minister of State (Seniors)

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question and for his caring for seniors. He is aware, I hope, that since this government has taken office it has put over $2 billion more into the pockets of seniors through various measures such as pension income splitting, increasing the age credit, and many other measures. In addition, the OAS and GIS were raised in 2006-07. We have also put nearly half a billion dollars into housing for low-income seniors. There are many measures. The government continues, though, to look at ways to help seniors.

Taxation
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, our Conservative government delivers over and over again for Canadians. Whether it is providing solid economic leadership through Canada's economic action plan or our principled foreign policy positions, this government does what is needed and it does it right.

Further evidence of our getting things done for Canadians is today's announcement of two new bilateral agreements with Switzerland.

Can the parliamentary secretary inform the House about the two special and very important agreements that we signed with Switzerland today?

Taxation
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, our government has worked hard to tackle international tax evasion.

Last year our government recovered $138 million in previously unpaid tax revenue through voluntary disclosures. Just five months into this year, our collections have been even greater than they were during the entire 12 months of last year.

This week the government announced an agreement with the Swiss government of an updated double-taxation convention that will further facilitate the exchange of tax information, assisting Canada's tax authorities in cracking down on international tax evasion.

Access to Information
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Crombie Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday a federal government subcontractor wrote to us to congratulate our party for committing to publish details of government grants, contracts, and contributions online. The subcontractor said that our new policy would promote value for taxpayer money, because it would allow people to know when clients and subcontractors are being gouged.

My question is for the President of the Treasury Board. When will he drop the shroud around the Conservatives' secretive and wasteful practices in awarding grants and contracts?

Access to Information
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

North Vancouver
B.C.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, I think it is great that the Liberals are finally waking up on this file.

We have been on top of this for some time. The government expanded access to information to 70 new organizations. We have updated policies to ensure that public servants have the support they need to get these requests out the door.

Many government departments are already posting details of access to information requests online, and we are looking at some exciting initiatives to be rolled out shortly.

Guaranteed Income Supplement
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, according to an Environics poll, Quebeckers feel that the federal government is not doing enough to provide adequate retirement income for our poorest seniors. Eighty per cent of respondents support increasing the guaranteed income supplement. The results of this poll clearly show that people are worried. If the government does not act quickly, more and more seniors will be living in poverty.

Why is the government refusing to increase the monthly guaranteed income supplement benefit by $110, which is what the Bloc Québécois and FADOQ are calling for?

Guaranteed Income Supplement
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Calgary—Nose Hill
Alberta

Conservative

Diane Ablonczy Minister of State (Seniors)

Mr. Speaker, the government has done no such thing. In fact, the GIS was increased in 2006 and 2007.

As I just mentioned in answer to a previous question, since 2006 we have taken measures that have increased the money in seniors' pockets by over $2 billion a year.

We continue to look at these measures. We are proud that only 6% of Canadian seniors are at the poverty level. This is a great improvement over previous years. We will continue to make sure that—

Guaranteed Income Supplement
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Order. The hon. member for Edmonton—Strathcona.

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, small and medium businesses have long been the backbone of the Canadian economy.

Edmonton—Strathcona houses many small businesses, including numerous energy efficiency entrepreneurs. These businesses were dealt a double blow, first by the recession and then by the Conservative government's cancellation of the home energy retrofit program.

To celebrate this year's small business week, will the government restore the home energy retrofit program and help small businesses in Edmonton and across Canada?

The Environment
Oral Questions

Noon

Mégantic—L'Érable
Québec

Conservative

Christian Paradis Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, we were clear in our Speech from the Throne that we will review the entire suite of programs.

On the home energy retrofit program, I must add that $300 million is flowing until the end of the fiscal year. According to the NDP, no money will be flowing out.

National Defence
Oral Questions

Noon

Conservative

Guy Lauzon Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Canada first defence strategy calls for the government to invest in equipment and defence infrastructure for our hard-working and brave men and women in uniform.

CFB Petawawa is the home of two great regiments, 1 RCR and 3 RCR, that have contributed so much to our efforts in Afghanistan.

I would like to invite the Minister of National Defence to tell this House and all Canadians what major equipment investments our government is planning for CFB Petawawa.

National Defence
Oral Questions

Noon

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, these types of defence investments contribute greatly to local economies as well as to the Canadian Forces.

Last December, we announced that our new fleet of Chinook helicopters would be based at CFB Petawawa. Today I am pleased to announce that a contract of almost $135 million has been awarded to construct new hangars to house these new Chinooks. These hangars will include maintenance bays, training schools, a warehouse, and a command suite. This construction will be a major boost to the local economy and will create jobs.

This investment is good for the forces and for surrounding communities. I thank the member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke for her work.

National Defence
Oral Questions

Noon

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Mississauga—Streetsville.

Access to Information
Oral Questions

Noon

Liberal

Bonnie Crombie Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, competitive nations are leaving Canada in the dust when it comes to using digital technology to unshackle the information needed for economic innovation.

Small businesses have the ingenuity to harness the economic potential of information in ways that government cannot.

How is it that the government can track 10,000 vanity billboards by GPS but it will not release government data to SMEs to spur economic activity, as Liberals propose in our open government initiative?

Access to Information
Oral Questions

Noon

North Vancouver
B.C.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, this government has expanded access to information to over 70 new organizations. We have updated policies to ensure that public servants have the support they need to get these requests out the door. Many government departments are already posting details of access to information requests online, and we are looking at some exciting new initiatives to be rolled out shortly.

The Environment
Oral Questions

Noon

NDP

Bruce Hyer Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, winter is almost here. Canadian families are worried about the cost of staying warm. The HST will raise the cost of home heating this winter.

Canadians know that home heating is not a luxury. Our government does not seem to. Even worse, the Conservatives cancelled the eco-energy home retrofit program, which helped families to save money and allowed new businesses to grow.

When will the government do the obvious thing and bring back the eco-energy home retrofit program?

The Environment
Oral Questions

Noon

Mégantic—L'Érable
Québec

Conservative

Christian Paradis Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, we stated in the Speech from the Throne that we would review the entire suite of programs, and that until the end of the fiscal year $300 million would be flowing out to help people with energy retrofits.

Thanks to the NDP, however, no money will be flowing out. I ask the NDP members whether they will tell their constituents that they voted against all of these measures. This is what they did. Shame.

International Co-operation
Oral Questions

Noon

Bloc

Monique Guay Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, the loss of the seat at the UN Security Council was a huge snub to the Prime Minister. This snub is not unrelated to the fact that this government cut funding for African countries, many of which are francophone. This purely ideological choice to no longer make Africa a priority for CIDA's bilateral development assistance was the main reason Canada was rejected by the international community.

Does the Prime Minister plan on reinstating funding for African countries, in particular the francophone African countries that have been hard hit by his ideological choices?

International Co-operation
Oral Questions

Noon

Kootenay—Columbia
B.C.

Conservative

Jim Abbott Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, I answered this question in response to a question from a Liberal member.

The Bloc, the NDP, and the Liberals keep on propagating this myth, this canard.

The fact is that the Government of Canada has doubled aid to Africa in less time than was required by the G7 nations. We are the only nation that did it.

We have to put a spike in what is actually, totally, and absolutely inaccurate information.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I would like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of Mrs. Catalina Parot, Minister of National Property of the Republic of Chile.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Presence in Gallery
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I would also like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of the Honourable June Draude, Minister of Social Services, Minister Responsible for the Status of Women, and Minister Responsible for the Public Service Commission and Saskatchewan Housing Corporation.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Member for Prince George—Peace River
Points of Order
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege, on behalf of all members of this place and all Canadians to wish the member for Prince George—Peace River well. This is his last day in the House. I hope all members will join me.

Member for Prince George—Peace River
Points of Order
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, in his answer to my question, the member for Langley, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment, said something to the effect that my riding was the most polluting riding in the country. I do not think there was any ill will intended, but I do think he misspoke. He was perhaps referring to some other issue, or some other riding or some other area of the country.

I would very much appreciate it, on behalf of my constituents, if the member could withdraw that statement.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I am sure the hon. member and the parliamentary secretary can have a discussion about this matter and if some other statement is necessary in the House on the subject, they can deal with it at that time.

Aboriginal Healing Foundation
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Vancouver Island North
B.C.

Conservative

John Duncan Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, under the provisions of Standing Order 32(2), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, copies of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation's 2010 Annual Report.

Aboriginal Affairs
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Vancouver Island North
B.C.

Conservative

John Duncan Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, also under the same provisions, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, copies of the 2007-08 Annual Report of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement and the Northeastern Quebec Agreement.

Government Response to Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to four petitions.

Passport Fees
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, my petitions calls upon the Canadian government to negotiate with the United States government to reduce the United States and Canadian passport fees.

The number of American tourists visiting Canada is now at its lowest level since 1972. It has fallen by 5 million visits in the last 7 years, from 16 million in 2002 to only 11 million in 2009. Passport fees for an American family of four could be over $500 U.S. While 50% of Canadians have passports, only 25% of Americans do.

At the Midwestern Legislative Conference of the Council of State Governments, attended by myself and over 500 elected representative from 11 border states and three provinces, a resolution was unanimously passed which reads:

RESOLVED, that [the] Conference calls on President Barack Obama and [the Canadian] Prime Minister...to immediately examine a reduced fee for passports to facilitate cross-border tourism; and be it further

RESOLVED, that [the Conference] encourage[s] the governments to examine the idea of a limited time two-for-one passport renewal or new application;

To be a fair process, passport fees must be reduced on both sides of the border. Therefore, the petitioners call upon the government to work with the American government to examine a mutual reduction in passport fees to facilitate tourism and, finally, promote a limited time two-for-one passport renewal or new application fee on a mutual basis with the United States.

Multiple Sclerosis
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour today to present a petition on behalf of hundreds of Canadians.

The petitioners call upon the federal government and Parliament to support the rights of persons with MS to receive diagnostic services and recommended treatment.

Seeds Regulations
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present a petition signed by many members of my riding and other Canadians who are petitioning Parliament to support Bill C-474, a bill amending the seeds regulations to require that analysis of potential harm to export markets be considered and conducted before the sale of any new genetically engineered seeds is permitted.

The petitioners ask that this be done forthwith.

Iran
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to present a petition signed by a large number of my constituents and others who are concerned about the atrocious deterioration of human rights in Iran.

Innocent men and women, whose only crime is peaceful protest or religious beliefs, have been killed on the streets or sentenced to death. Innocent men and women, including journalists and academics, have been arrested on vague allegations and some tortured in prisons.

Canadians have loved ones and friends suffering in Iran. My constituents want our government to apply pressure on Iran to respect human rights. Justice demands this. They want Canada to offer more emergency support to refugees from Iran. Humanity demands this. They want Canada to support UN efforts to investigate human rights abuses in Iran. Hope demands this.

The time to act is now.

Violence Against Women
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I am honoured to present a petition that supports my private member's bill, Bill C-380.

Those who engage in the propagation of violence based on race, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation can be charged under the hate crimes provision of the Criminal Code. However, those who would post hateful and menacing messages against women on blogs and websites or glorify the mass murderer responsible for the École Polytechnique massacre, cannot be charged under Canadian hate laws.

If a religious or ethnic group had been the victims of École Polytechnique, the glorification of this mass killing would be criminal. Because the target group were females, it is not.

Therefore, the petitioners support Bill C-380, as it addresses this situation by adding sex, the legal term for gender, to the list of identifiable groups.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Bill C-442—Admissibility of Amendment made in Committee
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, on October 20, the member for Eglinton—Lawrence raised a point of order regarding three amendments made in committee to Bill C-442, An Act to establish a National Holocaust Monument.

I undertook, at that time, to respond to the member's comments in detail as soon as possible.

The Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities adopted a number of amendments to Bill C-442 and the bill was reported to the House on June 9. The amendments adopted by the committee do not change the principle of the bill, which is found in the bill's summary. Rather the amendments elaborate on measures in the bill and therefore are not outside the scope of the bill.

The Speaker indicated, on February 26, 2007, when addressing the question of scope relating to a private member's bill, that the summary of a bill provides a basis for determining if an amendment has gone beyond the scope of a bill.

The summary of Bill C-442 states:

This enactment requires the Minister responsible for the National Capital Act to establish and work in cooperation with a National Holocaust Monument Development Council to design and build a National Holocaust [Memorial] to be located in the National Capital Region.

The summary applies equally to the bill as introduced and the bill as reported by the committee.

Let me explain how the amendments noted by the member for Eglinton—Lawrence are within the scope of Bill C-442 as introduced.

Clause 2 in Bill C-442 includes a series of definitions, including the definition of a national Holocaust memorial council, which would be established by the responsible minister under section 4 of the bill. The amendment to clause 2 clarifies that the council established by the minister may be directed by the minister to “form a legal entity in order to properly manage the functions and ensure good governance and accountability of said council”.

The amendment does not alter the definition of a national Holocaust memorial council but merely provides clarity to the definition.

House of Commons Procedure and Practice states, on page 769, “The interpretation clause of a bill is not the place to propose a substantive amendment to a bill”.

The amendment to the definition of council is not a substantive amendment, but merely provides specificity and clarity to how the minister should establish the council, an authority the minister is given in clause 4 of the bill.

Given that the bill as introduced obliged the council to take on a number of responsibilities, including the oversight of the planning and design of the monument, the selection of public land for the monument and the adoption of bylaws to carry out the council's functions, it is important for the legal status of the council to be clarified. As the amendment notes, this is designed to ensure accountability to Canadians.

I would note that the member for Eglinton—Lawrence did not suggest that this amendment was outside the scope of the bill. As I have explained, the amendment simply clarifies an existing purpose for clause 2.

The second amendment noted by the member for Eglinton—Lawrence relates to clause 7.

In Bill C-442 as introduced, clause 7 stated:

(1) The Minister shall be responsible for allocating the public land for the Monument and for maintenance of the Monument.

(2) The Council shall spearhead a fundraising campaign to cover the cost of constructing the Monument.

The amendment to clause 7, adopted by the committee, clarifies the source of funds to be used to plan, design, install and maintain the monument. The amendment merely reflects the fact that in order for construction to be undertaken, other steps, like planning and design, must occur and they must also be paid for. Indeed, planning, designing and installing are all implicit parts of the construction of the monument.

I note that the member for Eglinton—Lawrence proposed in committee that clause 7 was amended by changing the minister's responsibility from maintenance to a responsibility for construction and maintenance. That amendment was not ruled out of order.

The amendment that was finally adopted by the committee is similar to the member's amendment in that the council's responsibilities are clarified with respect to the fundraising campaign for the monument.

The member's amendment to clause 7 has a parallel to the amendment adopted by the committee.

I submit that the member, in committee, found his amendment to be within the scope of clause 7, and the committee's amendment parallels that of the member and is also within the scope of clause 7.

The third amendment to Bill C-442 refers to clause 8. The amendment to clause 8 allows the minister to delegate to the council his or her responsibilities for the functions outlined in paragraphs 6(a) and (c) and subsection 7(1). This amendment does not introduce a new concept to the bill; rather, it elaborates on concepts already present in Bill C-442.

As the member for Eglinton—Lawrence has noted, concerns about the admissibility of the amendments were noted during consideration of Bill C-442 by the committee. However, the committee agreed after reflection that the amendments were important to clarify the provisions already present in the bill. This motion is consistent with the scope of the bill because even with this inclusion in the bill, the minister would remain accountable for the establishment of the monument. Further, this motion reflects the provision that the minister fulfills his responsibilities by working in co-operation with the council.

The second issue raised with respect to clause 8 is that the chair ruled that the amendment was moved at the wrong place in the bill. Clauses 6 and 7 outline the minister's responsibilities for the establishment of the monument. Clause 8 provides for the delegation of some of these powers. It stands to reason that the bill would first need to set out the minister's powers before dealing with the delegation of these same powers.

I would also draw to the attention of the House that the member for Eglinton—Lawrence proposed three amendments designed to clarify this bill's clauses himself. I submit that these three amendments are within the scope of the bill as introduced. The amendments do not add any new concepts to the bill, but simply clarify and elaborate on the provisions already in the bill and are consistent with the previous Speaker's rulings on the admissibility of amendments.

Bill C-442—Admissibility of Amendment made in Committee
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have reviewed the submission made by the member for Eglinton—Lawrence on October 20 and have listened carefully to the parliamentary secretary's argument. In my view, the matter before you now, Mr. Speaker, is very serious and substantive in terms of establishing a precedent which may not be in the best interests of the House.

In my view, by allowing these amendments to stand, the bill as amended and submitted to the House on June 10 for report stage would establish a principle whereby a private member's bill before a committee theoretically could be hijacked and rewritten in a fashion changing the intent of the bill to something totally different. If that was the intent it would have had substantive other changes and support in debate, in committee and in the House, that this was not to be a publicly funded project but rather a project which would be administered by the government but paid for by fundraising in the community at large. Those are two separate concepts.

The concept of public financing through fundraising was never raised at second reading debate. It was never raised in presentations to the committee. In fact, Mr. Speaker, if you would check the timeline, the amendments proposed by the government came at the eleventh hour, late in the evening. They were imposed on the committee and the committee chair was overruled on three of them.

This is fairly serious. This is a matter where the former House leader would give his speech about the tyranny of the minority or the majority, however one wants to look at it.

Mr. Speaker, it is important to review the rules of practice and procedure, because I believe that if the government wanted this to be publicly funded, it could do so very easily. All it would have to do is defeat the private member's bill, table its own bill, and deal with it, rather than trying to somehow take an instrument which was never constructed for the purpose for which the government has made its arguments.

If I may, I would like to give my support to some of the key arguments.

Mr. Speaker, on May 11, 2010, you ruled that the Speaker does not get involved in committee issues except in cases where a committee has exceeded its authority, such as an amendment that is beyond the scope of the bill. In such cases the Speaker is responsible for ruling on the admissibility of such amendments after the bill has been reported to the House. This is because the motion to refer the bill to committee after second reading establishes the principle and scope of the bill. As a result, the committee report that is not consistent with that motion must be corrected.

Here we are. The bill has been reported and amendments have been made to it.

Mr. Speaker, you are aware from the presentation by the member for Eglinton—Lawrence that the ruling of the chair of the committee was overruled by the government members.

With regard to the member's argument, he is seeking your ruling, Mr. Speaker, that the committee has exceeded its authority in passing these amendments. O'Brien and Bosc at page 765 with regard to admissibility reads:

Amendments and subamendments that are moved by Members in committee must comply with certain rules of admissibility. It is incumbent upon the Chair to decide upon the admissibility of amendments once they have been moved; the Chair does not rule on hypothetical motions. He or she relies on the procedural rules that have been established as precedents over the years and upon the authorities on parliamentary procedure and practice.

Now we have a contrasting situation. Chairs' rulings in committees can be appealed. The chair can be challenged, and that is exactly what happened. In the House that is not the case.

With regard to the amendment to clause 7, it seeks to establish a fundraising campaign to cover the cost. I mentioned earlier that this is different from the intent of the bill because it involves the National Capital Commission. The member has asserted that Bill C-442 is merely calling on the government to do what it easily could do administratively.

The point is, the National Capital Commission already possesses the authority to establish a monument without parliamentary approval. Indeed, the National Capital Commission currently is responsible for 16 monuments, including the Hungarian monument, the Canadian tribute to human rights, and the monument to Canadian aid workers. Construction is currently under way for the national naval monument. In addition, the National Capital Commission is in the planning phase for the creation of a national monument for the victims of communism. None of these monuments required legislation to move forward.

That precedent, that process and structure whereby a decision is taken to have a monument through the auspices of the National Capital Commission does not require public funding. It is funded by the taxpayers' purse, through taxes, through government money. That is the model on which Bill C-442 was done. It was never done to say that we have to set up a structure that is going to have to raise the money to do it.

This is an important monument for Canadians. It is not one that somehow we are going to put the burden on those taxpayers who want it to come up with the money themselves and somehow do the job that the National Capital Commission was engaged to do.

I could go through all of O'Brien and Bosc on the terms of admissibility. I could talk about principle and scope, which I think the member for Eglinton—Lawrence has done quite clearly. Those remarks have been put on the record and I will not repeat them. I am not trying to just add words.

The parliamentary secretary got up and summarily dismissed the arguments that have been made simply because of the summary of the bill, and he read it into the record. I would like to read it into the record as well. A little summary appears on all bills. The summary for this bill states:

This enactment requires the minister responsible for the National Capital Act to establish and work in cooperation with a Holocaust Monument Development Council to design and build a Holocaust Monument to be located in the National Capital Region.

This is a project for the National Capital Commission. Every one of the projects that I referred to with regard to those other monuments had a work group established to make it happen. There is a lot of planning. There are a lot of things that have to happen. The fact that there is reference to a Holocaust monument development council does not in itself suggest that there has to be fundraising. In fact, before these amendments were made, there was nothing like that in the bill.

Mr. Speaker, if you are going to rule on the admissibility of these amendments, first of all, I submit that they are beyond the scope and intent of the bill. The evidence is in debate both at committee and in the House at second reading that there was never any discussion, any suggestion that fundraising would be involved. It was always understood. In fact, what the House of Commons voted unanimously for at second reading was to send to committee a bill to engage the government to have the National Capital Commission do the Holocaust memorial on behalf of all Canadians.

I submit that this is a clear case where the amendments proposed by the government, ruled inadmissible by the Chair but overruled by the government, is simply an attempt to take this instrument, the private member's bill asking for this monument, and turn it into a project to be run by and fundraised by the public as a separate project without government money.

That cannot possibly be interpreted as the intent of the bill. It was never mentioned. It was never voted on by this place to send it to committee for that purpose. It was for the National Capital Commission as a project, as other monuments. I am totally disgusted that the parliamentary secretary would rise and summarily dismiss fundamental principles of practice and procedure when in fact the government is trying to change the bill.

This is so important, Mr. Speaker, that you must rule this to be inadmissible, order the committee to review the bill again without those amendments and then let the government defeat it or pass it in committee. When it comes back to the House, the government can defeat it at report stage or at third reading and it can be responsible for why there is not a Holocaust memorial.

The issue is that this is a different bill and members would vote differently depending on whether or not these amendments were there.

Therefore, I submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that the government's arguments are contrary to our practices and procedure and I ask you for a favourable ruling on the point of order raised by the member for Eglinton—Lawrence.

Bill C-442—Admissibility of Amendment made in Committee
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I thank the hon. parliamentary secretary to the government House leader and the hon. member for Mississauga South for their submissions on this matter.

I will take them under advisement and return to the House shortly with a decision in this important matter.

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, today we are debating Bill C-46, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Panama, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Panama and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Panama.

To begin, I would like to say that the Bloc Québécois does not support this bill, mostly for the same reasons that it is against so many bills concerning the implementation of bilateral free trade agreements between Canada and certain countries. In this particular case, there is the additional issue of Panama being a tax haven, one that is on France's blacklist and the OECD's grey list. The latter lists countries that have committed to exchanging tax information but that have not substantially implemented the rules.

We know that some countries are tax havens. The OECD has come up with four criteria to determine if a country is a tax haven. Countries wanting to do business or trade with countries that are tax havens must ensure that those countries do not meet these four criteria.

There are tax havens with tax rates so low as to be non-existent, with no transparency when it comes to their laws, specifically their tax laws, and with legal or administrative barriers to sharing information. They attract investments simply for tax reasons, not for any economic activity per se. One of those countries is Panama.

The Bloc Québécois wants Canada to ensure that it can do business transparently, that it can get all available information on, for instance, Canadian or Panamanian businesses that want to do business here, so we can see where the money goes, who is paying taxes and how much.

We are calling on the Conservative government to sign a tax information exchange agreement with Panama. At present, we have no guarantee that any tax information exchange agreements with Panama have been signed or that such agreements provide a tax exemption for subsidiaries located in jurisdictions with which we have agreements. What does that mean? It means that Canada signs many bilateral free trade agreements, and Canadian subsidiaries that operate on islands or in countries with which we have such agreements should, theoretically, bring profits earned there back to Canada in order to pay taxes.

Canada does not force them do so. In fact, in 2007, the Conservative government expanded the definition of designated countries in the Income Tax Regulations in order to accommodate a country with which Canada concluded a tax information exchange agreement. Thus, income earned by a business operated by a foreign subsidiary in a country that has concluded a tax information exchange agreement is tax-exempt.

In 2007, the Conservative government made changes that distorted information exchange agreements. These agreements not only allow information exchanges, but also allow subsidiaries located in the targeted jurisdictions to be tax-exempt. That is why the Bloc Québécois is calling on Canada to implement a real tax treaty to improve the transparency of Panama's financial institutions and effectively fight tax evasion before agreeing to ratify a free trade agreement. Since Panama is a tax haven, we believe it will be easy for companies and individuals to set up there or to invest money there. There will be no transparency, and we will not know how much money these people make, how much they should pay in taxes and whether these taxes will be sent back to Canada. That is one of the reasons we do not accept this free trade agreement.

There is another reason behind our position. The Bloc Québécois is open to trade, but not at just any cost. It is open to trade if human rights are respected. Panama has a right-wing government that adopted legislation considered anti-union on June 30, 2010. That legislation includes a labour code reform that is perceived to be repressive since it would criminalize workers who demonstrate to defend their rights. In August, the Panamanian government agreed to review the legislation. We still have cause for concern about whether Panama's government really intends to comply with International Labour Organization conventions. I think it is important to postpone signing the free trade agreement and ensure that the Panamanian government changes its attitude toward unions and workers in its country.

The Bloc Québécois is open to trade, but its focus is fair globalization. We believe that in order for trade to be mutually beneficial, it must first be fair. A trading system that results in exploitation in poor countries and dumping in rich countries is not viable. The Bloc Québécois will never tolerate a system of free trade that would result in a race to the bottom. The absence of environmental or labour standards in trade agreements puts a great deal of pressure on our industries, especially our traditional industries. It is very difficult for them to compete with products made with no regard for basic social rights.

The Bloc Québécois believes that child labour, forced labour and the denial of workers' fundamental rights are a form of unfair competition, just like, or even more than, export subsidies and dumping. Prohibition of these practices is widely accepted at the international level, as reflected by the large number of countries that have signed the International Labour Organization's eight fundamental conventions. We must have the means to protect ourselves against such practices.

Trade agreements and trade laws do not protect our businesses and our workers from this social dumping. If a country wants to benefit from free trade, in return, it has to accept a certain number of basic rules, with regard to social rights in particular. Environmental organizations and human rights groups have been concerned about this issue for a long time. More recently, though, it has become a major economic issue. Quebec has proportionally more industries threatened by competition from Asia than the rest of Canada. Quebec is at the forefront of this debate.

That is why the Bloc Québécois is urging the federal government to revise its positions in trade negotiations in order to ensure that trade agreements include clauses ensuring compliance with international labour standards as well as respect for human rights and the environment.

Is my time already up, Mr. Speaker?

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12:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Unfortunately, your time is up.

The hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona.

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12:40 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the fact is that France got results and recently signed a double taxation avoidance agreement with Panama. That is because, this past February, France became proactive and levied a 50% tax on dividends, service fees, royalties and interest paid by French companies to a beneficiary in any of the blacklisted countries. Of course, one of the 18 countries was Panama.

Clearly the proof exists that if proactive action is taken, such as France took and imposed penalties against the 350,000 companies that are operating in Panama, there will be results. Panama came to the table very quickly, and the Prime Minister should now be diverting his plane when he leaves Switzerland after meeting with the Swiss president and heading straight to Panama to make sure we get a similar agreement.

As a matter of fact, Panama has signed an agreement with eight countries just in the last few months. Guess what? Not one of them is Canada. Panama has signed agreements with Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Qatar, and Spain, all in the last six months. Yet Canada is a country that is doing a free trade deal with Panama and it is not part of those eight.

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12:45 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, the member is right. I find it unfortunate that the government is willing to encourage trade at any cost, without any thought to what could happen, the results, the consequences.

This government has always been reluctant when it comes time to force an issue. It is as though they are scared to lose out by pushing human rights issues, fair trade and the creation of benchmarks and standards.

If I were a member of this government, I would be ashamed to not be able to put my foot down more. I would be ashamed to only be able to back the business side of things without being able to focus on getting a fair and equitable bill or agreement.

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12:45 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, there have been a lot of bilateral trade agreements signed off by Canada recently and I think there is concern by many that as we continue to go down the path of a bilateral approach, it is at the cost of looking at multilateral approaches.

I do not want the member's comments about this specific trade agreement but about this method or approach to trade. Is she concerned at all about this approach to having bilateral agreements? One could argue that it distracts us from what I think most people would agree is the way to go, which is multilateral agreements, so that there can be fair trade rules for everyone, not just compounded bilateral trade agreements, which can make it difficult for everyone.

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12:45 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is quite troubling. Canada has signed more than 20 bilateral agreements. By signing bilateral agreements, the Canadian government is ignoring certain global laws concerning protective measures for workers or unions, human rights, the environment, etc.

It is all very well and good to say that these types of bilateral agreements contain laws to protect the environment and workers, but it is just hearsay. Nothing sticks to realities, to global agreements, and we should be worried. Not only is this wrong, it is not in keeping with Canada and the image it usually projects.

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12:45 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to a bill concerning a bilateral free trade agreement with Panama, Bill C-46.

I rise today to hopefully take a look at Canada's track record regarding trade and particularly the direction that the government has taken when it comes to trade agreements. When it comes to the Panama free trade agreement, it is actually part of the cookie-cutter approach that the government has of looking at free trade as a one-off kind of thing that can be done with different countries, and by the same token, ignoring where I think we should be spending our time and effort, which is looking at the multilateral forums.

Many who are involved in trade agreements and in diplomacy are very concerned about the fact that we were not able to find success in the Doha Round. The government will say that since Doha has collapsed, the World Trade Organization talks on multilateralism have collapsed, in effect what we should be doing is just having bilateral trade agreements.

That sounds reasonable if we consider that there does not seem to be any initiative that is worthwhile to get multilateral trade agreements going on or the Doha Round going again, except for the fact that when we look at what Canada's role in trade has been historically from the beginning of Confederation, we need to ensure that we do have fair trade opportunities, that we are not going to be susceptible to larger economies taking advantage of our goods and services and resources. By the same token, we have to have access to markets.

Essentially, in a sentence or two, that is what the equation is. It is making sure we have access, while protecting our economy.

When it comes to these bilateral trade agreements, the concern here is that when we compound them and stack them up, we have to really look at what is in the interests of Canada. There have been some interesting suppositions put forward on these small bilateral trade agreements. Let us be honest here: most Canadians do not wake up in the morning and say, “By golly, we need to get access to the market in Lichtenstein, or Jordan, or Panama”.

We do want to make sure that we are not selling off our natural resources without value added, that we are not opening our markets up to the vagaries of what we have seen lately, which is very significant multinational corporations coming in and taking over our companies, dispensing with the parts of the company that they do not find profitable, and making away with the profits. That is the major concern of Canadians, not about free trade with Panama or Lichtenstein or Jordan.

Canadians are very concerned about what happens when these bilateral trade agreements compound and what is the benefit for Canada. In the last couple of weeks, there has been an interesting discussion around potash. Potash has been a real cornerstone for the economy in Saskatchewan. As we know, it was something that was a net benefit for everyone in Saskatchewan because it was a crown corporation.

Sadly, we saw it sold off, and we say this respectfully to the party in Saskatchewan or what used to be the Conservative party that exists no more. They sold it off. We now have Mr. Wall in a position where he is having to sound like a New Democrat, saying that because of the concerns of international investors, he is going to actually stand up for Saskatchewan and not let Potash Corporation be further undermined. We welcome that.

Mr. Wall has now listened to what New Democrats have said: “Do not sell it off. Do not let the Prime Minister have his way.” When we are talking about international trade, we are talking about protecting Canadian industry. I know some of the Conservatives are looking as though they are doing a pretzel dance, but that is kind of how they are dealing with the potash file. I guess they represent exactly what is happening with their position on trade, protecting, on the one hand, Canadian industries, and on the other hand, ensuring that we have markets abroad.

Make no mistake, if Potash Corporation is sold off to another country, which is essentially what is happening, the effects will be not just to Saskatchewan. The ripple effect will be felt throughout Canada. That is what we have to consider when we are looking at trade agreements. How is Canada going to benefit? The provisions in this bill, in this offering from government, are in terms of investment protection and free market access in goods and services, including government procurement, but then we get into what we have seen in previous trade agreements: a labour protection agreement and an agreement on the environment.

Unless absolute clarity on what we are agreeing to in terms of labour standards and environmental standards is embedded in trade agreements, they are not worth the paper they are written on. They can be ignored. If there are labour standards, for instance, such the ones in Panama, which are not as strong as those in Canada, essentially we are putting our workers in unfair competition with workers from Panama. Not only that, but in talking to people from Panama, as our party has, their concern is that it is in fact putting a rubber stamp on labour practices in Panama and saying that all is well and good.

I have heard the government say, time and time again, this will lift all boats up and by us signing a free trade agreement with Panama, all of a sudden it is going to have fair labour standards and fair environmental standards. We know we do not even have the capacity to have oversight on the potash deal in this country. Are we really going to have enough people to have oversight on the environmental and labour standards in Panama? I doubt it. In fact, the agreement does not have it embedded. It is a side agreement and it is a sideshow at the end of the day.

When we look at the totality of this bilateral trade agreement, it is like what we have seen in the past. There is no guarantee that we are going to have equity in terms of access to markets and protecting labour and environmental standards for those we trade with. We do not know and have actual numbers to convince any of us that this will be a benefit to Canadians, be it workers or investors. We do not know what the follow-up will be, because when we are talking about trade agreements, each of these agreements needs to be monitored. Once we sign off and say, “Here is access to our markets”, some people will take advantage of that and will have access to cheaper labour, perhaps, and able to have environmental standards that are not as strong as Canada's, but we will have to make sure that there are benefits to Canada. Who is going to monitor that?

Right now, as I said before in terms of looking at the potential sale of PotashCorp, we do not even have enough people monitoring that. For each of these bilateral agreements, we are going to need people to monitor these trade agreements. That is why it is so important to focus on the multilateral approach.

With a multilateral trade system, which used to be the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, we would have discussions and debates in Brussels and we would have some of our bureaucrats in Brussels on a regular basis ensuring that the GATT rules were being followed. We will need the same kind of thing for each of these bilateral agreements.

We should be entering into multilateral agreements. It makes sense and it is fairer. This is not the way to go. Clearly this is going to be another example of the government ignoring multilateral, going into bilateral, and at the end of the day, Canadians will not be better off.

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12:55 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for his very good speech outlining some of the problems with this Panama trade agreement. Between the environmental, labour and tax haven issues that are outlined in this agreement, one of the things we know is that, for many of our ridings, we have been left with a bad taste as a result of agreements that have been negotiated by the government.

The softwood lumber deal was not such a great deal for the workers in my riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan. What we have seen as a result of that is sawmills close and some of our pulp mills really struggle with access to fibre. So I have a tough time going back to my riding and talking about another agreement that does not seem to provide the kind of protections that we would expect our legislators to put in place for Canadian workers.

I wonder if the member could comment on the fact that agreements such as the softwood lumber agreement simply have not benefited Canadian workers and in fact we have seen job losses as a result of that. Anytime we want to talk about fair trade, we want fair trade, not free trade. We want to talk about no net job loss for Canadian workers. Could the member comment on that?

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12:55 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, what my colleague from British Columbia is actually pinpointing is the problem with these agreements. Like the softwood lumber sellout, as some of my colleagues call it, the agreement looks good on paper to those who are negotiating it but when it comes down to individual communities and industries, we have not seen the benefit. We have seen the opposite of that.

Let us remember what happened. We had $1 billion go south to guarantee that we would have fair trade and access to markets. Now we see, in ridings right across the country, the shutdown of an industry. The irony, actually the tragedy, is that we were investing this money so that we could have access and it has had the opposite effect.

What we need to see in these agreements is not just nice side agreements on labour and the environment that, frankly, are not very effective. We need to see, just like we are taking about with potash, where the net benefit is for Canada in these trade agreements, not in theory but in actual real terms.

I am sure that at committee we will be asking to see the statistics on Panama that we will be able to take to the bank and take to our communities to ensure we are not being opened up just for some people to take what they want and leave the rest, because that is what we have seen here. We have seen our country opened up, people taking what they want and leaving most of our workers with the short end of the stick.

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1 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have always found it interesting to hear the debates on the trade deals because it seems the same issues are raised.

However, I picked up on a couple things and I wonder if the member could comment on them.

Three years ago, the United States entered into an agreement with Panama and 13 days thereafter the Panamanian congress approved the deal. However, here we are, three years later, and the U.S. Congress still has not ratified the Panamanian agreement. It does raise some questions about what is in fact the problem. We know that the implications of a trade deal with the United States and Panama will not have too much of an effect simply because 96% of the Panamanian exports are duty free and there is no competition to the major export commodities of the U.S.

There must be something more to this from a U.S. perspective and, I submit, that it would probably be relevant for the discussion and for us to know when there are free trade deals, particularly with the same country, what other countries are doing and why.

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1 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would point to the fact that it was the U.S. Congress that stopped the trade deal with Colombia and, as the member would know as well, it was not just with the present government but with the previous government. The reason was clear: the congress was not going to be entering into a free trade agreement with, as he noted, Panama, but also with Colombia because of the concerns about what was happening on the ground in Colombia.

What we need to see, before we enter into trade deals, is that there is fair play in daylight with the countries that we are going to be entering into these deals with, before, not after. This is where the American Congress has taken a strong stand. It is seen, in the case of Colombia, that there was not fair play in daylight on things like labour rights, human rights and the environment. I think that is the same reason why the U.S. stopped its negotiations with Panama.

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1 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Malo Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, I heard the NDP member from Ottawa talking about the importance of a multilateral approach in trade agreements to ensure some degree of fairness in the agreements and to ensure that they benefit all parties involved, which is quite a departure from the sort of bilateral agreements this government wants to rush through.

The Bloc Québécois has always been very clear. Protectionism will not help the Quebec economy because it is based on the manufacturing industry. In its budgets, the government has been trying to limit the development and growth of manufacturing businesses by introducing policies that favour other sectors, such as the western oil industry. We object to such ploys because everyone knows that the Quebec economy is based primarily on manufacturing, and therefore on exports. International exports account for one-third of Quebec's GDP. If we include all interprovincial exports, over half of our GDP depends on the growth of our manufacturing industry.

We therefore cannot support any sort of protectionist initiatives. That is why, when we learned that the American administration had decided to include protectionist measures in its stimulus plan, some Bloc Québécois members rushed to Washington, the American capital. They urged the American government and all partners to stay away from protectionist measures because they are harmful not only to our economy, but to theirs as well. A great deal of trade takes place between Quebec and the United States and between Canada and the United States. The fabrication of manufactured goods often begins on one side of the border and is completed on the other side. The value added to goods increases on the other side of the border, and those goods come and go. We have an integrated manufacturing industry. The Bloc Québécois therefore vehemently opposes any sort of protectionist measures.

However, the common good and the ability of governments to redistribute wealth, protect the environment and culture, and provide their citizens with basic public services, such as health care and education, must always be the basis for decisions about trade rules. If the WTO's Doha round is compromised and the free trade area of the Americas is currently stagnating, is it because the negotiations were flawed? Of course. It does not mean that the multilateral system is ineffective. It comes down to some partners around the table having the impression that they will come up short. Some parties want to have more benefits and, consequently, the other parties run the risk of coming up short.

When negotiating, it is important to always bear in mind that agreements must be fair to all partners and that each party must secure the benefits it had hoped for by signing the agreements.

In the case of multilateral agreements, if the government made more of an effort around the table to arrive at just and fair compromises, we would not be in a position today of watching it rush to sign bilateral agreements with just about anyone in order to bypass others who would like to sign agreements. I do not believe we should be doing this. The Bloc Québécois' position is that it is important that efforts be directed to negotiating multilateral agreements.

That is why the Bloc Québécois was the first party in this House to call for an agreement to be signed with the European Union. This agreement is still being questioned today because it is not clear whether the government is serious about defending what is important to us at the table, namely cultural exemption and supply management. Fundamental requirements still need to be central to the debates, discussions and negotiations because there are fundamental aspects at the heart of a society's economy or identity. For example, supply management is fundamental to Quebec agriculture. There is also cultural exemption. I like repeating that in this House. Quebec is a nation where culture, the arts, literature and, essentially, everything that is at the centre of our collective identity as Quebeckers, are important to us. We want to preserve our identity for generations to come because that is what defines us as a nation. So ends that aside.

As my colleague from the New Democratic Party said in his speech, when agreements are negotiated, they have to benefit the country's economy, or the nation's, in the case of the Quebec nation. When the Bloc Québécois assesses potential agreements presented to it, one of the questions it needs answered is whether these agreements can benefit Quebec's economy.

That being said, with Panama there is another problem to add to the debate: the fact that this country is on the grey list of tax havens. None of us likes to hear in the news that companies are not paying their fair share of taxes because they shelter their capital in tax havens in various countries that protect them from having to fulfill their social responsibility. It is clear that ordinary citizens do not enjoy the same privileges that the government unfortunately continues to give rich companies to save them from paying some of the tax on their profits.

As far as Panama is concerned, I have here an article from Le Devoir, from September 29, 2010, entitled “Lutte internationale contre l'évasion fiscale—Les mauvais élèves sont montrés du doigt”. It is about singling out the offenders in the international fight against tax evasion. The subtitle refers to the release of the international forum's first report card.

This text from Agence France-Presse explained that, following a preliminary review by the WTO, Panama would probably be on the WTO list of offenders. I believe this needs to be taken into account.

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1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, the member is consistent with his coalition partners against trade and against companies like Bombardier and other companies in Quebec doing business around the world. Those members do not want to see any type of free trade agreement that gives them an advantage in the marketplace.

In the agriculture sector in Saskatchewan trade is very important. We need trade. The NDP does not represent farmers in Saskatchewan, it never has and it never will.

Why is he against trade? This is so beneficial for the whole Canadian economy, especially Quebec. Why would he not just embrace this, get behind it, push it and see the bill go through?

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1:15 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Malo Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

The member mentioned a coalition. I see more of a coalition between the Liberals and the Conservatives to help major corporations avoid paying their taxes. These taxes would help us better redistribute the wealth and would give our citizens even better lives.

In response to his question, as I said in my speech, the Bloc Québécois is a strong supporter of multilateral agreements. The Bloc Québécois was in favour of signing the North American Free Trade Agreement, and is in favour of a free trade agreement with the European Union. These agreements involve several parties, who will all reap the benefits.

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1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the U.S. entered into an agreement with Panama three years ago, but it still has not been ratified by the U.S. Congress.

It is curious because the previous questioner asked what the member had against trade when there were all these good things. In regard to the U.S., the FTA would eliminate 88% of tariffs on U.S. exports and it would secure new access and advantages to Panama investment, financial and other services and, most significant, it would open up major new opportunities for U.S. businesses and workers in the current expansion of the Panama Canal.

It would appear that there are substantial reasons why there are very strong benefits for the United States in entering into that agreement. Notwithstanding that Panama ratified the agreement with the U.S. 13 days after it was agreed upon, 3 years later the U.S. Congress has refused to give approval to that Panama agreement.

Is the member aware of any reasons why the U.S. has refused to enter an agreement, which clearly would be to its advantage?

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1:15 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Malo Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

I would not want to hazard a guess as to why the U.S. Congress has not decided to go ahead with this free trade agreement, but it is clear that countries should not be in a hurry to sign free trade agreements. Unfortunately, I get the feeling that the Conservative government is in a hurry. It is rushing to sign bilateral agreements with a number of countries in order to head off other countries that are doing the same thing.

As I said in my speech, instead of focusing its efforts on this sort of thing, the government needs to sit down with other countries and really do what it takes to ensure that major multilateral agreements see the light of day, for the sake of Canadians and Quebeckers.

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1:15 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to the bill.

At the outset, I would like to take a moment to recognize the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister. An hour or so ago he indicated that the Prime Minister had just signed a double taxation avoidance agreement with Switzerland today in Switzerland. He gave information, for which we have been looking for some time now, as to how much money has been recouped by Revenue Canada.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister said that last year $138 million had been collected on behalf of Canadian taxpayers under the amnesty program. He said that even more than $138 million had been collected to date this year, but he did not give us an indication of how much. I know the parliamentary secretary to the finance minister is here and perhaps he could make a note of this and get back to us with the information as to how much has been collected so far this year. I think that is a good sign.

For many years now, the banking systems of Switzerland, Liechtenstein and other countries becoming tax havens for arms dealers and drug dealers. As well, regular everyday Canadian taxpayers and corporations have been taking advantage of these tax shelters primarily because they can get away with it.

After several hundred years of Switzerland keeping its bank secrecy laws and veils in place, after 9/11 we started to see some breakthroughs. President Obama took on the Swiss banking establishment over the last couple of years, demanding information. Under the guise of finding out information about terrorist financing, he was able to break open the veil of secrecy. However, up until 9/11, up until the worldwide concern about terrorism, there did not seem to be too much concern about drug dealers, arms dealings or about other people hiding their money from tax authorities. Things have developed and progressed for the better.

Here is another bit of information that the public knows about now. A bank employee in a Liechtenstein bank two or three years ago sold bank diskettes containing thousands of names of taxpayers to the German government. In a more recent case, a Swiss bank employee did the same thing. He took the records into France and turned them over to the French government. Now the Canadian government has been faced with this information being made public and Canadian taxpayers are demanding to know what the Canadian government is doing about it.

The Canadian government is essentially offering an amnesty to taxpayers in Canada who have not paid their taxes. The government wants them to walk into Revenue Canada, declare that they have been bad and it will let them off the hook with no penalties, no jail terms, nothing more than just “pay your taxes”. That has been its approach. Now the Prime Minister has gone off to Switzerland and has an agreement with the Swiss government.

I ask the parliamentary secretary to the finance minister to take note of what France did, and it was quite substantial. Only this February, France compiled a list. There is the OECD grey list, but there is also France's black list. It put 18 countries on this list and one was Panama.

France acted proactively, and Canada should do what France did. France levied a 50% tax on dividend, service fees, royalties and interest paid by French entities to any beneficiaries in any of these blacklisted countries, including Panama, a 50% upfront tax levy. Gains from real estate and securities transactions were also subject to the same levy. In addition, France's 95% tax exemption on dividends issued by subsidiaries to their French-based parent company will be removed if the subsidiary resides in any of the blacklisted jurisdictions. France brought these rules in immediately, in February.

What happened? The results have been phenomenal. France now has a double taxation avoidance agreement signed with Panama. When Panama realized the game was up, that it would have to comply, it signed agreements not only with France, but with Mexico, Barbados, Belgium, the Netherlands, Qatar and Spain. That is since February. It now has these agreements that it refused to sign for many years.

Guess what? Canada is not one of those countries. Canada is a country that is looking at implementing a free trade agreement.

This is perfect timing for Parliament and the government to become proactive and to do what France did. It should compile a blacklist, follow the OECD's list if it wishes, and levy the 50% tax on dividends, on interest, on royalties, on service fees, all the measures that France took, then watch Panama come immediately to the table. Within weeks of the government doing this, I can guarantee the Panamanian government will be knocking on the government's door, asking to sign the double taxation avoidance agreement. That definitely would be putting the cart behind the horse because the government is not doing things in a way that would get results.

The member for Mississauga South has been desperately seeking answers from successive speakers all morning, and not getting them, about why the Americans are not ratifying the agreement. He wants to know the reasons why 43 or 45 congressmen have demanded that President Obama not ratify it. He points out that Panama signed and ratified the agreement within 13 days, yet after 3 years the United States has not ratified, nor is it likely to be any time soon.

The reality is 45 American legislators have resisted signing. Part of the reason is the Americans are aware that 350,000 corporations have offices in Panama to shelter income. In order words, they are taking advantage of the tax haven status. One of the corporations is none other than AIG. AIG received gazillions of dollars in bailouts just two years ago and it gave a huge amount of bonuses to its executives six months later. Now AIG is suing the U.S. government for $306 million in back taxes it claims it is owed because of the use of one of its Panamanian corporate entities. It wants to involve itself in tax havens like Panama—

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1:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order, please. I think if we stop the member here we could probably accommodate one question or comment. The hon. member for Etobicoke Centre.

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1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, these are important issues, tax haven status and that it is a hub for drug dealers, but I would like to set those aside. In fact, Canada is not a boy scout when it comes to drug dealers. Some people would make the claim that in British Columbia the biggest agriculture crop is cannabis.

I would like to raise the issue of human rights, which is of greater importance. Free traders in Canada for a couple of decades have suggested that we do a Central American free trade area, CAFTA. Thankfully, we have not done that, because a number of the regimes there are tremendous abusers of human and democratic rights.

In the last decade, Panama has made tremendous progress in that particular area and, approaching in a piecemeal fashion where we encourage countries that have shown progress on human democratic rights, perhaps that provides an example to other regimes in the area recently. In the past few years, Guatemala obviously has--

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1:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

I have to interrupt as we are rapidly approaching the end of the time allowed. I will hand the floor back to the member for Elmwood—Transcona for a very brief response.

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1:30 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I was just finishing the answer to the question from the member for Mississauga South when I ran out of time. He wanted to know why the Americans were not ratifying the agreement.

The example of AIG is one of the reasons that the American congresspeople give for not wanting to ratify the agreement. While they have AIG people getting this huge amount of bail-out money just two years ago and paying themselves huge bonuses, they find that AIG is suing the government--

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order, please. It being 1:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Employment Insurance Act
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing is not present to move the order as announced in today's notice paper. Accordingly, the bill will be dropped to the order of precedence on the order paper.

I see the hon. member for Prince Albert may have a suggestion for the House.

Employment Insurance Act
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I think if you seek it you would find unanimous consent to see the clock at 2:30 p.m.

Employment Insurance Act
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Shall I see the clock at 2:30 p.m.?

Employment Insurance Act
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Employment Insurance Act
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until next Monday at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 1:32 p.m.)