House of Commons Hansard #74 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was agreements.

Topics

Passport Fees
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I present a petition which calls on the Canadian government to negotiate with the United States government to reduce the U.S. and Canadian passport fees.

The number of American tourists visiting Canada is at its lowest level since 1972. It has fallen by five million in the last seven years, from 16 million in 2002 to only 11 million in 2009.

Passport fees for multiple member families are a significant barrier to traditional cross-border family vacations. The cost of the passports for an American family of four can be over $500. While over half of Canadians have passports, only a quarter of Americans have passports.

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

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

...we encourage the governments to examine the idea of a limited time two-for-one passport renewal or new application; and be it further

RESOLVED, that this resolution be submitted to appropriate federal, state and provincial officials.

To be a fair process, passport fees must be reduced on both sides of the border. Therefore, the petitioners call on the government to work with the American government to examine a mutual reduction in passport fees to facilitate tourism, and to 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

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, I rise to present a petition on behalf of 1,100 MS patients in Newfoundland and Labrador; of course, we know there are many more throughout the country.

This petition is signed by people throughout the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. They are calling on the government to make it possible for MS patients throughout the country to avail themselves of the liberation treatment.

On October 4 one of my constituents, Perry Goodyear from Grand Bank, will be flying to New York to have the treatment done. It is very costly for people to do this and it is very difficult for them as well, as some of them are confined to wheelchairs.

The petitioners are asking the government to consider the seriousness of this issue on behalf of MS patients, to recognize that the treatment that is being done by Dr. Zamboni is showing wonderful results for patients who have MS. The petitioners are asking the government to take a leadership role and to recognize that there will be provinces that will not participate unless the federal government plays a leadership role.

The petitioners are asking the government to once again recognize the need, recognize how serious this is for MS patients, to recognize the importance of doing this and to move quickly on it.

Multiple Sclerosis
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, I too have a petition signed by fellow Canadians most of whom are from Quebec and Ontario. They are calling on the Minister of Health to convene a meeting of ministers of health of the provinces and of the federal government to discuss allowing hospitals, private clinics and individual doctors to test for and treat CCSVI in all Canadians who so desire testing and treatment, and to plan and implement a nationwide clinical trial for the evaluation of venography and balloon venoplasty for the treatment of CCSVI in persons diagnosed with MS.

KAIROS
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, as you well know, the government cut the funding to KAIROS a few months ago. Today I am presenting petitions signed by dozens of people from Montreal and the Eastern Townships: Cowansville, Sutton and Verdun. In light of the significant role that KAIROS plays in the network for international development funding, and given its success as an organization in terms of developing projects that truly help third-world citizens, the people who signed these petitions are asking the government to immediately reinstate funding to KAIROS and finance its overseas programs from 2010 to 2013.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.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

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Motion to concur in seventh report of industry, science and technology committee
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.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 rise on a point of order to bring to your attention the motion on the order paper to concur in the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, which is essentially the same as the supply motion that was adopted yesterday.

On page 560 of O'Brien and Bosc, it refers to the rule of anticipation. It states:

The rule is dependent on the principle which forbids the same question from being decided twice within the same session.

On that same page it states:

The rule of anticipation becomes operative only when one of two similar motions on the order paper is actually proceeded with.

That is what happened yesterday with the Liberal supply motion.

I would add that the concurrence motion was moved last Friday by the NDP with the full knowledge that the subject matter of the concurrence motion was the same as that of the Liberal supply day motion which was scheduled for debate the following Tuesday.

Surely the NDP was aware that the continuation of the debate on the concurrence motion at the later date and the subsequent vote would be redundant. More important and unfortunate is that the debate on the concurrence motion interrupted the debate on Bill C-22, the protecting children from online sexual exploitation bill, which was scheduled to conclude on Friday. As a result of the concurrence motion, Bill C-22 was not sent to committee.

Mr. Speaker, as you know, there is one hour and 36 minutes remaining in the debate on the concurrence motion, and the government is bound by the rules to schedule a continuation of this debate within 10 sitting days, which will conclude in a division on the same question twice.

Mr. Speaker, in order to prevent this unnecessary debate and vote from taking place, I would ask that you strike the motion to concur in the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology from the order paper.

Motion to concur in seventh report of industry, science and technology committee
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I thank the hon. parliamentary secretary for his submissions on this matter. I will look into it further and get back to the House in due course.

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-46, as I did the other day on Bill C-8 which dealt with another free trade agreement the government is proposing. This bill deals with a free trade agreement with Panama.

Obviously, free trade agreements are important to Canada given that we export over 80% of our goods, and obviously Canada needs to be competitive in the international community. It is disturbing that for the first time in over 30 years, we have a significant trade deficit. The government needs to look at a comprehensive approach in terms of how we deal with the issue of trade in the international community.

At the moment we have what I would call one-off agreements. There is one with Jordan and now there is this one with Panama. We also debated one involving Colombia. The difficulty is that our competitors are taking a much more aggressive approach. For example, we have no free trade agreements with any state in Asia. With markets such as Japan, China, India, the ASEAN members, this is very important, and a multilateral approach particularly with ASEAN would be beneficial.

We are still in negotiations with Korea; I believe we are in the seventh round now. With Singapore, we are in the ninth round. This is disturbing, given that the Americans have been reaching out. We see the Japanese concluding free trade agreements with countries as diverse as the Philippines and Mexico, yet at the same time, we are doing these small agreements.

The one with Panama is fine. We on this side of the House certainly support the bill going to committee. However, in terms of the big picture, there are real issues that we need to be grappling with on the issue of free trade. A multilateral approach gives us a bigger market. For example, ASEAN, with 590 million people from Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, et cetera, is very important, yet we are simply chipping away at it. We do not have a coherent policy in terms of how we should tackle trade issues.

As a significant amount of our trade, some 75% or 80%, is with the United States, when there is an economic downturn in that country, as we have seen, it has an impact on our economy. We need to diversify, but diversifying with Jordan and Panama is not going to solve things in the big picture. It is not going to deal with what our competitors have been doing internationally. We need to be in the game. We have been more on the sidelines. We have to engage in these major markets. There are opportunities for us out there, but the government needs to lead. The government needs to demonstrate.

A few years ago, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce wrote a very compelling paper about China. It clearly indicated that there was no policy of the government in terms of how to engage that market. For example, Canada is a world leader in the area of environmental technology, particularly with respect to clean air, clean water and contaminated sites. This is very important work and certainly is useful for China. We need to be part of that, but we are not seeing the kind of leadership needed in order to go forward.

From that standpoint, the agreements the government has been putting forward simply focus on a very small niche. They do not deal with the kinds of issues they should be dealing with.

We are seeing an increase in protectionism in the United States. That is of concern, particularly in the area of agriculture. It means difficulties for our farmers. It is a difficulty in terms of our being able to compete in the international arena. The United States' protectionist policies are having an effect here. With respect to the America first policy, the government had discussions with the United States and changes were made in terms of Canadian companies being able to compete, but that only affected 37 of the 50 states in the U.S. It is important that we be there.

The Conservative government has not shown the kind of leadership that is needed on the multilateral side, in terms of being much more visible in the United States. Policy in the United States is not done in Washington; it is done in districts and states across the U.S. That is where we need to be focusing our efforts.

Canadian businesses can compete with anyone in the world if there is a level playing field. When there is not a level playing field, obviously we often face difficulties.

Although my party supports this bill going to committee, the fact is that we would like to see a clear strategy, particularly for the emerging key markets, such as Brazil, India, China, and Japan. We have watched and continually see the United States, Australia, and others being very aggressive, particularly in their talk about a big Asia Pacific free trade zone. If they are in first, we obviously will pick up the pieces.

I think Canadian businesses deserve more than picking up the pieces. They deserve the opportunity. Again, we have to be aggressive. We can talk free trade, but we really have to demonstrate it. The only way to demonstrate it is to show leadership.

Currently, penetrating the Korean market is an issue, particularly in the automotive sector, and the Japanese are carefully watching our discussions. If, and it is a big if, a free trade agreement were to occur between Canada and Korea, the Japanese would be particularly anxious to come to the table. At the moment, the Americans are talking to them about possible free trade.

Some people say that we could never get a free trade agreement with Japan because of agriculture. I do not know of too many people in this House who represent ridings that have a lot of rice. Rice is always the one issue the Japanese deal with. Even then, Japan was able to conclude a successful agreement with the Philippines, for example.

The issue in this agreement, and we are supportive of sending it to committee, is the Canadian merchandise we export to Panama: machinery, electronic equipment, pharmaceutical equipment, et cetera. It is a relatively small market. It is also important that we look at some of the other free trade zones in Latin America.

Latin America has developed, along with states such as Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile, zones in which there is a free flow of goods and where tariffs have been dropped so that businesses can compete. As a country, we need to send out a very clear message that we are prepared to enter into agreements where it is in our national interest.

Obviously, we have to look at environmental issues. This country has traditionally been a leader on climate change, clean water, and clean air issues. Countries really need that expertise.

Not only are Canadians very cost effective in terms of what they are able to produce and export, we can do it in two official languages, which is very helpful. Again, if we are not at the table, that is a problem.

We also have to look at the issue of labour co-operation. I notice in this agreement that there is a side agreement on labour co-operation. Obviously we have to expect that what we are asking is what we would demand at home, including the right to association, the right to collective bargaining, and the abolition of child labour. These are standards we have, and we would expect the same in dealing with other countries.

I know that some colleagues have concerns on the labour end of it. When it goes to committee and we have the appropriate witnesses, we can have those kinds of discussions and strengthen, if need be, those provisions. I think that is important. No piece of legislation I have seen in 14 years here has ever been perfect. That is why we send it to committee, where colleagues have an opportunity to look very carefully at legislation, hear from witnesses, and move forward.

My understanding, in terms of the major stakeholders on this particular bill with Panama, is that there are no major objections. On the whole, it is a fairly straightforward agreement. Again, it will give us some access, but we have to build on that, particularly in the Central American region in countries such as Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Costa Rica. Those countries are also looking at better co-operation. As a balance to the United States, I think Canada could play an important role.

Again, it is the whole issue of having a level playing field with access to markets. We need to be able to at least secure that. When we are looking at new partnerships, we must be able to tell our business community to go forward with the opportunity.

There were reservations about the free trade agreement with the United States and whether we could compete. Obviously, we can compete extremely well when a level playing field is available.

Canada's total exports to this particular country amount to 12.6%. Imports amount to about 17.3%. Over 80% of Canada's economy depends on trade. To keep that, we need to have as much access to markets as we can.

Former Prime Minister Trudeau, in the seventies, talked about a third option, and that third option was to diversify. If we had diversified in the seventies and eighties, maybe we would be in better shape than we are now.

Tariffs are the worst thing that can happen to a trading nation. Obviously, I am not old enough to remember the Great Depression in the 1930s, but some of my colleagues on the other side might. The first thing that happened was that major tariff barriers went up, and protectionism became rampant. That is not something we want to do. That was not good. We need to make sure that we have protection.

We also need to demonstrate leadership when it comes to issues such as climate change and the environment. The Conference of the Parties will soon meet in Mexico, and that will be an opportunity to strengthen international regimes.

Canada is traditionally well known for its international leadership, particularly in areas of multilateralism. The International Criminal Court is an example.

The 11th Conference of the Parties, in 2005, was the most successful COP ever to deal with developing a clear climate change regime internationally. That was important. The former Liberal government got a lot of accolades because of that. Again, it was because of the fact that we demonstrated leadership. We need to continue to do that. We need to continue to say to our allies and others that if protectionism is wrong, this is what we are prepared to do to focus forward.

The European Union has some very stringent policies, particularly when it comes to foodstuffs, even in terms of colouring food. We have to be able to talk about these issues with colleagues. We have seen other countries react to issues in this country, and we need to have a strong voice on those issues. Some of my colleagues, particularly those from Newfoundland and Labrador, are well aware of the issue with regard to the seal hunt.

What are we doing to educate? What are we doing to get our message out on some of these issues so that these sudden trade barriers will not come forward and harm the interests of Canadian farmers and producers, whoever they happen to be?

It is instructive to look at what went forward when we made an agreement with Israel in 1997. That was an opportunity to start further negotiations in other areas of the Middle East. Bill C-8, the Jordan agreement, will build on that. The gulf trading area, a Middle East trading area, is important all the way from the United Arab Emirates to Algeria. That is another market we could penetrate.

In other words, what is the strategy? What is going to be the policy in order for us to move forward? We on this side of the House are quite willing to work with the government to develop a strategy, because it is in our nation's interest. If we do these kinds of things, we will serve our citizens well.

Non-agricultural products, particularly fish and seafood, would be helpful for our markets, but that is only one part of the puzzle. It would be nice to see a really strong policy that the government, members of the opposition, and members of key sectors that deal with international trade really hammer out together. It would be the kind the policy and the kinds of tools we need to be much more aggressive.

The Americans certainly have not been sitting idly by. The Australians, in particular, have been very aggressive in Asia and have reaped a number of benefits. ASEAN, of course, which was getting closer on trade issues with China, now realizes that they cannot put all their eggs in one basket. They are wondering where Canada is on the international stage. They see where the Australians and the Americans are, and they are saying that we need to be there.

Some people do not know that in Indonesia, for example, we are the fifth largest investor, particularly in the area of mining, but our approach is not necessarily coherent. It is not necessarily a policy to say, “Go out there and good luck”. That is not the way to build good trade relations.

Obviously, we support the faster elimination of tariff barriers, particularly in those areas that are important to Canadian industry. In this agreement, Panama will see the elimination of at least 90% of current barriers on goods coming from Canada, which is obviously a positive, but where are those big deals we need to hear about in the House? Where are those big negotiations going on?

On this side, we are watching very carefully the issue of Korea. That is very important because of the nature of that market. We need to be able to say to our businesses that there are tremendous opportunities out there. We do not want to be dealing just with our American friends, which is great, but given policy there, we need to make sure that we are at the forefront.

We were one of the first major countries in China. We had a tremendous opportunity there. Mr. Chrétien led a number of Team Canada missions there in the 1990s. We were leaders. Unfortunately, relations with China changed with the current government, and we lost a lot of ground.

We have to continue to have a consistent policy on how to deal with our trading partners. We cannot be all things to all people. We have to have a particular niche. For example, on the environment, we could have a whole Team Canada just dealing with environmental issues in the Pearl River Delta. There are days when the smog is so thick it rolls into Hong Kong and one cannot see across the harbour. We need to take advantage of those things.

People cry out and say that they need to see Canada there. It would be very helpful if we would do that. Although we will support the bill going to committee, we want to look at the issue of labour to make sure that the guarantees are there. We want to make sure that if these things can be strengthened, that will be done. We welcome the opportunity, but we want to see the bigger picture. We want to see more emphasis on multilateralism, and if that goes forward, it will benefit Canada in our future trading relationships around the world.

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend for his support of the Canada-Panama free trade agreement.

He is correct in suggesting that Canada, as one of the great free trading nations, needs to develop new trading relationships.

Where his argument falls down is the suggestion that previous Liberal governments somehow were able to achieve much more in the area of international trade. If we look at the record of the previous governments, it is really an appalling record. For years the previous Liberal government tried to conclude an agreement on approved destination status with China. It never happened. Our government got the job done.

I also refer to additional free trade agreements that he did not refer to, which our government has been able to achieve, such as with the European Free Trade Association. I refer now to the European Union, which is negotiating a free trade agreement with Canada.

Would the member not agree with me that this Conservative government's successes far surpass the record of the previous Liberal government?

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Richmond Hill, ON

First, Mr. Speaker, the member had better define what he means by “appalling”, because my definition and his are obviously different.

I give the example of the preferred destination status with China. If the member checks the record, in the fall of 2005 it was the Liberal government that actually had an agreement in place. There was something called an election, which obviously precluded the final signing of that agreement.

My question to the member, which I realize is a rhetorical one, is why it took the Conservative Party almost four years to get that finalized when the Liberal government had done all the work. The work was already done. In December 2005, that destination agreement existed, and we lost four years of an opportunity to really showcase Canada, because those guys over there, unfortunately, were ragging the puck.

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, members will know that the total two-way trade between Canada and Panama in 1999 was only $132 million. Imports to Canada from Panama were only $21 million, and half of that was refined heavy oil. The fact of the matter is that members know that trade is not going to stop tomorrow if we do not implement this trade deal.

For a government that pretends to be tough on crime, it is somewhat surprising that it would be ready to implement a free trade deal with a country such as Panama that was blacklisted by the OECD in 2000 as an unco-operative tax haven. In fact, there are 350,000 foreign companies registered to hide from the tax man in their home countries.

Why would the Liberals get in bed with the Conservatives to facilitate this agreement when what we should be doing is following the American example and forcing Panama to sign tax agreements so that there can be an exchange of tax information about tax evaders? The Liberal opposition is actually facilitating the government promoting tax evasion if it supports this initiative.

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am certainly not an advocate of getting into bed with the Conservatives, the NDP or anybody else, although I know the NDP has had experience with being in bed with the Conservatives, particularly in 2005.

I want to point out that one of the things free trade provides us is an opportunity to deal with political liberalization, et cetera. Panama has come a long way from the Noriega days. There is no question that there is continual liberalization and improvement within Panama. One of the things that at least my party believes in is engagement. There cannot be improvements unless we engage others, and this is one vehicle.

I understand the member is concerned about those issues and I would suggest to the member that the bill going to committee is an opportunity to look at some of those issues and strengthen it. That is why bills go to committee. We do not just say we do not like a bill because it is not perfect. If it is not perfect, we have to work on it, and that is why members deal with it in committee.