House of Commons Hansard #125 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was labour.

Topics

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Siobhan Coady St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my hon. colleague's concern with this agreement. As I said in my speech, there are a number of side agreements such as the Canada-Panama agreement on labour co-operation as well as the Canada-Panama environment agreement. I am sure my colleague is familiar with this as she sits on the committee.

I assume there was an opportunity to call witnesses before committee. The bill has now come from committee and we are debating it in the House.

Like my hon. colleague earlier this morning, I also indicated that we would ensure that the side agreements on labour and the environment worked properly and effectively. The House will hold the government accountable for those agreements. The fundamental principles and rights at work will be upheld. The declaration will be upheld. Issues around the environment will be considered as well.

It is important that free trade occur in our world and that we can have access to other markets. It is important that Canada reach out and ensure that the fundamental principles around labour organization and the environment that we hold dear are also held dear in other locations.

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her support of the Canada-Panama free trade agreement and the side agreements that go with it.

In listening to the criticism coming from members of the NDP Party, I am a bit perplexed. They have never supported a free trade agreement in any way, shape, or form. I do not know what they do support in the House because they seem to be against everything they talk about.

What are the advantages to the hon. member's home province of Newfoundland and Labrador in having more extensive trading relationships within the Americas?

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Siobhan Coady St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, Newfoundland and Labrador has only been in Confederation for 60-some years. However, the province dates over 500 years and we have had trading relations around the world.

More recently, we have had a lot more trading relationships with South America and Central America. One can look at some of the relationships we have had with Brazil around the oil and gas industry. There are a lot of Newfoundland and Labrador companies spending time in Brazil. I have named a couple of companies that are already doing business in Panama, reaching out to take advantage of some of the work that is being done on the Panama Canal. We have relationships, for example, with Chile in regard to aquaculture and the imports and exports of that trade.

From my home province's perspective, we have long since known the benefit of trade. We have long since reached out to the world. We have long since recognized that exports drive the development of our economy, businesses and employment in our community. We are certainly supportive of continuing to do that.

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in the House to take part in such a critical debate, not just about the Canada-Panama free trade agreement but about how we move forward as a country, our relationships at the international level and how we see our role as promoters of trade and growing relationships within the Americas.

However, as I stand here, I am also very proud to be a member of a party that has stood for the kind of trade that prioritizes the concept of fairness, fair trade, a party that reaffirms its vision for a fair trade policy that puts the pursuit of social justice, strong public sector social programs and the elimination of poverty at the heart of an effective trade strategy.

In fact, when we hear Canada speak out at the international level, we hear of the concepts of mutual growth and improvement of living conditions. However, when we look at the specifics of the kinds of trade agreements that the government is promoting, we see an approach that strays from those kinds of ideas, certainly from the values that we in the NDP hold dear and go against the idea of wanting to contribute to the benefit of people in these countries, not just corporations or certain people, but people in general. That is the question in the House when it comes to Bill C-46, the Canada-Panama free trade agreement.

As my colleagues have expressed in the House, we have grave concerns that this bill has come forward in a hurried fashion, with a real desire by the government to pass it without the in-depth examination of what might be challenging pieces. Certainly there has been critical debate at committee, but there are some key points that I am sure many Canadians would be shocked to find out the government is trying to push through. They require more debate. Members deserve a chance to sit down and ask whether this really is what Canada wants to be promoting on the international stage.

We have heard much talk about the idea that this trade agreement would exacerbate the inequalities in Panama, that it would allow Canadian companies and Canada to be part of scenarios where labour rights are disrespected and abused or environmental rights are disregarded. We have heard that the fact that there are side agreements on labour co-operation and the environment is supposed to deal with these concerns and dynamics that we in the NDP think such a trade agreement would foster in a country like Panama.

The existence of such side agreements is simply not what is going to prevent such abuses from taking place or what is going to prevent such trade agreements from truly looking at how trade could make Panamanians and Canadians better off. There are a couple of reasons why NDP members feel the side agreements and Bill C-46 are inadequate in trying to reach the point of truly contributing to the well-being of Panama and Canadians.

At committee, compelling testimony was heard from witnesses regarding, for example, the tax haven situation in the Republic of Panama as well as its poor record of labour rights. It was noted that Panama has refused to sign a tax information exchange agreement, something that is troubling considering the large amount of money laundering in Panama, including money from drug trafficking.

Panama's complete lack of taxation transparency has led to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development to label the nation a tax haven. It has been referenced that a double taxation agreement would somehow resolve such a concern, but the double taxation agreement only tracks legal income while a tax information exchange agreement would track all income, including that made through illegal means.

The tax haven situation in Panama, as witnesses expressed in committee, is not improving conditions under the current government in Panama. A trade agreement with Canada would only worsen the problem and could cause harm to both Panama and Canada.

Another critical area a side agreement would not deal with and the source of such concern would be in the area of labour and the respect of labour rights. It is a tenet of who we are as a democracy and as a country that has believed that people's well-being depends on their freedom to organize, on their ability to be part of unions and on their ability as working people to fight for a decent wage, to fight for proper health and safety and to fight for that dignity that we would all hope for in any country around the world.

However, we recognize that these rights are not respected in Panama the way we respect them in Canada.

Another major issue is the status of labour rights in Panama and the complete failure of this trade agreement to ensure that these rights are not denied to Panamanian workers as they have been in the past.

When Teresa Healy of the Canadian Labour Congress spoke to the parliamentary committee regarding the agreement on labour co-operation, she testified that while the International Labour Organization's core labour standards are invoked, Bill C-46 is still weaker than it should be. As well, she pointed out the current Panamanian government has increasingly been harsh on labour unions and workers, especially in recent years.

It was noted, for example, that over the last few years a number of measures have come into play that have exacerbated the wealth inequalities in a country like Panama. While recording relatively high growth rates, it is the second most unequal society in the region. Forty per cent of the population is poor; 27% is extremely poor; and the rate of extreme poverty is particularly acute in indigenous populations. The country has endured extensive structural adjustment, liberalization and privatization which has not translated into economic benefits for the population.

In response to the international perception that Panamanian labour laws were rigid and a disincentive to foreign investment, President Martinelli announced unilateral changes to the labour law in the summer of 2010. The law ended environmental impact studies on projects deemed to be of social interest. It banned mandatory dues collections from workers. It allowed employers to fire striking workers and replace them with strikebreakers. It criminalized street blockades and it protected police from prosecution.

These are the kinds of measures that we are in fact not just approving of by continuing to approach this trade agreement as a positive sign and looking to side agreements as though they were going to put a stop to such an agenda put forward in Panama. Canadians would not want to think, would not want to know that we are complicit in encouraging what is fundamentally an attack on people's right to organize and people's right to speak out and fight for a decent living.

The severity of this attack on labour rights seen in Panama has been met with strikes and demonstrations. The police have been exceedingly harsh in their response and that was just this past summer. At least six people were killed; protestors were seriously injured and many were blinded by tear gas and police violence. Some 300 trade union leaders were detained before the president withdrew the labour provisions and called for a national dialogue of moderate trade union leaders and business leaders.

We are pointing out that a side agreement on labour co-operation, as it is termed, is in no way sufficient and certainly does not make a strong statement by Canada that such action is unconscionable.

The NDP is saying trade agreements must respect the tenets of fairness, but also must respect the values that we hold dear as Canadians, whether it be in terms of labour rights, transparency or on the environment. Canadians would demand nothing less.

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the province of Manitoba alone employs over 1,000 people in the potato industry and processing.

Given that the Manitoba NDP government's website makes reference to Panama as consumers of our processed potatoes which provides thousands of jobs, would the member agree it would be in Manitoba's best interest to see freer trade?

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member from my province and I welcome him into the House.

My role as a member of Parliament in the federal scene is recognizing and speaking to the values that many Manitobans hold dear, which is of free but also fair trade, something that we are not seeing as a result of this agreement. We know that Canada engages in trade with many countries around the world, including Panama. However, what we are talking about here is a deeper, certainly more developed agreement. It is an agreement that goes against the basic rights that we as Canadians would demand not just in our country, but would like to see respected in any country around the world.

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Churchill ably pointed out that members of the Canadian Labour Congress appeared before committee and talked about the fact that this agreement simply did not cut it.

The member for Burnaby—New Westminster proposed some amendments and one of them would have been to protect trade union workers in Panama by offering the right to collective bargaining, as well as requiring the Minister of International Trade to consult on a regular basis with representatives of the congress.

I wonder if the member could comment on why that amendment was defeated at committee.

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act
Government Orders

2 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, Canadians know the right to collective bargaining has existed for many years. That we would deny that right to other countries we are hoping to enter into a relationship with is not the way to move forward. It is not the way Canadians would like to see us play a leadership role. Free trade must be fair trade and these rights must be respected.

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act
Government Orders

2 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

I must interrupt at this time. The hon. member for Churchill will have two minutes remaining in questions and comments when the House returns to this matter.

Internet
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Braid Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Internet is integral to the daily lives of all Canadians. We rely on the Internet in ways we could not have imagined even 10 years ago.

In my riding of Kitchener—Waterloo, the Internet is the lifeblood of creativity and innovation that puts us on the cutting edge of the knowledge economy. Our research institutions are world leaders in discovery. Our entrepreneurs are breaking new ground in high tech industries and using the Internet to increase productivity and fuel growth.

That is why I am pleased that our government has rejected the usage-based billing decision that would limit consumer choice and stifle competition. Our government is committed to forward-looking policies that recognize the critical importance of the Internet, and anticipate new developments and applications.

An open Internet, like an open mind, will broaden our horizons and create opportunities for all Canadians now and into the future.

Human Rights
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, on January 26, David Kato, a gay human rights activist, was brutally murdered in Uganda.

At his funeral, a statement from U.S. President Barack Obama was read in which he described Mr. Kato as “a powerful advocate for fairness and freedom”.

The police in Uganda have tried to say that Mr. Kato's murder was a botched robbery even before an investigation has been completed. It is a final insult to the memory of David Kato and thousands like him.

From newspapers publishing the names of gay Ugandans on their front pages to institutionalized discrimination by the Ugandan government, the lives of gays and lesbians in that country are at risk every day. It is inconceivable that in this day and age gays and lesbians must endure daily threats of violence, discrimination, and suffer the loss of their lives simply because of who they are.

All of us must stand up and ensure that our voices are heard as we demand that the government of Uganda and institutions within that country cease their vicious and intolerable assaults upon gay and lesbian citizens who deserve to live their lives in freedom and safety.

Stéfane Bougie
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of all my colleagues in the Bloc Québécois, I am pleased to congratulate Stéfane Bougie, an animal carver from Salaberry-de-Valleyfield known locally and internationally.

He won the 2010 Reynald Piché award, which recognizes the outstanding work of artists in the region in their respective fields of expression.

Since he completed his first works, Mr. Bougie has won prestigious awards at major international competitions and has been recognized three times by the best in his discipline.

His works are held in various public and private collections in eight different countries. His art can also be seen closer to home at the Musée régional de Vaudreuil-Soulanges.

I am extremely proud to acknowledge Stéfane Bougie's extraordinarily creative work. I encourage him to continue pursuing his artistic expression and I especially want to thank him for his contribution to promoting the cultural wealth of our region.

Congratulations, Mr. Bougie.

Volunteer Service Medal
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to Lance Corporal Joyce Robertson.

This coming Friday, February 11, Mrs. Robertson will be presented with the Canadian volunteer service medal. As we know, the Canadian volunteer service medal was created to honour those citizens who gave of their time and in many cases their lives for Canada during World War II.

Mrs. Robertson was one of the original individuals who, many years ago in 1943, posed for the Canadian volunteer medal. To this day her image still appears on the far right of the medal. Now, at 85 years of age, Joyce Robertson herself will receive the volunteer service medal in a ceremony at the Stoney Creek Legion which is located in my riding of Hamilton East—Stoney Creek.

I take great personal pride in being able to stand in this House to offer, on behalf of the constituents of Hamilton East—Stoney Creek and all Canadians, our thanks to Mrs. Robertson for her service to Canada.

The Economy
Statements By Members

February 7th, 2011 / 2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, forecasters predict Canada's economy will continue to grow in 2011. Our government's focus on a low tax plan is creating jobs and providing a stable investment climate. According to Statistics Canada, over 460,000 jobs have been created since July 2009, the strongest job growth in the G7.

In our recovery, we continue to play a key role in international trade and are opening new markets for agricultural products such as cattle and grain. Canadians continue to benefit from low interest rates and low taxes, while the government remains on track to balancing its budget by 2015.

However, opposition coalition members, given the opportunity, would implement a high tax agenda that would jeopardize the financial security of hard-working Canadian families.

While our economy remains fragile, I stand proudly among the hard-working members of this side of the House, knowing that the responsible measures taken by our government has Canadians looking toward a brighter future.

Salvation Army
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the appointment of a Canadian woman to the head of a renowned international organization.

Linda Bond, who is from my constituency of Cape Breton—Canso, was named the new world leader of the Salvation Army. She is the fourth Canadian and only the third woman to hold this top post in the charitable and religious organization.

Ms. Bond is a coal miner's daughter from Glace Bay. She is the last of 13 children born to Charlie and Winnie Bond. She followed an older sister into the Salvation Army and has never looked back.

Ms. Bond has served in many capacities throughout her career all around the globe. For the past two and a half years, she has led the church's work in the eastern Australian territory. When she assumes leadership in April, Ms. Bond will become the head of one million Salvation Army members from 123 countries along with 100,000 employees.

On behalf of the constituents of Cape Breton—Canso and all Canadians I offer congratulations and best wishes to Linda Bond as she embarks on this very important journey.