House of Commons Hansard #84 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was trade.

Topics

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Madam Speaker, I am disappointed at that kind of rhetoric. We are talking about something that is important to the lives of Canadians, their jobs and their ability to support their families.

I think my debate has been clear. It is as though the Conservative government is like a chef that has prepared a very tiny snack of a few peanuts and spent the same amount of time for which that chef could have prepared a healthy meal for a family. Do we throw away the peanuts? No, we eat the peanuts, but we ask why the Conservatives have wasted their time with those peanuts when we are hungry. We wanted the meal and they could have provided it. That is what we are saying.

Free trade is positive, but we believe these resources could have been far better utilized in managing our trading arrangement with the United States, or China or managing some of the key failures of the government on the economy itself.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Madam Speaker, the NDP actually looks at the ingredients before we prepare a meal, rather than giving carte blanche to putting whatever ingredient into the meal that is being prepared, like the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party. We look at the ingredients and we look at the bad things and we make propositions.

Unfortunately, the third party and the government rejected propositions we made to this legislation in the past. These propositions would have improved the legislation in terms of the environment, which the member spoke to, yet the party does not act on it when it comes time to vote. We also made propositions on tax havens, which the third party and the government rejected. Therefore, I find it a bit rich for the member to stand and talk about peanuts and good healthy meals for Canadians when she does not look at the ingredients of the food she prepares.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Madam Speaker, Liberals know that the member of the NDP is with a party that is ideologically against free trade agreements and will find ways to express that. I do not take very much from what the member is saying in terms of moving the debate forward.

The reality is it is positive for farmers and growers of pulses and potatoes who would like the tariffs removed that Panama has placed on those goods so they could potentially sell more to Panama. That means farmers could increase the size of their farms and profits and possibly put a family member through school. Unfortunately the member is adhering to an ideology to really think about the people.

It is useful to have free trade agreements. My view, though, is that this has been a distraction. Now that the government has spent three years doing that, why would we flush it away? It makes no sense and it is not in the interests of Canadians or the jobs that depend on those industries that, even in a small way, will benefit from this free trade agreement.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Madam Speaker, I fail to see ideology in protecting the environment and workers' rights or the fact that certain countries are havens for money launderers and to make propositions to change those things. I do not see that as ideology; I see that as common sense.

I find it troubling that the third party continually flip-flops on these issues. She talks, on one hand, about helping farmers and the poor in Panama, but, on the other hand, is unwilling to implement changes to the legislation that would protect the poor families in Panama and the Panamanian environment and put pressure on that trading partner to adhere to international standards. It troubling that she is willing to write this off as ideology. That is symptomatic of the fact that when push comes to shove, the third party is willing to give up its principles for the sake of an easy buck.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Madam Speaker, I appreciate that the member has reiterated his position three times now. There was nothing new in that question.

My request of the Conservative government in the debate today is to look at what it is doing to undermine small business growth in our country with its EI tax increases and why it is choosing large businesses over small businesses by giving major corporate tax reductions to the large businesses and nothing but a slap in the face to small businesses. I would ask the government to create a tourism strategy that has some actual numbers, accountability and action in it rather than vaguely referencing the problems the government has created and having no road map to fix those problems.

I encourage the government to take a look at the bigger issues around our trade-dependent country and really focus on repairing some of the damage the Conservatives have done with our important trading partners, including Korea, China, India and America, on behalf of Canadians who need the jobs and want that trade. We appeal to the government to actually focus where it counts.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Madam Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-24, a bill that troubles me because of its weaknesses in addressing many issues, including tax havens, possible money laundering, lack of fairness provisions and a seeming lack of responsible policy making.

The lack of leadership of that milk toast government troubles me when I see other countries, like Australia, showing true leadership on fair trade, innovation and building an economy for the 21st century, not only for the sake of their own people but for all global citizens.

The process of this bill began in October 2008 and here we are four years later. This is a government that is interested in policy making by template, resting on its laurels. Most troubling is the blind eye that the government is willing to show toward tax havens.

I will not hide my allegiance here. The member for Outremont in our party would like to see a smarter tax system, one that eliminates illegal tax havens and ensures that our economic players play fair, in other words, that everyone who is an economic player in Canada pays his or her fair share of taxes and does not use tax havens to hide money from respective governments for personal enrichment.

Panama is a country that has refused transparent measures to ensure that money laundering by organized crime and drug traffickers does not happen. Therefore, it pains me that the government puffs its chest continually about cracking down on crime, while permitting laundering of drug funds, through tacit approval of Panama in this area, by engaging in a trade agreement with a country that permits money laundering of proceeds of drug trafficking, of illegal activity, of organized crime. The hypocrisy is pretty evident in this position.

Conservatives elsewhere in the world understand this fact of not promoting tax havens. Recently French President Nicolas Sarkozy, in a speech made at the end of a G20 conference in Cannes in November, named certain countries, such as Antigua, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, among eight others, and he included Panama in the list of countries that were troubling tax havens. Sarkozy threatened that countries that remained tax havens would be shunned by the international community. Apparently Canada does not want to participate in the international community that shuns these tax havens.

Social democrats elsewhere in the world understand. Australia's Labour government has a comprehensive policy on tax havens. That is one of the reasons why the work of that government has been recognized worldwide. Wayne Swan, its minister of finance, was named the best finance minister in the world recently, making social democrats worldwide proud of our achievements.

As the opposition, we have made propositions in the past to improve this agreement. During the clause-by-clause review, we proposed 11 amendments that would have made progressive changes to the bill. These included the addition of crucial concepts of sustainable development and sustainable investment and, most important, we proposed a requirement for taxation transparency. All of our proposed amendments were voted down by the Conservatives with the help of the third party. That shows where those two dinosaur parties stand on proper, responsible tax policy.

If we look in the past at former Prime Minister Paul Martin and Canada Steamship Lines, anybody in the know will know of the former prime minister's actions to avoid paying proper taxes. We see examples where members of both parties used loopholes for their own personal enrichment and to avoid paying their share of taxes.

Even worse is the Conservatives' protection of big-time organized criminals, the real drug traffickers, the big guys, the big players, by supporting Panama. Cocaine and heroin dealers can find a good partner in Panama to launder their money and the big profits they have made off the backs and misery of the cocaine and heroin addicts of this world. Meanwhile, the government is planning on punishing the small-time guy while letting the big-time organized criminals go. It leads to questions about our ports and the government's real willingness to prevent the importation of hard drugs.

For instance, the talks for this process began in October 2008, under the Torijjos government. Torijjos put Manuel Noriega's old team in place. Members of a certain age in this room will remember Manuel Noriega. He was apprehended by the Americans for complicit activities and drug trafficking. The Torijjos government put Noriega's old boys back into key positions.

Colonel Daniel Delgado Diamante, the minister of government and justice, is another example of people Noriega had worked with in the regime when the Conservatives started talks with the Panamanian government. Anyone sufficiently schooled in politics would know that it is never just a single actor who contributes to corruption, crime or criminal activities but always a team.

Trade agreements are an opportunity to brand Canada. Instead we see that the government does not understand this concept. Australia, our Commonwealth partner, understands. On November 8 last year, in the biennial Sir Alan Westerman lecture delivered by Australian Minister for Trade Hon. Dr. Craig Emerson, he asked whether free trade can be fair. His answer was that free trade can be fair. We in the NDP agree.

The Australian government knows its brand. Dr. Emerson said:

Australia's future is as a high-skill, high-wage country. It is in the interests of working Australians that we compete in the production of goods embodying high levels of skills and innovation, not on the basis of low skills and low wages.

Furthermore, he said:

The existence of people struggling on very low wages is not unfair to rich countries; it is unfair to them and the families they are trying to support. For them, free trade is fair and if we have any compassion for them we should agree.

One would think this would support the Conservatives' bill. Not at all.

Dr. Emerson talked about the World Trade Organization. He said:

Members are protected from unfair practices by other members, but non-members enjoy no such protection. The philosophy of the WTO is free trade conducted under fair rules; there's no inherent conflict between the two. But the world trading rules are far from perfect in ensuring fairness. Some countries have high tariffs while others have none. Some countries have tough quota restrictions while others have none. Some countries have many nasty non-tariff barriers in place behind their borders while others have few. Some countries have big subsidies on domestic production of agricultural and manufactured goods while others have none. Some countries dump their surplus products onto export markets at below-cost prices while others do not. Some countries heavily subsidise their offshore fishing industries--contributing to fishery depletion--while other countries do not.

Clearly, the WTO's rule book contains loopholes and has pages missing, such that trade is neither free nor fair, though it is freer and fairer than would be the case if there were no rules. The objectives of both free trade and fair trade are best served by applying rules to everyone and making sure the rules cover all unfair practices.

The idea is not to close our eyes and say everything is fine, but to propose improvements. Instead, we face the laziness and complacency of the government that sees no problem using a template from 1988 repeatedly. Free trade can be fair trade. In the words of our former leader, Mr. Jack Layton, “Don't let them tell you it can't be done”.

Here are the kinds of things that we proposed. The first was regarding sustainable development. The amendment would define sustainable development as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, as set out in the Brundtland report published by the World Commission on Environment and Development.

The second amendment was regarding the definition of sustainable investment. The amendment would define sustainable investment as investment that seeks to maximize social good as well as financial return, specifically in the areas of the environment, social justice and corporate governance in accordance with the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment.

The NDP has consistently opposed NAFTA-style trade templates that focus on the interests of multinational corporations and ignore workers and the environment. These trade agreements have increased inequality and decreased the quality of life for the majority of working families. That is not fair. That is not fair trade and we need to be future forward on trade. We need to look to the future.

We strongly believe in proposing an alternative and better form of trading relationship such as the one that could be established with Panama or any other country, if we are willing to make the changes to the legislation. We need an overall fair trade strategy that provides a comprehensive common sense impact assessment on all international agreements that demonstrates that Canadian negotiations are beneficial to Canadian families, workers and industries.

The government does not sign any trade agreements that would lead to a net job loss. Here we can look at what Air Canada did with Aveos and how we are bleeding jobs now because of this agreement that was made with a foreign company. Also we can look at the fundamental principle that all trade agreements must promote and protect human rights by prohibiting the import, export or sale in Canada of any product that is deemed to have been created under sweatshop conditions, forced labour or other conditions that are not in accordance with fundamental international labour standards and human rights.

We will not be supporting the bill, not because we are against trade, but because it is weak on trade. It is weak on fairness and it will only serve to legitimize the activities of organized crime groups. It will fail to help the workers of Panama. Furthermore, as long as the government continues with its lazy template, we will continue to oppose free trade deals that are not fair trade deals as well.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Saskatchewan

Conservative

David Anderson Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, I have to say that we have heard these arguments time and time again, because with every free trade agreement that comes up the NDP uses variations of them.

The NDP members are actually against trade. The member opposite claims they are not, but they are. They stand against trade at every opportunity. Every time we have had to deal with these free trade agreements, NDP members stand against them. They seem to think that it is somehow good, that they are trying to protect people with poverty. They are trying to protect them by keeping them in poverty. We do not believe in that. We believe that we should be protecting them with prosperity.

Clearly the free trade agreements that we have dealt with and have been able to bring in have protected people with prosperity. Earlier the Liberal member opposite was talking about peanuts and large meals. The reality is the Liberals did not serve Canada anything at all. They did nothing in their 13 years. We have had to step forward and begin to bring these free trade agreements into place.

I have a lot to say, but I want to ask the NDP members opposite, why do they oppose every free trade agreement? I have never heard them come to the House and say that they will support one. At the end of his speech today the member said it was all about criminals and not supporting workers. The reality is every free trade agreement that we have made has improved the lives of workers in this country and it has improved the lives of the workers in the countries we have made agreements with.

Why do the NDP members refuse to support every single free trade agreement?

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, the answer is simple. It is because every single free trade agreement uses the same flawed template that started in 1988. That template does not truly protect workers' conditions, does not protect the environment and is not fair to the people of that country.

I am sure his constituents would disagree with the member's definition of prosperity. In some of the countries with which we engage in trade deals, workers are making 50¢ an hour. I think his constituents, if they saw the working conditions of people in these countries, would fail to see the prosperity that these trade deals are supposedly bringing to the countries.

I am glad to see that the government has finally woken up in this debate tonight. I received my first question from the government and I look forward to getting more.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I do not necessarily agree with the Conservative member's assertion regarding Mr. Martin or Mr. Chrétien, former prime ministers. He might want to rethink the whole team Canada concept. That was a federal Liberal initiative which brought provinces and the federal government together to travel to places like Asia to attract trade.

The Council on International Trade, 2011, was an international trade strategy for the Province of Manitoba. Peter Bjornson, who is a New Democratic cabinet minister, talked about how free trade agreements are in fact beneficial to the Province of Manitoba because they take away from some of the problems with tariffs. The concept of free trade was perceived as a positive thing.

Would the member say that the national federal New Democratic Party is different in terms of its position on more open markets which would ultimately generate more jobs for all Canadians?

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, a week in my riding among my constituents has done me good.

When I am there I often wonder if the member for Winnipeg North stays here in the chamber, because he seems out of step with Canadians and his own party in seeing that the government he opposes is over there. I have given ample examples of our propositions. Maybe the member should listen instead of continuing his election campaign while here in the House.

I implore the member to go home to Winnipeg and to listen to his constituents. He asked about our free trade position. We do not flip-flop here in the NDP. We are true to our principles. The Liberals seem content to vote to support free trade, as long as it makes some sort of economic growth for somebody.

It is a far cry from the time of John Turner and his spirited opposition to free trade agreements in 1988. It seems that Liberals are supporting money laundering. I find it sad. I find it very sad.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

I would just remind hon. members, and I know the hon. member for Vaudreuil-Soulanges did not specifically say so, to please take some caution when referring to the absence or even the presence of hon. members in the chamber.

The member for Chambly—Borduas.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I heard it in the questions posed to my colleague and I also heard it from other speakers: it seems that the NDP's opposition to certain free trade agreements automatically makes us the villain who is always opposed to any kind of trade.

It is important to point out that if there is continual opposition to something, it is because the same mistakes are being repeated. As my colleague said so well, since the 1980s we have seen the same problems in Canada and in the countries we trade with, or in countries where wages are very low or the working conditions are very poor. I would like to give my colleague the opportunity to go into more detail about what he just spoke about.

In the history of Canada, the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party have traded positions depending on their status, that is, depending on whether they were in opposition or in government. The NDP, however, has practical proposals that we have not yet had the opportunity to put forward, and we will oppose measures that are unacceptable in Canada and elsewhere.

I would like to hear a little bit more about this from my colleague.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is exactly it: the two old parties have never really taken a principled position.

That is what we have been doing for years and years. We believe that free trade can be fair too. Free trade and fair trade can go hand in hand. We have seen examples in Australia, where the government is taking steps to promote truly fair free trade.

We believe that Canada should do the same. We should promote free trade agreements that are not only free, but also fair to both parties.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I had a chance to ask a question a little bit earlier, and the member opposite referenced my constituents. I can tell him right now that my constituents need trade. I am from an agricultural area and the people there need to have trade.

My constituents know full well the penalties that were paid when the provincial NDP was allowed to implement its policies. I come from Saskatchewan where, by the time the provincial NDP government was done with us, we were 50 years behind the neighbouring province. It seems that those policies implemented anywhere in this world will have the same result.

I want to ask my hon. colleague why he is against Canadian companies being able to more effectively export things like machinery, precious stones and metals, aerospace products, minerals, fuels and oils, electrical and electronic equipment, paper and paper board and those kinds of things, and pharmaceuticals? Why is he against our being able to bring in some of those same things, like gold, fish and seafood, and articles of stone and plaster?

All of us understand that as we increase trade, we increase the opportunities for people and that folks who have lived in poverty will begin to move up the economic chain and be able to rely more on the things they are doing and the money they are making themselves.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

I am not talking about protectionism here. We are not talking about shutting off the borders and stopping the import and export of goods. What we are talking about here is having standards and principles when one enters into international trade agreements with partners.

Panama is a tax haven. There is money laundering going on there by drug traffickers, by big-time organized criminals who launder their money through Panama.

We are not opposed to increasing the prosperity of the people of Panama or the people of Canada. We are not opposed to these things, but we must have standards and principles and ethics. When we enter into a free trade agreement with a country like Panama, knowing it is a tax haven for drug traffickers and organized criminals, how can the government sit back and say, “Oh, we are not going to look at that because it is going to be good for and benefit some people”.

Everyone has to benefit from it. There has to be prosperity for all parties.