House of Commons Hansard #86 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

3:55 p.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I listened very closely to the member talk about the Canada-Panama free trade agreement. When the NDP were asking questions, I could not help but think of a number of things. First of all, the NDP has never supported a free trade agreement and we do not expect the NDP to start supporting one in the immediate future.

More importantly, this agreement has side agreements on labour and environmental practices, and an agreement against money laundering. These are all things that would help to move the Panama government and economy forward. An increase in exports of Canada's superior agriculture products would improve nutrition in Panama. Over and above that, with the twinning of the Panama Canal, Panama will handle 5% of the world's trade. The opportunity for Canadian companies is huge. I would like the hon. member to comment on that.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would appreciate it if the parliamentary secretary could help me educate the member from the NDP on just how important this is to the people of Canada. Let us look at other countries where we have done trade deals in the past.

We made a trade deal with Costa Rica and the quality of governance has gone up in that country. We can look at the quality of lifestyle for the people of Costa Rica. We see those types of things happening in Panama. We also see that happening with some of our other trade agreements, with Colombia for example, and Honduras, which we hope will get through the House fairly quickly too.

Economic growth is good. It is not a bad thing. Profit is not a bad word. It is not a problem. I expect it helps people socially when they have a job and they can go to work. They want to do something.

There are numerous examples of Canadian businesses that have gone into different countries around the world with strategic partnerships which have benefited the other country and Canada. A good example would be Research In Motion. The BlackBerrys that we all use are developed here in Canada, but are made in Mexico. What a great partnership for both Canada and Mexico.

Those are the types of things we need to build as we do these trade agreements. Those are the things that will see both countries thrive in future.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is great to come back to the member for Prince Albert because he is well aware that the NDP put forward a series of amendments to this bill because, as with most of those who are concerned about dirty drug money laundering, we believe that an agreement like this without a tax information exchange agreement is not a prudent or responsible course. However, the government just went ahead. Panama said it wanted to remain as a tax haven and to continue to launder the money that comes from drug gangs in Colombia and Mexico. The Conservatives love to stand in this House and pontificate about how they are tough on crime, and we hear that expression all the time. They are going to allow those drug gangs to continue to launder money in Panama and the Conservatives are not going to put anything in this agreement to reduce or curtail it. Financial institutions dealing between Panama and Canada do not even have to report back.

How does the member for Prince Albert, whom I like and respect, think his constituents would take his going back and saying the Conservatives did not get a tax information exchange agreement, which has to be done with a money-laundering tax haven, but the Conservatives think it is fine that drug money laundering continues in Panama and they want to facilitate that in Canada? How would his constituents respond to that?

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, again it goes back to the classic NDP position to oppose everything. It does not matter what is on the table, the NDP is just going to oppose it.

When my constituents look at this deal they understand that no country is like Canada. Canada is a great beacon to the world. Canada is a nation which every other country looks at and strives to be like. We could offer a hand up or we could ignore them. We could actually work with them and help them improve the capacity of their government or we could ignore that. I would rather do trade with them. I would rather see their standard of living rise so their public security would get stronger. I would rather work with the Panamanian government or any government in Central or Latin America on public security, the drug trade or human trafficking, rather than discipline it or lecture to it.

The member would prefer to go and lecture to Panama about all the things that are wrong with Panama. I would rather go down there and work with the Panamanians to try to understand the issues and help them achieve results and improve their governance. If I can do that through a trade deal, that is a good first step in ensuring that happens.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak to the trade agreement between Panama and Canada. However, before I speak to that, I would like to speak about the general trade policy of the government.

It has been said in debate in the House that for the first time in 30 years, under the Conservative government, we have seen trade deficits. This is in part due to our over-dependence on the U.S. economy and the U.S. downturn, but it also has something to do with the failure of the government to effectively defend Canadian interests, the Canadian economy, Canadian companies and Canadian workers, against U.S. protectionism. We know there is a knee-jerk protectionism in the U.S. that crosses party lines. It is in the Democrats, the Republicans, the Tea Partiers and the occupiers in the U.S. There is a knee-jerk protectionism when times are tough, and we know that times are tough in the U.S.

We have to do a better job on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue: at one end, the administration, the White House, and at the other end, Congress. We have to do a better job in defending Canadian interests legislator to legislator, senator and member of Parliament to senator and congressperson, government to government, minister to minister, prime minister to president. We have seen stronger relations between presidents and prime ministers than we have between the current President of the United States and the current Prime Minister of Canada.

The reality is there needs to be more attention placed in Canada on defending ourselves from U.S. protectionism. We have seen more than one set of legislative actions in the U.S. in buy American type provisions, which have threatened, hurt and, in fact, eliminated Canadian jobs and cut Canadian companies out of participating in U.S. government contracts. That has had a pernicious effect. We have seen buy American type provisions rear their heads again just recently and there is tremendous concern among Canadian manufacturers.

Looking at the overall Canadian economy, it is important to realize that while the macro numbers look reasonably good in some areas, if we go just below and break them down by region, we are having a very strange sort of recovery in Canada. In fact, what the world is going through now is not an ordinary recession and recovery, but is really a global economic restructuring.

Part of what is happening in Canada reflects that global economic restructuring with the rise of China and India and the demand for natural resources, such as oil, gas, potash and minerals of all sorts. We are lucky in many ways, as a country, to have so much natural resource wealth. The positive side of it is we do have that natural resource wealth and we do have the capacity to meet the demand for those resources. We do well within those sectors and within those provinces that have those resources.

If we look at Alberta, Saskatchewan and parts of Newfoundland, the economy looks much better than it does in the traditional economic heartland of Canada, Ontario, Quebec, the Maritimes, where we see a real falling back and a falling behind. In many ways what we are going through as a country reflects what some people call the Dutch disease, where our dollar is being driven up by demand for our natural resources and there is a crowding out of traditional manufacturing and value-added jobs. That is something we have to look at as a country. We have to consider that as parliamentarians. We have to understand the growing disparity between have and have not provinces.

One of the ways to address that is through a more robust trade policy. The current Conservative government spent its first three years in office chiding China and ignoring India. The government has turned around on both India and China as of late. It is going to take a while to rebuild relations with China. Canada's relationship is at a historic low after 40 years of remarkable relations with China, going back to prime minister Trudeau's opening up of China in 1968. He was the first western leader to establish diplomatic relations with post-revolution China. Before Nixon built a bridge to China, Trudeau had done that.

Much of that goodwill was damaged in the first three years of the current Conservative government. I do see that it is working assiduously to try to rebuild those relations, and that is the right thing to do. However, it is important to recognize that damage was done to those relations early on.

If we ask many global economists where they see the growth coming in the next 10 to 15 years, it is broadly believed that Africa represents tremendous opportunities. We have had a traditional aid relationship with Africa. We have to move from simply aid to an increased discussion and movement forward on trade with Africa. It is a continent with which Canada has had traditionally strong and historic relations and friendships. We need to redouble those relations. We should see the great commercial opportunity in Africa, opportunity that can benefit the people of Africa and the people of Canada. We could be partners in progress as Africa moves forward.

The Conservative government has focused largely on Latin America. Deepening our trade relations with Latin America is generally a good idea. It is not mutually exclusive, however, with having deep trade relations with China, India and Africa.

I see an opportunity for Canada to be a centrepiece in terms of global trade in many ways, to be a more central and leading figure in global trade for a number of reasons.

First, we have the best banking system and financial services system in the world. Not only are our banks successful in Canada, but they are successful globally, in China, India and Latin America. In some of the fastest growing economies in the world, Canadian banks are present and they are growing. A few months ago Bank of Nova Scotia bought 20% of the Bank of Guangzhou in China. A little over a year ago Bank of Nova Scotia bought all of Royal Bank of Scotland's Colombia assets. More recently, Bank of Nova Scotia bought a significant retail operation in Colombia. Bank of Nova Scotia can be found everywhere throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. It is not just Bank of Nova Scotia but Royal Bank, Bank of Montreal and TD Bank, particularly in the U.S.

One of the things that gives us influence in other countries is the presence and the strength in the reach of our financial services sector. We could be doing more to harness the power of the success of our financial services sector to affect positive change and influence in those countries.

Second, as I mentioned earlier, we are blessed in Canada with tremendous natural resource wealth that the China's and the India's of the world need. We have become very good at extraction. Our expertise in the extractive sectors is second to none in the world, not just in terms of oil and gas but also in mining. Much of the way we have developed our extractive sectors and our oil and gas sectors in Canada has given us the capacity to export wherewithal and technologies to other countries that have the benefit of natural resource wealth and are in the process of developing that wealth.

There is a lot of natural resource wealth in Latin America. Many of the countries in Latin America face some of the same challenges we have faced over decades in Canada. Many of them have a lot of natural resource wealth and need to now face the reality and the opportunity that there is unprecedented demand for that wealth. We can help, work with and partner with these countries.

Colombia is a country like Canada, with a lot of natural resource wealth in mining and in oil and gas. However, we also share a history with the people of Colombia in that neither Canada nor Colombia is a colonizing country. We are countries that were colonized. We also have a history of indigenous and first peoples in both countries.

Thirty years ago in Canada, most first nations and aboriginal peoples and their leadership were opposed to the development of natural resources and extraction in oil and gas. Today they are business and financial partners in the development of those extractive sectors. I would like to see us working co-operatively with the governments of Latin America to help them and us learn and partner in terms of best practices around the responsible development of natural resource wealth in a way that shares that wealth with first nations and indigenous peoples.

In these countries and in Panama there continue to be challenges. There have been issues around tax havens in Panama. There has been progress on that, but there needs to be more. I am of the belief that, in the same way there were and are challenges in Colombia, we have to ask ourselves, as people outside of these countries, how can we best influence and effect change in those countries. I believe that free trade agreements, with robust rules-based frameworks on things like labour, environmental practices and human rights, can strengthen our capacity to effect positive change and to partner with good people in those countries who want to move forward and to help their people move forward. Free trade agreements with strong labour and environmental frameworks give us more influence and the capacity to help in these countries, not just to build wealth for Canadian business people or to create jobs for Canadians but also to help those countries develop their economies and societies.

I share concerns that people in the House have expressed, from all parties sometimes, about some of the challenges faced in these countries in the past and present. The drug trade is an example. If we do not provide legitimate trade opportunities to these countries, the only opportunities that people have growing up in their villages and cities to make a living will be through the drug trade, narcoterrorism. If we are concerned about the drug trade in these countries, one of the best ways to help these governments and people fight narcoterrorism and the drug trade is to extend to them legitimate trade opportunities to buy their legitimate products. If we are not willing to do that, we are leaving many of those people stranded, potentially with their only lifeline being the drug trade, which is destroying their country and their society.

Free trade agreements with strong rules-based approaches to labour, to human rights and to the environment can help wean some of these countries away from the criminal activities that have sadly been part of their history over far too long a period. There has been a lot of progress in Colombia. Throughout Latin America, the economic growth in places like Colombia and Panama has been incredible in recent years.

For decades, Latin American countries were basket cases in terms of their economies. Whenever there was a World Economic Forum panel on Latin America, it was always on the basis of what we would do with Latin America. There was always another financial crisis, another series of government bailouts and country defaults. Last year, I served on a panel on the future of Latin America with President Martinelli from Panama. Last year, at the World Economic Forum, the focus of the panel was on the remarkable growth, opportunity and progress of Latin America.

I can tell the House that people like President Santos of Colombia and President Martinelli of Panama speak quite openly to the challenges they face in their countries. They speak quite openly to the challenges they face with corruption, organized crime, narcoterrorism, issues around FARC and other organizations, but at the same time as they acknowledge those challenges, they have put in place a road map to move forward.

Since the drug trade issue has been raised in the House as part of this discussion, I want to close with some consideration of drug policies in Canada, in the U.S. and in much of the developed world and their pernicious effect on Latin America. There have now been two different panels conducted by two different groups of former Latin American presidents, countries like Panama, Colombia and Mexico, on the impact of North American drug policies on their countries and the remarkable destabilizing impacts of our war on drugs on their countries.

I will provide a couple of facts. Prohibition did not really work that well with liquor. During the time of prohibition, Americans continued to drink but the biggest bourbon factory in the world was in Chihuahua, Mexico. However, after prohibition was lifted, it went back to Kentucky. The reality is interdiction, policing and incarceration did not work in terms of prohibition and it does not work in terms of our war on drugs. It costs a lot of money, it is hugely expensive economically and societally, and it is remarkably destabilizing to the countries of Latin America.

Colombia was largely successful due to the planned Colombia initiative, which was initially launched by President Pastrana and President Clinton and then further implemented by President Uribe and President Santos as a minister. In Colombia, the war on drugs was quite successful. However, Colombia's success in the war on drugs drove the drug cartels, which are very mobile, to Mexico. That is one of the reasons that Mexico and President Calderon have faced such challenges in the last couple of years. Production and distribution can be stamped out in one country but it goes somewhere else.

We need to actually develop rational approaches to drug policy in places like Canada and the U.S. and understand that interdiction, arresting and putting people in jail for this will not be as successful as treating drug issues as addiction and health issues. If we were to invest a fraction of what we are spending on police and incarceration in our war on drugs into treating drug addiction as a health care issue, treating mental health and helping people with addictions, we would have better results in Canada and we would stop punishing people in countries in Latin America who are penalized by our continued failed war on drugs policy in Canada.

When we are talking about that region of the country, I think it is important that we are open about all aspects of our engagement. One of the areas where are playing a negative role is in our drug policy here in Canada and in countries like the U.S. where we are playing a negative role in terms of our relations with Latin America.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Before moving on to questions and comments, it is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Etobicoke North, the Environment; and the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway, Citizenship and Immigration.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Dany Morin Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, the NDP agrees that Canada has a high volume of trade, both as an exporter and an importer. However, I have two concerns about such trade agreements: respect for the human rights of workers and for the environment, especially in countries with less environmental regulation. This can lead to abuses by major corporations that have a great deal of money.

My question is about sustainable development. My hon. colleague for Burnaby—New Westminster has proposed amendments that would result in a better definition of sustainable development in the agreement. The Brundtland Report, prepared by the World Commission on Environment and Development, defines sustainable development as development that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” I think it is a very good definition.

Does my Liberal colleague agree with this definition and, in particular, does he believe that sustainable development must be an integral part of the free trade agreement with Panama and must be respected?

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I absolutely agree that we must find ways to foster the sustainable development of countries with which we enter into agreements. I acknowledge that this agreement contains many provisions that signal progress in terms of sustainable development. I would like to have a better understanding of this particular approach. I agree that we must develop other approaches, but I need to review the information and understand what is being proposed.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, we live in a global society today and international trade is part of what is going on. We need to be involved as Canadians but that trade must be fair, equitable and sustainable over a period of time.

We know that Panama has been used as a money laundering, drug trafficking country by Mexican and Colombian cartels. The member was talking about how, through trade, we can help get people working instead of getting involved in the drug trade.

I have an example that I will present to my colleagues. We have seen what has happened in Mexico in the last number of years. We had a trade agreement with Mexico that was negotiated, NAFTA, and that trade agreement did not slow down the drug trade. In fact, as we have seen in news reports over the years, the drug trade in Mexico has gone up. Would the member care to comment on that?

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, in fact, the drug trade in Mexico for many years was in significant decline. Certainly legitimate trade between Canada and Mexico within NAFTA has grown significantly and continues to grow. However, the member is quite right. In recent years, the growth of the drug trade and drug activities in Mexico has grown, but it is very difficult to tie that with a free trade agreement.

I would say that most people who study the drug trade on an ongoing basis, most scholars and experts in this field, say that the biggest reason for the growth of the drug trade and crime in Mexico and the violence associated with it in recent years has been the fact that Colombia was successful in clamping down on it and driving much of it out. That goes to my point that the drug cartels are mobile. As long as there is demand here in North America and in Europe and as long as we impose this prohibition, this failed war on drugs, we will continue getting supply somewhere.

That speaks to the final point in my remarks. I think we need to consider our failed war on drugs here in Canada, not just in terms of its incredible cost to the Canadian economy and to society, but also its incredibly negative effect on a lot of the countries with which we purport to be friends.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I work with my colleague from Kings—Hants on the trade committee and on finance. We do not always agree, in fact, often we disagree, but there were many points in his speech with which I did agree, particularly the point that the mean-spirited government's cut backs on addiction programs and crime prevention programs have helped to fuel what has been an ongoing problem in Canada.

I disagree with the member on the interpretation that a free trade agreement, particularly a right-wing free trade agreement like the Conservatives are bringing forward, would help the situation. We have seen demonstrably that, under NAFTA, a trade agreement that had as one of its attributes the idea that somehow this would stimulate development of the rural economy in Mexico, it has done the exact opposite. It is a meltdown. It is a catastrophe in rural Mexico. Part of that has been because of the removal of the subsidies that have allowed American corn to be dumped into rural Mexican markets that has helped to provoke what is an ongoing tragedy.

I want to come back to the Panama agreement. I know that the member shares concerns around how the government goes about negotiating agreements. We have an agreement with Panama where Canada approached Panama to sign a tax information exchange agreement a number of times but Panama just said that it would not exchange tax information.

I would like the member for Kings—Hants to comment on how the government could have possibly muffed what should have been a key consideration before it brought this agreement to the floor of the House of Commons.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, movement to greater transparency in finance and taxation is important. It is something that ought to be a strong priority of the government. I also believe that moving forward on a free trade agreement more deeply integrates our economies and increases the capacity for us to effect influence.

As with the hon. member, I would like to see, from a timing perspective, more movement on that as well. I would like to see the government move post-haste with that. However, I do not believe that signing a free trade agreement reduces the capacity of the government to do that at any time. In fact, it may have the opposite effect.

In terms of the general area of trade, this is where I think there is a fundamental difference between how the hon. member and I view these issues. I believe that the New Democratic Party in Canada ought to embrace some of the progress and evolution that other social democratic parties have around the world in terms of embracing trade. If we look at the labour party in Great Britain, the democrats in the U.S., or around the world generally, national social democratic parties have come to realize that globalization is a little like gravity: we do not have to like it but it is a reality. Instead of ignoring it and pretending that somehow we can shut off globalization, we would be better off if we were to engage with it and seek ways to increase our country's influence in that global economy.

In Canada, where we are such a tiny economy, we depend disproportionately on global markets. It is important to us, but it also increases our capacity to effect positive change in the world. My advice for the hon. member and his party is that they ought to move in that direction.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

February 29th, 2012 / 4:35 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by talking about the NDP approach to fair trade issues. As members know, we have come forward in the House for years and offered some of the best existing practices on trading issues around the world. We have come into the House and talked about the binding social obligations of Mercosur, for example, by social democratic countries in South America that have come together and put in place binding social obligations to reduce poverty. When we have raised that in the House, the Conservatives, not wanting to have anything to do with any sort of progressive fair trade agreement, have always said no. We have brought forward the progressive and binding human rights components that the European Union signed with countries outside of the European Union, again a product of a strong social democratic practice and principles, to make sure that those trade agreements actually include binding human rights obligations. The Conservatives and the Liberals have said they do not want any part of that.

We have pointed to some of the social democratic innovations. Australia, for example, has said that it would not put in place investor-state provisions because these override democratically elected governments. In an almost Flintstonian approach to trade taking us back centuries, the Conservative government continues to say, “Even though we're the only country in the world with these right wing investor-state provisions, we're going to keep them, Fred Flintstone. We're just going to keep pushing these bad components, primitive components, that every other country has moved away from, including the United States”. After the United States signed the NAFTA, it moved away from the investor-state provisions which these Conservatives hold so dear. We have offered that innovation and the Conservatives again have consistently said no.

We have offered all of these progressive fair trade approaches. These are the kind of trade agreements that are actually catching fire around the world, but every single time the Conservatives have said no. They have never seen a progressive fair trade agreement they cannot say no to every single time.

We have offered examples like the auto pact that we strongly supported in the past, a pact that actually helped to sustain and build up our automotive sector. The Conservatives say no to that type of progressive fair trade agreement. The Conservatives have never seen a fair trade agreement they like. They have never wanted to move forward with any type of progressive legislation on trade. They continue with their Fred Flintstone approach to trade with an antiquated, 30-year old infrastructure and template coming out DFAIT.

Conservative members might say that although it is antiquated and is Fred Flintstonian, it creates jobs. Let us look at the facts. Let us look at the impact of this type of Conservative approach to trade over the last few years. I know members are aware that we have the worst, the most horrendous, merchandise deficit in our history in this country. That means we are not exporting manufactured goods any more but importing them. We are creating jobs in other countries of course, but the result in this country has been a hemorrhaging of manufacturing jobs, good family-sustaining jobs, which used to sustain families right across this country. Nearly half a million manufacturing jobs are gone because of the government.

The government might say that it is exporting natural resources and, of course, the jobs go with them hand over fist. However, if we look at the overall balance, the current account balance of Canada's balance of payments, it is at its most horrendous deficit in Canadian history too. Even there we see a massive failure by this government to actually manage trading relationships in such a way that we would actually create jobs in Canada.

We have biggest most horrendous merchandise deficit and the biggest and most horrendous current account deficit in our balance of payments. Those facts speaks for themselves. There is not a single Conservative who is able to stand up and address that. It is a massive failure. The Conservatives just have to wave the white towel and say they have failed. I can see some of them smiling and nodding: they understand they have failed on this issue.

What has been the result? Of course, we have seen that hemorrhaging of manufacturing jobs. What has replaced them? I will come back to the Conservatives' bogus job figures in a moment, but when we actually look at what they have done to the economy, they have lost jobs, and the jobs they have created have been part time and temporary. Most tragically, the jobs the government has managed to create pay on average $10,000 a year less than the jobs they have lost.

After six years in power, we have seen the Conservatives attempt to bring forward a very misguided and antiquated template dating back to another century and there has been a lack of follow-up. From that they have managed to create an economy where we are throwing the good jobs away and, at best, getting part-time and temporary jobs paying $10,000 a year less.

What has the impact been for the average Canadian family?

I know that members and the people listening to this debate are aware that the average Canadian family over the last year has lost about 2% in real wages. Real wages have been tumbling. The decline has been serious and has had an impact not only on families but also on small- and medium-size businesses across communities and, as a result, on whole regions and provinces. It has an impact right across this country. We are looking at a 2% real wage fall for our middle class and hard pressed, poor Canadian families. We are seeing Canadians living through a substantial problem.

Tragically, the result is that Canadian families across this country from coast to coast to coast are now living with a record level of debt like we have never seen before in Canadian history. This level of debt has a stupefyingly significant impact on the average Canadian family. Families are already earning less and less because of some deliberate economic and trade policies of the government, and because of that level of debt, families are being more and more constrained.

These are the economic results we have to look at when we talk about what the government has done after six years in power. The results are the worst merchandise deficit in our history, the worst current account deficit in our balance of payments in our nation's history, and the worst level of indebtedness in our nation's history. That is Conservative economics.

Now the Conservatives will say they have created some jobs. Their jobs poor quality, part-time jobs, but they say they have created those jobs nonetheless. However, the reality according Statistics Canada data is that since May 2008, the government has actually created a quarter of a million jobs short of the level required just to maintain the same percentage of the labour force employed. Some 450,000 Canadians have come onto the labour market since May 2008, and only 200,000 of them have found work. That was even before we entered the catastrophic last six months under the current government.

We have seen job closures, factory closures. We have seen White Birch Paper, Electro Motive Diesel, and a whole litany of closed manufacturing facilities. At the same time, we have seen 60,000 full-time jobs evaporate, that is, 60,000 families losing a breadwinner. That is the record of the Conservative government.

The Conservatives say that their trade policy accentuates job creation, that somehow, magically, by signing these trade agreements, it will lead to job creation. However, in virtually every case where Canada has signed a trade agreement under the Conservatives, the exports to those markets have fallen after the agreements were signed.

There is only one exception and that is Mexico. I will not return to what my colleague from Surrey North mentioned, the catastrophic meltdown in rural Mexico that has led to ongoing drug wars that have killed tens of thousands of people. That in part has been due to the economic policies of the Mexican government, as well as the removal of the tariffs that has destroyed much of rural agriculture in Mexico.

What we see in every case is a fall in exports to those markets, in real terms, which Conservatives do not use when they bring out the figures. Then, when they have put together such a catastrophic list of trade deals, where in virtually every case our exports to those markets goes down, what are the Conservatives doing wrong, aside from the Fred Flintstonian approach to trade templates from 30 years ago, stuff that has been disregarded by most of the progressive world? The other aspect is Conservatives simply do not walk the talk on providing support for export industries.

On research and development, we have the worst level of public investment among industrialized countries, the worst level of patent development among industrialized countries, the second worst level of Ph.D. development among industrialized countries. The reality is, even before we get to the research and manufacturing capacity, when we look at what Conservatives put out there in exports, it is tiny. It is pennies compared to what our major competitors are putting out to support product promotion and product support in those export markets. Australia spends half a billion dollars. Canada spends $13 million.

I have met trade commissioners, as I have travelled around the world with the trade committee and other committees, who do not even have the budget to buy a cup of coffee for a potential client of Canadian goods and services. The Conservatives have simply not walked the talk. They have starved that needed support for export industries for product promotion.

This brings us to Panama. The Conservatives failed on the trade strategy. They have not walked the talk on actually providing support for our export industries. For the third time they bring forward a bill, Bill C-24, on an agreement with Panama.

What is the problem with an agreement with Panama? We talked about this earlier. The state department in the United States has very clearly declared that Panama is one of the worst countries in the world for the money laundering that comes from illegal drug activity.

The government does not think about the impacts. It never does. There is never an in-depth study of the impact of signing a trade agreement with any country, which is part of the Fred Flintstonian approach of the Conservative government on trade issues. It does not do an evaluation before it enters into a trade agreement and it does not do an evaluation afterward. In fact, those figures I cited, in real terms, about export development did not even come from DFAIT. We had to get those figures ourselves. Nobody on the Conservative side of the House is even monitoring what happens after a trade agreement is signed.

What we have is an agreement that the government has signed, in complete denial of what is a fundamental problem with Panama, and that is the fact that Panama does drug money laundering on a significant and ongoing massive scale. It has been cited by a number of organizations, the IRS in the United States, the U.S. State Department and the OECD, all of which have said that this is a tax haven for drug money, for illegal drug gangs in Colombia and Mexico.

The government, so panicked by its lack of economic performance, throws this agreement onto the floor of the House and does not even have the decency to do its due diligence before it gives it to members of Parliament to evaluate.

On this side of the House, the NDP caucus does thorough evaluations. We read through the bills. We take the government at its word and read every word to find out what the actual impacts are. Since the government does not do any due diligence and has no evaluation of what the impacts of the agreement are, we have to surmise and look at the impacts of the agreement.

Very clearly, from the outset when the government put forward this idea, we said that there was no way we should sign a trade agreement with Panama unless there was a solid and binding tax information exchange agreement in place. In a very real sense, we should not be importing from Panama the drug money, money laundering that takes place in Panamanian financial institutions. We said that very clearly when the government talked about negotiating an agreement. We said from the very outset that we needed a tax information exchange agreement.

To its credit, the government sent a letter to the Panamanian government. In the letter, the government said that it thought the Panamanians should try to close out the drug money, money laundering. It said that tentatively. The member for Prince Albert said earlier that the Conservatives did not want to lecture to drug gangs. I am sorry but on this side of the House we believe that when there are drug gangs involved, we should be cracking down on them. We should be more than lecturing, but the Conservatives may disagree.

We are talking about pretty fundamental economic policy but, more important, it is a reflection of Canadian values. It is also this idea which, on our side of the House, is something we take very seriously. We believe in walking the talk. When we talk about economic development, we believe in putting in place the mechanisms so Canada can grow and prosper economically. When we talk about fighting drug gangs, we do not say that we will try to fight the drug gangs in Canada, but that it is okay if they are in Panama laundering money and then sign a trade agreement that has no provisions to stop that money laundering in Panama from coming to Canada. We believe in walking the talk and being consistent.

We said that the tax information exchange agreement needed to be signed. We made that very clear from the beginning.

We heard testimony from a wide variety of people who came to the trade committee to talk about the trade agreement. It is important for members of the House, particularly on the Conservative side, to understand what the witnesses said about this agreement and the advisability of signing an agreement without any mechanisms to prevent money laundering.

Mr. Todd Tucker, who is the research director for Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch said:

—Panama is one of the world's worst tax havens. It is home to an estimated 400,000 corporations, including offshore corporations and multinational subsidiaries....According to the OECD, the Panamanian government has little to no legal authority to ascertain key information about these offshore corporations, such as their ownership. Panama's financial secrecy practices also make it a major site for money laundering from places throughout the world. According to the U.S. State Department, major Colombian and Mexican drug cartels, as well as Colombian illegal armed groups, use Panama for drug trafficking and money laundering purposes. The funds generated from illegal activity are susceptible to being laundered through Panamanian banks, real estate developments, and more.

As well, Dr. Teresa Healy, the senior researcher from the social and economic policy department at the Canadian Labour Congress, talked about the context of labour rights currently in Panama. She said:

In response to the international perception that Panamanian labour laws were rigid and a disincentive to foreign investment...[there were] unilateral changes to labour law...from workers, it allowed employers to fire striking workers and replace them with strike-breakers, it criminalized street blockades, and it protected police from prosecution. The severity of this attack on labour rights was met with strikes and demonstrations. The police were exceedingly harsh in their response.

She was talking in 2010. She went on to say, “At least six people were killed, protesters were seriously injured, and many were blinded by tear gas and police violence”.

These are the kinds of issues that were brought forward to the trade committee, concerns that were raised about Bill C-24.

On the other side of the House, Conservatives say that there are export markets to be had. However, the reality is when we look at the practices and we look at the record of the government, in every case, save one and that case over the past few years was one that was not signed by the Conservative government, following the signing of those agreements, we have seen a decline in our export markets.

We are facing a serious situation: a decline in manufacturing capacity, a decline in jobs, a reduction in real income and a profound level of indebtedness in our country that we have never seen before. We need a fresh, new approach on trade, not a Fred Flintstonian approach from 30 years ago that has clearly failed. A new NDP approach on trade could really bring jobs to Canada and could bring a new prosperity to our country.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I listened as closely as I could to the hon. member's statement. One always has to take most of what the hon. member says with a grain of salt.

He did say that we would be judged by walking the walk, and I believe that. We are judged by our deeds and our acts. The hon. member talked a bit about Panama, a lot about trade and a bit about Colombia. If we are to be judged by our acts, I will offer the hon. member an opportunity to apologize to the House for what he said about the Colombian government. He brought it up in committee, said it was fact, never retracted it, never apologized for it. He said that two families of indigenous people in Colombia had been murdered by the Colombian government. It turned out they had been murdered by FARC, which is the socialist rebel group in the Colombian jungle.

He never apologized for saying that. We cannot believe him on that. He will not take it back. Why would we believe him on anything else?

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, that was the most pathetic attempt I have heard yet to try to turn the channel.

So we are both on the record, the parliamentary secretary knows full well that the family was killed by military connected to the government. That family was brought forward not by me but by Human Rights Watch, a very reputable human rights organization. The parliamentary secretary is referring to a completely different circumstance about which he is absolutely right. On more than one occasion, families have been killed by FARC. We do not dispute the facts about the family about which he talked.

What I find incredible is that he would try to pretend that all of those exist when every major human rights organization has pointed to the ongoing problems with paramilitaries connected directly to the government and to the ongoing problems with crimes connected to the military in Colombia. I find it incredible he would deny that all of those exist.

The reality is we are talking about two different families. I accept the version of facts that was put forward by Human Rights Watch in the case of the family that was killed by FARC.

What I find inconceivable is that a parliamentary secretary would stand in the House and defend and deny acts of human rights abuses committed by paramilitary organizations and by the Colombian military. That is despicable.