House of Commons Hansard #87 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was trade.

Topics

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12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Speaking of talk, talk, talk, resuming debate, the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster.

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12:10 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, we have seen the Liberals' slavish devotion to everything the Conservatives bring forward, which is a big reason why they are down in that corner of the House of Commons. Every time the Conservatives brought forward a bad deal, badly negotiated, something we could see would have a negative impact, the Liberals voted for it. The electorate has duly punished them for what has been a slavish devotion to voting in favour, regardless of the consequences, of every Conservative bill. We are not like that. We read the bills, we look at the analysis and we analyze what the impacts will be to our industries.

With the softwood lumber agreement, the testimony brought forward to the international trade committee showed clearly that we would lose tens of thousands of jobs. It was badly negotiated. We could have driven a truck through the anti-circumvention clause. Canadian taxpayers and the industry have had to pick up the tens of millions of dollars in fines that have been levied ever since the bad deal was signed, supported by the Liberals and the Conservatives.

We have seen the Colombian trade deal. We raised concerns about human rights in the House. We were told by Conservatives and their Liberal allies that it would resolve the human rights problems in Colombia. Let me read from the most recent Human Rights Watch. It says that the new paramilitaries connected with the regime:

—have repeatedly targeted human rights defenders, Afro-Colombian and indigenous leaders, trade unionists, and victims’ groups seeking justice and recovery of land. [These] groups appear to be responsible for the 34 percent increase in cases of massacres registered in 2010 and the continued rise in cases reported during the first half of 2011.

We were told in the House by members from both the Conservative and Liberal Parties that signing the deal with Colombia would somehow reduce the ongoing massacres, rape, torture and the incredible human rights abuses taking place by paramilitaries connected with the Colombian government. However, exactly the opposite has occurred and there has been an increase.

We talked yesterday about the Panamanian agreement. The member for Trinity—Spadina and a whole variety of other NDP MPs spoke to this yesterday. It is absolutely inconceivable for me that, despite the findings of the OECD, the U.S. State Department and the IRS in the United States that Panama works as a money laundering sector for drug trafficking, the government would not even bring in a tax information exchange agreement before it threw the Panama agreement on the floor of the House. This is irresponsible action that does not lead to the kind of job creation we want to see in the country. The NDP is the only party that seems to be evaluating the impacts of these agreements, making comments and fighting in the House of Commons to defend Canadian values and ensuring that we get a trade system in keeping with profound Canadian values.

The argument used in the House, from the PMO talking points we have heard from the Conservatives over the last couple of days, is that the agreements have contributed to our economic prosperity. Again, the NDP MPs, who are strong, learned and hard-working, coming from a wide variety of backgrounds, are the only ones who have looked at the statistics to find out how we have done. There is no evaluation from the Conservative government before these agreements are brought into the House and there is absolutely no due diligence from any member of the Conservative Party to see how we have done when we sign these agreements.

As I mentioned yesterday, we are not doing very well. We have a record merchandise deficit. Increasingly, as our manufacturing facilities shut down, as plants close, such White Birch and Electro-Motive, we lose thousands of jobs. Now Canada is increasingly not keeping up and there is a merchandise deficit. Those manufactured goods are being imported now. Those jobs have gone to other countries.

The current account deficit on balance of payments is also at a record level. Even the raw resources the Conservatives love to ship out of the country simply do not keep up with what we need to import. Record levels of deficit in those two areas show a significant failure by the government in putting into place a trade strategy that works.

If we look at the job losses, it is even more horrendous. I know Conservatives like to throw out a different number every day, but they like to say that they have created a lot of jobs. Since May 2008, about 200,000 jobs were created. The problem is the labour force grew by 450,000. The government was a quarter of a million jobs short even before we hit the recession, the slow-down that took place in the fall. From September right through to the month of February, 60,000 full-time jobs were lost. That has been combined with the closure of factories that we have seen in various parts of our country.

Conservatives will say that it is okay that jobs are being lost, that the job market is simply not keeping up with the growth in the labour market, that they are a quarter of a million jobs behind and have lost 60,000 jobs, but they are creating good jobs. That is another line that comes from the Conservatives, but they have never offered any proof at all. In looking at the numbers from Statistics Canada, we can see quite a different record. In fact, the jobs that have been created tend to be part-time and temporary, the kinds of jobs that cannot sustain a family.

The net result is that any jobs the Conservatives manage to create pay $10,000 a year less than the jobs they have lost on their watch over the last six years. They have lost, as we know, 400,000 manufacturing jobs. The few jobs that the Conservatives have created pay $10,000 a year less. That is a statistical reality. It does not come from my gut; it comes from Statistics Canada. These are poor quality jobs, the few jobs that have been created. These jobs tend to be precarious, part-time or temporary.

What has been the net result of the Conservative economic management? We have seen a decline in real wages of the average Canadian family over the past year. If members talk to folks in their ridings, they will find that most Canadian families are having a very difficult time making ends meet. It is because in real terms, after-inflation dollars, people are earning less and less.

It has often been said that Tory times are tough times. Conservative times have been particularly difficult for Canadian families because they are earning less and less. Canadian families, and this is an undeniable fact, are poorer under the Conservative government.

What has been the result? Conservatives are now waking up and saying that they should have looked at these economic statistics, that they should have done their homework. I encourage them to look at the economic statements and look at what Canadian families are going through. They will learn a lot. I know some of them are in touch with their constituents and their constituents will tell them that a 2% reduction in real wages is not a happy time for Canadian families.

The result is Canadian families are now suffering under a record debt load, a yoke that has never been seen to this extent in our country. There are record debt levels. Canadian families are earning less and less. Good jobs are being lost. Poorer jobs are being created, part-time and temporary jobs, the jobs that pay less. That is the Conservative economic record.

When Conservatives come to the floor of the House and say that all the other stuff they have done has not worked, that they will throw another trade agreement at us and maybe that will work, maybe that will create the kind of prosperity we want to see, maybe that will pass the test of the NDP, we go beyond the fluff and the political spin. We go to reality. We look at whether there has been an economic evaluation of these trade agreements. There never has been and never will be, because with an economic evaluation, these agreements often cause difficulty. Now what happens? The government is bringing forward this trade agreement.

As I said yesterday in the House about the Panama agreement, we have severe concerns with that agreement as well. We raised concerns in the House about the Colombia agreement and the softwood lumber sellout. In the case of Jordan, it is a country that is making some progress on human rights, but the problems we have with what Conservatives bring forward is the actual structure or template of the agreements.

They call them free trade agreements. We talk about fair trade and the reality is that the difference between the two concepts is like that between driving a modern Ferrari and Fred Flintstone's automobile with the stones that rolled around. That is the difference between Conservative trade policy and what the NDP has moving forward.

The old antiquated template of the Conservatives dates back to the 1980s. Ronald Reagan was president when this trade template was put together. It includes things like investor-state provisions, which are an override of democratically elected governments. We have seen a number of cases where governments who make decisions in the public interest, who make decisions responding to the democratic involvement of their citizens, have had to pay significant fines, not because what they did was wrong and not because the process was somehow undermining democracy. In fact, they did exactly what a prudent government should do: they made decisions that were in the public interest such as removing neurotoxins that have profound negative health impacts. They did that but because of investor-state provisions, the citizens or taxpayers, once a government makes that decision, have to pay compensation to the company. Investor-state provisions are a right-wing ideal thrown out in the 1980s under Reagan, and today in 2012, we still these provisions reflected in the trade template used by the Conservatives.

Conservatives will defend themselves by saying that the Liberals did the same thing and that is true. However, the reality now around the world is that the modern, progressive fair trade agreements are what we favour, like we see with Mercosur where there are social objectives and anti-poverty measures. Those are the kinds of things that we want to see.

We talk about the European Union and its binding human rights obligations. The Conservative government signed a trade agreement with Colombia. We have seen the results in the latter government's increased links to paramilitary violence and from the increased number of massacres, as there are no binding human rights obligations in the Colombia agreement. In the deal with Colombia we have a commitment to maybe produce some kind of whitewashed report at some point. I have never seen one tabled in the House of Commons, but the reality is that there are other progressive administrations that have put in binding human rights obligations. This is the kind of fundamental value that Canadians share. This is the kind of progressive fair trade approach to trade agreements that Canadians want to see.

We talk about Australian model and the Labour government there that said it was not going to go ahead with investor-state provisions. This was in the 1980s when the right-wing was pushing back on government and democracy and everything else. We are seeing some shades of that coming back, unfortunately, but the reality is that progressive fair trade agreements do not include measures such as investor-state provisions.

Those are some of the agreements that we support. Those are the kinds of amendments that we offer. That is why we are in the House of Commons. We bring forward these kinds of intelligent, progressive and modern ideas. We have done this for each of the deals and each time Conservatives have said, no, they do not want to update their aproach. They want to keep their high bound, right-wing ideology and do not care about the consequences. They are really more concerned about ideology than the kinds of objectives of a trade agreement that would actually reflect Canadian values and would be effective.

Before I move on to the next point I want to take one further step. We have offered this kind of progressive, modern fair trade infrastructure to the government. We have consistently been refused. We proposed a dozen amendments to the last agreement, but all of them were rejected.

With this agreement we will endeavour again, because even those who are the most hidebound in their ideology can eventually learn. We are going to continue to offer these kinds of positive alternatives. We will certainly be doing that.

I want to point out what happens after a trade agreement is signed. Regardless of whether a trade agreement is well written or not, whether it contains Fred Flintstonian aspects or a modern, progressive fair trade agenda, like we favour on this side of the House, the question is how do we then implement the kind of export supports that would contribute to the growth of the Canadian economy?

We in the NDP do our homework and actually had to get the following statistics ourselves. I had asked DFAIT for a year for the export market development figures in real terms—

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12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

The no development party, the NDP.

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March 1st, 2012 / 12:25 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

I can see the Conservatives are waking up again, Mr. Speaker. That is good. I am happy to hear that. This is the type of information exchange that will hopefully lead to progress in our country.

However, DFAIT could not produce the figures in real terms. A dollar is not a dollar when it diminishes over time due to inflation. Therefore, if we are comparing exports from Canada to a market that Canada has signed a trade agreement with, we really have to use inflation adjusted dollars to compare apples with apples. Is that not right? My NDP colleagues all agree. Looking over at the Conservatives, maybe they agree less. It does not matter. The point is this: we could not get those figures from DFAIT but had to produce them ourselves.

The interesting result up to 2009 is that in virtually all cases where an agreement was signed, and this is similar to what happened under the Liberals and what the Conservatives are continuing, exports from Canada to those markets declined after the agreements were signed. Here I am not just talking about manufacturing exports but about all exports. Imports from those countries increased, contributing to the factor I just talked about and going far beyond the Dutch disease, where we have seen an artificially inflated dollar hurting our manufacturing capacity. It is something that many people are talking about. Many have raised these concerns.

What we are talking about with our trade agreements is a type of disease where our exports decline and imports go up after we have signed an agreement. Members know what that means: more lost jobs and less prosperity for Canadians. Yet in virtually every case, with the singular exception of Mexico, which I will come back to it in a moment, our exports declined. In some cases they have recovered over time, but in some cases they have not. With Costa Rica, for example, our exports are still below their initial levels.

What we see here is a lack of will, the view that signature of an agreement is sufficient for the government to move forward without walking the talk afterwards. Other major industrialized economies, such as the European Union, the United States and Australia, have very robust export promotion. They have regimes in place and great supports for product promotion and product publicity, to get those goods to market.

I have met with trade commissioners of ours outside of Canada who do not even have the money to buy a cup of coffee for a potential client of Canada. The figure that DFAIT has given us is that about $13 million is spent on trade promotion worldwide. This is for export product promotion. Australia spends half a billion dollars. The European Union spends $125 million just to promote its wine products. In the United States, we are talking upwards of $80 million just for the beef industry. It is about walking the talk as well. It simply is not happening with the current government.

As far as the trade agreement with Jordan is concerned, we will be putting forward amendments at committee. We will be doing the due diligence that New Democrats have always done in the House on trade issues. We will be scouring the bill that we have seen and offering amendments. Our critic, the member for Windsor West, and other members of trade committee will be putting forward those amendments at committee.

What we hope to see is a sea change in attitude on the Conservative side, that Conservative members will accept the kind of progressive fair trade amendments that we will offer. Why? It is because it is in Canada's interests to have a modernized trade template for the agreements we bring forward. It is in Canada's interests to build an export strategy that will lead to job creation. In short, it is in Canada and Canadians' interests to have the kind of progressive fair trade agreements that New Democrats bring forward in the House.

I hope that we will get support for those amendments at committee.

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12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Bradley Trost Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed my colleague's remarks for their entertainment value. We both used to sit together on the international trade committee.

First I have a comment, then a question. The hon. member referenced investor-state provisions for Canadian investments abroad. Those provisions are in trade treaties to protect private investment abroad, such as protecting investors who may invest in Venezuela, whose president has a habit of nationalizing industries. If we do not have those provisions in our international treaties, how then do we expect to protect Canadian investments in other countries? Also, if we expect protections for Canadian investments abroad, should we not protect private property investments in Canada?

How does the hon. member propose to protect the private property of Canadians abroad and foreigners who invest in Canada from unjust government seizure?

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12:30 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question. I appreciate hearing from him again. We worked together on the trade committee, as he mentioned.

The member is actually talking about two different things. He is talking about FIPAs, foreign investment protection agreements, which we have supported in the House of Commons. I was referencing a completely different order of things, the investor-state provisions that we have seen in NAFTA and which have subsequently become part of every single trade agreement put forward by this government.

Even the United States, after NAFTA, pulled back from the investor-state provisions because these provisions put in place an eternal program of compensation for businesses, regardless of what products they produce and whether they are in the right or the wrong. Ethyl Corporation, for example, which produced a neurotoxin, was able to get compensation from Canadian taxpayers under the investor-state provisions of NAFTA for a product it had produced that had known health impacts. It was toxic for Canadians, yet through the investor-state provisions it was able to get a handout.

I am sure the hon. member does not agree with that. I am sure he and all hon. members in the House would agree that when a company manufactures something that is dangerous for Canadians, the Canadian government should have the right to say that it is going to ban that product without taxpayers having to pay compensation to that company. I think we would all agree on that.

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12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I certainly never pretend to be a trade expert, but trade and this particular deal have been referred to as a marriage. Having been married for 27 years, I can speak a little about that. I know that in the deal I signed on my wedding day there was a caveat, “for better or for worse”. I know that my wife had hoped for a little less worse and maybe a lot more better, but she still hangs tough and honours her part of the agreement, and I do the best with mine.

For the benefit of the House, I am sure the government and we here on the Liberal side would want to know the answer to the following question. One thing the member for Burnaby—New Westminster cannot dispute is that your party has never supported a trade deal that has come through this House. That is on the record. You know that, so let me ask this question. I am sure the new members of the NDP would like to know this, because you have experience in the party and are a mentor.

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12:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Order, please.

I would like the member for Cape Breton--Canso to come to his question and remember that it is the Chair that he is asking the question of, not one of his colleagues.

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12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, my apologies. In our agreement together, I assure you that I will address the Chair.

What is one deal that the NDP came close to signing, only for one aspect of it? Could the member name one free trade deal that it came close to signing?

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12:35 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am going to speak softly because I heard a complaint from the Minister of Foreign Affairs that I was speaking too loudly. It is an important wake-up call and New Democrats make sure everyone in the House can hear us.

I addressed this yesterday and I will address it again. New Democrats were strong supporters of the auto pact and the Liberals said, “You cannot support the auto pact”. We have talked about the types of progressive trade deals that we do support: the binding human rights obligations out of the European Union, the obligations around social development and anti-poverty measures in Mercosur. We have talked about Australia and its measures to gut the investor-state provisions to allow democratically elected governments to make decisions in the public interest.

Then the member said, “We Liberals adopt everything the Conservatives bring forward on trade. For six years, everything the Conservatives bring forward, we vote for”. What has been the result? The softwood lumber deal not only killed 60,000 jobs across the country but 2,000 jobs in my constituency. Yes, New Democrats take it personally when Liberals simply rubber-stamp everything the Conservatives bring forward. They are bad deals. We will continue to be positive and offer amendments. If the Conservatives accept our amendments, of course we will be voting for it.

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12:35 p.m.

NDP

Claude Patry Jonquière—Alma, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague on his speech. There is something that concerns me when we talk about free trade and globalization. We should be talking about the globalization of the human beings behind this, the workers in these countries.

If we compare the conditions of the workers in these countries with those of workers in other countries with which we have entered into free trade agreements and where men and women enjoy the proper conditions, we could almost be talking about slavery. What can be done with these sorts of free trade agreements? How can we insert in them a condition so that these people can live properly in their country as they trade their goods with ours?

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12:35 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question and the best one thus far. I thank the member for Jonquière—Alma, the only member to this point who listened to my presentation. I know that I am not the most interesting speaker, but I had hoped that the members would at least listen to me. The member for Jonquière—Alma was listening carefully and that is great. I very much appreciate his talent and the fact that he listens.

As has been said, obligations must be mandatory. That is what did not work in the agreement with Colombia. The Liberals said that a report every two years would be enough, but we saw the human rights crisis in Colombia.

We know that there are problems in Jordan. Women live in horrible situations. We are proposing amendments that would make these obligations mandatory. That is what the European Union is doing and that is what we are proposing, among other things, in our amendments to the bill.

We hope that, for once, the Conservatives will set aside their ideology and use common sense. Violations of human rights must stop. An agreement that has mandatory requirements and penalties will help improve human rights in Jordan.

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12:35 p.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I have enjoyed the entertainment factor following the NDP member's speech. However, it makes quite a mockery of Parliament when the member has been asked several times by my learned friends from the Liberal Party to identify one free trade agreement that New Democrats have voted in favour of. Canadians know very well that when members of Parliament are asked questions, many politicians try to skirt the issue. When the NDP continued to say that it has in fact supported one, let the member be honest and either admit that he has misled Canadians by saying that or name that free trade agreement. If he does not, then I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, that you inform Canadians through this process that this is an absolutely disgust and a mockery of Parliament.

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12:40 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, as you know, that was very unparliamentary language. I would be pleased to answer the parliamentary secretary's question, but I would ask her withdraw her unparliamentary language.

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12:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

I would encourage all hon. members to give each other the respect that is due. I appreciate this is a contested issue. I am not sure I understand the comment of the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster.

Is the hon. member for Winnipeg North rising on a point of order?