House of Commons Hansard #102 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was agreements.

Topics

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is important to know that free trade agreements are being entered into almost exclusively for economic reasons. In my opinion, the economy is a means and must not come at the expense of people. When the Conservatives negotiate free trade agreements, they do so solely with economic motives in mind and they do not take into account the rights of workers and the inequalities and gaps, which are increasingly large in our modern society.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I appreciated my colleague's history lesson. There is a lot to be learned from it such as what can go right or wrong and what we should reconsider for the future.

I would like to hear her comments about what we can learn from these NAFTA-style agreements, which were intended to be between two nations of relatively equal bargaining power, countries from “industrialized” nations that would work together on these trade deals. However, this is a trade deal where we put Panama, a developing nation, in place and it sets up a relationship of exploitation. These trade deals should not be about that.

Does she have comments about that?

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I agree entirely with my colleague. Indeed, this free trade treaty is being entered into by two partners that do not have the same power or population size. What trade do we have with Panama? What will the agreements be? Why not have, as we proposed, agreements that encompass bigger regions, so that we can negotiate as equals?

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-24. Back on February 7, 2011, I spoke to the bill when it was Bill C-46. Sadly, the concerns I raised then have not been addressed.

I also want to acknowledge the very good work that has been done by the member for Windsor West and the member for Burnaby—New Westminster. Back in those days, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster proposed a number of amendments to the free trade agreement, including amendments that would deal with some of the issues around sustainable development and investment. The government did not see fit to incorporate these amendments.

As well, that bill had gone to committee, had some extensive review and had a number of concerns raised around labour, human rights and the investment climate. Again, none of those concerns were taken into consideration when the bill was resubmitted to the House.

Members can probably gather by the tenor of my introduction that the NDP is opposed to this bill for a number of reasons. One of those concerns is the poor record of labour rights in the country. I did mention the fundamental flaws that were addressed by amendments proposed by the member for Burnaby—New Westminster.

The government talked about taking on tax havens. However, one of the most glaring flaws in the agreement is that tax disclosure issues have yet to be meaningfully addressed, despite protestations to the contrary by the Panamanian government.

Often in the House we will hear members opposite talk about the NDP never seeing a trade agreement that it liked, and it is for a very good reason. In fact, we have actually supported a trade agreement. However, what comes up consistently is the fact that the government continues to negotiate trade agreements that do not take into consideration the social and economic justice that we think is fundamental to what should be included in them.

The government also does not negotiate these agreements in an open and transparent way. We only have to look at what is happening currently with the CETA agreement. I know that I and many members of the House get numerous emails about the fact that this agreement has been negotiated behind closed doors, that we do not know what the impact will be on our agricultural communities, on pharmaceuticals, on access to natural health products and that our municipalities may be hampered in their procurement processes.

This is just an example of an agreement that could have a very far-reaching impact, and yet Canadians have no input. They have no ability to get at the very meat of what the agreement is about.

When we talk about how we should negotiate these agreements, Panama would have been a great start to having a fair trade agreement versus a free trade agreement. One of the fundamental principles is fair trade. I want to talk about some of those principles and what is absent in the Panamanian agreement.

This is an older article, but I thought it did a very good job of outlining the principles of fair trade. It is from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Richard Tarnoff, in October 2004. In this article he says:

While the principles of “fair trade” have been around for a long time, and are primarily based on ideas of human rights and economic justice, the fair trade movement is a relatively recent development. To a large degree, it is a response to the rapid growth in the global economy, in which more and more of what we consume is being produced in Third World countries, where labour and environmental standards are low or non-existent.

He talks about both the principles of fair trade and the fair trade movement. Many of us are very familiar with the fair trade movement. Many of us, when we go to buy our coffee, look to see if it is fair trade certified. There are also principles that apply to fair trade when negotiating these kinds of international agreements.

Tarnoff goes on to say:

One response to this situation has been the effort by labour, environmental and human rights organizations to have minimum standards included in trade agreements. Sometimes described as the demand for “fair trade rules,” these efforts have been vigorously opposed by the multinational corporations for the obvious reason that this is what makes production in Third World countries so profitable.

When he talks about profitable, he talks about how, in these countries, people are paid grim wages, not remotely close to living wages, often in desperate working conditions. Canadians benefit from those kinds of working conditions. We would not want to see any of our neighbours, our children, our brothers or sisters working in those kinds of conditions. Yet because we continue to negotiate the kinds of trade agreements that are before us today, we continue to profit from somebody else's misery.

I will not go over all the principles of fair trade that he outlined, but I want to touch on a couple. I can imagine Canadians listening to this would say that this makes absolute sense, that a trade principle should be that there would be no forced labour and exploitive child labour. It makes sense. We would not want to see young children working 10, 12 hours a day in hot, overcrowded conditions with no lunch breaks, no adequate remuneration. Never mind remuneration, why would we exploit them in the first place children? Most Canadians would agree that makes sense.

What about encouraging sustainable production techniques? It would make sense that when we import agricultural products from countries, we would want to ensure that they would be sustainable, that they would not use the kinds of pesticides not accepted in Canada, that their workers would be protected from access and that they would have all the safety standards and safety equipment needed so when they handled pesticides and herbicides, they would not become ill. The life expectancy of many farm workers in developing countries is so low it is embarrassing.

Another principle is that working conditions be healthy and safe. That just makes sense. Too many of us have heard the horror stories about children who have been trapped in factories as they have burned down because there are no exit doors. They have long days with no breaks, working seven days a week and not having adequate living conditions when they leave those factories. Working conditions that are healthy and safe just make sense.

Another principle is that equal employment opportunities be provided. This means women have access to good paying jobs, that they are not disadvantaged, that they have access to management jobs in some of these factories and that all aspects of trade and productions are open to public accountability.

Recently we saw the backlash against Apple when it turned out that some of the factories producing some of its component parts were not open and public and that the public was demanding the kind of a accountability to ensure workers were not being taken advantage of.

This is a bit of an aside, but it does link to the trade agreements. Tarnoff goes on to say:

It is not only Third World farmers who have become victims to the economics of globalization. Many small farmers in Canada and the U.S. have found themselves struggling to survive in markets dominated by giant corporations. One solution has been the development of a type of “fair trade” called Community Shared Agriculture, in which urban customers enter into agreements to have a local grower supply them with all their produce for the year. So far, over 1,000 farms in North America have made this arrangement.

When we talk about sustainability, ensuring that there is not exploitive practices, Canadians can support our local farmers, get to know them and buy their produce. Community shared agriculture is a way to ensure that farmers stay in business, especially the smaller farmers.

My riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan has a number of CSA farmers, and I am proud to be one of their supporters. We also have a fisherman who has taken the initiative to have a community supported fishery, so he does the same thing as the agriculture sector. He sells shares in advance so he can ensure he has a livelihood to support himself and his family. That is the kind of community supported agriculture we should encourage both in Canada and in countries with which we develop trade practices.

He goes on in this article, and there has been criticisms from the multinationals about any concept of fair trade, to talk about some typical criticism that have come from some of the mainstream economists. He mentions Professor John Ikerd, professor emeritus of Agricultural Economics. He said it was interesting that when economics laws and theories about fair trade being ethically right and being social justice, how suddenly the multinationals and their friends talked about how harmful it would be for the economy.

We need to do a much better job of incorporating principles in trade that are not just about the bottom line. There has to be a social justice component of it so that workers and their families have access to adequate wages and income, that the environment is not damaged and that there is a reasonable and fair distribution of wealth.

I encourage all members of the House to vote against this legislation and send the government back to the drawing board so it can come back with a fair trade agreement, not a free trade agreement.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

John Rafferty Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am always very impressed when my friend and colleague, the hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan, speaks, not just because of her background and knowledge, but also because of the passion with which she speaks. I certainly appreciate that.

One of the passions we have on this side of the House is protecting jobs, ensuring that resources are protected and that secondary manufacturing takes place whenever possible. In this case, we are not just talking about Canada, we are talking about Panama and their point of view.

We have an expression in northern Ontario that Conservatives are always very happy to give away the trees and buy back the furniture. One of the things we have to do is ensure we protect jobs. We also have to ensure that Panamanian jobs are protected.

Would my colleague care to comment on that?

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Thunder Bay--Rainy River and I share something in common from very different parts of the country. Nanaimo--Cowichan, where I live, is very rich in forestry resources, yet we see logging truck after logging truck going south, taking our jobs with them. In fact, in Nanaimo--Cowichan our sawmills are closing down and our pulp mills are in danger because they do not have access to chips.

When the member talks about protecting Canadian jobs, he is absolutely right. These trade agreements need to do two things. They need to protect Canadian jobs. They also need to make sure that we are not taking advantage of workers in developing countries through exploitive labour practices when they work in unsafe conditions, get paid dirt wages and die before an average life expectancy.

If we want to have a reasonable approach, and as a rich country we are supposed to be upholding human rights, what are we doing negotiating trade agreements that are not protecting the rights of workers in Panama, Colombia and other countries?

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

March 29th, 2012 / 12:45 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for her contribution to this debate. She outlined some of the principles that are fundamental to what we would call a fair trade agreement. She spoke of the economic piece, of course, but she also mentioned that the social and environmental elements are critical. She talked about human rights, labour conditions and environmental practices. Essentially, she talked about the inequity that would exist if this trade deal went through in its current form, notwithstanding some of the attempts we have made to make amendments.

If there were really true political will to address some of these issues would this side of the House, and would my hon. colleague, be supportive of this kind of trade deal that included these elements?

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for New Westminster--Coquitlam has been a tireless advocate on the environmental front, whether it is fish habitat, or as many Canadians know, when he swam the Fraser River a couple of times to highlight the kind of environmental destruction that was happening on the Fraser River. That is a very important piece of what New Democrats stand for.

New Democrats have made proposals for better trade agreements. We have talked about the fact that we need to look at the environmental, social and economic aspects. We cannot look at these in isolation, just pick one part and say it is good for the economy. What we have not had in this country is a really good and thorough review of whether these trade agreements have been good for Canadians, for our economy, for our environment and for jobs in our country. I would suggest that would be a good starting place, to look at the real impacts of those agreements on Canadian workers and then decide how to proceed with the trade agreement.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I feel all fired up after hearing the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan. She gave a great summary of how the NDP feels about the bill and why we are opposed to it. I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-24, the free trade agreement between Canada and Panama.

This is not the first time that we have dealt with the bill and not the first time that we have fought the bill. It came to the House in the last Parliament. It was passed at second reading. It went to committee and many witnesses were called. It started to go through a clause-by-clause review. It was finally concluded in December 2010, but then died on the order paper at the dissolution of the 40th Parliament.

The legislation was reintroduced in November 2011. We do get to have another kick at the can, so to speak.

I just want to outline why we on the NDP side feel so strongly opposed to this bill and other trade agreements that we feel are exploitative, narrow and, as the previous member said, do not take a comprehensive approach.

I want to thank the labour movement, the Canadian Labour Congress. Individual unions have paid enormous attention to some of these bills. I remember the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement, which we opposed vigorously in this House for several years, as did the labour movement. We really feel that these trade agreements lay down a regime. They continue the NAFTA-style agreement that does not respect the integrity of human rights, that does not respect or even understand what needs to be addressed in the signing country and what Canada's role is in these agreements.

I think sometimes the Conservative government thinks that nobody is watching these innocuous bills, that these trade agreements are boring and technical, and that they will just slip through.

The fact is many groups pay attention to these particular trade agreements, whether it is the Council of Canadians, the Canadian Labour Congress or individual unions. I know the steelworkers did an incredible amount of work on the Canada-Colombia trade agreement because of their concern about labour rights and human rights in Colombia.

In my own community in east Vancouver, there is a whole movement of what is called fair trade. Commercial Drive is the first community in Canada that has a fair trade retail district. Stores are encouraged to purchase for their own use and to sell retail to customers products that have been obtained through fair trade practices, that are certified, transparent and healthy.

It is a consumer movement. It is partly in reaction to these massive trade agreements that are now being sent through this House, not just by Canada, but also by other governments. I do think it is important to know that there is an incredible amount of interest in the whole notion of fair trade that respects the rights, the environment and social justice in the country that we are trading with and also respects the need for jobs here in Canada.

This is a pretty large issue. If the government thinks it is just sort of sliding it through with no one watching, I think that is clearly not the case.

I want to highlight a couple of the things that we tried to do because, as the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan said, in the NDP we are not just opposing, we are actually proposing. We are being very proactive, putting forward amendments and trying to suggest what would improve a trade agreement.

When it went to the committee last year, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster was our trade critic at the time. He did an incredible job of providing awareness about this trade agreement and the Canada-Colombia agreement. He moved numerous motions to try to address some of the grievous aspects of the bill, and he focused on the fact that the bill would do nothing with respect to the tax haven environment in Panama.

I was not at the committee, but I know from the member that there were many witnesses who spoke about their concerns with the tax haven environment in Panama and its poor record on labour rights. The member valiantly tried to put forward amendments to address this. It is very distressing to know that both the Conservative and Liberal members of that committee shot down these amendments. Therefore, there were attempts made at committee to make this agreement a better agreement. It seems to me that is our job as legislators.

I think it is important to note for the record that the Canadian government has requested greater tax information and transparency from Panama. It is very concerning that Panama has refused to sign a tax information exchange agreement. In fact, this has led the OECD to label the nation a tax haven. Is this the kind of place we should be trading with?

We expect transparency in our country. Although it is a struggle, we are always working to ensure it happens. If we are to introduce a new agreement and develop a new trading relationship with a country, surely these are the kinds of provisions that should be front and centre in that agreement. It is very unfortunate that Panama refused to sign a tax information exchange agreement. That should sound a warning bell that there is a problem here.

The member for Burnaby—New Westminster moved a motion which would have stopped the implementation of the trade agreement until Panama agreed to sign a tax information exchange agreement. However, that too was defeated.

He also moved amendments that would have required the Minister of International Trade to consult with labour and trade unions as well as work with human rights experts and organizations in order to create impact assessments for the trade agreement. To me, this is very important.

We recognize that there is a serious problem. There needs to be ongoing evaluation, assessment and monitoring. Surely our minister responsible for these areas should be able to consult with labour and trade unions as well as human rights organizations who work in this area to know what is happening on the ground. We are not talking about theoretical situations. We are talking about serious human rights violations. We are talking about serious labour violations where workers do not have the right to collective agreements or the right to strike. Their ability to organize as a union is sometimes threatened in a collective and personal sense. That is a very serious situation.

Therefore, it seemed to us to be a very reasonable suggestion to put forward as an amendment that the minister would want to know what was going on. He would want to consult with the organizations that are aware of these situations to be able to have impact assessments as part of the agreement. One would think that would have been supported, but no, that was defeated too.

The member also put forward amendments that would have protected trade union workers in Panama by offering the right to collective bargaining as well as requiring the Minister of International Trade as the principle representative of Canada to consult on a regular basis with organizations in our country. That was defeated too.

The bill has a sorry history and it is back before us again. We will do our utmost to defeat the bill. It should go back to the drawing board. There should be a reverse in favour of an agreement that is based on the principles of fair, sustainable and equitable trade which builds trading relationships and partnerships with other countries, that supports the principles of social justice and human rights, while also expanding economic opportunities. That is what fair trade is about. That is what we should be doing in this agreement.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Vancouver East for laying out some of the NDP's sincere and legitimate concerns about this bill and the points we have been trying to make. We have been urging the government to take into consideration and accommodate some of the reasonable concerns we have had about this.

I would like to focus on one comment my colleague made. Essentially the hon. member for Vancouver East was making the point that a free trade agreement with Canada is not a right; it is more a privilege.

In fact, if one wants to become a member of the community of free trading nations, one should be agreeing to a set of standards and rules that in fact stipulate that the standards of wages and living conditions in one's home country be elevated, complementing those high standards of wages and living conditions in the trading partner, in this case Canada. In other words, we should be raising up the conditions of these countries to our level and not allowing our standards to be pulled down to their level. It seems like a very straightforward notion, to my mind.

Is that in fact the basis of her objections to this agreement as it stands?

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre for his very thoughtful comments.

Where is the freedom in this whole notion of free trade? Really, it is the freedom to move capital wherever one wants, without any rules and restrictions, in disregard for labour standards, jobs, human rights, the environment and social questions.

I think the hon. member is entirely correct when he says that the fundamental principles should be about upholding those rights as we know them in Canada. However, let us remember that those rights are also based on international standards as laid out by the International Labour Organization, such as the right to collective bargaining, the right to speech, the right to strike. There are a number of conventions that, regrettably, even Canada is not a signatory to. However, there are conventions that lay out these very important foundational principles.

I entirely agree that trade agreements have to be negotiated within the context of those and not in isolation and removed from them.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Paulina Ayala Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague what she thinks about the government's vision regarding free trade agreements.

Do we find, in these agreements, the sincere ambition of a government to contribute to enhancing the quality of life of our economic partners? Do we find, in these agreements, Canada's undertaking to support these countries to improve social conditions, while honouring individual and collective rights, labour standards, and environmental and other standards?

In other words, is the government trying to capitalize on the weaknesses of certain countries in these areas?

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, one of the objections we have had is that this particular agreement is seeking to continue what we call the NAFTA model. Of course, NAFTA was the first big agreement that happened.

There was the failure of the free trade area of the Americas agreement, the FTAA. I know many of us were in Quebec City a number of years ago, protesting against that. It was shot down. Since its failure, now we see the Canadian government seeking to have bilateral agreements, but these are still based on the NAFTA model.

Therefore, I entirely agree with the hon. member's correct assessment of that model. It is a very narrow corporate model based on the flow of capital. It does not take into consideration labour rights, social rights, human rights, the environment and other social questions. That is why it must be rejected.

We are always told that we are against trade. Who could be against trade? We are not against trade; we are in favour of fair trade that is based on important international principles. Then we could advance good agreements that would actually benefit both countries and their workers.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, as we know, Panama is an important partner to us in this hemisphere. Having visited this country a few years ago and having worked with Panamanian counterparts in various contexts, I believe that it is truly a country with which we should have closer ties. However, these ties must be based on sustainable and fair principles that benefit both countries. Yet the free trade agreement that is before us today really does not meet these criteria. In fact, this agreement is problematic in a number of ways. I will not hide the fact that many of these problems are common to a number of our free trade agreements. Despite this, I would like to revisit some of these problems, as some of my colleagues have done.

To begin with, it should be noted that there are problems when it comes to environmental protection. I will not elaborate on these problems today, because many of my colleagues have described them at length and, in any case, my time is short. There are also problems as far as protecting workers is concerned. For example, under the system we will end up with, investors will have the right to request compulsory arbitration that they can conduct independently, however a union can only file a complaint and it will be up to governments to seek and obtain remedies. Why this double standard? This is once again a whittling away of workers’ rights. This is not good for Panamanian or Canadian workers. When you start chipping away at the rights of workers in another country, what happens? We have seen this in the past. Companies relocate jobs to these countries and we lose manufacturing jobs left, right and centre, as we have seen in recent years. In short, that creates a system where nobody benefits.

There is also a somewhat more specific problem in this case, and that is the absence of a tax information exchange agreement. This is a major problem. We know that, at best, Panama is in a grey area when it comes to its tax haven status. We believe that Canada must help Panama and encourage it to be more fiscally transparent. The negotiation of a free trade agreement is an opportunity to do just that. We want to work with Panama to help stop the money laundering that is, unfortunately, happening in the country, and to help stop the funding of drug trafficking. This is a problem that affects the entire hemisphere and that has tragic consequences for Panama, the hemisphere and Canada.

I think that we should really require Panama to sign a tax information exchange agreement. Some say that the double taxation agreement will be enough. If double taxation agreements were enough, tax information exchange agreements would never have been invented. Double taxation agreements apply to legitimate and official earnings, but the problem is all the other revenue.

We are being told that the double taxation agreement covers some ground, but my fundamental question is this: why not have a tax information exchange agreement? Why not?

Who stands to lose if such an agreement were signed? It would certainly not be Canada, and I do not imagine that Panama would either. In fact, such an agreement would help put Panama in a position to better meet international standards, for example, its obligations under the OECD.

What we proposed was very simple: suspend the free trade agreement until a system is in place for exchanging tax information. The Conservatives rejected this proposal. Why did they reject it? What is the rush? Are they going to tell us that our national economy is at risk, as they did with the Air Canada situation?

Bilateral trade between Canada and Panama represents less than 1% of our trade. There is no rush. We can wait. We can use our tools and energy to help Panama meet international standards. This would help Panama. It would help the entire hemisphere, and clearly, it would also help Canada.

Meanwhile, the free trade agreement does not include the exchange of tax information. What would be the impact of signing such an agreement? According to Mr. Tucker, the research director for Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, this would make things worse for Panama. I would like to read some of what he said, because it is really very interesting and it gets to the heart of the matter.

The Canada-Panama trade deal would worsen the tax haven problem. As the OECD has noted, having a trade agreement without first tackling Panama's financial secrecy practices could incentivize even more offshore tax dodging. But there's a reason to believe that the trade deal will not only increase tax haven abuses but will also make fighting them that much harder.

Chapter 9 of the Panama agreement expands the investor-state system under NAFTA, under which Canada has paid out hundreds of millions of dollars in legal fees and compensation to U.S. investors. Canada's defensive interests are many in the case of the Panama pact, because there are hundreds of thousands of U.S., Chinese, Cayman, and even Canadian corporations that can attack Canadian regulations by using aggressive nationality planning through their Panamanian subsidiaries.

In short, the free trade agreement as written, without a tax information exchange agreement, will hurt Panama because it will worsen the situation there, increasing abuses and making fighting them even harder. It will also hurt Canada.

I will repeat my questions: why not wait, and why not include a tax information exchange agreement?

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
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1:15 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, the foreign affairs critic for the NDP. We benefit greatly from her views. Having been a diplomat in the Canadian foreign service, she has first-hand knowledge and experience of some of these matters of which she speaks.

I ask the member this. How did we arrive at this position? It begs the question, were the people around table negotiating on behalf of Canada involved in some treachery? Were they merely incompetent? What was their bargaining position?

Where I come from, one tries to bargain from a position of strength. As the dominant party in this trade agreement, in the overwhelming elephant-to-mouse relationship in this agreement, surely we would be dictating the terms and conditions of any ultimate agreement we come to. Therefore, were they incompetent or did they deliberately sign an agreement that is not in the best interests of Canada for some other unknown motivation?