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 trade.

Topics

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

11:50 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Brossard—La Prairie for the question.

A completely different approach is needed. The European Union has regulations that compel member countries to use the highest standards to protect the environment in their trade transactions.

If we did the same thing here, we would say that Panama must improve its environmental standards to be at least equal to Canada's, and that Canada will provide trade assistance to make sure it is able to do that.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Hoang Mai Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise here today to speak to Bill C-24 to implement the free trade agreement between Canada and the Republic of Panama—and there is something else after that title.

At present, we have time to discuss and debate. I would like to point out that the NDP supports free trade agreements. We agree that Canada must trade with other countries. We realize that the Canadian economy relies on trade. So we have no problem with that. However, in this case, we believe that the government is not showing any leadership. Yes, it negotiated this agreement with another country, but why did it take such a narrow-minded approach? Why not look at more countries, in order to really establish better criteria?

I am not sure if any of my Conservative colleagues have read it, but I highly recommend the book Fair Trade for All by Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize winner in economics. The book looks at sustainable development—which we are trying to promote—and global fair trade. It also talks about strengthening ties in order to fight poverty and the problems of inequity. I would like to give my colleagues across the floor a little wake-up call: Canada and many other countries have a huge problem with inequity.

According to the OECD and the Conference Board, there is a huge and ever-increasing gap between the rich and the poor. And it is growing faster in Canada than it is in the United States. The OECD can prove it. So we have some problems in that regard.

I would now like to discuss more specifically this bill dealing with the free trade agreement with Panama, which poses two problems. First of all, Panama is a known tax haven. That presents a problem when it comes to doing business and negotiating with a country. Certain clauses must be taken into account, especially regarding tax evasion. The Quebec branch of the Association for the Taxation of Financial Transactions and for Citizens' Action recently prepared a submission on Panama and concluded that such an agreement would be tantamount to legitimizing a tax haven.

I invite my colleagues to read a December 2010 article from Le Devoir that says that “Panama is a tax haven, and not just any tax haven: it is one of the most active, one of the least co-operative and of the most integrated with organized crime”. Those comments were made by people from the outside. If we are going to conclude an agreement with Panama, then there needs to be more leadership with regard to tax evasion.

As the national revenue critic for the official opposition, I find that the government has not done enough. We will see in today's budget, which we are anxiously awaiting. A motion was moved at the Standing Committee on Finance to continue the work done in the previous parliamentary session, but, unfortunately, the motion has been set aside. I hope that the members opposite will accept the motion, which will be debated on Tuesday. The motion proposes that we use all necessary means to address tax evasion and tax havens. I think that my colleagues can agree on that. We are talking about revenue that Canada is losing through fraudulent means. I cannot see why we would not address these problems. I should mention that the Liberals did not do much about this either.

To come back to the agreement, one of the major problems is that Panama has refused to sign a tax information exchange agreement. That is very disturbing considering that Panama is known for its money laundering activities, including money from drug trafficking.

When the committee considered the bill during the 40th Parliament, Todd Tucker, from Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, provided a very interesting testimony.

He made a compelling case that Panama is one of the world's worst tax havens and that the Panamanian government has deliberately allowed the country to become a tax haven.

In his statement, he 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. This is almost four times the number of corporations registered in Canada. So Panama is not just any developing country.

...for decades, the Panamanian government has pursued an intentional tax haven strategy. It offers foreign banks and firms a special offshore licence to conduct business there. Not only are these businesses not taxed, but they're subject to little to no reporting requirements or regulations.

We believe that signing a free trade agreement that does not include a tax information exchange agreement with a country known for its lack of transparency and for being a tax haven is tantamount to promoting tax evasion. The government has to do something about that problem.

Proposals were made in committee. My colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster, the finance critic for the official opposition, worked very hard and proposed amendments that would have made it possible to support this bill. And then there are the component on workers' rights and the problems from an environmental standpoint, which I will come back to if I have time.

My colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster had proposed delaying the application or even the implementation of this agreement until Canada and Panama signed an agreement for the exchange of taxation information. Unfortunately, the Conservatives and Liberals defeated the motion, since both parties claimed to be satisfied with the double taxation component.

As we know, this does not address the issue of transparency or the fact that Panama is still considered a tax haven, nor does it fix the problem of information exchange.

I do not understand why the Conservatives and Liberals do not want to deal with tax havens and go after these funds.

Canadians are currently being asked to tighten their belts. The government is going to table an austerity budget. Yet, it is possible to generate revenue without necessarily cutting spending and jobs. It is possible to generate revenue from criminals—let us call a spade a spade—who exploit tax havens. Some do so legally, others illegally. Why not deal with that?

I was very disappointed that the Standing Committee on Finance refused to conduct this study. I hope that next time, on Tuesday, in the Standing Committee on Finance, the government will agree to undertake a more in-depth study of this.

Moreover, today and tomorrow, there is a conference on tax havens. I would invite my colleagues opposite to attend it.

This issue is very important. It is pathetic that such an incredible amount of money is being lost.

The Canada Revenue Agency has been called upon to address this issue, as has the Minister of National Revenue. We hope that certain problems will be addressed, otherwise we will be faced with a fiscal crisis, especially given the government's decision to cut corporate taxes and allow tax havens to exist unchecked. There are a lot of problems. We are realizing this, and are losing money. Unfortunately, the government is not doing anything about it.

Then there are workers' rights, another very important subject: when free trade agreements are unfair, workers—and, therefore, the public—lose money. It is a violation of their rights, including the right to bargain. It is an attack on the rights of the middle class, which supports the economy and the whole country. It only increases the gap between the rich and the poor.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

Noon

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his speech, which was very interesting, particularly his explanation of the flaws in this free trade bill.

He mentioned a writer, Joseph Stiglitz, who said that we can sign free trade agreements that are fairer and more just.

I would like him to elaborate a little on the recommendations made that well-known writer's book.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

Noon

NDP

Hoang Mai Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her question.

The author is indeed Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize winner in economics who wrote a book specifically about how to ensure that trade is fairer and more just.

His analysis was based on the agreements that have been signed. One of the things that has to be considered is fighting poverty. The time to do that is during negotiations, and that is where we are at present.

Earlier, we heard the Liberals saying it was better to sign right away and fix the problem later. I think that would mean missing a good opportunity. When you are negotiating, you really have to think about sustainable development, the environment, and some kind of balance when it comes to social justice. That can be done. We are living in a period of globalization and trade is on the rise. Canada is part of that world, and so trade is important. In negotiations, we must consider not only the interests of the multinationals, as is the problem now, but also sustainable development and making everything fairer.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

Newmarket—Aurora
Ontario

Conservative

Lois Brown Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, it is good to have another Speaker here because I can start reading from the agreement. The last Speaker was a little disturbed that I was maybe reading a little too much.

I have read Joseph Stiglitz, and he does promote some interesting ideas.

The bill we are discussing today would implement the free trade agreement, an agreement that is rather lengthy and has quite a number of things set out in it that we would work on together. I refer him to article 20.06 which talks about co-operation to promote increased transparency. Under that, it has a number of definitions and anti-corruption measures.

Could he tell me if he has read those and why does he oppose them?

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Hoang Mai Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her questions.

Yes, I have read them and I am aware of them. These amendments clearly propose that we sign a genuine free trade agreement. We are now talking about co-operation. We want action; we want something concrete. Unfortunately, the problem is that the government still has a very narrow vision.

Has an agreement to exchange tax information been signed? No. That is what we are saying.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, the question I would like to ask my colleague from Brossard—La Prairie relates to the process associated with trade agreements and free trade agreements.

All negotiations with other countries are over before the bills get here. The Prime Minister is making announcements about a free trade agreement with China, and another one with Japan.

What does he think the role of members is when free trade agreements are signed before they can be debated here?

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Hoang Mai Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the leader of the Green Party for her question.

I agree with her that this government is not entirely transparent and often presents us with a fait accompli. We see this in virtually every regard.

When we want to debate, it gags us, and when we want to talk about something as fundamental as a free trade agreement, it presents us with a fait accompli. And when we propose amendments, it rejects them. There has been no real public debate about this. None of the groups that work to protect the environment or to protect workers’ rights have been heard.

The real role of the government and the House is to discuss and debate all the issues from various angles. Unfortunately, this government is very much lacking in transparency.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Laurin Liu Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today on Bill C–24, a bill to implement the free trade agreement between Canada and the Republic of Panama, signed in May 2010, and the related agreements on labour co-operation and the environment.

I remind members that the predecessor to this bill, Bill C–46, died on the order paper when the 40th Parliament was dissolved, because the Conservative minority government was unable to get the bill passed by a parliamentary majority. Today, emboldened by its parliamentary majority, the government is trying to foist this bill on Canadians despite the fact that 60% of Canadians voted against this government.

Allow me to briefly remind members why this agreement is at the root of so much controversy.

To begin with, there is the issue of tax evasion. Panama is known as a tax haven because it offers taxation advantages to non-resident investors. It provides foreign banks and companies with extraterritorial licenses that allow them to conduct business in Panama. Not only are these companies not taxed, they are subject to very few, if any, obligations.

The local authority's soft line on taxation, banking and legal matters has enabled this country of three million inhabitants to become the financial centre of Central America, with the second largest naval fleet in the world due to ships flying flags of convenience. Shipowners choose this flag because of how unrestrictive it is in terms of taxation, safety and crew labour rights.

As everybody knows, the Republic of Panama has refused to sign a tax information exchange agreement with Canada. That is very worrying given the high volume of money laundering activities in Panama, especially money from drug trafficking. There is no fiscal transparency in Panama, which in the past has led to the OECD and G20 labelling Panama a tax haven.

In the opinion of Alain Deneault and Claude Vaillancourt, from Attac-Québec—a group that combats tax havens and fights in favour of taxing financial transactions—Panama is certainly one of the tax havens that is the most active, the least co-operative, and the most closely tied to organized crime. I quote:

Panama's bad reputation is certainly well-deserved. This country's main economic activity is to provide financial services to drug traffickers and multinationals.

Moreover, Patrice Meysonnier of France's judicial police has no hesitation calling Panama a narco-state that is responsible for laundering a large share of the planet's dirty money.

Closer to home, we know that certain Hells Angels leaders in Quebec, who have been on a wanted list since the beginning of Opération SharQc, have taken refuge in Panama. They moved to Panama because they have been able to launder large sums of money there and they hope that the local authorities will not unduly harass them.

On one hand, I find it particularly ironic that this government, which calls itself tough on crime, would enter into a free trade agreement with a country that has become a shelter for criminals and their money without at least first obtaining a fiscal and banking co-operation agreement.

On the other hand, while this government prepares to table an austerity budget this afternoon, and is calling on Canadian families to tighten their belts, how can the government facilitate the erosion of the Canadian tax base by signing such an accommodating treaty?

While members of the G20 have stressed the importance of dealing with the problems caused by tax havens, once again the Conservative government is reneging on its word and doing the exact opposite by opening up a new front to facilitate tax leakage. Honestly, what a farce.

Another problem with this bill is that the Canada–Panama trade agreement has no mechanism to protect the rights of workers that have so often been flouted in the past. Allow me to provide a couple of examples from last year, 2011.

Thirty-three employees of Panama Gaming & Services were laid off for trying to start a union. The Panamanian government did nothing to help them. These layoffs constitute a blatant violation of workers' rights and, more specifically, a violation of the International Labour Organization's Convention 87, which pertains to freedom of association and the protection of the right to organize, a convention that Panama has ratified.

Here is another example.

On July 8, 2011, security forces used violence to end a union demonstration, leaving at least six dead and 700 injured. Several hundred people were also arrested. The freedom to demonstrate was clearly violated.

The government regularly uses intimidation tactics on union leaders. For example, in the summer of 2011, the under secretary general of a large construction union was arbitrarily arrested and detained for a week. And that is not to mention all the anti-union laws passed by the country's current government.

It is important to remember that the right to strike is prohibited in the Canal Zone and that the government recently passed legislation to undermine the rights and freedoms of public servants. In the public sector, the minimum number of workers required to form a union was increased to 50 in order to make it more difficult to do so.

By signing a free trade agreement with Panama without requiring the country to take concrete action to protect the right of association and the right to strike, Canada is condoning the Panamanian government's actions.

I suppose that we cannot expect any better from this Conservative government, which, even here at home, has taken action that violates workers' rights. We need only think about the special bill that the government recently passed to suspend the right to strike of 3,000 pilots and 8,600 mechanics, baggage handlers and cargo agents who work for Air Canada. Bill C-33 was a fundamental attack on the right to freely negotiate a collective agreement.

One of the most worrisome aspects of the agreement is found in the chapter on investment. In fact, chapter 9 is modelled on chapter 11 of NAFTA, which allows a corporation to sue a government for creating barriers to trade by implementing a regulation.

According to Todd Tucker of Public Citizen, who appeared before the Standing Committee on International Trade on November 17, 2010.

....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.

I am very concerned that major foreign multinationals will be able to have trade tribunals challenge and perhaps even invalidate a decision made by a democratically elected government or parliament in order to protect public health or the environment, for example.

In the previous Parliament, the NDP presented a series of amendments in an attempt to address these shortcomings. Our colleague for Burnaby—New Westminster suggested adding provisions on sustainable investment, a requirement for fiscal transparency and provisions to incorporate workers' rights, especially the right to collective bargaining, into the bill. All these amendments were voted down by the Conservatives, with the support of the Liberals. This time we hope that the government will look more favourably on our amendments. I would like to recognize the work of my colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster in this matter.

Unlike the Conservative government, which has its sights set only on trade and profits, the NDP is proposing a trade policy that is fair and based on social justice and sustainable development. We want everyone, and not just big corporations, to benefit from economic development.

We believe that Canada's trade policy should be based on the principles of fair, sustainable and equitable trade, trade that builds partnerships with other countries that support the principles of social justice and human rights without ignoring the need to develop trade opportunities.

I know that I have just one minute remaining and I will close by speaking of the five pillars of the NDP's fair trade strategy.

First, we are proposing that an impact analysis of all international trade agreements be carried out in order to determine whether or not trade agreements negotiated by Canada benefit Canadian families, workers and industries.

Second, we are proposing that there be a guarantee that trade agreements negotiated by Canada strengthen Canada's sovereignty and its freedom to establish its own policy.

Third is the fundamental principle that all trade agreements must protect and promote human rights, which Canadians deem essential.

All trade agreements should also respect sustainable development and the integrity of all ecosystems. Last, any time the Government of Canada signs a free trade agreement, the decision to proceed with enabling legislation must be voted on in the House of Commons.

I will take questions now.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Newmarket—Aurora
Ontario

Conservative

Lois Brown Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, the analysis that has been done on every free trade agreement that Canada has signed has made it better for Canadian families. We know it creates jobs and opportunities.

I know people in Newmarket—Aurora who are anxious to see a free trade agreement with Panama because, coming from communities in Panama, they have expertise in the language and culture. They would be very happy if we were to open the doors and allow them to do business with Panama.

I will read chapter 18 of the Canada-Panama free trade agreement with respect to labour. It states:

The Parties affirm their obligations as members of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and their commitments to the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (1998) and its follow-up as well as their continuing respect for each other's Constitution and laws.

Given that the free trade agreement states what labour agreements would be in place and given that chapter 17 talks about agreements on the environment, why does the member not see that this would open doors and opportunities for the people of Panama?

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Laurin Liu Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, to be perfectly honest, my constituents do not trust the government when it comes to workers' rights. The government violates workers' rights here at home and could not care less about the rights of workers in other countries.

I would like to remind the House that the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster proposed two amendments to protect workers' rights, one giving them the right to collective bargaining and the other requiring the Minister of International Trade, Canada's lead delegate to the Joint Commission on the Canada-Panama Free Trade Agreement, to consult regularly with Canadian workers and unions.

Why does the government not support these amendments?

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

March 29th, 2012 / 12:20 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is perfect timing for me to address the House on this budget day concerning the Canada-Panama free trade agreement.

Clearly, Canada is becoming a leader in primary resource exports, and it seems to have found its niche: exporting jobs that belong to Canadian workers.

The day before yesterday, I met with the Aveos workers who demonstrated on Parliament Hill to express their indignation at the unilateral closure without warning of the company's three facilities in Montreal, Winnipeg and Vancouver. The Montreal region lost 1,800 jobs, and the only thing that the Government of Canada is doing about it is asking the Standing Committee on Transport to study the issue. The Conservatives are in no hurry to protect workers and prevent companies from exporting jobs to the United States, Mexico, El Salvador or, in the future, Panama.

One thing is clear: on May 2 of last year, Canadians elected a strong and united NDP opposition to keep Canadian jobs in Canada.

People in the riding of LaSalle—Émard know that the Canada-Panama free trade agreement will lead to the loss of more jobs like the ones hemorrhaging from the aerospace, manufacturing and pharmaceutical research sectors in the greater Montreal area.

In the south east, plant closures have meant the loss of many precious jobs in Montreal. At this time, the people of LaSalle—Émard are once again feeling the threat of impending plant closures and further job losses. I have been assuring them that my NDP colleagues and I will do everything we can to stop that from happening.

As of February, Quebec had lost 70,000 jobs in the previous three months, including 8,000 in the manufacturing sector, according to The Gazette. That sort of hemorrhaging of jobs has not been seen since the 1981 recession. The overwhelming losses in Montreal speak volumes about this government's innovation strategy.

The new year was not a happy one for workers at the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical research centre. On January 10, they learned that the research centre on Notre-Dame Street in Montreal was closing, causing the loss of 36 permanent and 90 contract jobs. The next day, Sanofi announced that about 100 jobs would be lost.

Once again, the Conservatives' failure to act cost us good research jobs in Montreal.

The hemorrhaging continued in February, when 150 jobs were lost at Pfizer.

Next, British pharmaceutical group AstraZeneca announced that it was closing its research and development centre in Montreal after reorganizing its operations. The Montreal region lost 132 full-time jobs when that research centre in Saint-Laurent closed. At the same time, AstraZeneca announced a 23% increase in earnings for the fiscal year.

Next came the closure of appliance manufacturer Mabe, in eastern Montreal. Some 700 workers were laid off. Nonetheless, all the pieces were already in place in 2005, when the Mexican multinational bought Canada's Camco, which was the largest Canadian manufacturer in that sector.

In the final months of the 2010-11 fiscal year, the pharmaceutical company Merck Frosst announced its restructuring plans. It closed its centre for therapeutic research in Kirkland, on Montreal's West Island. Almost all of the employees were laid off. The media reported worries of a brain drain in Montreal.

Let us not forget the 1,300 Electrolux jobs that will be lost in L'Assomption, in the Lanaudière region, when the Swedish appliance manufacturer moves its operations to Memphis in 2013. Another 600 jobs were lost when White Birch Paper in Quebec City closed.

My fellow citizens in the rest of Canada have not been spared by the hollowing out of our economy. The Electro-Motive plant in London is a well-known case where 450 workers were laid off, which affected their families. They will not forget and neither will the NDP.

I also want to remind the House that Caterpillar recorded $4.9 billion profits the previous year and profits were up by a whopping 83%.

In Hamilton, 1,500 workers at Nanticoke were no luckier than their Ontario and Quebec counterparts in 2009 when Stelco closed its shops in 2009.

I would like to share a thought with the members of the House on this day when we are debating the bill on the Canada-Panama free trade agreement and when the government is bringing down its first budget as a majority government.

In a very lucid article titled “The myth of Tory economic performance” in February, the Globe and Mail commentator rightly hammered home what all Canadians know: the Conservatives have, time and time again, painted a rosy picture of their management of the economy. The article states:

To talk of the Tory economic record, we might first address the reddened state of our treasury that’s occasioning the cuts in the coming budget. A pertinent question is whether our deficit is the result of natural economic factors or whether it owes itself to vote-getting political expediency.

In this context, let’s recall a few things. Let’s recall the two-point GST cut that tore a giant hole in the revenue base, accounting for a good deal of the deficit. Let’s recall the prerecession spending – having inherited a $13-billion surplus, the [Conservative] team spent so excessively that we were close to a deficit by the time the recession began. Let’s recall the slashing of corporate tax rates and the government’s easing of mortgage rules and backing of risky loans that further bled the treasury.

Put it all together and what it shows is that, with more prudent fiscal management from the same guy who lectured other countries on debt in Davos, we could have coped with the recession without driving our treasury into a large deficit hole.

As the commentator says, the reality of the Conservatives' economic management is that jobs are being lost and factories are moving abroad. What the Canada-Panama free trade agreement and the Conservative majority government's budget have in store are painful cuts to our research and manufacturing sectors, which is why I am opposed to Bill C-24.

The NDP strongly believes in an alternative and a better form of trading relationship that can be established with Panama and any other country.

We have to have a fair trade policy that puts the pursuit of social justice, strong private-sector social programs and the elimination of poverty at the heart of an effective trade strategy.

Canada’s trade policy should be based on the principles of fair, sustainable and equitable trade, which builds trading partnerships with other countries that support the principles of social justice and human rights while also expanding business opportunity.

We must ensure that the trade agreements Canada negotiates support Canada’s sovereignty and freedom to chart its own policy.

We must adopt a fundamental principle whereby all trade agreements must respect fundamental international labour standards and human rights, and whereby policies are drafted to respect sustainable development and the integrity of all ecosystems.

Moreover, any time the Government of Canada signs a free trade agreement, the decision to proceed with enabling legislation should be subject to a binding vote on whether or not to accept the terms of the agreement.

In closing, I would like to express my gratitude, on behalf of the people of LaSalle—Émard, for this opportunity to speak in the House.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Newmarket—Aurora
Ontario

Conservative

Lois Brown Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, there was a great deal in my colleague's speech that had nothing to do with the Canada-Panama free trade agreement but she did talk about being fair to the people of Panama.

We know that Canada faced a global recession that was not of our making. It came from outside our borders. Canada weathered the storm far better than any other country in the world. We have created over 610,000 net new jobs in this country and we are seeing growth and prosperity. There is much more to do and we know, from other research that has been done, that free trade agreements raise all boats. Here is an opportunity for a free trade agreement that would give the people of Panama opportunity.

I wonder if my colleague could comment on why it is the NDP wants to disallow the Panamanian people from having jobs and opportunities.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
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12:30 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for her question. I would like to mention that we are in favour of increasing our potential number of trading partners. However, we are in the process of negotiating piecemeal agreements that have no global vision and do not contain the necessary parameters to help Panamanians and Canadians. That is why I am opposed to this bill.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Hoang Mai Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague and congratulate her on her excellent speech. This bill deals with a free trade agreement with Panama. Rather than simply oppose everything, we have proposed changes with respect to workers' rights. We believe that these rights need to be taken into account if we are to help the people of Panama and of Canada.

Why, in my colleague’s opinion, should we protect the rights of workers in a free trade agreement with Panama?