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

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Alexandrine Latendresse Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is not every day that I rise to speak about international trade, because it is not really my area of expertise. I will apologize in advance to those who consider themselves to be better informed than I.

I have some concerns about the sudden proliferation of free trade talks initiated by the Conservative government, and I would like to tell the House about them.

The government has decided to enter into no fewer than 16 free trade agreements with various countries. I did say 16. It is an unprecedented and rather worrisome development. I would like to quickly list them.

First of all, there is Asia, with Japan and Korea, followed by Thailand and Singapore. These are the so-called Asian tigers, the solid, dynamic, creative and open economies, supported by reliable, democratic governments.

Then we have India, with its gigantic market and its emerging and promising strength. India is a democratic and talented country, with a future as rich as its fascinating multimillennial past. In addition, it has been a dear friend of Canada for a very long time, a partner on which we can always rely and, in the coming years, it will be an ally of choice.

I will continue with my list.

Next comes the now-famous treaty with the European Union, which comes with agreements with two countries whose economies are increasingly connected with the EU: Turkey and Morocco.

Europe represents an enormous, practically bottomless market. As well, the stabilizing force of the European Union on all aspects of society heralds lasting prospects of prosperity and fruitful trade.

Turkey, too, is a remarkably vigorous country and it is probably desirable to have closer ties with it.

I note in passing that until very recently, Ukraine also fell into that category. Unfortunately, this free trade agreement has been significantly compromised as a result of the anti-democratic actions of the Yanukovich administration, and negotiations may now never produce results.

Then we come to a very small Arab country, the Kingdom of Jordan, the only Middle Eastern country on the list. With the Arab Spring in full bloom, Jordan is still the most stable nation in the region. However, there are still serious reservations about the workers’ rights situation in that country, and the interest the government is taking in it seems to stem from a magnificent exploitive egoism. But that is a discussion for another time.

I would remind this House that two hours from the Jordanian border, in Syria, people are being killed as we speak, simply for trying to exercise their rights. Short-sightedness can be corrected, and geography can be learned.

Then comes a string of small countries in Central America and the Caribbean with weak economies and governments that may or may not be exemplary. This is the Caribbean common market—CARICOM—and it covers the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and, lastly, Panama. The only country missing from the list is Costa Rica, the most stable and most advanced country in the region, with which we already have a free trade agreement in effect.

That completes the list. It is no small number. Frankly, it is unbelievable. What conclusions are we to draw from that list?

First, that wherever the Minister of Foreign Affairs goes, a free trade agreement is never far behind. He hands them out like the Catholic church used to hand out absolutions. If he happened to go through East Timor next week and noticed the least sign of a middle class, we should expect a press briefing.

What is particularly blatant is that Canada is trying to establish specific zones of influence where its commercial activities will be facilitated: the rapidly growing Asia Pacific, Europe and its close allies, and our own backyard, Central America.

And again, Jordan is more or less the odd one out on that list. To the north there is the revolt in Syria, to the west there is complete collapse in Iraq, and to the south there is the most impenetrable country in the world, Saudi Arabia. I find it hard to see what our interest is, but fine, let us move on.

The treaty with the European Union and its satellites has been roundly criticized by nearly everyone. The European Union is much more dynamic and competitive than Canada, and the agreement will jeopardize a number of sectors of our economy and throw open all the doors of all levels of government to the Europeans. The adjustment is going to be brutal, and people are not going to like it.

As well, the tenor and wording of the agreement are secret. Even the European national governments do not know what is being hatched. So the biggest decision about international trade will be announced to us in the grand biblical style of divine revelations, and we will have to live with it because it will be law.

We may as well turn all the lights out while we are at it.

Today we are concerned primarily with Panama. This is a specific case, although the country is located in a targeted geographic group that is much larger. What is unique about this case? We already know. Harsh words have been spoken about it in the House, and I will say it again today. Panama is a tax haven and a narco-state that refuses to comply with international transparency laws. When other countries call it out, it makes some completely symbolic gestures and shirks all its responsibilities.

I am not here to put the Panamanian government on trial, and I do not want to tarnish the reputation of this small country that has a very difficult history, and with good reason. Panama was created by force and has been dominated by the United States throughout its history. It was basically exploited and constantly threatened and, when the time came for Panama to get out from under the United States' thumb, the Americans gave Panama an unbelievable and humiliating thrashing. It is a country that was colonized, insulted and betrayed. I would like to recognize Panama's difficult history. The fact that it was able to recover as it did is a miracle in itself.

However, the methods the Panamanian government used to recover were misguided. Panama is a tax haven where the government closes its eyes to the laundering of money from drug trafficking. I am sticking to this description so as not to hurt the wonderful people who live in Panama and who are innocent of this skulduggery.

This bill is an excellent opportunity to clearly state where the NDP stands on international trade. The NDP is of the opinion that agreements must be fair, equitable, humane, sustainable and responsible. Of course, the government will say that this is certainly the case and that Canada wants to help the economies of the Americas in a fair and sustainable way. The government will tell us again that, if there is a responsible country in the world, it is the great and beautiful country of Canada. That is false.

The only motivation here is a ridiculous love of profit. It is clear to anyone who is not obsessed with the sacred word “profit” that this agreement is motivated by an old colonial reflex to try to become just a little bit richer, despite already being rich. What we have here is a very small agreement with a very small country that will be forgotten next week and that will quickly make a few bigwigs a few million dollars richer. That is the plan. Period.

The NDP believes that this agreement will not benefit the people of Panama in any way. It will serve only to benefit the Panamanian government and our own government. This is completely unfair. The next time the government tells us that it wants to combat tax evasion, we will bring up Panama. The Conservatives have such a superiority complex that they are only too eager to go off and play the white man somewhere.

I have bad news. Since an austerity budget is about to be announced, today seems like the perfect opportunity to say what I think is the primary motivation behind these agreements with Central America. The Conservatives have been telling us non-stop that they created 600,000 jobs since the height of the recession. However, that is impossible for one very simple reason: Canada is experiencing Dutch disease.

What is Dutch disease? It is succumbing to the temptation to develop precious natural resources as quickly as possible with absolutely no regard for anything else. This boosts our currency and everyone thinks, my God, we sure are weathering this crisis well, and it must be because our banking system is better than everyone else's and our bankers are more upstanding, but that is not the case. It is because natural resources development is happening faster, and we are exporting our resources as fast as we can. The immediate impact of that activity is that the industrial sector, which has no connection to the development of the magical resource, is quietly collapsing and disappearing. We bolster our confidence by saying that in a global context, those businesses were not viable anyway. We shrug our shoulders and continue to dig resources out of the ground.

Then the disease spreads to the highest levels of the economy. Jobs in the service sector disappear. Aveos moves to El Salvador, research gets cut, and development is hobbled. Eventually, inflation goes up. That is the scenario. What is the government doing? It is doing whatever it can to sell the country's resources and pump more money into the machine to keep it going.

What about the imaginary 600,000 jobs that the Conservatives like to talk about? Maybe they were created in China, which is great for our relations with China, but we live here. The government needs to plan for Canada's long-term future in a global context. It has to steer clear of easy solutions, sit down and think about things. Unfortunately, thinking is not something this administration tends to do. Why waste time thinking when the government can sign free trade agreements with all comers to pump more fodder into the system? We do not like it.

To sum up, until there is something in place to ensure true sustainable development with Panama, until the workers in that country can count on better protection for their rights, we cannot support this kind of agreement.

New Member
Routine Proceedings

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I have the honour to inform the House that the Clerk of the House has received from the Chief Electoral Officer a certificate of the election and return of Mr. Craig Scott, member for the electoral district of Toronto—Danforth.

Craig Scott, member for the electoral district of Toronto—Danforth, introduced by Mr. Thomas Mulcair.

New Member Introduced
Routine Proceedings

2 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Let the member take his seat.

Elliot Tardif
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, today a funeral is being held for Elliot Tardif, a young boy who suffered from a rare disease and whose struggle led to the creation of a foundation called Les Amis d'Elliot. The foundation's mission is to help sick children in the Bois-Francs-Érable region by supporting organizations that provide physical, mental and social health services to children.

Since its creation, the foundation has raised and distributed over $800,000 in the community, with significant donations to J.-P.-H. Massicotte school, Suzor-Côté CLSC, Centre de stimulation L'Envol, Maison de répit L'Amis-Temps, and Centre de réadaptation InterVal, just to name a few.

Over the years, several local celebrities have been involved in fundraising campaigns to help improve children's quality of life and give their parents a bit of respite and support.

I wish to offer my sincere condolences to Karine and Jérôme, Elliot's parents, and to Samy, his little brother. Their love and courage are a true source of inspiration. I hope they know that their little champion's short time with us has left an invaluable legacy that will go on to help many other sick children.

Thank you, Elliot.

Don Jenkins and Lloyd Dennis
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Bruce Stanton Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, we were saddened to learn of the passing of not one, but two of Orillia's most prominent citizens several weeks ago.

In late February, after a brief battle with cancer, we lost City Councillor Don Jenkins. Don was a consummate booster of community and country. He and Sara would regularly lead or support community causes and events for the arts and history and all that would serve to advance the city Don loved, but his interest did not stop there. He understood how important Canada's efforts were on the international stage and he shared that wisdom regularly.

Just days later, we learned that Lloyd Dennis had passed away. Together with former Ontario Justice Emmet Hall, Lloyd authored the Hall-Dennis report titled “Living and Learning”, which became the blueprint for the modernization of Ontario's education system in the 1960s and 1970s. Lloyd never missed a chance to help people learn. He was a life-long teacher and an inspiration to all of us who had the privilege to know him.

To Sara and Marilyn and the loving families of Don and Lloyd, we send our thoughts and prayers.

Firearms Registry
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Denis Blanchette Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, at a time when, unfortunately, too many Canadians are forfeiting their right to vote, either out of disillusionment or cynicism, it is refreshing to know that the students of École secondaire De Rochebelle, a high school in Sainte-Foy, have worked hard putting together a petition to address an issue of national concern.

As part of an extracurricular activity, some École De Rochebelle students, members of the rights and humanities committee, took the initiative to raise awareness among their peers, teachers and families regarding the need to maintain the firearms registry.

The petition and its 192 signatures unfortunately could not be officially presented in the House, and the Conservative government decided to destroy the firearms registry.

Nevertheless, I would like to congratulate these students and their teacher, Simon Mathias Poulin, on their initiative, an excellent sign of their desire to take part in Canada's democratic process.

Perhaps not all hope is lost, after all.

Alberta
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, Stats Canada has released the most recent figures on migration between provinces.

I thank Ontario, as Ontario has contributed more to the growth of Alberta's population than any other province. Over 200,000 people from Ontario have moved to Alberta.

Alberta's strong oil sands economy has increased employment and provided fantastic work opportunities for hundreds of thousands of Canadians. This employment is boosting tax revenue and in turn creating a much better quality of life for all Canadians.

We need to encourage cross-country employment. We need to encourage Canadians to take Canadian jobs. Everyone is better off if Canadians are working, regardless of where they work in Canada.

I invite hon. members to my home, the oil sands, where opportunity awaits all of Canada.

Chief of Guelph Police Service
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, born and raised in Guelph, Chief Rob Davis has dedicated the last 40 years to serving our community as a member of the Guelph Police Service and the last 12 years as its chief.

Focusing on neighbourhood policing and community and stakeholder relations, Chief Davis' approach to order and safety has been responsible in large part for Guelph's reputation as one of the safest as well as one of the most caring and compassionate communities in Canada.

I have always appreciated his thoughtful and accessible approach to policing and crime prevention. As an open-minded contemporary police officer with an evidence-based approach to the prevention of crime and raising of public awareness, Chief Davis and his advice and perspective were invaluable to me in my role as MP.

I wish him and his wife Janey the very best in the years ahead as he will now have the opportunity to do the job he loves most as a grandparent. While he will be missed in his role as chief, Rob Davis' legacy will endure through his successor and in Guelph's police force for many years to come.

Knights of Columbus
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Royal Galipeau Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, on March 29, 1882 the Knights of Columbus received its first charter thanks to the persistent efforts of the late Reverend Father Michael J. McGivney.

He wanted to help the church, his community and all Catholic families.

The first Canadian council was formed in Montreal, in November 1897.

In 2010, the Knights of Columbus donated close to $30 million and volunteered 9.3 million hours to charitable causes in Canada. The order has 1.8 million members in 10 countries, including 225,000 here in Canada.

Ever since the world's largest Catholic fraternal service organization was brought to Canada, its members have become known for their mission to be their brothers' and sisters' keepers and to make a difference for their fellow human beings.

I am pleased to wish a very happy founders day to my brother knights.

Long live this great charitable organization.

May this great organization continue its charitable work for decades to come.

Prostitution
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, prostitution is not a career choice. Many women get involved in prostitution to feed their drug addiction. Fines and prison are not the solution to drug-related prostitution. Prevention is better than repression. We have to address the problem at its source. In other words, we have to address substance abuse and addiction.

That is what a number of groups and elected officials are trying to do in Hochelaga. The community organization Dopamine, which works in addictions services, wants to relocate to a neighbourhood where the need for its services is greatest. A respite care centre would be set up at Dopamine's former location where prostitutes could go to shower and sleep, and get help when they are ready to get out of the business.

However, despite the recommendation of the Agence de santé de Montréal, the application to the Homelessness Partnering Strategy to relocate Dopamine has been dragging on for months. What is more, I have received no response to the letter I sent to the Minister of Human Resources explaining this increasingly critical situation.

I hope to receive a positive response soon and I hope that the budget tabled a little later on will not abandon these people who feel increasingly forgotten by society.

City of Brantford
Statements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, last week I had the great privilege of participating in Brantford Mayor Chris Friel's “Breakfast of Champions”, alongside local politicians and community leaders. Discussion focused on the future branding of our community, and there was no shortage of great ideas.

Our city has developed strategic partnerships with Wilfrid Laurier University, Nipissing University, Mohawk College and now McMaster University and Conestoga College. These institutions have inspired new life into my hometown and have attracted new residents, businesses and investments into a renewed, beautiful downtown core. Partnerships between community leaders, the municipality, academic institutions and industry unlock the potential and opportunities every day.

Today's Brantford is a wonderful place where small-town humility and charm mix with forward thinking and progress. It is a place that exudes a small-town feel and a big-city vibe. Come and check us out in Brantford, a true 21st century city.

Sheridan College Graduates
Statements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Terence Young Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to congratulate three graduates of Oakville's Sheridan College currently starring in the Broadway production of Jesus Christ Superstar in New York City.

Sheridan College is Canada's largest school for the arts and the second-largest in North America. All Canadians should be proud of the calibre and success of the young performers from Sheridan who hail from all parts of Canada. Sheridan's musical theatre program allows students to study all aspects of performance, from singing, acting and directing to business training and in-field experience.

Jesus Christ Superstar opened March 22 to rave reviews, without a doubting Thomas in the group. It features Sheridan alumni Chilina Kennedy as Mary Magdalene, Mark Cassius as Matthew, and Aaron Walpole as Annas.

Our government has invested more in the arts and culture than any other government in Canadian history. We are proud to see Canadian stars shining across Canada, on Broadway and around the world. Sheridan graduates all continue to give the world some of its best and brightest performances.

Employment Insurance
Statements By Members

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, not a day goes by that I do not hear from another frustrated constituent in my riding waiting, like so many across this country, for employment insurance benefits. Many let me know that they have waited up to four months to receive a single benefit payment, benefits they have paid for and have a right to receive. These are the same folks who have played by the rules and worked hard their whole lives to raise their families and put food on the table. Now they are being told by this government, “Sorry, you'll just have to wait”.

The Conservative government is so out of touch it cannot see that unemployed workers cannot afford to wait the two months to pay their bills. I have heard from members of my community who cannot pay for food and medications for their kids and cannot even pay the rent. Families in Niagara deserve better. Without a job creation plan, high unemployment rates in Niagara have left families feeling abandoned. Just when they need the government most to live up to its end of the bargain, they are once again let down by the Conservative government.

I strongly urge the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development to take the necessary steps to restore service levels so that Canadians can get the benefits they have paid for and so rightly deserve.

New Democratic Party of Canada
Statements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Eve Adams Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, shockingly, the member for Toronto—Danforth has decried sitting judges for having an anti-criminal bias. Unlike that member, I think most Canadians would agree that an anti-criminal bias is a very good thing.

Canadians gave our government a strong mandate to keep our streets and communities safe, and that is exactly what we are doing.

I call on the new leader of the NDP to discipline the new member for his radical soft on crime comments. After all, his party has disciplined rural MPs for much less.

Canadians are concerned about crime and they swiftly rejected the opposition's soft on crime agenda in the last election. Perhaps the NDP's new leader and that new member for Toronto—Danforth can learn from that.