House of Commons Hansard #128 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

5 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

If there's unanimous consent, we can give him a few more, can't we?

Canada–Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

John Baird Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

I give unanimous consent for another hour. They'd never agree.

Canada–Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON

Okay, let me put this on the record before I end my remarks.

Two of the amendments put forth in committee by the member for Burnaby—New Westminster 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 principal representative of Canada on the joint Canada—Panama commission, to consult on a regular basis with representatives of Canadian labour and trade unions.

There is that consultation again.

The government needs to start asking people what Canadians think before it starts ramming things through as it is doing here.

Canada–Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Oshawa
Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I cannot believe the pompous, arrogant view of the socialists on this issue. They actually think that they understand the people of Panama and what is better for Panama more than the Panamanians themselves.

They are talking about consultation with Canadians. Their attitude is, I think, very much in line with their leader's attitude, which is that the NDP believes that jobs are diseases. We have seen this consistently.

The member was saying that the NDP is not against trade. He should listen to the speeches that have come out of his colleagues' mouths on this issue.

We have been asking consistently if the NDP has ever supported any free trade agreement. At least this member was honest and said that he did not.

However, his colleague before him did talk about a very important agreement, called the Auto Pact, which many of us on this side who represent the automotive sector understand. The Auto Pact meant that for every job Canadians bought, they would be guaranteed to have one in relation to the Americans, so it was one for one. Ever since free trade, in the automotive sector in Canada, we have built over a million more units of automobiles than we consume here and buy in this country.

Would he please explain how a one-for-one deal would--

Canada–Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Order, please.

The hon. member for Hamilton Centre.

Canada–Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of things I could say to that . I would be glad to answer those questions if either the member wants to ask again or somebody else wants to, but with that kind of preamble to the question, I am not responding any further than I just have.

Canada–Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very glad that my colleague has had a chance to speak on the subject of this bill, which once again shows just how unbelievably see-no-evil the Conservatives and Liberals are when it comes to trade and international relations.

One hon. member spoke on the subject of China and tried to ensnare us with some pretty fallacious reasoning. Briefly, in reference to China, it owes its economic success to what is essentially dumping, with massive state intervention, and to making loans that end up being gifts to companies, using the banking system.

Since it is that see-no-evil approach that has devastated our industrial fabric and ultimately trapped people in undesirable, low-wage jobs, all so that we can have very low-priced goods—really, cheap goods, I would like to ask my colleague what he thinks about the approach taken by the government and the third party in the House.

Canada–Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member is asking specifically about China. Of course, our neighbours to the south are now paying the price for that whole China approach. They decided they would do as much of their manufacturing as they possibly could over in China at a fraction of the cost of doing it in the United States. That worked really well for the first few years, until finally so many jobs were gone—and we are not immune from this at all—that they have no more manufacturing sector. Now, when the Americans are trying to rebuild their economy, where is the basis for it?

In terms of the government and what it is willing to do, let us remember that this is a government that is still prepared to send asbestos from Canada to India and other countries. I guarantee members that not one of my constituents would stand by that policy and say it is okay. They would say that it is not okay to poison people around the world in the interest of the almighty dollar. That is not the Canadian way.

Canada–Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

May 28th, 2012 / 5:10 p.m.

NDP

Nycole Turmel Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-24, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Panama, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Panama and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Panama.

I would like to make something clear at the outset. We oppose this bill. In the NDP, we do not want a free trade zone where workers’ rights are sold at discount prices; that is already a serious problem in Panama. Nor do we want a bill without a clear definition of sustainable development and responsible investment.

I would like to remind the House that when the committee considered the predecessor to Bill C-24, Bill C-46, it heard persuasive testimony that the Republic of Panama is a tax haven and that its record on human rights is debatable, to say the least. The situation has not changed since then.

Bill C-24 has a new title but does nothing to address the fundamental shortcomings of its predecessor. It does not incorporate the amendments moved by the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, which would have addressed the most contentious aspects of the agreement. During the clause-by-clause study of Bill C-46, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster proposed 11 amendments that would have made progressive changes to the bill.

The changes proposed by our member concerned the addition of the crucial concepts of sustainable development and responsible investment, the obligation of fiscal transparency and some provisions that would have integrated into the bill the protection of workers' rights, especially the right to collective bargaining. Other amendments proposed by my colleague would have required the Minister of International Trade to consult workers and unions, and to work with experts and human rights organizations in order to conduct analyses of the impact of the trade agreement. All these amendments were rejected by the Conservatives with the support of the Liberals.

There are many reasons why we cannot vote in favour of Bill C-24. First of all, the Canada-Panama agreement, which follows the NAFTA model, puts large corporations before people. That is unacceptable. Agreements like NAFTA were initially designed for trade between highly industrialized, developed countries, but Panama is a developing country. This trade agreement will not help Panama to grow sustainably or improve the living conditions of its people. Instead, the agreement will increase the influence of multinational firms and increase inequalities, and this will happen much faster and more definitively than it did in the case of NAFTA.

Furthermore, this trade agreement does not create a level playing field for investors and workers. Under chapter 11, investors have the right to request compulsory arbitration that they can conduct independently, however a union in Panama would not be allowed to take a case to arbitration. It can file a complaint, which would lead to an investigation followed by a report, but it would be up to the government to seek and obtain remedies.

In addition, the Canada-Panama agreement does not ensure respect for human rights. Also, while Bill C-24 appears to protect the environment on the surface, it does not implement any real measures or mechanisms to resolve disputes. We also have to wonder about the degree of Panama's fiscal transparency. It is important to bear in mind that, despite the Canadian government's requests, Panama refused to sign a tax information exchange agreement.

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

The federal government needs to stop focusing exclusively on NAFTA-type free trade agreements at the expense of other options, and it should explore other ways of increasing trade, in particular by adopting a vigorous trade promotion strategy, one that would spread Canada's brand abroad the way Australia has succeeded in doing.

The NDP firmly believes that there is another, better model of trade relations that could be established with Panama or any other country, a model that would include the following in a global fair trade strategy.

First, it should include a comprehensive and rational impact analysis for all international agreements, to determine whether the trade agreements being negotiated by Canada are advantageous to Canadian families, Canadian workers and Canadian industries. The government should not sign any trade agreement that is likely to lead to a net loss of jobs. Once again, that is unacceptable.

Second, there should be a guarantee that the trade agreements Canada negotiates will strengthen Canada's sovereignty and its freedom to establish its own policies, that they will help make us a force to be reckoned with on the world stage and that they support the principles of a fair multilateral trade system.

Third, there is the fundamental principle according to which all trade agreements must protect and promote human rights by prohibiting the import, export or sale in Canada of any products considered to have been manufactured in sweatshops, by forced labour, or under any other conditions that do not meet basic international standards for labour or human rights.

Fourth, the model includes the fundamental principle according to which all trade agreements should be consistent with sustainable development, as well as the integrity of all ecosystems.

Fifth, every time the government of Canada signs a free trade agreement, the decision to adopt the enabling legislation must be submitted to a mandatory vote on whether or not the terms of the agreement are acceptable.

The current system, which consists of tabling a free trade agreement in the House for a period of 21 sitting days prior to ratification, is not mandatory and does not bind the government to accept a decision of the House.

I am now ready to answer questions.

Canada–Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia
Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Minister of State (Transport)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to reiterate that Panama is no longer on the grey list of tax havens as determined by the OECD. It is unfortunate that the NDP keeps repeating the suggestion that Panama has not improved itself in this regard. Panama was removed from the grey list by the OECD in July 2011 after having substantially implemented global tax standards for exchange of information. I wonder if the member would reflect on that.

We on this side of the House still have not heard if the NDP supports any free trade agreement in the history of humankind.

Canada–Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Nycole Turmel Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's question, but I remind him that all countries and all organizations are saying that Panama is still a tax haven and also a country where human rights are not respected and where working conditions are extreme.

When Canada signs a free trade agreement with another country, it should establish requirements to ensure that our rights are not violated and that people working in that country, in this case Panama, do so in decent conditions. That is what we want, and that is something that can be done. It is possible to make demands and to have free trade agreements in which all the parties will be respected.

Canada–Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, earlier this afternoon the member's colleague made it very clear that the only free trade agreement the NDP would ever support would be a free trade agreement put in by an NDP administration. Otherwise, it does not support free trade agreements.

Having said that, the member made reference to other options. One of the successful demonstrations of how free trade or expanding borders can really help was when former prime minister Jean Chrétien had a team Canada approach, in which he took stakeholders from industries outside the country in an attempt to sign up a wide variety of different types of contracts and so forth, thereby increasing trade. I am wondering if the member would support that sort of initiative that former prime minister Jean Chrétien took.

Canada–Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Nycole Turmel Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I remind the hon. member that, in my presentation, I mentioned the amendments that we proposed. However, they were rejected by the Conservatives and the Liberals. Those amendments would have helped us secure free trade agreements with other countries.

The NDP is not opposed to free trade, but it supports basic human rights. It is perfectly natural to make that request.

Canada–Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Hull—Aylmer for clearly defining the conditions under which the New Democratic Party might consider supporting a free trade agreement with one or several countries.

I wonder if my colleague could elaborate on the wrong message that Canada might send about labour rights, among other things, if we were to accept a free trade agreement with Panama under the current conditions.

Canada–Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Nycole Turmel Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

The message we would be sending is simply that we agree with the fact that another country allows its workers to have much less favourable conditions than workers in Canada.

We would also be agreeing that these people, these workers, will not get a decent salary. We would be agreeing with the fact that products are made and sold clandestinely, while hoping they were not made by children.

That is what we agree to when we sign a free trade agreement that goes against human rights and against the Canadian principles relating to free collective bargaining, even though we know that, right now, there is talk of legislating workers back to work here. We do not agree with that, but the message being sent abroad is that we are prepared to accept any conditions.