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 labour.

Topics

Canada–Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, if I read my own blues, I am pretty sure that conforms to what I said.

I strongly support the agreement with the United States and Mexico. I do not see a major problem there. This could lead to a lengthy discussion. I would like to have the time to say what I think about certain aspects of many of these agreements, because sometimes they need to be revisited. The reason the three countries hold so many summit meetings is to try to improve or alter the agreement. Just because a treaty is signed, does not mean that it immediately becomes immutable and untouchable.

I would like to repeat that the government has never obtained the guarantees that Canadians are entitled to receive before signing this type of agreement. I am convinced that I would have no trouble rising to vote in favour of any agreement proposed by the New Democratic Party government that I hope will be in power within three years.

Canada–Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a sad state when members of the official opposition make statements in which they clearly indicate that they do not support freer trade or free trade agreements in principle because it is not their political party that has brought them into place.

It reminds me of the leader of the official opposition's position, very much an anti-western divide and conquer mentality. He says, in essence, that he has no problem taking shots at the industries out in western Canada. I must say that westerners, including myself as a member of Parliament from the Prairies, took great exception to his divide and conquer mentality. Other members on the front bench feed into this anti-trade sentiment. I do not say this lightly.

Let us talk about a specific issue. Let us talk about the Panama agreement.

Manitoba has a huge potato industry. I like to think it is only a question of time before we could be first place in Canada. Now, some of my colleagues in Atlantic Canada might have something to say on that point, but I do believe that there is an opportunity for Manitoba to be number one in Canada. Ultimately, if we approach the industry in an aggressive way, we could surprise a lot of people throughout the world. We have three processing plants in Manitoba that take that raw material and generate roughly 1,000 jobs for the province of Manitoba. That is a lot of good-quality jobs.

Those potatoes and processed potatoes are being sent to countries like the United States, the Philippines and Panama. Many Manitobans, when they see the agreement that we are looking at today, ask if it could be better. Sure, it could be better. There is no doubt it could be better. If only the government would see the wisdom in some potential amendments, maybe we could make some significant headway.

There are many stakeholders in Manitoba and, because I do not want to be selfish, many individuals across Canada who would see the benefits and would question why not, if the argument is strictly a human rights issue or an environmental law issue. I remember having a debate with one of our NDP colleagues earlier about China and how much we import from China. The New Democratic Party is not talking about stopping those exports in order to protect human rights issues.

I think all political parties are concerned, and I can guarantee the Liberal Party is concerned, about human rights. We are concerned about labour laws. We are concerned about environmental laws. We are going to do what we can to try to influence so that we have a better world. Canada has a leadership role to play.

However, we in the Liberal Party believe in freer trade. In fact, one of the best, most significant free trade agreements ever achieved in our country was through Lester Pearson. It was the Auto Pact. That created tens of thousands of jobs yesterday, and is still creating jobs today--

Canada–Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

You don't know your history, Kevin.

Canada–Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

No, we do know the history. That was back in 1965, roughly. Lester Pearson signed off on that agreement. Now, that is a formal agreement. There are other ways in which we can get around and encourage and improve.

I was a provincial legislator when Team Canada was being talked about. Team Canada was going to go to Asia and beyond.

It was actually former prime minister Jean Chrétien who said we should get stakeholders, some of the business and union groups, elected provincial officials and a wide spectrum of different stakeholders, who believe Canada would be a better country if we could reach out around the world and try to get contracts that would not only improve the quality of life for Canadians living here, which is our first priority, but also contribute to the economic and social development of other countries.

That was through an informal agreement in which the prime minister at the time said that, as a group, collectively we could have a huge impact if we brought the stakeholders together to visit some of these countries.

Some provinces have piggybacked on that idea. This is not to say that Prime Minister Chrétien's government was the first to do it. There might have been provincial governments that had taken such initiatives on a smaller scale, but that particular prime minister actually set the stage for taking stakeholders outside of Canada to try to secure the types of agreements that could make a difference.

Sure, as I have pointed out, we have legitimate concerns with regard to issues related to Panama. Yes, we could have legislation that would make it better, but we are not going to close our eyes, as a political entity, and say the legislation is so bad it is not worth pursuing.

I like to think we take a more open-minded approach to trade than my colleagues to the left, the New Democratic Party.

We believe, ideally, it would be wonderful if it were a Liberal government, and we have demonstrated in the past how aggressive we can be in generating and creating jobs here in Canada by looking abroad and enhancing our trading relations. We have had very successful missions in the past. We have made very successful amendments to trade agreements. We have had very successful agreements signed by prime ministers and ministers, and it is because we have seen the value and how Canada has benefited.

Having said that, we also recognize that we happen not to be in government at this point in time, but if the government does enter into agreements in principle that we can support, there is nothing wrong with doing that. If the government does have an idea or is progressing in certain areas, we are prepared to look at the possibility of supporting that.

On the last Friday on which we were sitting I posed a question about the idea of freer trade with Ukraine and how freer trade with Ukraine could potentially be used as a way to ensure there is a healthier democracy in that wonderful, beautiful country that we all know as Ukraine. If the government continues to move forward, hopefully it will listen to some of the ideas that are coming from the Liberal Party, as a political entity of the House, with which we believe we could improve upon those relations.

For example, the member for Wascana was in Ukraine just the other week and no doubt was concerned about that issue. One of the reasons I asked the question was that he had raised the issue with me a week ago last Friday.

What I like about this type of legislation is it allows us to enter into discussion on the importance of world trade because if it is managed properly, and I do believe the government has dropped the ball with regard to the U.S., we in Canada can have a very healthy manufacturing industry and other types of industries that make up our economy.

We are concerned about our manufacturing industry, but I do not believe closing the borders and building walls, as the NDP would seem to support, is the best way of doing that, nor is dividing the country when irresponsible statements are being made about western Canada.

Canada–Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia
Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Minister of State (Transport)

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Winnipeg. We are both Winnipeggers. I was struck by his initial comments about his surprise that the NDP rejects all the free trade agreements Canada has ever signed purely because the NDP did not design the free trade agreement. That seems very counter-productive.

Could the member expand on why he thinks the NDP position on free trade is so backward?

Canada–Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is hard to understand why the New Democratic Party would be convinced to such a degree that the only type of trade deal that would be viable would be one that originated from a national New Democratic government.

I cited my example in regard to Panama and the potato industry. Members can research that by looking at the Manitoba website on industry and trade; I believe that is where they will likely find it. They will find that, at the lower level, the provincial NDP appears to be somewhat supportive; at least I hope it would be a bit more supportive. I believe we have a national New Democratic Party that does not quite get it when it comes to the importance of trade and the impact it has on real people and real jobs. The best example I could give of that is the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition toward western Canada and the valuable commodities we have there.

Canada–Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is always an interesting expedition to listen to my hon. colleague twist himself into a pretzel explaining how at one point in the Liberal Party's history it was for free trade and then at another point it was against free trade, although the member forgot to mention that in his typically long-winded speech.

However, I wanted to ask my friend in the corner if he agrees with and supports a free trade agreement that does not protect the rights of workers to open collective bargaining, that does not protect human rights and does not provide measures for the proper stewardship of the environment. These are all amendments that we put forward and that both the Conservatives and the Liberals voted against. Can the member explain how it is that he and his party do not agree with those basic elements of labour rights, human rights and environmental protection?

Canada–Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, we have to look at the principles of trade. If we were to apply the New Democratic Party's principles on the issue of trade, those being of human rights and the environment and labour legislation, and apply that equally, one could actually say the NDP would be erecting walls around our entire country in terms of whom we would be able to trade with.

There are many nations around the world, the single greatest one likely being China, from which we import a phenomenal amount of consumer products every day, billions of dollars' worth annually from China. I know that logic can defy a lot of people, but at the end of the day if we follow through on NDP logic on the issue, we would think that the NDP would shut down the borders or raise a wall to trade between China and Canada.

Otherwise, I would challenge the member to explain to me why he believes there are absolutely no human rights issues in China or environmental concerns or labour laws that this member would be concerned about because he has no—

Canada–Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Order. Resuming debate, the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh.

Canada–Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, when I stand in the House on another so-called free trade treaty with a small developing country, the sense of déjà vu is interesting, the sense of repeating our history and repeating the gross errors we have made so many times in the past with these types of trade agreements. Those errors are not just errors that compound the economic problems this country has; they compound the problems in the country with which we are making these so-called free trade deals.

I think of when I spoke against the NAFTA agreement, in particular when I pointed out that in the first year after NAFTA came into effect in Mexico, the average wage went down by 20%. The cost of corn to the producers was reduced by almost 50%, the value of their corn product. Farmers were forced off the land and into the ghettos and barrios of a number of the major cities in Mexico. That is the kind of impact these deals have.

There are some good parts to these deals, if one is wealthy in the existing country, if one is a multinational corporation in the existing country, or if one is an authoritarian government that wants to maintain control of its population. Each one of those sectors of those countries benefits from these deals.

However, the average citizens do not. In a lot of cases, their conditions actually deteriorate. We can see that, consistently. I think there is a seminar being put on one day this week by a number of countries that are neighbours to Panama on the conditions that are going on there with regard to child labour, violence against women, violence against the aboriginal populations and the list goes on. There are great human rights abuses that a trade deal will do absolutely nothing to better. In fact, as I said earlier, in many cases it will actually make them worse.

I want to address one particular problem with this agreement, as I have very little time in 10 minutes to get all the points out. Panama is a major tax haven. In spite of attempts by the international community, in spite of demands from Canada, it has done very little at a legal level to correct the money laundering that occurs in huge numbers of dollars in that country.

There are 400,000 corporations registered in Panama, a country many times smaller than us. We do not have anywhere near that many corporations registered in Canada. We have about a quarter of that many, if that. They are there for one purpose only, and that is to launder money in the vast majority of cases. Very few of them are legitimate operations.

There is a huge number of dollars coming in from the Colombian drug trade. There is a huge number of dollars coming in from the Mexican drug trade. It is being laundered and being passed back so that it can be used legally in other countries.

We are signing on to that operation. Our banks and our financial institutions are going to be able to take part in that. They are going to be used by the operations down there to move that illicit money back into Canada and into the international markets through our banking system.

When we demanded of Panama that it begin to clean up, it paid lip service to it, but at the practical level it is growing. Money laundering is in fact growing in Panama and has been for at least the last decade.

We sit here and we hear the Conservative government and its Liberal affiliates supporting this deal.

For this reason alone, the Minister of Foreign Affairs wants to support it. He knows better than most members sitting on that side of the room just how bad the situation is in Panama, but he will pay lip service to its ideology and support this deal. It will continue on down there, and in fact the money laundering process will grow. We will be aiding and abetting it by signing this deal.

Not one member in the House should stand and vote for it when the vote comes, as eventually it will at third reading. Members should vote against it. We should do it right now when it finally gets to a vote at second reading.

The billions of dollars that flow through that country is not just drug money. It is organized crime members using the money that they take from human trafficking and all of their other abuses, such as the gun trade, and it just goes on and on. That is what we are signing onto with that country.

Panama could clean it up. We as a country should tell it that we will not deal with it, that we not will we enter into a trade agreement with it until it does that. However, that is not what we are saying. We are looking the other way.

There are three lists of countries that the international community creates: the white, grey and black lists. Nobody is that bad to be on the black list, which makes us wonder how valid it is. The white list is made up of countries like Canada that have meaningful controls over their financial institutions and that combat money laundering and tax havens on a systematic and reasonably effective basis.

Panama is on the grey list and has been for a long time. I do not know why it is not on the black list. However, there is nobody on the black list, so I guess that explains that. A country gets onto the grey list when it makes noises about doing something like cleaning up its financial institutions, banking systems and its economic structure that allows for the tax havens and the money laundering.

Like the other countries that are on that list, once they get on it they stay on it indefinitely. Hardly anybody ever comes off of it and goes onto the white list. Nobody goes onto the white list. They just do not do anything except talk about it. We have done this at the international financial level, but it is meaningless. I would suggest there is no reason to believe that Panama will ever come off the grey list when we have countries like Canada with its current government, along with its Liberal affiliates, that will support that process by entering into these deals.

The other reason we should not enter into this trade deal is that in spite of the provisions in the agreement dealing with labour standards, practically that will not occur. Panama does not have the governmental infrastructure to enforce human rights and environmental and labour standards.

When asked what kind of a deal we would support, it is one wherein we would say to those countries that we want trade, but we will not do it if it is to the exclusive advantage of multinational corporations and the very wealthy in those countries. If it benefits Canada as well as their people, then we are interested and we will negotiate. However, until such time as we enter into those kinds of agreements, this party will continue to oppose them.

Canada–Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia
Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Minister of State (Transport)

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member's comments, and he has raised many serious issues. There is a school of thought that engaging countries with human rights standards that may not be as we would want them to be as Canadians and helping them grow their economies through free trade and increasing ties will allow these countries to rise above many of the terrible things that the member has outlined.

I was born in Brazil. I have seen that country do a lot of probably not very good things, but it is now blossoming, as is Latin America, though it had a troubled history.

Would member not agree that a growing economy helps everyone?

Canada–Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is too simplistic to say that a growing economy helps everyone. It does not. Growing economies sometimes only benefit the very wealthy in the country.

Let us go to Brazil and look at the leadership role it has provided in South America. It does not want to sign an agreement of a free trade nature with Canada. It has been building its own trading arrangements, with the Mercosur arrangement, with other countries from Central America.

Brazil looked at the NAFTA agreement with Mexico and saw the way it damaged that economy so badly. It is not interested in talking to us if we are talking about that kind of agreement. What it has done there is in fact much as the European Union did. It entered into agreements with other smaller countries that actually provided a transfer of wealth, outright dollars to it that would assist the country in building some of that infrastructure so human rights, environmental standards and labour standards were protected.

Brazil has been the leading country in South America doing that. It is the kind of country we should be following as a model, not countries like Panama or Colombia.

Canada–Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to see that members of the other parties are attacking us more and more. That proves that our opinions are gaining currency.

I would like to thank my colleague from Windsor—Tecumseh for his presentation on the situation. He raised some very important points.

Unfortunately, when we enter into free trade agreements with other countries, we tend to overlook the fact that the entire world is watching the important step being taken. That is part of the reality of international relations. Any important step taken is observed and interpreted. Unfortunately, Canada has taken steps, especially regarding the Kyoto protocol, that have tarnished its reputation in certain parts of the world.

Some countries believe that by signing a free trade agreement with Panama, we will be condoning certain practices that really should be condemned, such as money laundering.

I would like my colleague to talk a bit more about the message that Canada is sending to the rest of the world.

Canada–Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

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

He is right. If we enter into these types of agreements with Panama, we are indicating to that country and to the rest of the world that Panama's practices are acceptable. We are saying that Panama can keep on doing what it is doing, that it can put its children to work because we know that it cannot change without help. We are giving permission, not just to Panama, but to other countries, to continue with such practices and to violate human rights. We are allowing it to believe that this is acceptable and permitted by Canada.

For us, the NDP, it is not acceptable.

Notice of Closure Motion
Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations Legislation
Government Orders

May 28th, 2012 / 4:25 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I give notice that, with respect to the consideration of Government Business No. 12, at the next sitting, a minister of the Crown shall move, pursuant to Standing Order 57, that the debate not be further adjourned.