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

Alleged Misuse of Ten Percenters
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

John Williamson New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Mr. Speaker, it has come to my attention that what appear to be ten percenters have been mailed into various ridings in New Brunswick, including my own.

On many of these ten percenters, the return mailing address is to the Liberal member for Toronto Centre. One such mailing to my own riding of New Brunswick Southwest came in a franked envelope from the Liberal member for Cardigan.

I have submitted this evidence to you, Mr. Speaker, along with notice of this question of privilege. I ask you to consider the following points.

On November 3, 2009, the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore raised a question of privilege, claiming his position on the long gun registry was misrepresented in a mailing from another member.

In the subsequent decision by Speaker Milliken on November 19, 2009, it was found that the privileges of the member for Sackville--Eastern Shore were breached for these very reasons, and that it had the effect of “...unjustly damaging his reputation and his credibility with the voters of his riding...”.

Also, on November 19, 2009, a question of privilege was raised by the member for Mount Royal on grounds that his privilege was infringed by the actions of another member who sent a ten percenter into his riding. This resulted in Speaker Milliken stating that “...the mailing constitutes interference with his ability to perform his parliamentary functions in that its content is damaging to his reputation and his credibility”. This can be found in Hansard, November 26, 2009.

On March 15, 2010, the Liberal member for Malpeque moved a motion calling for the Board of Internal Economy to “take all necessary steps to end immediately the wasteful practice of members sending mass mailings, known as 'ten-percenters', into ridings other than their own...”. Again, this is from Hansard, March 15, 2010.

This motion passed, and the Liberal member for Malpeque issued a press release on March 29, 2010, stating that “The Conservatives abused this privilege--both in quantity and content--by sending excessive partisan attacks into unheld ridings and wasting millions of taxpayers' dollars. The Liberal motion ended these partisan out-of-riding mailings and won a victory for Canadian taxpayers”.

So much for that.

I remind the House that according to the April 19, 2010, decision by the Board of Internal Economy, ten percenters are only to be distributed as bulk mail from the House postal services, effective May 1, 2010. The April 1, 2012 version of the manual on members' allowance and services states, “Ten percenters may only be distributed within the member's own constituency and may not be distributed as addressed mail”, yet the material sent into my riding and others by Liberal members is generic in nature. Inside the franked and addressed envelope there is nothing that addresses the individual whose name is on the outside of the envelope.

In the mailing from the member for Toronto Centre into the riding of Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, the letter begins with a generic “Dear Friend”. In the mailing into my own riding by the member for Cardigan, there is not even a salutation line.

Regardless of whether these materials were produced by the House of Commons printing services, in the offices of the member in question or in the research offices, these mailings are bulk in nature. They are not specifically addressed to the individuals whose names appear on the outside envelope and they are printed using taxpayer-supplied resources.

As you will see, Mr. Speaker, from the paper I supplied to you, they are partisan in nature, generic in content and should not be sent using franked envelopes into other members' ridings.

If the Liberal Party of Canada wishes to launch bulk partisan mail into Conservative—or, for that matter, New Democratic-held ridings—it should do so with its own funds, not House of Commons resources.

Mr. Speaker, I believe that there is a breach of privilege in this matter and I am prepared to move an appropriate motion should you agree. That motion would involve sending this question to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

The actions of the members for Toronto Centre, Cardigan and possibly others are in direct contradiction of the spirit of the rules governing House of Commons mailings and, I believe, in contradiction of the letter of the law, which of course was to not only not direct such mailings into a riding held by another member but to do so with taxpayers' dollars.

It is clear that Parliament previously sought to end the practice of bulk partisan mailings being sent by one member into another member's riding. The Liberals seem to believe that they have found a way around this rule by stuffing bulk partisan materials into addressed and franked envelopes.

It is important that the House have the opportunity to examine this matter in the appropriate committee. It is necessary to determine whether the actions of some members are in breach of House of Commons rules. In addition to this, I think it would be prudent for the members of the Liberal Party who are participating in this practice, which they have previously publicly denounced, to apologize to this House and to Canadian taxpayers for their misuse of the resources entrusted to them.

If these mailings were paid for by the Liberal Party of Canada—meaning both the cost of printing and of postage—I would be the first to claim this matter was outside the purview of Parliament. That, however, is not the case.

Mr. Speaker, thank you for reviewing this important matter that I am sure you, like me, had believed was resolved.

Alleged Misuse of Ten Percenters
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, once we take a look at the blues from my hon. colleague's notes, we reserve the right to address his point of privilege, unless you are ready to rule on it right now.

Alleged Misuse of Ten Percenters—Speaker's Ruling
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I am ready to rule now.

I thank the hon. member for New Brunswick Southwest for bringing this matter to my attention. I have had a chance to read his letter and look at the items in question.

I do feel that it is not a situation exactly analogous to the two previous rulings that he cited, given that it seems here to be more a complaint about whether the House rules were followed than about the content of the items he questioned.

Therefore, I find it is not a question of privilege, but it certainly could be something that the Board of Internal Economy should look at. I can assure the hon. member that I will ensure its appearance on the agenda for the next board meeting in order for the board to determine whether these particular mailings followed the House of Commons' own internal rules for these types of publications.

The House resumed from March 29 consideration of the motion that 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, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the motion that the question be now put.

Canada–Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to speak today on 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.

This trade agreement is one of a series of agreements that the government has gotten into very hastily. This is another one that was negotiated in record time, without proper consultation, and our party has opposed it.

I do not want anyone to think that our party is opposed to trade. I know it is a common mantra for those opposite that New Democrats are opposed to trade; we are not opposed to trade. However, we are opposed to this trade deal.

I only have 10 minutes, so I will try my very best to be succinct in stating why we are opposed to this particular trade deal.

As I mentioned, it was done hastily and without consultation with relevant stakeholders, as well as without consultation with trade unions and environmental groups in Panama. It was done without consultation with civil society or citizens in Canada and Panama who have an interest in these agreements. It was done without respect for labour standards and collective bargaining, despite the addition of a labour agreement.

There is no protection against money laundering and tax cheating in a country that has been decried a tax haven.

There is no commitment in the agreement to sustainable development and sustainable investment, which should be an important part of any free trade deal.

When we talk about trade in this country, we should not just be talking about the movement of goods. We need to be talking about a partnership, but what we have seen is the government making hasty trade deals that do not respect what Canada wants and needs.

If trade was all about free trade deals, Canada's trade would be increasing and improving, not getting worse. The government members talk about how they are very interested in trade and carrying on with these trade deals, but where are the results? When we look at the difference between signing free trade deals and actually increasing trade, Canada's trade has actually deteriorated. The quantity of goods and services shipped abroad from Canada is actually 7% lower than when the government took office. It is lower than it was back in the year 2000. What we do see in trade is an ever-increasing proportion of raw materials and raw resources, especially oil, making up that trade.

At one time, we had a very impressive trade surplus with other countries. That has now gone into a deficit. Even though we have increasing petroleum sales, 3% of GDP per year is in fact a decrease in sales.

This is from a report by Jim Stanford, an economist with the Canadian Auto Workers, that was published in The Globe and Mail on May 21. He is obviously very concerned about issues, particularly in the manufacturing trade. He has done a study of our longest-standing free trade pacts, which are with the United States, Mexico, Israel, Chile and Costa Rica. What is interesting is that our exports to those countries have in fact grown more slowly than our exports to non-free trade partners, while our imports from these countries have surged much faster than with the rest of the world.

Therefore, if our goal—which is a sensible one, according to Mr. Stanford—is to boost exports and to strengthen the trade balance, then signing free trade deals, as we have done, is exactly the wrong thing to do.

What is very interesting is that the five biggest trade deals we have had have resulted in more imports to us from these country, which is good for them, but fewer exports to them. We have not increased our trade nor boosted our proper partnerships.

The problem is pretty difficult, particularly for some aspects of our economy. We are seeing an endorsement by the government of an over-valued currency. We have heard our leader talk about that. I know many people in this country do not want to talk about that. The members opposite do not like to talk about the fact that our currency is over-valued and is trading at some 25% above its purchasing power parity with other countries,. However, it does hurt Canada's exports and skews our trade with other countries, particularly the kind of trade that takes place when we are exporting unprocessed materials, including crude oil, bitumen in particular, without refining it. If we are not refining the stuff here and we are not making mining machinery here, our capacity to produce higher-end products will further diminish.

We do have a significant problem with trade and we have a problem that is not being fixed by these free trade deals.

What does the NDP support? We support trade, but we support fair trade. We want to ensure that the trade agreements we sign with other countries are fair and reasonable for both parties, partnerships that build positive relationships and not just open doors.

For example, in Panama we have situation where the government of Panama has refused various Canadian requests to sign an agreement to share tax information. It is extremely important in terms of transparency to have a tax information exchange agreement. The Government of Panama has refused, but Canada goes along with it anyway.

What is it we want as New Democrats? What do we want to have in trade agreements? First, in order to have a totally fair trade strategy, we want to have a comprehensive, common sense impact assessment for each agreement that we enter into that demonstrates that trade deals with Canada are beneficial for Canadian families, workers and industries, and that we do not have a trade agreement that will lead to a net job loss.

Second, we want to ensure that any agreement we negotiate supports our own sovereignty, our freedom to chart our own policy in the future and our ability to be competitive on the world stage, and that it supports the principle of a multilateral fair trade system.

Third, it is fundamentally important that all trade agreements promote and protect human rights by prohibiting the import, export or sale in Canada of products that are deemed to have been created under sweat shop conditions, forced labour or conditions that are not in accordance with fundamental labour standards and human rights.

Fourth, we also want to ensure that all trade agreements respect sustainable development and the integrity of all ecosystems.

Fifth, we want to be clear that before we go ahead with any enabling legislation, it be subject to a binding vote on whether we accept the terms of the agreement. The current system of tabling agreements in the House for a period of 21 days prior to ratification is neither mandatory nor binding.

In the case of the Panama trade deal, we see a repetition of the failures of previous trade deals to be fair, to be reasonable, to respect human rights, to provide the kind of protections that Canadians need and actually lead to increased trade from Canada to these countries.

Canada–Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia
Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Minister of State (Transport)

Mr. Speaker, I have three quick questions for the member.

The member says that the NDP is not opposed to free trade agreements. I wonder if he could share with the House a free trade agreement that the NDP has supported.

I also wonder if he can tell us how the NDP feels about the regional free trade agreement and NAFTA.

Finally, could the member share with the House, if the NDP were ever to form government, whether it would take Canada out of these free trade agreements with which it disagrees?

Canada–Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am glad that the minister thinks that those are quick questions. I do not know if I can answer them as quickly as he asked them. They are three very important questions.

Since the government has come into office, it has not produced an agreement that meets the criteria that I just laid out. It has not produced an agreement that has led to increased trade from Canada except by importing more goods. We have mentioned the five most important ones that were studied by an economist. When an agreement is put forward that meets the criteria that I just laid out, and I set out five conditions, then we would be very happy to support it. We are in favour of fair trade. We are not in favour of signing trade deals that do not improve Canada's situation.

When we form government, and I know the minister says “if” with some trepidation, but I will answer “when” with some confidence, we would seek to improve any agreements that exist in order to ensure that Canada is engaged as a fair trade partner for the improvement of Canada and the countries that we deal with.

Canada–Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will pick up on the last point the member made in terms of the possibility of enhancing agreements.

In terms of the free trade issue, it is great to give attention to countries like Panama and so forth but to what degree has the government over the last number of years looked at our exports and agreements with our greatest trading partner, the U.S.? Would he attribute that to being the reason we are maybe not doing as well in the manufacturing sector as we could be here in Canada?

Canada–Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, we seek to improve whatever agreements we have. In terms of an analysis of the NAFTA in particular and the government's action, we have not seen the kind of sectoral support that we would like to see in Canada.

I do have to challenge the member's party as well in terms of this agreement. When our trade critic sought, through a motion in the international trade committee, to delay the implementation of the agreement until Panama agreed to tie into the tax information exchange agreement, which would stop the money laundering and tax cheating, the motion was defeated by both the Conservatives and the Liberals in committee.

I hear the member but he wants me to point the finger opposite. If we are into pointing fingers about the problem with trade deals, I think we would need to look as well to the Liberal Party that did the add-ons with the NAFTA after claiming that it would do something entirely different.

Canada–Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, in his speech, the member for St. John's East pointed out that New Democrats support fair trade.

In the process of examining the bill at committee, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster made a number of proposals that would have made this trade agreement acceptable to New Democrats. One in particular that I want to touch on is the definition of sustainable development. It reads:

“sustainable development” means development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, as set out in the Brundtland Report published by the World Commission on Environment and Development.

I wonder if the member could comment on the fact that New Democrats actually have proposals to make trade agreements fair.

Canada–Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, obviously sustainable development is important. The report by the Brundtland Commission in the late 1980s was championed by Prime Minister Mulroney. I remember that because I was here. He championed that report, but we do not see the results of sustainable development being adopted by the current government either within trade agreements or even within our own country, which is a shame.

Canada–Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, like my colleague from St. John's East, I am pleased to rise today to speak on Bill C-24 at second reading. This bill deals with the implementation of 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.

It is certainly clear that we feel proud every time we see agreements. We feel that other countries want to trade and do business with us. All this seems really nice on paper. On the other hand, sometimes there are little surprises in the fine print. While I cannot claim that I am a specialist in international trade, there are some basic things that we, as a free and democratic country, should insist on when we do business with other countries. This is one of the reasons why our party is opposed to this bill. It is not because we are against international agreements, free trade agreements or attempts to try to remove trade barriers between countries. In fact, if we believe in certain values, I think we must make sure that the countries with whom we do business are not rogue countries or countries that mistreat their people in order to acquire, create, build, produce or manufacture articles that will be freely traded with our country.

I think that when we have principles, we must express them all the way. If not, we should stop going around the world saying that we defend rights and freedoms, and we should just go ahead and do whatever we want.

For those who do not know much about Bill C-24, it is a bill that was previously introduced, if memory serves, on August 11, 2009. The Conservative government had entered into negotiations on a comprehensive agreement with the Republic of Panama. The same day it signed that agreement, the Conservative government presented the agreements in the House of Commons as part of Bill C-46. This was back in 2010. The bill was passed at second reading and referred to the Standing Committee on International Trade for clause-by-clause consideration.

If you followed the speech by my colleague from St. John's East, you know that international trade is one of his passions. I would like to take this opportunity to commend him. The member for Burnaby—New Westminster also worked extremely hard on this issue and his advice was always very wise. He showed us the importance of conducting what is called reasonable and fair trade when these kinds of agreements are negotiated with other countries. Responsibility for this file was passed on to the member for Windsor West, who has also done excellent work.

I think it is important to listen, instead of simply playing cheap politics, as is frequently the case in this House. On the government side, they reduce the speeches made on this side of the House to one-liners, as if the NDP were anti-international trade or anti-free trade just because we ask questions and we ask that the countries with whom we do business do not, for instance, use child labour or exploit children as cheap labour, because we ask questions about specific environmental rules or because we ask that these countries not be obvious tax havens.

I was absolutely shocked when I read about the circumstances surrounding Bill C-24 in a little more depth and when I noted that Panama—which is, by the way, a very beautiful country—is what some people call a tax haven. On both sides of the House, there are people who rise frequently to say that we must try to put an end to anything that is called a tax haven. The problems with tax havens do not just occur away down there; their impact reaches into our country. Considerable amounts of money are taken and sent somewhere else to be hidden because certain countries have rules that are a little too lax. They allow any kinds of company throughout the world to go to their country and hide money from the government in the company's own home country.

Even the OECD has called Panama a tax haven. The United States considers Panama to be a tax haven. The OECD even specified that Panama was on the grey list. I learned there is a white list, a fray list and a black list. I have learned about a great number of things in this House. I also like it when we have the time to express our views on all these bills that often have, unbeknownst to us, an impact on all our constituents, in every one of our ridings.

We have a tendency to believe that when we talk about international trade, we are talking primarily about major trading centres within a country. However, when we do business with certain countries and give them certain privileges with regard to our goods and our services, it has an impact on all our population. Sometimes we have to look at the ramifications of this type of bill.

It is really worrying that a country like Panama still refuses to send information about its tax measures and about various issues and fields, and I am surprised. Although sometimes I am not surprised when we know that we are dealing with a government that is so lacking in transparency. The government may be happy to deal with a country that also has little fiscal transparency, but on this side of the House, we are not.

We definitely do not want to see that country become a place where some of our companies doing business there shelter money from taxation. All MPs should be concerned about that. We are debating a back-to-work bill because the government wants to force people to accept a collective agreement or poorer working conditions, but at the same time, it wants to carry on international trade with a country that allows big companies that make millions or billions in profits to diversify some of their income in order to avoid paying taxes, taxes that enable the government to provide services to Canadians.

I think it is inappropriate and simplistic for MPs on the other side of the House to ask whether the NDP has ever supported a free trade agreement. Bilateral agreements have taken the place of broad territorial agreements. Still, talks are under way between my province, Quebec, and the European Union. Every nation is trying to open its borders to ensure that its goods and services can circulate and be purchased. Once again though, we have to remember how that money is made, and I am proud to be a member of a party that is concerned about making money without having a negative effect on trade. There are ways to do that.

If these people are truly interested in doing business with us, then it is up to them to follow the rules of human decency. For example, I am extremely concerned about the whole section of the agreement concerning labour. When certain people see the number of times this government has resorted to back-to-work legislation, they could simply say that we are in no position to preach. What bothers me is that we are doing business with countries who do not pay much attention to the rights of workers and of those who, by the sweat of their brow, make things that we all take a great deal of pleasure in using.

To conclude, I am happy to have had the opportunity to comment on this bill. I am in favour of international trade, but not at any price.

Canada–Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia
Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Minister of State (Transport)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask this member the same question that I asked the previous speaker. Is there any free trade deal that Canada is currently involved in that the member and her party are happy with? If so, I would like to know about it. If not, what would the NDP do if it had the opportunity?

Finally, are there countries that the NDP would not have a free trade deal with that are democracies?

Canada–Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, if possible, I would prefer to begin by answering the third question.

In theory, I have no problem doing business with any democratic country. But then that is not what we are talking about.

Had the member listened carefully to what I said, he would have understood that the problem does not lie with the signing of agreements; rather, it lies in the content of these agreements.

That being said, he is asking whether I can name one agreement that we are happy with. An agreement that I will definitely be happy with will be the first agreement that will be proposed by the NDP when it forms the government in 2015. I am convinced that we will not stop conducting free trade with other countries under an NDP government. People should get that idea out of their heads.

The difference is that the NDP will make sure that these agreements are respectful. Even President Obama, during his last the election campaign, mentioned re-opening some parts of the free trade agreement with Canada and Mexico. Sometimes we realize along the way—and there is nothing the matter with this—that some aspects of the agreement are not working or not working very well.

I believe that the priority of every government is the people who live within its boundaries. I personally do not represent the people of Panama, but rather the people of Gatineau. I want to ensure that, when we make agreements, we do so in accordance with the values of the people who elected me to represent them.

Canada–Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the short answer to the previous question was no, there is no free trade agreement or freer trade agreement which the NDP has a record of supporting, nor is it going to be supporting any free trade agreements under any other government, unless it happens to be the party in government. That is in essence what the member said. Can she just confirm that is the case?