House of Commons Hansard #143 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

4:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Order, please. Could I ask this hon. member as well to direct his comments toward the Chair? And could you conclude?

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Brant, ON

Madam Speaker, I will conclude. I would like him to comment on the many benefits that he has seen in his province and his riding.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Devinder Shory Calgary Northeast, AB

Madam Speaker, as my colleague knows and would agree, we on this side of the House know that opening new markets and creating new business opportunities lead to jobs, growth and long-term prosperity for all Canadians. A trade agreement with Panama would provide greater economic opportunity for Canadians and for Canadian businesses. He is absolutely right that this free trade agreement specifically would better enable Canadian companies to participate in large projects such as the $5.3 billion U.S. expansion of the Panama Canal which is expected to contribute to Panama's future growth.

A free trade agreement would also help level the playing field for Canadian businesses against competitors that already have or are seeking preferential access to Panama's market, for example, the United States, the European Union, Chile, Singapore, et cetera.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Before resuming debate, it is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: The hon. member for Random—Burin—St. George's, Search and Rescue; the hon. member for Edmonton—Strathcona, Government Spending; the hon. member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Search and Rescue.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Dany Morin Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Madam Speaker, today, I have the honour of debating the Canada-Panama free trade agreement. Obviously, I have a lot to say about this, and I have some serious criticisms of the government and the Republic of Panama, which we all know is a tax haven.

First, I would like to give some background for those watching at home who would like to understand what is happening a little better and who want to know why Canada wants to conclude a free trade agreement with Panama and how it all works.

On August 11, 2009, the Conservative government concluded negotiations for a comprehensive free trade agreement with the Republic of Panama. The agreement includes side agreements on labour co-operation and the environment. Bills were introduced, but they died on the order paper as a result of the election. Recently, these bills were re-introduced by the Conservative government.

I would like to say that the members of the Conservative government have been playing politics by saying that the NDP is opposed to trade agreements with other countries. That is completely untrue. The NDP is in favour of economic agreements with other countries. However, these agreements must respect the environment and workers' rights. In short, these agreements must be win-win and not support the exploitation of one country by another, as is the case in this free trade agreement between Canada and Panama.

The hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster proposed a number of amendments in committee. These amendments were reasonable and would have improved this bill. I will refer to some of them. However, the people at home need to know that the Conservatives voted against these amendments. They were not incorporated into the last iteration of the bill on the Canada-Panama free trade agreement.

So, the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster proposed some changes in order to include the concept of sustainable development, which is very important in trade. I do not need to explain what sustainable development means since Quebeckers have been familiar with this concept for many years now. It is important to have good economic development while respecting the environment and workers' rights.

It is also important to ensure that Canada's trade agreements with other countries include the concept of responsible investment, but the Conservatives voted against that. Apparently, they want more irresponsible investment, which does not surprise me given their ridiculous expenses these days. My NDP colleague also called for mandatory fiscal transparency, which I will say more about later.

Right now, Panama is hiding behind a smokescreen. We have no idea what is going on in terms of finances, and there is no accountability. One of the reasons Panama is known as a tax haven is that anyone doing business with Panama can do things on the quiet and launder money. Money from Latin American drug cartels flows through Panama and comes out clean. Apparently, the Conservative government has no problem with that. It thinks Canada should dismantle its tariff and economic barriers and do more business with that country.

My NDP colleague also proposed adding protection for workers' rights, including the right to collective bargaining, a concept that Canadians are very familiar with. The right to collective bargaining is important to NDP MPs. Whenever there is a dispute between the employer and the union—the workers—there has to be a middle ground. The employer, which has greater financial resources and more political influence, should not bulldoze, threaten or blackmail workers. The workers' rights situation in Latin America and South America can be disturbing. Personally, as an MP, I am very aware of that. The Conservatives decided to vote against our proposal, and I find that utterly deplorable.

I mentioned that Panama is a tax haven, but we also know that it has a poor record when it comes to workers' rights. So I am very worried about this bill.

How can the Government of Canada, in good conscience, decide to sign such a free trade agreement?

A free trade agreement or simply a trade agreement between two countries is the highest form of trust that we can show. We are saying that we will not place barriers between the two countries, that we will work together and will allow free trade in goods, so that the economies of the two countries can develop and move forward.

So I feel a bit uneasy as a Canadian. How can Canada sign a free trade agreement with Panama, when that country is a tax haven that violates workers' rights and compromises their safety?

I have some serious concerns. What is the Conservative government's motivation for signing a free trade agreement with Panama?

Here is an interesting statistic. Do members know that bilateral trade between our two countries reached only $149 million in 2008, or less than 1% of our trade?

Out of all of our trading partners, why choose Panama, when our bilateral trade with that country represents less than 1% of our trade? Was it simply because the Conservative government likes the fact that it is a tax haven?

I cannot help but wonder about these serious issues, especially when Canadians, Quebeckers and the people of my region are being asked to tighten their belts and being told not to work under the table, to declare all of their earnings—a notion that I support. Why would we do business with a country that has different standards?

For various reasons, it does not seem to bother people that illegal financial transactions take place there. In Canada, people have to be responsible and declare all of their earnings, but in a country like Panama, people do not have to do so.

If we do business with Panama, Canadian capital will go south to Panama and more of it will leave our country. This means less money for our domestic economy. Knowing that we are running a deficit for yet another consecutive year, we could say we there is not enough money in Canada, and services to the public have to be cut as a result.

Some political decisions are stupid—for example, laying off 100 employees responsible for processing employment insurance claims at the Service Canada office just before Christmas. The effects of that decision were felt in my region, and especially in my riding of Chicoutimi—Le Fjord. People had to wait several months before receiving their first employment insurance cheque. That is worrisome.

Why do business with a country that is a tax haven if that will lead to the flight of capital from Canada? In our country, we do not place enough importance on managing our finances well.

I do not wish to question the lawfulness of the agreement that the members opposite wish to enter into with Panama, but I do have many questions about it.

I would like to go back to working conditions in Panama and other countries we do business with. In the past, the NDP opposed free trade agreements. As I mentioned, it is important to the NDP to maintain good economic relations with other countries. We are 100% convinced that tariff barriers between our two countries can be eliminated in order to grow both our economies. However, there must be a relationship of equals, even though the Conservative government has been trying to violate workers' rights since coming to power in 2006.

This tendency is also evident in the changes to employment insurance that would force workers to accept wages that are 70% of their previous wages. This will put downward pressure on wages.

The NDP is committed to Canada as a country where workers are paid well and treated well.

That is why we like doing business with countries that do the same thing. That is my opinion on the matter.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Devinder Shory Calgary Northeast, AB

Madam Speaker, it is incredible to listen to the member and his colleagues in the opposition. They always try to show that they are a pro-trade party. I wonder how many free trade agreements NDP members have supported to date.

I would like my colleague to comment on this. We all know that Panama and Canada are both members of the International Labour Organization and have both committed to ensuring that their laws respect the International Labour Organization's 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, which covers the elimination of child labour, forced labour and discrimination, the respect of freedom of association and the right to bargain collectively. I would like him to comment on this provision of the agreement on which both countries agree.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Dany Morin Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Madam Speaker, I am going to deal with the Conservative member's first question. He said that the NDP should have supported free trade agreements in the past. I have brought this up with the hon. member previously and I am going to bring it up again. Following the logic of the hon. member opposite, the NDP should have supported the most recent softwood lumber agreement that has ruined the forestry industry in my region.

The NDP has analyzed the bill before us. The hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster introduced 11 amendments that could have protected the rights of workers and the environment and other rights not covered by this bill. In fact, my Conservative colleague mentioned a number of rights.

But it is important to have those understandings written into the bill. Otherwise, in a country like Panama, where there is a lack of transparency in tax matters and in other respects, there is the danger of things going off the rails and of some things not being considered. My simple reply is that things must be put in writing. The amendments should have been accepted; they would have improved the bill.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Laurin Liu Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Madam Speaker, I think the NDP is quite clear. We are in favour of trade with other countries, but it must be fair trade. Workers’ rights must be respected. That is why my colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster proposed two amendments to protect the rights of workers in Panama.

The first amendment would have given them the right to bargain collectively, while the second would have forced the Minister of International Trade, who is Canada's principal representative on the Canada-Panama joint commission, to consult regularly with representatives of Canadian workers and Canadian unions.

I think that is the least we can do to respect workers’ rights. Does my hon. colleague have any comments on that subject?

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Dany Morin Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Madam Speaker, my New Democrat colleague specifically mentioned the amendments that my New Democrat colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster wanted to make to the bill, which were intended to protect workers. The Conservatives voted against them. That does not surprise me from our lovely Conservative government.

We are talking about the same Conservative government that intervened in the labour disputes at Air Canada, Canada Post and Canadian Pacific. Time is passing so quickly and there has been so much interference in labour disputes by this Conservative government. In all the labour disputes the Conservative government has intervened in, in the last year, and in all of the interference it has engaged in, we see an extremely clear line. The government sides with management, and as a result does not respond to the demands of the unions that were engaged in disputes with the employers, whether about wages, pensions or job security. I find it very disturbing, but I do not find it surprising to see this government doing business with a country like Panama that—

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

The Minister of State and Chief Government Whip is rising on a point of order.

Citizenship and Immigration
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

June 19th, 2012 / 4:35 p.m.

Carleton—Mississippi Mills
Ontario

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Minister of State and Chief Government Whip

Madam Speaker, there have been consultations among the parties and I am seeking unanimous consent for these travel motions. I move:

That, in relation to its study, Standing on Guard for Thee: Ensuring that Canada's Immigration System is Secure, six members of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration be authorized to travel to Laval, Quebec, Toronto, Ontario, and Vancouver, British Columbia, during the period of June to October 2012, and that the necessary staff accompany the Committee.

International Trade
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

Carleton—Mississippi Mills
Ontario

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Minister of State and Chief Government Whip

I move:

That, in relation to its study on A Comprehensive and High-Level Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with Japan, six members of the Standing Committee on International Trade be authorized to travel to Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya, Japan, during the period of August to November 2012, and that the necessary staff accompany the Committee.

Public Accounts
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

Carleton—Mississippi Mills
Ontario

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Minister of State and Chief Government Whip

I move:

That, in relation to its study on the Annual Conference of Canadian Council of Public Accountants Committees (CCPAC) and the Canadian Council of Legislative Auditors ( CCOLA) Annual Conference, four members of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts be authorized to travel to Iqaluit, Nunavut, in August 2012, and that the necessary staff accompany the Committee.

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

Carleton—Mississippi Mills
Ontario

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Minister of State and Chief Government Whip

I move:

That, in relation to its study on Privacy and social media, six members of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics be authorized to travel to Washington, D.C., United States of America, in the Fall of 2012, and that the necessary staff accompany the Committee.

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Does the hon. chief government whip have the unanimous consent of the House to propose the motions?