Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act

An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Colombia, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Colombia and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Colombia

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in December 2009.

Sponsor

Stockwell Day  Conservative

Status

Second reading (House), as of Nov. 17, 2009
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment implements the Free Trade Agreement and the related agreements on the environment and labour cooperation entered into between Canada and the Republic of Colombia and signed at Lima, Peru on November 21, 2008.

The general provisions of the enactment specify that no recourse may be taken on the basis of the provisions of Part 1 of the enactment or any order made under that Part, or the provisions of the Free Trade Agreement or the related agreements themselves, without the consent of the Attorney General of Canada.

Part 1 of the enactment approves the Free Trade Agreement and the related agreements and provides for the payment by Canada of its share of the expenditures associated with the operation of the institutional aspects of the Free Trade Agreement and the power of the Governor in Council to make orders for carrying out the provisions of the enactment.

Part 2 of the enactment amends existing laws in order to bring them into conformity with Canada’s obligations under the Free Trade Agreement and the related agreement on labour cooperation.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

Oct. 7, 2009 Failed That the amendment be amended by adding after the word “matter” the following: “, including having heard vocal opposition to the accord from human rights organizations”.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

November 17th, 2009 / 4:10 p.m.
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NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is no answer. During my remarks, part of me forgot that they were doing this. I mentioned that the best I had heard from them was the Liberals contended that this would help Colombians. By somehow getting us in there and doing business, we would magically transform their human rights atrocities into human rights protection and human rights promotion. There is no evidence of that. I leave it to the Liberals to defend themselves.

However, one has to ask the same question that I asked of the government. Whose bidding are the Liberals doing? Could they stand and list the Canadian groups and the Canadian leaders who are prepared to put their names and reputations on the line to back up this free trade agreement? Let us see that list. We have reams and reams of names of people and organizations that are quite prepared to stand up proudly and say that they oppose this agreement on principle because of human rights violations.

Let us see the Liberals, if they say they are standing on a just point, produce their list, produce those Canadians who are prepared to stand up and put their reputations and the reputations of their organizations and their members on the line to implement this free trade agreement with Colombia, which does nothing for the people of Colombia and does nothing for the reputation or purpose of Canadians.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

November 17th, 2009 / 4:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is somewhat comical listening to the musings of the member, as he was part of a government that was so bad in the province of Ontario that it almost bankrupted the province. In fact, it was so bad that the former premier of the province, who he was a minister under, left that party to join another party because he was so embarrassed by the devastation that member and his party did to the province of Ontario.

I know he does not want to talk about the people who were out of work in the province of Ontario while he was in government. I know he does not want to talk about the disastrous record that he and the other members of his party had while they were serving in the government of Ontario.

I know he knows nothing about trade. If he did, Ontario would not have suffered as it did if it had a government of which many of the members he talked about, including the transportation minister, the finance minister, the industry minister and the great chair of the citizenship and immigration committee, were all a part.

He talked about the majority of the House being in favour of this bill. That is the reality. Yet what he and his party are doing is delaying the House, delaying an agreement. Why are they not listening to the majority of Canadians?

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

November 17th, 2009 / 4:15 p.m.
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NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an interesting approach to take, given the fact that the member is so proud of the investments being made as a result of the decision to go into deficit to fight the recession, when the Conservatives did not want to do it in the first place. They were only forced to do it because of the possibility of being thrown out of office. Now they brag about it.

Floyd Laughren stood up in the Ontario legislature and said that he was going to go into deficit to fight the recession and protect Ontarians. The government is doing exactly the same thing, bragging about it, except that it did not take pride of ownership. It had to do it because it was forced to it.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

November 17th, 2009 / 4:15 p.m.
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Bloc

Christian Ouellet Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am not necessarily pleased to have to speak about this bill today. In fact, it should not be here at the moment. The committee that studied it last summer recommended a study of its effects on human rights, as my colleague mentioned.

Therefore, I am going to talk about the environmental impact this agreement could have on the beautiful country of Colombia. The primary aim of the agreement is to promote Canadian extractive companies, in other words, the people who operate mines. This sort of work is not well regulated in Colombia. The agreement could at least have defined the types of extraction allowed and the manner in which Canadians could operate there. This could devastate a country where poor people are in poor health and live in insecurity because their environment will be destroyed by this type of mining.

Have my colleagues seen pictures of the type of extractive mining carried out in certain countries in South America and in Colombia at the moment? It is disastrous. Huge amounts of material are extracted and then used to obtain precious metals or lithium, in short, things that are quite rare. The quantity of waste generated is enormous. There is no thought of recycling or returning the land to its original state. They clearcut the trees, opening the way to landslides when there are heavy rains. It is a country of sudden and fairly heavy rains producing landslides that can sweep away entire villages. These people live right next to their place of work. They live in shacks because they cannot afford proper houses. Very often, these shacks are only built for temporary use.

A mine opens and operates for three years. It closes for a year, because the price of the metal has dropped. It then reopens for another two years. So the people are always living on the edge. They do not invest in the construction of good houses.

The material exposed to the air is collected by the floodwaters, which often carry dangerous and toxic raw materials into waterways. As we know, these mines are often in the mountains and the waterways go on for unbelievable distances.

The residue of heavy metals in river water is the hardest to remove because it is so fine, and the usual filters cannot readily detect it. In this country, mine operators—I could call them exploiters—can do as they see fit. They do not have enough money to install water filters powerful enough to remove the toxic waste from river water. People drink that water. Then they say that people die early because they are in poor health, but it is because they have been deprived of the chance to lead a healthy life in their own country.

Why are we imposing that on people?

It is because there are private interests that can extract this material, export it from Colombia and import it into our country. For a treaty such as this, and before finalizing this bill, someone should have studied the environmental impacts to see how changes could be made. That has not been done. In any case, if it has been done, we do not know about it. The government may have kept it hidden, because we were not told of any study of that kind, as had been requested by the committee.

In addition to the trees being cut down, the soil and water are also being polluted. It affects not just humans, but also the animal chain. The whole biological system will be left in a debilitated condition for decades before renewal begins, because there is no effort even to restore the land. Once the mining is finished, they will simply leave the machinery where it is; they will dump out the barrels of petroleum fuels and walk away. What goes on in those mines has to be seen. It is unbelievable.

They dump a barrel of gasoline. Yet, we know that one drop of gasoline will contaminate a thousand drops of water. Imagine how much water will be contaminated with each barrel. Often, the water table emerges further along because in the mountains a water table can extend for many kilometres; but it will empty unfiltered into a stream or water course. The toxic matter is not filtered by the soil because the water currents are quite strong and the water does not pass through sand and therefore is not filtered. Even if it did pass through sand, the material passing through would leave the sand saturated with dangerous matter.

In such a deal, consideration of the environment should have been fundamental. They say that we want to respect the countries that we trade with. We are not living in 1500 or 1800 when there was no concern for the environment. In a week or so, we will be into the year 2010. In this century, it is normal to consider the consequences of our actions on the environment. That has not been done in the bill. We find that is unacceptable. Why was it not done? It is because they wanted to protect private interests. Those interests are here in Canada, and when they tell us that this will make Colombia prosperous, it is only a smokescreen over the sea of free trade.

We are not against free trade, and I want to emphasize that. We are against free trade that does not consider the actual conditions in a country like Colombia. It could have been another country, but in that country we do not consider those conditions. On the pretext that these are poor people, that no one has the will to develop the enormous mines in that country, we negotiate an agreement with that government by telling them that we will trade goods. We know what things are exported from Colombia and that our trade with that country is minimal. That will not increase as a result of this agreement because the people there will not have any more money. The people will not be made richer because mining operators tear their country apart, destroy the natural systems and ecological balance, and then leave their mess behind after paying minimum wages.

In short, we are opposed to this agreement because, in the end, it is a bad agreement; it was made too quickly and to protect interests that are too limited.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

November 17th, 2009 / 4:25 p.m.
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NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by congratulating my colleague from the Bloc for his excellent remarks on this very serious subject. It is unbelievable, is it not, that the government should be concluding an agreement with Colombia, a country where there are so many murders, cases of torture and violations of human rights?

I put this question to my colleague. How can anyone explain the support of the Liberals and Conservatives for such a terrible bill?

In the name of humanity and all that is just, how can anyone explain a treaty with a country where there are so many murders? As the facts put forth by the member show, since 2008, the number of murders has been increasing. It is 18% higher than the year before. The use of torture is systemic and widespread and workers’ rights are constantly threatened.

How can he explain the support of the Liberals and Conservatives for this bill?

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

November 17th, 2009 / 4:25 p.m.
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Bloc

Christian Ouellet Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my NDP colleague for that important question. I will try to respond.

It is true that in terms of human rights, there is a great deal to be said, but other members have already spoken to that. For my part, I would like to respond to the issue of the environment. How is it that the Conservatives and the Liberals have joined in saying that the environment is not important? In fact, the answer is that the environment is not important in their eyes.

Those two parties are looking at the future through a rear-view mirror. They have not recognized that it is time to lift the rear-view mirror and look forward, especially the Conservatives, who have not stopped saying for the past two years that the Liberals did nothing for 13 years, while they have been in office for four years and they have done nothing for the environment. Four years; zero, nothing. They have no interest in looking after the environment.

The Liberals had problems with the environment. That may be why they will vote in favour of this agreement. They put forward some good proposals at one point and were ridiculed and condemned as populists by the Conservatives. Now, they have no idea where they are going. In the end, unfortunately, the environment is no longer an important value for them.

We really would like to see them wake up, find that energy again and say it is an important value and that they will vote against this proposed agreement because the environment is not protected.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

November 17th, 2009 / 4:30 p.m.
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Langley B.C.

Conservative

Mark Warawa ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to my good friend, the Bloc member, who raised the environmental issues. I have a question for him regarding the environment.

Why is it that the Bloc has voted no to every environmental program that the government has proposed? The Province of Quebec wanted $300 million for its environmental programs and the federal government gave it $350 million. What did the Bloc members do? They voted against that.

The member well knows that carbon capture and storage is a technology. We went to Berlin together and we heard that carbon capture and storage is a technology that the world is counting on. The reduction of 25% of greenhouse gas emissions are coming from carbon capture and storage. What did the Bloc do? Those members voted against carbon capture and storage. They voted against fuel efficiency standards.

Does the member really believe in climate change? Does his party really support getting tough on environmental issues?

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

November 17th, 2009 / 4:30 p.m.
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Bloc

Christian Ouellet Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my honourable colleague who is doing good work on the environment, but he has a veil hanging over his eyes, and, unfortunately, cannot see beyond the veil. He is a fine person and a good man. He works hard. I am not attacking him personally. It is his party that prevents him from seeing beyond the veil.

That prevents him from seeing that every time we are obliged to vote on the proposals he mentioned, there are other factors that are unacceptable to the Bloc Québécois, and he knows that. He knows why we voted against them. We did not vote against the environment. For us, the environment is fundamental and we will always vote in favour of the environment.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

November 17th, 2009 / 4:30 p.m.
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Bloc

Carole Lavallée Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me this opportunity to participate in the debate on the free trade agreement between Canada and the Republic of Colombia.

My colleagues have made it quite clear that the Bloc Québécois is against this bill. As we all know, the bill will help a few large Canadian mining companies at the expense of local Colombian populations and their environment. This bill does not require Colombia to respect human rights. Yet somebody needs to tell Colombia that it has to respect human rights.

It is incomprehensible that a country like Canada would choose to sign a free trade agreement with a country like Colombia.

People have pointed out that our economies are not comparable, yet one of the basic criteria for signing a free trade agreement is that the signatories have similar economies.

Free trade agreements should do more than just foster trade. We need to be able to go visit our partner's country, travel by plane while there, drive on their roads, go out and meet people. We need to be able to get into government buildings. Even if we sign this treaty, we will not be able to go there. It is a shame that the government does not really understand what it is saying.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada's website has a page about Colombia with advice and warnings for travellers. One of the headings says “Exercise high degree of caution”. These are warnings issued by the Government of Canada to travellers about Colombia.

There is no specific information about future terrorist activities or threats against Canadian citizens in Colombia. However, the security situation remains unpredictable. Possible terrorist targets include military and police vehicles and installations, restaurants, underground garages, nightclubs, hotels, banks, shopping centres, public transportation vehicles, government buildings, and airports located in major cities.

How can we conclude a free trade agreement with a country where it is dangerous to travel to airports located in major cities? How can we conclude an economic free trade agreement with a country where there could be attacks on government buildings? How can we put money in banks in a country that we cannot travel to because it is dangerous? We are talking about terrorist attacks.

In the same section it says:

Canadians should be vigilant and avoid any unattended packages or parcels and bring them to the attention of security personnel.

This makes no sense. Can we recommend that the Conservative government avoid any free trade agreements with Colombia?

Under the heading, “Regional Warning”, it says, “Avoid non-essential travel”.

Under “Official Warning”, it says:

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada [the Conservative government] advises against non-essential travel to the city of Cali and most rural areas of Colombia, because of the constantly changing security situation and the difficulty for the Colombian authorities to secure all of its territory.

Who is going to sign a free trade agreement? What minister would want to go to that country after reading this?

The paragraph goes on to say:

The exception to this would be some parts of the coffee growing area southwest of Bogota (Risaralda, Quindio and Caldas), and resort areas with established tourist industries, such as the Rosario Islands off the Atlantic coast and the Amazon resorts near Leticia. In all cases, travel to rural areas should only be undertaken following the overland travel advice in the Safety and Security section of this report.

There is more. The third warning, “Avoid all travel”, begins like this:

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada advises against all travel to the departments of Putumayo and Narino (excluding Pasto), located along the border with Ecuador, and to the departments of Arauca, Choco, Santander (excluding Bucaramanga) and Norte de Santander (excluding Cucuta), located along the border with Venezuela.

What follows is worth hearing:

The presence of armed drug traffickers, guerrilla and paramilitary organizations, including the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and the ELN (National Liberation Army), poses a major risk to travellers. These groups continue to perpetrate attacks, extortion, kidnappings, car bombings, and damages to infrastructure in these areas. Landmines are used by guerrilla groups, especially in rural areas.

And we are being asked to enter into a free trade agreement with a country that has guerillas, armed drug traffickers and paramilitary organizations? There is said to be a high risk of attacks, extortion and kidnappings. Who wants to sign a free trade agreement with a country that has these sorts of problems?

You are also advised against all travel to the departments of Cauca, Caqueta, Guaviare, Valle de Cauca (excluding Cali) [earlier, the site said to avoid Cali] and Antioquia (excluding Medellin), to the southern parts of Meta department and to the city of Buenaventura, due to the presence of similar armed groups.

Signing a free trade agreement with a country we cannot even visit is insane. This very government says not to go there because it is dangerous. It says to avoid all travel to certain regions, to avoid all essential travel to other areas and to exercise a high degree of caution because of the possibility of terrorist attacks. I am going to list the places where attacks could occur. It is frightening.

Possible terrorist targets include military and police vehicles and installations, restaurants [Restaurants. Where will we eat? Should we bring a lunch?], underground garages, nightclubs, hotels, banks, shopping centres, public transportation vehicles, government buildings, and airports located in major cities.

We must not go to these places. This government is issuing warnings it is not heeding itself, because I imagine it is planning to go to these places.

According to the Vivre ensemble newsletter, published by Centre justice et foi, an organization that works to build a welcoming society for new immigrants:

—Canada is currently a leader in having Colombian refugees sponsored to settle permanently in the country. However, we must first look at the disturbing role Canadian companies have played in fueling the conflict, with the consent of the federal government. In 1995, the Canadian company Goldfields signed a contract to operate a gold mine with a rich local family. Until then, the mine had been artisanally mined by the inhabitants of the Río Viejo region. At the same time, paramilitaries massacred 400 people and drove more than 30,000 people out of the region. The soldiers who also participated in this atrocious carnage were known to have been trained at the School of the Americas.

This is from the Vivre ensemble newsletter. It is not pretty. It continues:

A second troubling fact is that the Ottawa Citizen recently reported that a Canadian aerospace company was working with the Colombian army to maintain its military helicopters. Vector Aerospace, a Newfoundland company, confirmed that it had received the blessing of the federal government [of Canada] to sign the $6.5 million contract. The government felt that there was no valid reason to believe that this armament would be used against civilians. [Come on. Who else would it be used against?] The Colombian army and its associated paramilitary organizations have been singled out by numerous international observers, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, and found responsible for thousands of violent killings.

That was taken from last spring's Vivre ensemble.

This Conservative government does not care about the well-being of the Colombian people. A number of points make it blatantly clear that there is nothing in this agreement for the people of Colombia.

This agreement is about protecting investments. This agreement is about exploiting the local people and the Colombian environment. This agreement will not help Colombian citizens in any way.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

November 17th, 2009 / 4:40 p.m.
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Liberal

John Cannis Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a simple question for the hon. member. I listened very carefully when she talked about the people of Colombia.

Anything we do as administrations, no matter what party is in power, we always do with the good intention of improving the lives of our people.

In this case we are moving on the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement with what in mind? It is to improve the lives of our citizenry, ours in Canada and theirs in Colombia.

Does the member feel that by staying away we will improve the lives of the people in Colombia or does she agree, as I see it personally, that by going there and showing them how we do things in Canada with our rules and the administration and so on, however we do it, we can improve their lives in that way?

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

November 17th, 2009 / 4:40 p.m.
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Bloc

Carole Lavallée Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his very pertinent question. Yes, we do sometimes wonder what came first, the chicken or the egg. Can we help a country by going there and setting an example? Or should we establish preconditions? We could say to them that we will be prepared to enter into a free trade agreement in future but that they first have to address the human rights situation, try to control their militia in the regions and rein in FARC. That is what we must say to them. Most importantly, we must require a prospective trading partner to respect human rights. That is of great importance to me.

I find the member's question a little odd because he says that by going there we can show them how it is done. And yet we cannot go there. The Conservative government opposite tells us, in its travel reports for those who would usually go there, not to go, that it is dangerous. That is what it is telling us. Terrorist targets could be government buildings, airports, restaurants, public transportation vehicles.

How do you set an example in that kind of situation? You cannot. You can tell them to come to our country to see how things work. However, before we explain how it works, all governments must be required to respect human rights. That applies to the government of Colombia as well as to any other government with which we wish to do business.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

November 17th, 2009 / 4:45 p.m.
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NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I think my hon. Liberal colleague's reasoning is completely wrong. It is unbelievable. The Bloc Québécois member was quite right when she said we need to have some guarantees and promises that a country will respect human rights before we sign a free trade agreement. What the Liberals, like the hon. member for Kings—Hants, are saying is unbelievable, namely, that this free trade agreement could improve the situation regarding human rights abuses and social injustices. How can anyone agree with that argument? It is absolutely unbelievable.

Do we not need to absolutely assure Canadians and Colombians that we will demand that human rights be protected before signing any agreements or accords with that country?

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

November 17th, 2009 / 4:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Carole Lavallée Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for her question and her comment about the Liberal member. He said that we should set an example by signing the free trade agreement, then going down to see the Colombians and show them how democracy is done.

Anyone can see how things are working down there right now. In Colombia, democracy is ailing at best. They are having all kinds of problems running the country and preserving social order. What kind of example would the Conservative government give them? Here is what it would tell them: “Do not do things democratically”. Even this free trade agreement with Colombia is not being done democratically. The Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development did not want this agreement, did not want things to happen like this, but the government went ahead despite the committee's recommendation. That is what the Bloc Québécois' amendment is all about. We want nothing to do with this agreement.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

November 17th, 2009 / 4:45 p.m.
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Liberal

John Cannis Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will just take a few moments. I have spoken before, but I think what prompted me to get up and speak on this Canada-Colombia free trade agreement is the responses that referred to the Liberal member and also to me.

I am going to take my few moments to give some examples of what other countries are doing, what we have been doing, and what we are trying to do with this free trade agreement. We have had witnesses before our committee, and I happen to have the honour of being the vice-chair of the committee on international trade. I used to actually chair the committee years ago when we were in government. So I would like to believe that I know a little bit about this file.

The member from the Bloc talked about setting prerequisites before we sign a free trade agreement. That makes sense. I accept that. Who says that prerequisites or conditions have not been set in this agreement or this bill that is before us? We must not mislead Canadians. We did not just step up to the plate and say, “Oh, let us sign an agreement.” That is not what happened.

Here I am now, a Liberal member of Her Majesty's loyal opposition, defending what? A government bill. I am not defending the Conservative government bill. What I am defending here are jobs for Canada. What I am defending here is the opportunity for Canadians to get their share of the business, if I can put it that simply.

What we are also doing is we are doing it the Canadian way. This agreement that we are signing today is exactly the same type of agreement we have signed with other countries. It is on record. I just happened to stand up to participate in this debate, and I did not bring my notes, but I know I have referred to specific examples of other countries with whom we have signed these agreements with, like Israel, Costa Rica, the United States and Mexico.

This agreement today, between Canada and Colombia, is patterned around those same agreements. If we were okay to sign those agreements then, the question then becomes, why is it not okay now?

I also had the privilege of chairing the committee when President Uribe of Colombia was here in Ottawa. The gentleman came before our committee and talked about the reality of the situation. He is not walking away from the problems that Colombia is facing today. He never said there were not problems. What we are saying is, “Let us address those problems together.”

Other countries have good trade agreements. Let me give one example. We have the European Union. It is a body of countries that decided to engage together and create a market. They keep adding every so many years to this community. Turkey is an applicant for membership to the European community.

Before they can become members, there are certain prerequisites that are set out that each country has to meet. Today Turkey is on a collision course with respect to the Cyprus issue. Cyprus is a full member of the European community, and there is a conflict there, whether it is entrance to ports, airports, the green line, or property rights. A country like Cyprus today is in the 21st century. We are not looking to conquer countries, we are looking to work with countries.

Turkey is an applicant member. Why is the European community saying no to Turkey? What it is saying to Turkey is, “Of course we want you to become a member and we want you to start meeting these targets. There is a progression until you reach full membership”.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

November 17th, 2009 / 4:45 p.m.
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Liberal

John Cannis Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

What I am saying is that we do not turn away from these opportunities which are our business people out there. Our business community is encouraging us.

There have been undertakings in Colombia to address the problems that exist: human rights violations, labour abuses, et cetera. The paramilitary has been brought up.

Frank Pearl, a highly recognized individual, was appointed some years ago by the Colombian government to help people reintegrate into society. There are tremendous amounts of money being invested so people can come out of the jungles, reunite and reconnect with their families, re-engage and retrain in order for them to become productive members of society. However, all this does not happen overnight. It cannot happen overnight. It is impossible for it to happen overnight, but it is one step at a time.

I have personally seen that the government of Colombia is very serious about taking on these challenges. What we as Canadians are saying to Colombia is yes, we are going to sign a free trade agreement, the same as we signed with Mexico, the United States, Costa Rica, Israel, et cetera.

I do not have the document with me, but I would be more than pleased to table the information I have available confirming what I just said in terms of the types of agreements we have signed with these other countries. The Canada-Colombia agreement is patterned the same way and uses the same types of parameters.

We have not lessened the conditions we are asking for as a country or the government is asking for today. I have personally expressed my support for it. If anything, we are becoming more stringent because when we signed an agreement years ago, let us say, with Mexico, between then and now we have learned, improved and fine tuned. We are always looking to better ourselves.

In response to some of the comments that were made earlier with respect to what the Liberal member said, referring to me, I can only encourage other colleagues to think of it this way as we hope to get this over and done with as soon as possible. There are several things.

The longer we delay, our country is going to lose out. We delayed in signing CAFTA, the Central America Free Trade Agreement. When the United States signed on, it was ratified by one vote. Canada lost out. Canadian jobs lost out. The Americans are looking at this agreement as well.

Earlier today representatives from the Pork Producers Association were in committee and they said the same thing, “Don't delay, it's going to cost us. Don't Delay”. They were talking about how Korea, for example, had signed a free trade agreement and we were going to lose business. Our pork products are not going to be able to compete. Who is going to lose? Canadian jobs are going to be lost.

The end result is that people will be going on employment insurance, something the New Democratic Party was promoting two weeks ago when we were talking about improving EI benefits. Canadians do not want EI. Canadians want to work. They want to get up Monday to Friday to go to work and know that they can spend the weekends with their families and be proud of bringing home their bread and butter. That is what Canadians want to do.

What is it that we have to do as government representatives? We have to create a platform or the conditions, if I may say, whereby our nation, business people, farmers and manufacturers have the ability to flourish and prosper, and as they prosper, jobs and wealth are created. The big deficit we now have, thanks to the new Conservative Party, will hopefully be eliminated. That is why I am supporting this free trade agreement, to generate revenue and bring down the $56 billion deficit.

I am in full support of it and I am asking the Bloc Québécois and the New Democratic Party to look at it from that point of view. If we stay away, we are not really helping the people we want to help. By going there, we will show Colombia how we do it in Canada. We will insist that certain things are undertaken to ensure that we are headed in the proper direction.