Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-23 and I, along with my NDP colleagues, am proud to speak in opposition to the bill.
The bill is about free trade with a government that refuses to recognize human rights and a government that is complicit in human rights violations. The bill is also about free trade with a government that refuses to recognize the need to protect our planet and our environment, and that is complicit in taking our environmental resources for granted.
Canada signed a free trade agreement on November 21, 2008 and the legislation we are debating today is a result of that agreement and would implement the agreement signed between our two countries.
Even though the agreement is signed, it is not too late, which is why we are taking turns standing in the House to talk about the problems with this agreement. We are trying to wake the government up to the fact that this is a very bad deal. It is bad for Canada and it is bad for Colombia.
On May 25, the Bloc Québécois moved an important amendment to Bill C-23 which I believe is important enough to reread in this honourable House. The amendment reads:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:
“the House decline to give second reading to Bill C-23, 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, because the government concluded this agreement while the Standing Committee on International Trade was considering the matter, thereby demonstrating its disrespect for democratic institutions”.
That is a very important and precisely worded amendment. The amendment is important because it restates the purpose of the bill to say that, in fact, members of this House would refuse to give second reading to this bill. We refuse to give second reading because it is not a bill that is good for Canada and it is not a bill that is good for Colombia.
I have previously stated in the House some of the most egregious aspects of this FTA. As we know, the CCFTA consists of three parts. There is the main FTA text but there is also a labour side agreement and an environmental protection side agreement.
The areas of concern are as follows: First, this agreement shows a failure on labour rights protection. Colombia is one of the most dangerous countries on earth for trade unionists. They are regularly the victims of violence, intimidation and even assassination by paramilitary groups linked to the Colombian government.
The CCFTA does not include tough labour standards. By putting these labour agreements, as I said, in a side agreement outside of the main text and without any kind of vigorous enforcement mechanism will not encourage Colombia to improve its horrendous human rights situation for workers but will actually justify the use of violence.
This agreement is also a failure on environmental protection. The environment issue again is addressed in a side agreement and there is no enforcement. Anybody who has ever looked at law, legislation or policy knows that if there is no enforcement it is meaningless. There is no enforcement mechanism here to force either Canada or Colombia to respect environmental rights.
We have seen in the past how agreements like this are unenforceable. For example, I will draw attention to one agreement we all know and that is NAFTA. We have never seen a successful suit brought under the NAFTA side agreement on labour.
Another aspect of the agreement that is problematic is the investor chapter copied from NAFTA's chapter 11 investor rights. The CCFTA provides powerful rights to private companies to sue governments, enforceable through investor state arbitration panels. This is particularly worrying because of the many multinational Canadian oil and mining companies in Colombia.
The arbitration system that is set up in chapter 11 gives foreign companies the ability to challenge legitimate Canadian environmental labour and social protections. Giving this opportunity to private businesses in Colombia and elsewhere would further erode Canada and Colombia's abilities to pass laws and regulations that are actually in the public interest.
Another area that we find problematic is the agricultural tariffs. Colombia's poverty is directly linked to agricultural development where 22% of employment is agricultural. An end to tariffs on Canadian cereals, pork and beef would flood the market with cheap products. What would this mean? This would mean thousands of lost jobs for Canadians.
Bill C-23 would also seriously destabilize the Canadian sugar industry. Importing sugar from Colombia would threaten the closure of at least one of the Canadian sugar plants in the west and would result in job losses of up to 500 employees and 250 sugar beet growers; all this while at the same time Colombia is not a significant trading partner for Canada. It is our fifth largest trading partner in Latin America; all this while at the same time 2,690 trade unionists have been murdered in Colombia since 1986 and 31 trade unionists alone this year; and all this when nearly 200,000 hectares of natural forest are lost in Colombia every year due to agriculture, logging, mining, energy development and construction, and we are complicit in this.
Free trade does not work in this context. What is the solution?
I would like to share with the House an idea that is familiar to many Nova Scotians and that is fair trade. Just Us! Coffee Roasters Co-Op really brought this idea of fair trade to Nova Scotia. Fair trade is a trading partnership based on dialogue, transparency and respect that seeks greater equality in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to and securing the rights of marginalized producers and workers, especially in the south.
Fair trade organizations that are backed by consumers are engaged actively in supporting producers, awareness raising and in campaigning for change, change in the rules and practices of conventional international trade, which is what we are seeing with this agreement.
The strategic intent of fair trade is threefold. First, deliberately work with marginalized producers and workers in order to help them move from a position of vulnerability to one of security and economic self-sufficiency. Second, empower producers and workers as stakeholders in their own organizations. Third, actively play a wider role in the global arena to achieve greater equality and equity in international trade.
To put it more simply, fair trade is an alliance between producers and consumers that cuts out the middle man. In this process, it empowers producers and it gives them greater dignity and a fairer price for their products. It provides consumers with high quality products that they know are more sustainable from both a social and environmental point of view.
Just Us! Coffee Roasters is Canada's first fair trade coffee roaster and it is located in the town of Wolfville, Nova Scotia. There are two Just Us! Coffee Roasters shops in my riding of Halifax, one on Barrington Street, which is in the heart of our business district, and the other one on Spring Garden Road, which is very close to the campus of Dalhousie University.
Both those coffee shops are touchstones for our community. They are not only a place to meet friends, a place to buy ethical products and a part of our local economy, but they are also doing more to support our local economy. They offer food prepared by local food suppliers, like Terroir Local Source Catering and Unique Asian Catering, which are small businesses located in the community of Halifax.
I applaud Just Us! Coffee Roasters for leading by example and for showing the country that fair trade is possible. It is my hope that the bill fails and that, instead of rewarding countries that fail to recognize human rights, we work with them to develop trade in a fair and equitable way.
Those are the reasons that I stand in opposition to Bill C-23.