Mr. Speaker, I have been preparing for a long time to rise in this place to debate Bill C-79 at second reading, which is an act to implement the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership between Canada, and 10 other countries: Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. It is critically important that we have the opportunity to debate this implementing legislation, as the CPTPP is a massive agreement with far-reaching implications for Canadians.
The Liberals and Conservatives tried to bypass this debate we are having today. They tried to shove the legislation through without parliamentary oversight.
I am proud of our NDP caucus. It has stood up for full democratic debate and a vote on this agreement, one which has working people across our country very nervous. I have committed to auto stakeholders, supply management farms, building trades and the 60,000 Canadians who wrote to the trade committee to have this debate.
As many will remember, the CPTPP started out as the TPP, which included the United States. Canada was late in joining the negotiations, and we were forced to accept everything that had been negotiated to that point. To say that we entered with a weakened negotiating position underplays the terms we accepted on key issues, including on intellectual property, digital and cultural policies, and ISDS provisions that would allow foreign companies to sue domestic governments like those in Canada.
The agreement was negotiated with little transparency or accountability, as Canadians were left in the dark about the government's agenda. This is an unfortunate trend that has continued under the Liberals in the same way it was under the Conservatives.
A deal was finalized in October 2015 in the midst of a federal election campaign, when many Canadians were asking if the Conservative government had a mandate to do so. I remember this time well. Like many of my colleagues, I was knocking on doors and talking to voters across my riding. People in Essex—Windsor were very concerned about the TPP, and for good reason. Many are employed in sectors that would be negatively impacted by this agreement. In our region, we build cars and supply auto parts, work in tool and die shops, and manufacture steel pipe and tube.
Over the last few decades, my region, like many in Canada, has watched as thousands of good manufacturing jobs have disappeared thanks to trade deals like NAFTA, and the exodus of quality jobs to jurisdictions with lower wages and weaker labour standards.
It is not easy for people to lose their jobs. I know this first-hand. I am a 20-year auto worker, and I, along with many of my friends and co-workers, was laid off in the economic downturn of 2008. These are not just numbers on economic reports, but are in fact people's livelihoods: their incomes, their means of supporting their families and in turn their contribution to their communities.
The impact of job loss on people and their families cannot be understated. Many of my co-workers struggled not only financially, but also with their own health and mental health in the aftermath of these desperate years. Marriages did not survive, keys were handed to the bank and some fell into addiction. Many struggled to find hope for themselves.
This is what workers in Canada face. Those occupying the 58,000 jobs under threat are facing this type of life going forward. When I say the TPP threatens to kill thousands of good Canadian jobs, we as parliamentarians must take that seriously. Once these jobs are gone, they are not easily replaced, and when they are replaced, it is usually with precarious part-time and low-wage work.
The people of the United States elected Donald Trump as their president, which was in no small part due to his attempt at luring people to vote for him under the guise that he understood the frustrations of generations of workers who had been left behind by unfair trade agreements. He promised to get rid of NAFTA and withdraw from the TPP.
Mr. Trump's message may have resonated with working people, but his proposed solutions completely miss the mark and will only make things worse for the very people he claims to represent. In fact, that is already the case.
After President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the trans-Pacific partnership in 2017, the remaining signatories continued to meet quietly behind closed doors, in secret. I find this beyond insulting to those who are involved in the current NAFTA renegotiations. I will never forget the betrayal that was expressed toward the Liberals when they signed us back on to the newly minted CPTPP in the middle of a NAFTA renegotiation round in Montreal. Stakeholders in labour were stunned to learn that while they were participating in NAFTA rounds in good faith, believing that the government had finally woken up to the reality of their valuable input into trade negotiations, they were blindsided by the signing, which the government failed to mention to anyone during the weekend. How is it that Liberals were spending day and night in meetings and that this massive trade announcement slipped their mind and they forget to mention it to the stakeholders in the room?
I want to talk a little bit about the TPP and compare it to the CPTPP. We have the old contents and we have the new ones. It will come as no surprise to most Canadians that they are largely similar. The Liberals will point to the mere 20 provisions that were suspended and the multiple side letters, as we heard the minister do earlier. All of these still remain uncertain for many Canadians and we have to keep in mind that all of these provisions were crafted without the input of key stakeholders.
The CPTPP contains the same harmful provisions on auto, dairy, temporary foreign workers, labour mobility and investor-state dispute settlement. The idea that the TPP was somehow transformed into something progressive is laughable. It appears to be a cynical attempt at misleading Canadians.
Trade agreements cannot be just made up of shiny fluff, the products of public relations and rebranding. They need to be meaningful to the lives of everyday Canadians. Canadians do not even know what was agreed to in multiple side letters, including those on culture and autos. How is it that we are debating this legislation and do not even have the full text still for us to be able to fully view?
I want to talk a little about these side letters. This is where Liberals will point to addressing all of the concerns that New Democrats have. It is time that these side letters are exposed for exactly what they are, aspirational language that has absolutely zero enforceability. It is also where the Liberals will point to the so-called progressive elements, which carry very little weight compared to the text in the main agreement. Side letters cannot supersede the text of the main agreement and a side letter is not enforceable through the agreement's dispute settlement mechanisms unless it is explicitly mentioned.
If a Liberal MP stands in this House and defends this agreement based on the side letters then they should be ashamed for fooling people they represent, or they clearly do not understand the way that trade agreements work at all. I hope that my colleagues on all sides of this House in auto ridings will keep that in mind when they are explaining to the people who will be losing their jobs.
Of the 20 suspended provisions, 11 come from the chapter on intellectual property. Many critics of the original TPP have welcomed these changes. However, it is important to remind Canadians that these suspensions are not set in stone and could enter into force at future dates. Suspensions are little more than a way to sell the agreement: “Do not worry. It is suspended.” This is a dangerous sense of security because those provisions could reappear in the agreement very easily.
The original TPP's chapter on intellectual property contained harmful proposals that would have impeded Canadians' access to affordable medicines. These include extended patent terms for medicines, 70-year copyright terms, minimum terms of data protections for biologics and rules that would have encouraged the pharmaceutical practice of evergreening. If the United States were to rejoin the pact, the suspended provisions could be be brought back to life with the consensus of treaty members. This is very dangerous. It could lead to more stringent patent terms and higher drug costs for Canadians. In fact, we are anxiously waiting to see right now if a revised NAFTA will contain some of these same or even worse proposals. Canadians are very worried about this. At a time when the government should be introducing universal pharmacare and not just studying it again, and working to lower the cost of Canadians' prescription medications, they could in fact be setting us up for the opposite.
Now I want to talk a little bit about the rebranding and about the “P” in the CPTPP that stands for progressive. How can the Liberals brand this deal as progressive? Let us talk about some of the issues that exist in that. The new mandate letter, I should point out, for the new International Trade Diversification Minister omits any reference to this Liberal so-called progressive agenda, which is quite telling I think.
The CPTPP has no chapters on gender or on the rights of indigenous people, which is something that the government said was important in the course of NAFTA negotiations. Why has it disappeared from the CPTPP? The CPTPP does not even mention the words “climate change” and its labour provisions are extremely weak. It contains provisions that will weaken Canada's supply-managed sector. It contains harmful ISDS provisions that have been destructive for environment and corrosive to the sovereignty of our government. None of those things are particularly progressive. I will give my colleagues a quote from Scott Sinclair at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. He stated:
If the Trudeau government’s rhetoric about progressive trade and inclusive growth means anything—which is an open question—then it requires a genuine rebalancing of trade treaties to better protect workers, citizens and the environment, and to confront the 21st century challenges of extreme inequality and runaway climate change.
The next thing I would like to discuss a little is the consultations. Certainly the Liberal government is in favour of consultations, although the meaningfulness of those consultations has really come under scrutiny, particularly over the NAFTA talks that happened over the summer.
As I have said, the Conservatives signed us on to this deal in 2015 during the campaign. As soon as the Liberals took office, they promised that their new government would be different and that it would consult with the public. Instead of undertaking meaningful public consultations, the government passed this on to the international trade committee, of which I am the vice-chair. Our trade committee's so-called public consultations were widely criticized for restricting public participation in a variety of ways. For example, we received over 8,000 submissions from Canadians, but we struggled to translate and adequately review all these submissions. The fact is that the committees, not just my own, have limited resources, and are not equipped to do true public consultations. The Liberals love to say that they are consulting, but their shallow definition of what constitutes public consultation is very troublesome. This was shown in the recent court ruling on the pipeline and the government's failure to properly consult indigenous people.
On the TPP, the trade committee hearings allowed for a one-hour time slot for the public to make presentations. Every city we toured was filled with people who wanted to speak about the TPP. In Montreal, 19 out of 19 public presenters were opposed. In Quebec City, three out of three were opposed. We heard from more than 400 witnesses and received written comments from more than 60,000 Canadians, of whom 95% were opposed to the TPP.
According to Global Affairs documents obtained by The Council of Canadians, only two out of 18,000 Canadians wrote to the government in support of the TPP. I want to repeat that: two out of 18,000 people who wrote the government expressed support. That means only .01% of everyone who participated in these email consultations supported the deal. It is no wonder the Liberals are using the guise of public consultations as cover to sign Canada on to the job-killing TPP.
Let us talk about the timing. At a time when the Trump administration is threatening to implement devastating auto tariffs, both the Conservatives and Liberals are championing a trade deal that would put 58,000 Canadian jobs at risk, 20,000 in auto parts alone. The leader of the Conservative Party asked to recall the House of Commons in the summer in order to ram through the TPP trade deal, which would decimate these industries, industries that are already endangered under Trump's outrageous tariffs. There could not be a worse time to be ratifying the CPTPP. Destroying one industry in hopes that another one will eventually grow is not diversification; it is a death sentence for our domestic sectors. Conservatives may be comfortable turning their backs on the auto sector, as it appears the Liberals are, but New Democrats will stand strong with them in these very difficult times.
Let us talk about tariffs. We know the CPTPP would lead to the elimination of tariffs on a range of imported goods and exports in sectors like aerospace, metals and minerals, chemicals and plastics, industrial machinery, pharmaceuticals, agriculture and agrifood, fish and seafood, and forestry and value-added wood products. However, it is important to note that we are already 97% tariff-free with CPTPP countries, so we are talking about three per cent of the tariffs being reduced inside this.
I understand this is significant for some in our agriculture society, but I also know our agricultural communities are struggling not just with the tariff reductions but the non-tariff barriers. Earlier, my colleague spoke to the fact that we have to do more. We have to address and tackle the true barriers, because too many Canadian exporters cannot access existing markets, let alone potential new markets, and there are many ways the federal government can support them.
I have heard CETA mentioned in this House today, and certainly the numbers out of the Port of Montreal. What is not being mentioned is the fact that since we signed CETA a year ago, our exports to those countries have gone down. Do we know what has gone up? Imports from CETA countries. There has been a flood from those countries. Again, Canada is in worse shape with those countries today after signing CETA than it was a year ago. Something is wrong here, and Canadians know it.
I also want to talk about the fact that, as I said, the auto sector is in dangerous times. Over the summer, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh visited the Windsor-Essex region, which is the epicentre of the steel and aluminium trade dispute. He heard from workers and businesses that are very worried about the increased tariffs and unfair trade deals. He committed to them that at every turn, the NDP will stand up for Canadian workers and against the job-killing CPTPP.
Industry and labour groups in the auto and auto parts sector are strongly opposed to the CPTPP. The auto industry is already facing those punitive tariffs and simply cannot stand any more pressure at this point. They know their sector inside and out, and they know how false the Liberals' claims are that the CPTPP will open up markets in the Asia-Pacific region. In fact, they have tried desperately to get the Liberal government to listen to them, to listen to the fact that they will lose jobs and that they are in jeopardy. Unfortunately, the Liberal government has refused to do so and is barely acknowledging the fact that they will be harmed.
The other thing I have to mention is supply management. How can we have a government that repeatedly stands and says that it will protect supply management when in CPTPP it is giving up percentages? At least under the Conservatives there was money attached, some type of compensation to help them. That has completely evaporated under the Liberal government. We are in a precarious time in NAFTA right now in our negotiating phase, and one of the largest issues on the table is supply management. Why, then, would the Liberals bring the CPTPP, which is damaging our supply management, as the very first piece of proposed legislation to put through the House, knowing that we are at this critical juncture in NAFTA? It is baffling, and our farmers are not fooled by the Liberal government and this death by a thousand cuts.
We find ourselves in this extraordinary time in our relationship with our largest trading partner and this delicate renegotiation of NAFTA. It seems like incredibly poor political timing to be pushing through the CPTPP, which some view as poking the bear, with the bear being Donald Trump.
I had a meeting with farmers in my office on Friday night. They are extremely worried about the future of supply management in Canada and in my riding of Essex. They hear Liberals repeating the same lines over and over—that they created and will protect supply management—but to farmers like Bernard Nelson in Essex, protecting our dairy sector means that we do not open a percentage of our market. Whether it is in CETA, CPTPP, or now NAFTA, it is a slippery slope toward the beginning of the end. Bernard and I agree that this approach is death by a thousand cuts and will hurt Canadian farmers.
Diversification is important, but it must be done in a responsible way. Ratifying the CPTPP is the opposite of this. How can Liberals be fighting for a better deal in NAFTA for the very sectors that they are willing give up in the CPTPP? I can tell members that the Liberals must stop signing onto neo-Liberal trade deals like the CPTPP and embrace a truly progressive trade policy that does not leave working people behind. The NDP is determined to continue fighting for truly fair and progressive trade that respects the rights of Canadians. It is time to put the interests of people first, including manufacturing workers, rural communities, and local and small family farms.
I move, seconded by the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot:
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-79, An Act to implement the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership between Canada, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, because:
a) 95% of the more than 60,000 Canadians who made submissions on the deal were opposed to it;
b) experts have said that this deal could cost Canada 58,000 jobs;
c) the negotiations were shrouded in secrecy, despite promises of transparency from the government on trade deals; and
d) the agreement contains weak labour and environmental standards, and puts our public services and cultural sectors at risk.