Mr. Speaker, I will use my time to demonstrate why the progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership, or CPTPP, which Bill C-79 seeks to implement, is a bad deal.
The Liberals and the Conservative Party seem rather eager to get this bill passed. Try as I might, I cannot comprehend why. There have been extensive studies done in committee. Serious discussions needed to take place, but we should also have had more time to discuss the matter here, in the House. No one even bothered to listen to the evidence presented in committee. More than 400 witnesses appeared before the Standing Committee on International Trade, and comments were made by more than 60,000 people, 95% of which had negative things to say about the trans-Pacific partnership.
It is not just the NDP saying this. The people have spoken, loud and clear. If 95% of the 60,000 people having commented believe that it is a bad deal, I think the message is clear. As usual, however, the Liberals and Conservatives are doing as they please, totally disregarding what the people are saying. Holding consultations is all well and good, but they need to listen to what the people have to say, even if it does not always suit their agenda.
We were all elected to represent the people and to serve their interests, not ours. The NDP will always support agreements between Canada and other countries, despite what the government says and everything that has been said in the House during debate on Bill C-79. However, we do not want a deal at any cost. That is what is important. There are several reasons why this agreement does not deserve the progressive seal that the government likes to give it, and I will have the opportunity to present them in my speech.
We saw the same thing when the Conservatives were in power, and unfortunately, it is continuing under the Liberal government. We keep signing bad agreements. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
The government has allocated too little time to debate Bill C-79. I must point out that the Liberals and their Conservative friends allowed a time allocation motion on Bill C-79 to be passed in order to significantly reduce the hours of debate in the House. Because of the adoption of this motion, the number of hours of debate has been reduced from 10 to 4. That is irresponsible. It is important to debate this bill as much as possible so that we can improve it and serve the needs of the people.
We are now at third reading, and I would remind the House that the NDP would like to delete a few clauses from the bill. Several amendments were presented by my colleague from Essex and were unfortunately rejected out of hand.
I would like to focus on some motions moved by my hon. colleague dealing with clauses 11, 12, 19 and 50 of the bill. Clause 11 definitely needs to go, because it grants the minister exclusive power to appoint the members of the various panels. We would prefer that they be appointed in consultation with the ministers of environment and labour as well as with the public, as was suggested in committee.
Clause 12 should also be deleted, as it provides that the government's contribution to the commission's expenses not be disclosed. I find that unacceptable. We need to be transparent with the people. We sought to remedy the situation in committee by proposing an amendment, which my hon. colleague from Essex championed quite well. In the end, we saw the Liberals' hypocrisy at work when they opposed it.
Businesses in my riding are already concerned. They know that the agreement will not benefit them in the slightest and tens of thousands of jobs are in jeopardy around the country. Farms and small and medium-sized businesses are at risk of shutting down. This was already being reported back in March 2018 in Le Quotidien du Saguenay Lac-Saint-Jean; a dozen farm operations in the region closed up shop over the past year. Dairy farmers in Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean were already aware of the dangers of the breaches that the Liberals have opened in supply management.
Again back in March, Daniel Gobeil, president of the Producteurs de lait du Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, said he was concerned that the negotiations around what was then still called NAFTA would once again be conducted at the expense of dairy farmers. He was right to be concerned. After what they went through with CETA, he said that dairy farmers did not want to be used as bargaining chips anymore, and yet, that is precisely what happened. Smaller operations saw their profits drop, and the climate of uncertainty created by the Liberals has discouraged some from investing, leaving them with no choice but to bow out.
To please the other CPTPP members, the Liberals opened a crack in our supply management system, a crack that has no reason to stay open, given that the United States withdrew from the agreement over two years ago. Members will recall that it was the U.S. that made this request. When they withdrew, a decision was made to keep it in the agreement anyway. The Liberal government gave up 3.25% of our domestic dairy market, 2.3% of our egg market, 2.1% of our chicken market, and 2% of our turkey market. Farmers cannot accept this wrongful decision, especially since the other countries did not ask for any concessions on our supply management system. I repeat, the United States was the only country to demand this, and it is no longer part of the agreement.
The cracks in our agrifood market are adding up. First, there was the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, which has had dramatic repercussions on our cheese producers. Now we have the CPTPP and soon the USMCA, in which the Liberals handed over our agricultural market to the Americans. One crack, two cracks, three cracks—it is starting to sound like a nursery rhyme. When will the Liberals stop using Quebec's dairy farmers as a bargaining chip?
This is getting to be a bit much. I will give you a concrete example from my region, Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean. Dairy producers are angry. For a brief moment they considered blocking a road in Saint-Bruno with a tractor to show just how unhappy and angry they are. They did not actually do it because they did not want to inconvenience people. In their opinion, the government made false promises on several occasions.
The agreements we are discussing in the House today are affecting dairy farmers. We are talking about the people who feed us, who work day after day to maintain our food sovereignty. These are the people we are attacking every time we reach a trade agreement. We are creeping up on a 10% breach in supply management. Several members have mentioned that here in the House. Imagine if we were to lose a month’s salary. We might be the first ones to complain.
I understand why they are angry and why they no longer believe the government’s promises of compensation. We saw that recently with CETA, with the importation of 17,500 tonnes of cheese. A program was offered, but dairy farmers had to invest money in order to receive compensation. Moreover, some of the producers I met with this summer had still to see any of that money. This is unacceptable. I understand why the dairy farmers in my region are angry and why they no longer believe in the Liberal government’s promises.
Furthermore, the agreement affects more than just the agricultural sector. It threatens Canada's and Quebec’s cultural integrity. As a number of experts have said, the CPTPP has by far the weakest cultural exemption ever negotiated in a Canadian free trade agreement. The government declared that some problematic cultural clauses had been temporarily suspended but not eliminated entirely.
The new agreement makes no mention of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, despite that fact that seven CPTPP countries, including Canada, are parties to it. In addition, it prevents Canada from making sure that, in the future, online providers will support Canadian content. The new side letters can only complete or clarify the basic text; they cannot solve every problem. The preamble to the CPTPP is insufficient to ensure that Canada’s obligations under the UNESCO treaties will take effect.
First, the CPTPP does not acknowledge any of the internationally recognized instruments of cultural protection, such as the 2005 UNESCO convention.
Second, the agreement assumes that if free trade is encouraged, the impact on culture will inevitably be positive. Nowhere does it acknowledge the threats and the challenges that it poses to our provinces' cultural sovereignty.
Third, the agreement does not recognize the promotion and protection of cultural diversity as legitimate grounds for taking regulatory action. What effect will this have? A dispute resolution panel under the CPTPP could very well decide to reject the legitimacy of cultural regulation.
In the past, Canada signed free trade agreements where culture is explicitly protected in the preamble, including the 2009 agreement with Peru, the 2012 agreement with Jordan, the 2013 agreement with Panama and the 2014 agreement with Honduras.
I do not understand the Liberals' reasoning. Why make concessions on culture, which puts a number of jobs in jeopardy?
As my party's labour critic, I, too, object to this aspect of the agreement. The wording of the labour standards remains virtually unchanged from that of the original trans-Pacific partnership. That is worrisome, as it renders the standards unenforceable. This alone disqualifies the agreement from being considered progressive, as the government has been doing for quite some time.
Under the agreement, workers whose rights have been violated need to prove that the violation had an impact on trade, which is virtually impossible. As I have stated earlier, the onus falls once again on the workers, who, on top of everything else, must prove that there has been an impact on trade. We saw how impossible that is to prove in the dispute between the United States and Guatemala.
In the original TPP, the United States had negotiated a 12-page labour reform plan. That reform plan allowed Vietnamese workers to have free and independent collective bargaining. Canada could not obtain the same commitment. Instead, we got Vietnam to accept a watered-down version of that reform plan.
The U.S., under President Obama, also struck labour consistency plans with Malaysia and Brunei in an effort to ensure that both countries lived up to fundamental labour standards, including freedom of association and collective bargaining, as requirements for trade under the TPP.
Under the new deal, these labour consistency plans have completely disappeared. The former TPP made sure that governments were able to invoke respect for workers' rights as a requirement for procurement. That was another tool that helped to ensure that international labour standards were taken into account in public procurement decisions. In the new deal, that clause was temporarily suspended.
According to the Canadian Labour Congress, the labour standards set out in the CPTPP are low and in no way guarantee that the basic rights of member countries' workers will be respected. It also does not guarantee the workers' ability to organize and bargain collectively.
I definitely want to touch on the issue of prescription drugs. Not only does the Liberal government not care what Canadians think, it does not care about their health either.
Canada is already second in the world for drug expenditures per capita. There is one hard truth that the Liberals are refusing to accept: thousands of Canadians cut their pills in half, halt their treatments or eat less so that they can afford the drugs they need. That should have been taken into account in the CPTPP.
In my riding, more than a third of seniors put their health at risk, and that worries me greatly. The CPTPP will only make things worse. It makes even more concessions to pharmaceutical companies, which will increase Canadians' annual drug expenditures by more than $800 million.
Furthermore, this deal jeopardizes our country's sovereignty and the efficiency of our public policies.
I still have a lot to say, but I will conclude by stating that the NDP has always supported agreements that are beneficial to Canada's workers and all Canadians.
As it stands, we cannot support the CPTPP. It contains no progressive measures, which is especially disappointing given that over 60,000 people showed interest and made submissions. In fact, 95% of the comments made were negative, but the government brushed them aside.
I come back to the dairy producers from my region, Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, who demonstrated this morning to show their dissatisfaction. The last three trade deals that were forced upon them have weakened supply management, which affects their bottom line. We need to think about the family farms that feed us and about our food sovereignty.
I will now take questions from my colleagues.