Thank you very much.
Thank you for this opportunity to attend and make a presentation to the committee today.
The Canadian Environmental Law Association is an environmental law legal clinic, one of the specialty clinics in the Ontario legal aid system. We're 41 years old, and we're a federally incorporated ENGO. In addition to representation of eligible groups, families, and individuals, we also have a mandate to pursue environmental law reform and public legal education.
We've had an opportunity to review the Canada-Jordan bilateral free trade agreement and the agreement on the environment between those parties, the subject of your committee's study today.
Some of my comments today will echo comments I have made before this standing committee in earlier parliaments in reviewing other free trade agreements—for example, the Canada-Peru agreement and the potential Canada-European Union comprehensive economic and trade agreement.
Our analysis is generally premised on advocating that each level of government in Canada can and must act to protect the environment in diverse ways. We've argued this before the courts, and the courts, including the Supreme Court of Canada, have agreed that we have a strong system in Canada of action on environmental matters by municipal, provincial, and federal governments, and of course first nations, in addition to strong action at the international level.
So when we, as CELA, look at the proposed trade agreements and make recommendations, we're primarily concerned with ensuring that those diverse levels of jurisdiction and ability to act in the aim of strong environmental protection is flexible, well-recognized, and protected.
I'll turn now to specific topics under the Canada-Jordan free trade agreement.
The first one is the national treatment provision. In the proposed Canada-Jordan free trade agreement, there is, as is usual, a proposed national treatment provision. It imports the provisions of the GATT providing for an exception for that national treatment provision relating to environmental measures necessary for the “protection of human, animal or plant life or health”.
We have a recommendation that in this agreement it should be broadened beyond the GATT so that it's not limited just to measures that are necessary; it should include measures “intended” or “relating” to environmental and health objectives.
The second point is that of course there's the agreement on the environment, which is in front of you, as a side agreement. Again, this is not unusual, as I've noticed with various bilateral agreement regimes that I've looked at.
We've reviewed that chapter as well. The definition of “environmental laws” in the environment agreement explicitly excludes public and worker health and public safety. We submit that the environment side agreement should not be limited only to those laws whose primary purpose is environmental protection, but should include other laws that also relate in part to environmental protection. We also think the exclusion of laws relating to public health and worker health and safety, from that side agreement, is not reasonable.
For example, as many of you may know, one of Canada’s major environmental protection statutes, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, equally protects human health as well as non-human health in environmental matters. Another example is the recently enacted Canadian Consumer Product Safety Act, which has important elements of public health and safety as well as implications for environmental safety in indoor environment contexts.
Other improvements to the environment agreement would include requiring the parties to take account of scientific and technical information and of the precautionary principle, which CELA strongly endorses. The precautionary principle, along with scientific and technical information, is also an important element in occupational health and safety, and should be included in the side agreement—as well as, I might suggest, although I haven't studied it, the labour cooperation agreement; I did notice that there was no language like that there.
This type of language was recently proposed by the EU in the current CETA negotiations, for example, and we commended it to your predecessor committee in our prior appearance.
CELA also would prefer more explicit language obliging the parties to implement in their domestic laws and practices the requirements of multilateral environmental agreements, as listed here—the Stockholm, Basel, and Rotterdam conventions, the Montreal protocol, and the endangered species trade convention—rather than, as it does, merely providing that the multilateral environmental agreements would prevail in case of an operational inconsistency. We'd like the agreement to go further and oblige implementation of those commitments between the parties.
We also have a point on procurement, which is that we advocate the inclusion of provisions allowing for green procurement, for example, to allow for market transformation and in aid of more sustainable practices, products, and services, as well as green jobs in the domestic economies of the parties.
I have a point as well on expropriation. Your study apparently doesn't include the Canada-Jordan investment agreement, but in terms of environmental impact, we don't think we can testify at the committee without mentioning what we think that would do. We would suggest that at the first opportunity the provisions of that agreement that allow for claims of indirect expropriation in any case involving environmental regulation be disallowed, both procedurally and substantively.
The agreement limits such claims—in the terms it provides—in extremely rare circumstances. But this committee, and some of you, may have heard me say before that we think the better approach is that contained in the U.S.-Australia bilateral free trade agreement, which doesn't contain any such provision over and above the regular domestic laws of each party.
More to the point, Australia released a trade policy statement in April 2011—so quite recently, in the scheme of things—stating that it would not negotiate treaty provisions “that would confer greater legal rights on foreign businesses than those available to domestic businesses” or that “...constrain the ability of Australian governments to make laws on social, environmental and economic matters in circumstances where those laws do not discriminate....”
We think that's an extremely sound policy for Canada's context. So we would strongly encourage the adoption of that type of policy for this agreement and all other bilateral trade negotiations. We think that eliminating investor-state provisions beyond the remedies under Canada's domestic law would be a significant improvement here.
We don't argue against appropriate provisions for direct expropriation in domestic and international law. The common law and often statutory law provides strong protection. On the other hand, we've long disputed that public interest regulation amounts to expropriation or that any compensation is due when activities are curtailed because of public interest regulation. We would suggest that if expropriation is provided, it be limited to direct expropriation.
Before I finish that point, the fact that the claims may be brought, even if we don't think they will succeed on the language of the agreement, is, in itself, a problem. It raises the potential for regulatory chill on the domestic, national, and subnational governments; that is, they have to pause and think about whether the regulation they're planning to take could be the subject of such a challenge.
The last point I want to make before concluding and opening it up for your questions and discussion is that as more and more of the agreements are entered into on a bilateral basis, we're starting to see a real patchwork of rules pertaining to the protection, or sometimes the lack of protection, of the sovereign rights of Canada and the provinces and other nations that we're entering into agreements with to establish environmental, health, safety, and labour rights as each of those governments sees fit. Each of these agreements constrains in some way the ability of those governments to act in these areas, even while providing language that purports to protect it.
The fact that those claims can be brought at all we see as highly problematic. We also find very problematic the fact that these claims would be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and that the reasonableness of the government action to protect the environment or its legitimacy or its good faith, for example, might be in play.
To conclude, we strongly encourage that there be improvements in the language—as we've said with respect to other agreements that we've looked at—of the entire agreement and the side agreement to ensure the most beneficial provisions and strong environmental protection and regulation by the parties, and the most sustainable approaches.
We recommend that the committee advise the government that it should return the agreement to negotiation to take into account the above recommendations, including the more preferred expressions of the ability to provide for environmental regulation domestically without hindrance. We think it should extend to strong, precautionary, and protective language in the side agreement and the main agreement, as well as the similar provisions that I noted are contained in the investment agreement.
We also, as I said, recommend that the government adopt a trade policy statement similar to that of Australia's, whereby it would not accord to non-domestic investors any greater rights than domestic investors have.
Thank you once again for the opportunity to present our views.