Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak to Bill C-32, an act to implement the free trade agreement between the Government of Canada and the government of the Republic of Costa Rica.
It is not the intention of the New Democratic Party to support the bill. That should be of no surprise as we have indicated that previously. I will expand on the reasons in the next few minutes.
Bill C-32 and the Canada-Costa Rica free trade agreement follow the North American Free Trade Agreement and the FTAA model of free trade that the New Democratic Party has consistently opposed because they put corporate rights ahead of human rights, the environment and democracy.
The side agreements on labour and the environment are insufficient to promote higher standards across the board in these areas. Costa Rica's record on labour is atrocious. We see no reason to make things worse.
The purported advantage of free trade in agricultural products is unproven. While Canadian farmers are not seeing the benefits of increased imports, the livelihood of Costa Rican farmers is endangered by an agreement such as this one. Many must wonder how that would be the case.
The bottom line is that the specific agreements are set out with the right of the investors to make a profit. They are the ones who benefit from these trade agreements and they do not encompass a holistic approach to the well-being of a country, a community or an industry within a country.
My hon. colleague from the Bloc mentioned that colonialism in southern countries does not allow for diversification in some of those countries. Quite frankly we see that happening even within Canada where there is no diversity and as a result certain industries are suffering.
The Bloc will not be supporting the bill at third reading. I am pleased to see the Bloc come on side with the New Democratic Party's view that trade agreements are not okay if they do not encompass environmental rights, human rights and labour rights.
I know there were numerous members from the Bloc who went to Quebec City earlier this year, along with members of the New Democratic Party caucus. We listened to many people from southern countries who have seen the effects of trade agreements in their countries. They said that the effects were not always good and in some cases were detrimental.
According to the National Farmers Union, Canadian farmers and consumers have not benefited from increased agricultural exports, nor have farmers and consumers in the developing countries to which we export. The position of the governments of Costa Rica and Canada that it is a good deal for everyone is just not the case. There is no benefit when products go on the market at an extremely low cost. Flooding the world market with food prices far below production costs damages the ability of other countries to feed their citizens. That is exactly the case.
In Costa Rica in 1998 a flood of cheap imported grain drove the local farmers out of business. The number of farmers growing corn, beans and rice, the staples of the local diet, fell from 70,000 to under 28,000. Therefore it was not a good deal for everyone.
The problem with a number of the trade deals is that they put the rights of investors ahead of everything else. That is extremely important to the New Democratic Party because we represent a number of people who know that making a profit is not the only thing that counts.
New Democrats are not opposed to trade. Trade is necessary for strong economies,but not unfettered trade. Trade agreements must include labour, environmental and human rights. It is absolutely a necessity, and that is where we differ from the Liberals.
I was absolutely shocked as I listened to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Trade this morning. That is the Liberal member for London--Fanshawe. He referred to labour and environmental rights within trade agreements as littering up the agreements. He said “environmental rights and labour rights litter up the agreements”. That is like saying labour and environmental rights are garbage. That is not the case. The Liberal member for London--Fanshawe called environmental and labour rights garbage. If we refer to them as littering up an agreement, that is not good enough.
However this sets the scope of how the government tends to deal with labour and environmental rights. We have seen numerous environmental issues come before the House many times where the government uses tough talk but never follows through on environmental rights.
The government waves the ILO banner. Costa Rica and Canada would fall under the ILO banner; they would do everything it says. Frankly Costa Rica has implemented more of the ILO conventions than Canada.
Let me tell members about the history of labour rights in Costa Rica. Costa Rica is notorious for its persistent denial of labour rights, especially the rights of collective bargaining, association and strikes. In Costa Rica's private sector it is virtually impossible to form or join a trade union because of the hostility from employers and the government's unwillingness to enforce labour laws. That is Costa Rica's history. That is its position on labour rights yet it has introduced more of the ILO conventions than Canada.
We acknowledge that in some areas we have been able to succeed in having good labour legislation in Canada. We all know it is not automatically there. The reason those rights are maintained is the strong efforts of a number of labour unions, the number of people involved in social justice making sure that those rights are upheld, and the legal system built around that. Those things are not a given forever. Civil liberties are not a given forever in Canada. We are seeing that now with the anti-terrorism bill whereby our civil liberties would be jeopardized.
We must ensure strong legislation dealing with environmental and labour laws and the protection of privacy and civil liberties. We must fight for those things on a daily basis because they are not a given. It is crucially important that we do not accept willy-nilly every trade agreement the government comes up with.
My colleague from the Bloc mentioned how the deal was put forward. Negotiations on the trade deal began in June 2000 and the agreement was signed during the third summit of the Americas on April 23, 2001. It is coming before parliament as a fait accompli. Parliament did not even have a say in it. Really and truthfully we did not. The government went ahead and did what it wanted. It said the heck with every elected member of parliament, including its own members on that side.
I do not believe for a second that each and every one of them told the minister to go ahead and sign the deal. I do not believe they did not care or worry about our sugar producers or refineries in Alberta or Quebec. However that is what the government did. It went ahead and signed it, much like it did with the patent legislation.
The WTO ordered Canada to change its patent legislation and increase it to 20 years. We are now in a situation where we have huge drug costs. Drug companies were not suffering with a seven year patent. I acknowledge that there needs to be patent protection, but excessive patent protection jeopardizes the well-being of a country and its citizens. We are seeing that now.
These trade agreements should not be a fait accompli. A booklet was passed around and I chuckled when I read the comments. It was sent on October 24. It contains Canada's objectives for the fourth WTO ministerial conference. I laughed because, as my hon. colleague from the Bloc mentioned, there is never any consultation with the government. Everything is a fait accompli. The document is from the Minister for International Trade and it states:
The government continues to seek still better ways to inform a mutually beneficial dialogue with concerned Canadians. Citizen engagement on foreign and trade policy issues is the key to informed debate and decision making on public policy, and that has been an ongoing process.
Where is the informed debate? When do we go out and have a dialogue? Has anyone ever seen the government getting the views of Canadians and of members of parliament? The government throws something in front of Canadians and says this is the way it will be. We have to take it or leave it.
The government will not listen to any amendments put forth in committee. These are amendments that would protect industries within our country and protect human, environmental and labour rights. Is any of that there? No. The government does not care.
These documents are a waste of taxpayer money. They are not accurate, to say nothing of the fact that we have to get ourselves around the words “to inform a mutually beneficial dialogue”.
Trade agreements have not benefited our agricultural industry. I am encouraged by the fact that the member of the Canadian Alliance for Lethbridge is here. He pointed out that in February of this year any agreement with Costa Rica would lay the foundation for future negotiations on trade agreements. We know that to be true because the government is following along with NAFTA and the FTAA. The member went on to ask:
Will the government live up to a commitment it made to western Canadian beef producers when it was in western Canada last year that it will do nothing to destroy their industry?
Does anybody believe for a second that the government would live up to any commitment it made during the election? We have seen the government break one promise after another on a continual basis. We were promised infrastructure dollars, good environmental legislation, and support for our agricultural industry and grain farmers. Have we seen any follow-through? It has not been followed through for one second because the election is over.
The government pulled the wool over the eyes of Canadians once more. I will wager the government will not be able to do it in the next election because Canadians are not fools.
Canadian farmers are not fools. Farmers know that the government has not supported their industry. If they look at the facts they will know the government's position that trade agreements are good for farmers is not true. Farmers will see that. Farmers know that the government is not supporting the agricultural industry. The beef farmers in Alberta and refinery workers in Quebec will know that is not the case.
This is critically important. I challenge the Canadian Alliance. Every time it supports one of the government's trade deals it jeopardizes the agricultural industry in Canada. Every time it supports one of these deals without taking a stand it jeopardizes Canadian industries. It jeopardizes human and labour rights. If it supports the government then it is as detrimental to Canadian industries as the government is because it jeopardizes those industries in the same way.
I challenge the Canadian Alliance to say for once that the trade deal is not good enough and that it is not what is best for Canadian farmers. This trade deal does not include environmental rights, human rights or labour rights. I would hope that members within the House do not talk like the Liberal member for London--Fanshawe and call environmental rights and labour rights littering up an agreement. They are equally as important as any profit that will be made which will send a paycheque across some investor's table or some company's table. They are important for Canadians and they are important for people in those other countries.
We all know that Canada has a good standard of living for the most part and we do not want to jeopardize that. That is why there are those of us who fight hard to make sure that there is more to a trade deal than just profit and that there is a holistic approach to a strong, healthy economy and country. It is not just profit for one company.
There is more to it such as the value added industry that benefits the local economy. We all know that the little grocer down the road and the small and medium sized businesses need those industries because they benefit from the value added to those industries. We all benefit as a nation by paying our fair share in taxes and supporting each other and our social programs. There is more to it than just one company making a profit, such as everything that goes along with having those industries within our country and supporting those industries.
If something reads made in Canada it is an extra incentive for me to buy it because I know I am supporting an industry in Quebec or an industry from the east coast. If I see Manitoba potatoes in the grocery store, I will buy them before any others. That is what it is about. It is about supporting each other because that is how we maintain a strong country. However it is also about supporting the people in those other countries. I am not saying we should never buy their products; of course we should. We want to make sure that they have a chance of attaining the same benefits we have.
One of the classic quotes that New Democrats use is by J.S. Woodsworth who said “What we desire for ourselves, we wish for all”, and we do. We want people in other countries who do not have some of the advantages we have to have those chances.
Will they have that chance when their governments do not enforce labour legislation or do not allow them the right to collective bargaining or to make a decent wage for the work they do? Will they have that chance when their governments do not ensure that their human rights are upheld or do not give their children a chance to have an education instead of being made to work at a loom or in the fields? We want the right to education for children. We want the right to social infrastructure. We want people in other countries to have the same benefits that we have in Canada.
The New Democratic Party is not opposed to trade. However we certainly are opposed to unfettered trade. We are absolutely opposed to trade that does not consider human rights, environmental rights and labour rights. We are not opposed to trade, not for a second.
Our national sport in Canada is hockey. Our Deputy Speaker's son plays for the Montreal Canadiens. However even in hockey there are rules. One team cannot be stronger than the other so it wipes out the other guys. There are rules in place involving a draft process so certain players cannot get all the cash and certain teams cannot get all the very best players. Imagine a team with Gretzky, Lindros--