Madam Speaker, I am happy to continue the debate where my colleague from Burnaby--Douglas left off on 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.
In listening to the debate earlier I felt offended that members of the Canadian Alliance lobbed at the members of NDP that somehow we were nitpicking and attaching our debate to small things, such as defending the rights of workers, whether they were in Costa Rica, Canada or any other country. As the debate continued, the parliamentary secretary wanted to know why the NDP was opposed to helping one of the poorest countries in the hemisphere. Presumably he meant Costa Rica.
The NDP is absolutely in favour of helping one of the poorest countries in the hemisphere. In fact, this party has had a very proud and long tradition of promoting international solidarity, economic investment and aid and development. We have pressed the government to meet its commitments through the red book and in other areas over many years.
However the debate today is really about who this trade agreement will help. I would challenge the parliamentary secretary to produce the evidence as to how this particular free trade agreement will help poor people in Costa Rica or, for that matter, workers in Canada.
Like other members in the House, I have also received information from workers and management from Rogers Sugar which is located in my riding of Vancouver East. I want to tell members of the House, particularly the government members, that there is a huge concern about the impact of this trade agreement on Canadian companies and the sugar industry.
In June of this year I met with a joint delegation of labour and management representatives from Rogers Sugar. Anyone who knows about labour management issues will know that it is not usual for labour and management to come together. However in this case it was a joint delegation because the several hundred people who work at the plants as well as the management of Rogers Sugar are very concerned about the impact of this agreement.
In fact when they wrote the Prime Minister to express their concern they received the following response. In a letter dated April 26, the Prime Minister said that in any free trade negotiation it was necessary for each side to consider compromises in the interest of reaching an agreement which was fair overall. In the case of Costa Rica, Canada recognized that the differences in the level of development of our two countries would need to be reflected in the final agreement.
He then went on to say that the agreement negotiated provided opportunities for exporters in both countries to explore new markets, including opportunities for some Canadian sugar exporters to sell to Costa Rica.
This is absolutely contrary to the evidence and information that has come before us. The fact is that if the tariff were eliminated, Canadian refineries would be exposed to competition from Costa Rican refineries without the prospect of better access to that market for our exporters, contrary to what the Prime Minister said.
The reality is there is virtually no market for refined sugar in Costa Rica or elsewhere in central America. Granting duty free entry for refined sugar from Costa Rica and we believe, eventually from Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and especially Guatemala, will end up eliminating a significant portion of a long-standing Canadian industry. We have to be incredibly concerned about that.
If we could look at what the NDP has articulated in its position, it is precisely because of this race to the bottom. It is another example of the lowest common denominator approach that opens the door to job flight from countries, such as Canada, where there are tougher, more progressive legislation.
It is not just about protecting jobs in Canada, although that is very important. It is also about protecting and encouraging high quality jobs in other parts of the world. We have heard a lot of debate today in the House about how this agreement will lift people out of poverty. We heard from the Alliance that globalization has moved people out of poverty. We heard that the trickle down theory is working very well.
Again, there is ample evidence to suggest that these trade agreements have done nothing to improve the lives of working people. These trade agreements have done nothing to improve the quality of our environment or the quality of social conditions that exist in many countries.
Members of the NDP take a very principled stand. This is not about being opposed to trade agreements per se on any grounds. It is about being in favour of trade agreements that protect our environment, that protect quality social conditions for people and that enshrine and protect worker rights.
To go back to the situation in Costa Rica, because that is the agreement before us, one of the things we should be concerned about is the development of export processing zones in Costa Rica, of which there are nine. One thing that is taking place, particularly in the textile industry, is that companies increasingly are hiring workers at home where they are not protected by labour laws nor are they covered by social security, holidays or job security.
We have to ask critically whether the agreement actually is helping one of the poorest countries in the hemisphere or whether it is conferring greater rights for greater profits for large corporations. Basically the workers get left behind at home with absolutely no protection.
There is information on the record, and it is available for any member to see, that private sector employers have ignored the ILO recommendations that workers, particularly in the private sector, have been denied the right to organize. They have been denied the right to basic, safe working conditions. They have been denied the right to decent wages.
It becomes very clear that the trade agreement is not in the interests of poor people in those countries. It is not in the interests of protecting our environment. I feel proud that as an NDP caucus we understand this and stand in solidarity with international labour movements, with the labour movement in Canada and with NGOs that have done analysis on this and have participated in things like the people's summit at the summit of the Americas in Quebec City and the people's summit in Vancouver at the APEC conference.
It is through those forums that the issues affecting workers have come to the forefront. As we know, that debate has not taken place in the House. We raise day after day the fact that the summit of the Americas was not brought forward to the House for any kind of democratic vote. These agreements affect all of us. They affect our local communities and the workers in my riding of East Vancouver but the House has not participated in any kind of democratic vote about whether or not we should be adopting the FTAA for example.
The NDP is not nitpicking. The NDP is not opposing the agreement because we are opposed to free trade or any trade agreement. We are opposing this agreement because we see it as nothing more than continuing the sellout of Canada. We see it as a continuation of a policy from the government that actually is abandoning the basic human rights and the basic human dignity of workers in Costa Rica.
I am very glad that the workers I met with from Rogers Sugar understood that they were standing in support of the workers in Costa Rica. They did not see it as just an issue of protecting their jobs and their turf. They understood that this race to the bottom not only affected them but also the workers in those other countries.
I am glad the NDP is opposing this trade agreement. It is a bad trade agreement both for workers in Canada and for workers in those countries.