Mr. Speaker, I will advise the Chair that I intend to divide my time with the hon. member for Vancouver East.
We have witnessed the most extraordinary spectacle in the House this afternoon: this unholy alliance between the Liberal Party, in particular the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Trade, and the Canadian Alliance. They are attacking the New Democrats. Why is it that they are attacking us? They are attacking us because we have the effrontery to actually speak out for human rights, to speak out for the rights of working people and to speak out for the environment, because we have the nerve to talk about the importance of democracy and putting the rights of democratically elected representatives of the people of this country ahead of corporate rights. What a shocking thing.
The hon. member from Calgary who spoke earlier on behalf of the Alliance said that we have to listen to the people from the south and that this legislation will be good for them. I wish that member had listened to the voices from the south, from Mexico, Colombia, Honduras, Peru, Brazil and elsewhere when they were in Quebec City speaking about the destructive impact of the existing trade deals on their people. Had he been at the women's forum in Quebec City he would have heard women speaking about the appalling conditions in the maquiladora zones in Mexico, the poisoning of workers from chemicals, the violence and the ruthless repression of the rights of working people.
The member from Calgary asks why we are nitpicking over workers' rights. I will tell him. Is it nitpicking to say that working people should have the right under ILO standards to organize and bargain collectively, the right to equal pay for work of equal value, the right to work free of discrimination and prohibitions? They should not have to work without any restrictions at all on child labour and forced labour.
What is it that the Liberal Party and the Alliance do not understand about the rights of working people? Or is it that they do not really give a damn about the rights of working people? All they really care about is corporate profit. That is the bottom line for them.
We in the New Democratic Party oppose the legislation and we say that this Canada-Costa Rica bilateral free trade agreement is in fact part of what would lay the groundwork for a hemispheric agreement that would simply replicate all of the destructive impact of the existing NAFTA. We want nothing to do with that, certainly nothing that would increase the momentum toward a free trade area of the Americas, an FTAA.
Why is that? Too often Canada's trade policy has ignored social considerations, human considerations, the environment and the rights of workers and has put strictly commercial advantages for Canadian corporations ahead of all of them. There is no better example of that than chapter 11 of NAFTA. While chapter 11 of NAFTA is not explicitly included in the Canada-Costa Rica bilateral free trade agreement, it is in fact imported into that agreement.
I was a member of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs when my friend, the hon. member for Joliette and Bloc Quebecois critic on international trade, tried to move a very clear amendment to exclude chapter 11 from this Canada-Costa Rica agreement, but the government did not accept this fundamental principle.
We already know that the rights of working people in Costa Rica have been trampled on. It is virtually impossible to form or join a trade union in Costa Rica in the private sector because of the hostility from employers and the government's unwillingness to enforce its own labour laws.
We know that Costa Rica was the birthplace of the anti-worker Solidarista movement which set up employer sponsored associations in banana plantations to supplant bona fide trade unions. In the banana zone in Costa Rica working conditions are appalling and dangerous because of the lack of protection for workers using chemicals, resulting in the birth of genetically deformed babies, sterility, ill health and death among workers. In the private sector, Costa Rican workers are effectively denied any opportunity for collective bargaining whatsoever.
The Canadian Labour Congress and the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, which represents 125 million workers worldwide, recently wrote to the president of Costa Rica, Dr. Miguel Angel Rodriguez, expressing their concern about the situation faced by Costa Rican workers, especially those in the public sector.
What does the government say? The government says that it has great side accords. It says that it has a side accord on labour and on the environment. We have seen this movie before. We have seen the so-called side accords under the existing NAFTA and they are a joke. They do not protect workers and they sure as heck do not protect the environment.
When governments fail to enforce labour laws that protect such basic rights as the freedom of association, what is the recourse under the side agreement under NAFTA? They can make a submission to the national administrative office of a signatory government. What can that office do? It can recommend ministerial consultations with the offending government, and that is it. There is no respect for the fundamental rights of workers and no respect for the environment whatsoever, and that is continued in the Canada-Costa Rica agreement.
Far from expanding the principles of NAFTA, which put corporate rights ahead of democracy, ahead of the rights of working people, ahead of the environment and ahead of basic human rights, we should be replacing that agreement with a fair trade agreement.
We do not support the bill and we certainly do not support the extension of NAFTA into Costa Rica or anywhere else in this hemisphere.
I want to take a moment to say a few words about the impact of the bill on the sugar industry. I recently met with representatives of Rogers Sugar, an refinery that has over 200 employees in the Vancouver area located in the constituency of my colleague for Vancouver East. Many of those workers live in my constituency of Burnaby--Douglas.
Rogers has been around for about 112 years. It is a Canadian owned company. It provides quality union jobs to over 200 employees who are members of the Retail Wholesale Union. It contributes about $33 million to the economy. I want to be very clear that the employees, the management of Rogers refinery, as well as others in the sugar industry across Canada, are deeply concerned about the implications of the bill for the survival of that industry.
If the bill in any way is seen to be a model or a template for negotiations with the so-called CA-4 nations of Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras, it will be very destructive for the sugar industry in Canada.
I was pleased that the foreign affairs committee made a recommendation to the government. The recommendation was not part of the bill but it was a strong unanimous recommendation that this not be seen in any way as a model.
Certainly, on behalf of my colleagues in the New Democratic Party, I want to make it very clear that we reject any extension of this Canada-Costa Rica agreement to the other countries I have mentioned. It could very well spell the end for the Rogers Sugar refinery.
In closing, I would once again say that we as New Democrats have always supported a rules based trading system but what we have seen too often is that those rules benefit not working people, not small businesses, not the environment and not human rights. They simply hurt the poorest of the poor.
I have not even had the opportunity to speak to the implications the bill would have for agriculture. I would note that too often agri-business means that more and more small farmers, some of the poorest farmers in Central and South America, are being pushed off their land because of cheap imports coming in from the north. Certainly, that is not acceptable.
We have serious concerns as well about the impact of pesticides in the agriculture industry in Costa Rica but these concerns have not been addressed in the legislation. In terms of human rights and in terms of the implications for agriculture, the environment, the rights of the working people and for democracy itself, we say no to the legislation and we say no to the extension of the bill into any form of FTAA.