House of Commons Hansard #47 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was rural.


Government Response To PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River Ontario


Derek Lee LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36 I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to six petitions.

Tobacco Tax Amendments Act, 2001Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Edmonton Southeast Alberta


David Kilgour Liberalfor the Minister of Finance

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-26, an act to amend the Customs Act, the Customs Tariff, the Excise Act, the Excise Tax Act and the Income Tax Act in respect of tobacco.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River Ontario


Derek Lee LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, the following questions will be answered today: Nos. 8, 10 and 11. .[Text]

Question No. 8—

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Duncan Canadian Alliance Vancouver Island North, BC

How much was paid by the government to defend itself in the Right Hon. Brian Mulroney's lawsuit over the Airbus affair, including payments to private lawyers and agents retained by the government and the estimated salary and expenses of lawyers and other staff employed by the government, based on the hours they devoted to the file and their hourly rate of pay?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River Ontario


Derek Lee LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

I am informed as follows:

The sum of $1,237,944.51 was paid to private lawyers and agents. In addition, the sum of $252,807.00 plus 41,269 Swiss francs was spent on disbursements including experts.

Eight lawyers with the Department of Justice worked on the file as part of their regular duties at one time or another. A number of support personnel also worked on the file as part of their duties.

The justice lawyers did not keep hourly dockets at the time. An estimate of the cost of their work on the file can be arrived at using their salary ranges at the time for their respective levels and an estimate of time spent on the file. These estimates are as follows:

One lawyer from the Department of the Solicitor General, assisted by administrative support, worked on this file as a part of a regularly assigned workload.

During the period in question, lawyers working for the Department of the Solicitor General did not keep hourly dockets as part of their regular duties. An estimated cost of the department's work on file can be arrived at by using the lawyer's salary scale in effect at the time, as well as the estimated hours spent working on the file.

The lawyer, Mr. Dubrule, was classified as an LA2B with a salary range of $76,400 to $93,200 and the time spent working on the case is as follows:

October 1996 to June 1997—40% July 1997 to December 1997—25% January 1998 to December 1998—25%

No outside legal services, agents or experts were hired by the department on this matter.

Question No. 10—

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ted White Canadian Alliance North Vancouver, BC

With respect to Alberta Court of Queen's Bench File No. 00-19047 and Supreme Court of Canada File No. 0001-09477: ( a ) what is the total cost incurred by the government to date, whether already paid or under commitment, in connection with these files, including but not limited to legal fees billed by Fraser, Milner, Casgrain, the Department of Justice in Winnipeg and Edmonton, and/or other legal advisers, as well as travel and administrative costs associated with the court actions and filings; and ( b ) what amount has the government budgeted to cover all costs until the cases are closed, including all appeal options?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Erie—Lincoln Ontario


John Maloney LiberalParliamentary Secretary to minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

(a) The total cost incurred on this case to March 7, 2001, is $525,716.13. In addition to the costs at trial, this figure includes the costs of the interlocutory appeal to the Alberta Court of Appeal and to the Supreme Court of Canada where the interlocutory injunction was set aside. The sum also includes costs for expert evidence used at trial.

(b) As of March 7, the judgment of the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench was still on reserve. Whether further costs will be incurred, and the extent of these costs, will depend on the order and the reasons issued by the trial court, as well as decisions taken as a result by either of the parties to appeal or not to appeal that judgement in whole or in part.

Question No. 11—

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.


Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Regarding the military contract worth $6.5 million announced by Vector Aerospace Corporation of St. John's, Newfoundland, on January 26, 2001, with the government of Colombia: ( a ) was an export permit for strategic goods issued for this contract, and if not, why not; ( b ) with which branches of the Colombian military was this contract arranged; ( c ) does the work of this contract involve servicing or repairing any equipment provided to Colombia by the government of the United States for the counter-narcotics batallions established under plan Colombia, and if so, which specific equipment will be serviced; ( d ) if not, which equipment and units of the Colombian forces will be serviced by this contract; and ( e ) what guarantees does Canada have that the equipment being serviced will not be used in operations which violate human rights or international humanitarian law?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Brome—Missisquoi Québec


Denis Paradis LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Foreign Affairs

(a) No permit has been granted, the contract does not involve the export of controlled goods or technology from Canada.

(b) We have no information about these matters.

(c) We have no information about these matters.

(d) We have no information about these matters.

(e) as the goods are not subject to export control we are not in a position to seek any such end use assurances.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.


Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC


That the government put in place an open and ongoing process to keep Parliament informed of negotiations to establish a Free Trade Area of the Americas so as to allow parliamentarians to debate it and civil society to be consulted before Parliament approves it.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.


Michel Guimond Bloc Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-De- Beaupré—Île-D'Orléans, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to inform you, and our excellent clerks at the table, that for the duration of the allotted day, that is until private members' business, the members of the Bloc Quebecois will be dividing their time into two ten-minute speeches.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.


Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, I believe everyone will agree that to build a free trade area of the Americas, which will be at the service of the peoples of the Americas, the wall of distrust must be broken down.

Obviously, this past weekend in Quebec City the 34 heads of state did not succeed in breaking down that wall. Why? Because, in my opinion, despite the extremely significant efforts made in recent weeks to appear more transparent, the process of negotiation remains insufficiently so.

That is the reasoning behind the motion I am introducing this morning on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois. It is intended to remedy some of the democratic deficit and lend greater transparency to the entire process. I will reread it to the House if I may.

That the government put in place an open and ongoing process to keep Parliament informed of negotiations to establish a Free Trade Area of the Americas so as to allow parliamentarians to debate it and civil society to be consulted before Parliament approves it.

As I was saying, the process of negotiating the free trade area of the Americas has so far lacked transparency. I will give just a few examples of this.

We were promised documents after the meeting of the international trade ministers at Buenos Aires in early April. The promised documents have still not been made public and, in this connection, we would like to know sometime today when the Minister for International Trade plans to do so.

There is no guarantee either that we will regularly get these documents, especially since, as we know, these texts will change with time, before ministerial meetings, so we can judge the fairness of the Government of Canada's position.

We do not know Canada's position at four of the five sectoral tables. We do not know its positions on such important issues as investment, investment protection, services, dispute resolution and intellectual property. This too is a source of confusion and concern. It was apparent in the hours following the end of the Quebec City summit.

On the subject of investments, for example, we know for a fact that the Minister for International Trade said on several occasions, including before the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, that there was no question of copying chapter 11 of NAFTA on the protection of investments, because there was in fact an imbalance between the rights of investors and the rights of governments to protect public health and public services the population wanted.

The Minister for International Trade therefore intimated clearly that chapter 11 of NAFTA was not a valid basis for negotiation in the context of the free trade area of the Americas. So, a few hours after the conclusion of the Quebec City summit, the Prime Minister of Canada announced that chapter 11 presented no problem for him and that it might be an interesting basis for negotiations on the free trade area of the Americas.

The websites of the Government of Canada and the Minister for International Trade indicate that the main problem with investments is the conflict resolution mechanism.

When I look at all these contradictory and confusing positions, it seems extremely important to me to raise the issue of transparency, and to have the government quickly state its positions in the House and make them public.

These two elements I just mentioned cause confusion and show that the process still lacks transparency. This lack of transparency and democracy is primarily due to the fact that parliamentarians and civil society are still not closely associated, on an ongoing basis, with the negotiations on the free trade area of the Americas.

Two days ago, the Prime Minister said that opponents to the current negotiations on the proposed free trade area of the Americas simply had to get elected to have an opportunity to express their point of view. We members of this House were elected, but we cannot express our point of view, even though we want to.

On February 15, I tabled a motion in the House asking that any final agreement on the free trade area of the Americas be brought before the House to allow parliamentarians to debate it and to vote on it. That motion had the support of all the opposition parties, but was rejected by the Liberals.

That was before the Quebec City summit, before the 34 heads of state made a formal commitment to strengthen representative democracy. The government and the party in office must now accept the obvious and agree that in order to strengthen representative democracy in Canada, we must begin by allowing members of the House of Commons to debate any agreement on a free trade area of the Americas and to vote on it before it is ratified by the executive branch.

Besides, Canada can draw from other countries where parliaments are playing an active role in the approval of international treaties, and British tradition parliaments like ours. In Great Britain and in Australia, when an international treaty agreement is signed, it has to be approved by parliament and then ratified by the executive.

My motion today seeks to ensure that this also be the approach of Canada, the House of Commons and the Government of Canada with respect to the free trade area of the Americas.

I am still a bit anxious because in the final declaration signed by the 34 heads of state, there is no mention of the role of parliamentarians in the process of negotiating the free trade area of the Americas. To me it is an inconceivable oversight, especially since reference was made repeatedly, and rightly so, to consultation and inclusion of civil society in the negotiating process. I entirely agree with all that. However, I have a hard time understanding why nothing is being said about the role of parliamentarians, who are the elected representatives of the people.

One might argue that parliamentarians are mentioned in the action plan, but not in relation to the negotiating process. We are talking about parliamentarians participating in an exchange process, a co-operative approach to democratic processes. It comes under transparency and good governance, but it is far from being enough.

Canada must set an example by having parliamentarians play an active role in the whole negotiating process, and this is precisely the purpose of this motion; it asks that the government put in place an open and ongoing process.

Incidentally, something else seems unacceptable, and raises some doubts in my mind about the good faith of the government. In the final statement by the 34 heads of state, there is only one reference to a parliamentary association, the interparliamentary forum of the Americas, FIPA. There was never any reference to the conference of parliamentarians of the Americas, COPA.

I find this a little strange as FIPA was established only a month ago, a few countries met here in March to establish it, and it represents only national parliaments, while COPA, created in 1997, represents all parliaments, whether they are national, provincial, federated, regional or subregional.

I hope that this omission of the conference of parliamentarians of the Americas will not prevent the heads of state from calling upon it because this forum is extremely rich, independent and pluralist.

As I said, parliamentarians must have an active role to play in the decision, as I think everyone will agree, and the motion includes this, because we are accountable to the people.

Civil society must also be involved, before a decision is made, by contributing to the debate and informing parliamentarians before they make a decision. Civil society must also be involved after the decision is made in order to implement it.

I think the leader of the Bloc Quebecois, at the forum of parliamentarians that took place within the people's summit, described the process very well. I invite all members of the House to take note of his contribution at this forum. The roles of the different players are thus very clear, but they are complementary and necessary.

In conclusion, I will say that besides transparency, two other elements, and we will have the opportunity to get back to this because the negotiations will end by 2005, are required to ensure that the free trade area of the Americas meets Quebecers' expectations. First, Quebec must be part of Canadian negotiating teams. It must have a say on all its jurisdictions, whether they are shared or exclusive. Second, in the agreement on the free trade area of the Americas, a specific reference must be made to the protection of fundamental rights, whether they are human rights, labour rights or environmental rights.

Thus, I invite all members of the House to agree to the motion that I just brought forward on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois. It seems to me that, if the motion is agreed to, this would demonstrate the willingness of parliamentarians to play their role effectively, that is as representatives of the population and advocates of the public interest.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.


Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I have a question for the hon. member, not having to do with the motion as much as with what is not in the motion.

The motion is very much concerned with process and seems to assume that the conclusion of a free trade agreement of the Americas is at some level a good idea but it has to be done properly. It has to be done with the inclusion of civil society and with parliament playing a proper role, et cetera.

There is nothing in the motion that indicates any substantive opposition whatsoever to the free trade model or the free trade paradigm that is on the table at the FTAA, that is already enshrined in NAFTA, and that we find also at the WTO and in the MAI.

Could the member indicate what the Bloc's position is not with respect to process, not to how we come to a free trade agreement, but on whether we should come to a free trade agreement? The position of the Quebec government seems to be very much pro-free trade. That is consistent with the position of Quebec governments in the past, both sovereignist and non-sovereignist.

Given the thousands of Quebecers who were on the streets last weekend making up a large portion of the march against free trade, would he say whether or not they still find themselves in the position of not having a single Quebec MP who is willing to stand and say that he or she is against free trade as it is now understood in the FTA, NAFTA, WTO, et cetera? What is the position of the Bloc?

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.


Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, it is really a shame to still hear such prejudice against the position of the Bloc Quebecois, the Quebec government and a good part of Quebec's civil society.

Mrs. Beaudoin said it in Washington, we are in favour of free trade but not at the expense of losing our soul. This is the position of the Bloc Quebecois and of the Regroupement québécois sur l'intégration continentale. We agree on opening up the markets to improve, I would say, commercial transactions, but neither at the expense of losing our sovereignty, and in Quebec's case we wish to gain it, nor at the expense of having rights trampled on.

It is clear that the proposal I have put forward deals with the process to allow debate here in the House on the various concepts of open markets we have.

I know that the NDP often refers to fair trade. Let us talk about it. I think its position is very close to that of the Bloc Quebecois, which wants to see included in the trade agreement some reference to fundamental rights that must be respected so that we can reap the benefits of the agreement. If those fundamental rights are not respected, we are not part of the free trade agreement as such.

Clearly, we must hold that debate. We must have the texts to be able to do so but we must have the opportunity to hold that debate. We still do not have them.

By bringing forward the motion for the Bloc Quebecois, we are taking advantage of the momentum created at the summit of the Americas, where the heads of state said that their main concern was to reinforce democracy, to ask the Canadian government to take some real measures in favour of representative democracy by giving parliamentarians the possibility to debate these negotiations regularly and to give their approval before the government ratified the resulting document.

I am ready to discuss with the member the whole process, but we must have an opportunity to do so. I know that in the motion the accent is more on process than on content, but I am also very eager to debate content. I am not sure we will agree on everything, but I think that members' views will converge on some extremely important points and that will contribute to improved negotiations and perhaps to an improved final agreement.

I can assure the member that if we do not find the elements we are seeking in this agreement, the Bloc Quebecois will oppose it.

That being said, I do not want to prejudge the outcome; I want us to have all the necessary tools for the democratic debate to be held and I want us to have all the opportunities to bring about an agreement that will promote co-operation among the countries of the Americas, which in turn will promote the betterment of all peoples of the Americas.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Madam Speaker, my question is for the member. I want to congratulate him for his decision to initiate this debate.

It is a very important debate. Unfortunately we did not have an opportunity to do this in advance of the meeting in Quebec City. However, when one looks historically at these types of agreements in the past and at the original debates, one sees that we did have an opportunity not only to debate it in the House but to actually have an election on the issue, it was of such great importance.

Is it not fair to say that the position of the Bloc is one of concern that is consistent with other Canadians, that we want to know in advance, in a transparent way, the position the government is taking on a whole array of issues: environmental issues, trade issues and civil rights issues? We want to know prior to the government signing these agreements.

It is ironic to note that if this were held in Quebec City in 1988 the government would have been on the other side of the fence. Would the member agree with that comment?

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The hon. member for Joliette really has almost no time but, if he wishes to reply or to allow his colleague to reply after his speech, that would be acceptable.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.


Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, I wish to reply to the question. What I mean is that it is in the interest of all parties and members present in this House that this motion be adopted so that the people of Canada and of Quebec not only have the impression, but truly feel that their elected representatives are playing the role they are supposed to play, which is to defend the general interests of Canadians and Quebecers.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.


Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to take part in this morning's debate, which was initiated by the hon. member for Joliette, whom I congratulate, by the way, on his excellent work in connection with the whole FTAA issue.

I will begin by saying that I have some questions regarding the NDP member's criticism of all forms of free trade.

I have trouble understanding how the NDP, which claims to be progressive and to want to improve the general lot of the peoples of the three Americas, can object for even one instant to our being able to sign a co-operation agreement, a free trade agreement which, along with the appropriate mechanisms, social clauses, and policies for redistributing resources among the less fortunate countries, could improve people's living conditions.

I have never understood why the NDP was so opposed to the idea of free trade and misrepresented what Quebecers and Canadians really thought.

We are in favour of free trade but not under just any conditions. We are opposed to free trade, for example, if it is going to favour only major transnational companies. We are in favour of free trade because we are convinced that, at the end of the day, if the job is done well, if the government is able to show some openness, transparency and intelligence in its negotiations, everyone stands to gain.

So far, however, we have remained dissatisfied. Why so? Because we do not know what is going on with these negotiations. That is the purpose of the motion by my hon. colleague from Joliette.

The government must give us parliamentarians access. We are not elected without a purpose. If we are, it ought to shut down. Let it shut down parliament. If we are serving no purpose as parliamentarians, as representatives of the people, let it shut down this parliament. It is no longer appropriate, perhaps, in the context of globalization and the requirement for supranational forums.

Until we have proof to the contrary, however, parliamentarians are necessary. They are the representatives of the people. We cannot allow negotiations to be held on free trade agreements or the WTO multilateral plan without the public being brought into the process, without it being consulted, and without the elected representatives of the public being brought into the process to analyze the draft agreements and to authorize ratification by the government at the end of these negotiations.

I would like to return to a point raised by my colleague from Joliette on investments, on chapter 11. Of course, this is something one could hardly be against. Yesterday, I heard the Minister for International Trade say “We stood up for investors, in order to protect investments”. We never said we opposed protecting investments, but there must be conditions for protecting investments.

Chapter 11 in NAFTA could well be recycled in the agreement on the free trade area of the three Americas. It is a very dangerous business, given the governments' capacity to intervene in certain sectors. It is very dangerous as well because complaints could be lodged with the governments of the 34 countries when the free trade area of the three Americas is established, by major corporations. Under chapter 11 of NAFTA and their narrow interpretation of it, they could find a way to obtain compensation in the government's coffers, paid out of the taxes of the people of Quebec, Canada and the United States, as well. They find a way to get compensation for the potential profits they say they would have enjoyed had the government not been present in the market they wished to operate in.

It is serious enough to have raised some doubt in the mind of the Minister for International Trade, of the chief negotiator and of most experts who considered the question. So great is the concern that, not too long ago, the Minister for International Trade said that he would not sign an FTAA agreement if it contained provisions similar to those in NAFTA's chapter 11, which is already causing problems for the Canadian government. The problems are not insubstantial and I will come back to this in the final minutes of my speech.

Seventeen companies have already filed complaints under the environmental protection laws and are jointly claiming several billions of dollars in compensation from the Canadian government, based on a very broad interpretation of chapter 11 in connection with expropriation and unrealized potential profits.

On December 13 of last year, not ten years, but a few months ago, the Minister for International Trade said:

I will not sign a deal if it includes a chapter 11 equivalent. That is my position. I am very preoccupied with this.

He said he would not sign an FTAA agreement containing provisions equivalent to those in chapter 11.

The day before yesterday, at the end of the summit of the Americas, the Prime Minister said that he had no problem with chapter 11, despite the fact that 17 large corporations have filed suits against the Canadian government for compensation on the basis of a narrow interpretation of chapter 11. The Prime Minister did not see a problem. As we know only too well, this is not his money; it is taxpayers' money. The government is currently being sued for several billions of dollars. It is not concerned about how chapter 11 is being interpreted.

Yesterday, the Minister for International Trade gave us another interpretation. He said there was no problem with the wording, but that there could be some problems with the implementation.

We do not know where the government stands. In fact, there is a fourth position within the Canadian government. That position is stated on the Internet site and reads as follows:

Canada is not advocating the replication of NAFTA investor-state rules in the FTAA and has not supported the proposals made so far by other FTAA countries to include such a type of dispute settlement mechanism.

This is from the government's Internet site. Therefore I will repeat my question to the government. There are four government positions on chapter 11 on investment. Which is the right one?

Is it that of the Minister for International Trade, who said that he would not sign any free trade agreement involving the three Americas if it includes provisions similar to those found in chapter 11?

Is it the Prime Minister's position, who says there is no problem with chapter 11? According to him, there is no problem with that chapter but taxpayers could run into problems. Also the governments' ability to get involved in economic, social and cultural sectors, and even in health, could be compromised because of chapter 11. However the Prime Minister says there is no problem.

Is it the position stated on the Internet site? Is that the government's position, or is it the latest find of the Minister for International Trade? It is important to know that. This is why we need transparency. This is why we need to know.

For example, could the narrow definition found in chapter 11, which could be replicated in the FTAA, allow an American investor who is currently investing in health, because the private sector plays a significant role in health in the United States, to demand that governments withdraw from health, or that he be compensated, given that the profits which he could potentially make would be jeopardized because of a provision such as the one in chapter 11?

The free trade agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico has only been in effect for three years and 17 complaints have already been filed. Seventeen court actions have been taken by major companies against the federal government, and this could end up costing Quebec and Canadian taxpayers billions of dollars.

Is this going to be extended to all 34 countries in the free trade area of the Americas? Is that what they have in mind? With an agreement covering three countries there have already been 17 suits by Canadian businesses against the federal government. When there are 34 countries, the potential number of businesses that could be launching suits against the state coffers, which could demand compensation, will be multiplied with such a limited definition.

Will the government presence in certain sectors also be at risk? Just taking the example of the Caisse de dépôt et de placement, could the Chase Manhattan Bank come along some day and say that the Caisse de dépôt et de placement, a semi-governmental body governed by Government of Quebec regulations and a statute, is preventing the bank from making a profit in the Canadian market? It could go as far as that.

Certain companies are involved in suits. For example, Ethyl is suing the Canadian government for $250 million, Metalclad, for $150 million. In all, when all the companies are combined, the figure is $17 billion.

We must question the capacity of the government to provide us with real information, to take a real position on fundamental questions, if only on this single issue which lays open to question the integrity of governmental tax bases and their ability to fund such areas as health. The lack of transparency must be challenged. This transparency must be demanded.

I propose an amendment to my colleague's motion:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “consulted” and substituting the following thereof: “before official ratification by the government, authorized by Parliament”.

I hope all my colleagues will support this motion which is so important for democracy, the future of parliamentarians and the well-being of civil society.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

I declare the amendment is in order.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.


Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I wish to pursue the debate with my Bloc colleagues. I congratulate the member for bringing forth the motion and for providing us with an opportunity to talk about the FTAA and the process that attends it.

However, in the response to me earlier and in the remarks of the hon. member who just finished, the Bloc says that it does want to prejudge the outcome. Members already know what the outcome is in the sense that we know what NAFTA is. NAFTA is not something that one has to prejudge. NAFTA is something that we have had since 1993.

The member does not have to prejudge the FTAA. He can judge NAFTA, not in a prejudging way but on the basis of eight years of experience with various things like chapter 11, about which the member spoke very eloquently and thoroughly. These are things that are part of the agreement now and they are intended to be part of any future agreement. That is one of the reasons the NDP is against these agreements.

Could the member tell the House what the position of the Bloc is with respect to the North American Free Trade Agreement? I cannot understand why people who are concerned about issues of sovereignty cannot see that in these agreements there is a real and serious threat to the sovereignty of democratically elected legislatures and parliaments. There is a threat to the sovereignty of the Quebec National Assembly, whether it continues to be a provincial assembly or whether some day, as my Bloc colleagues hope, it may become a national parliament.

Regardless, there is a question of sovereignty here. Many other people have made the judgment that these agreements affect the sovereignty of these particular legislatures, not to mention the FTQ, which was out marching alongside the NDP in Quebec City on the weekend.

Are they wrong? Have they prejudged the FTAA or is there something in the nature of these agreements that no amount of good process and no amount of openness can fix, because the underlying agenda of these agreements as they are now understood is in fact to replace democratic rule with corporate rule?

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.


Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, I do not understand the NDP members' insistence on opposing something they are not familiar with.

It seems to me the first logical thing to ask for is what we are asking for and that is to see what is being negotiated and how. Is there a way to improve things so that these agreements play a redistributive role somewhere? We do not want to end up in a situation in which people are denied a better standard of living. I am not speaking here of a few millionaires or of a few transnationals worth billions, but of people in general. Is there a way to provide for mechanisms that would ensure fair treatment and the possibility of a better standard of living for workers in Mexico, as has been the case in other countries?

Since 1957, since the Treaty of Rome, they have been building Europe, and the standard of living has increased. Even the small countries that were having difficulties, such as Portugal or Greece, can become partners in this great body. People's wealth has increased, not just that of multinational or transnational companies. Can they understand that on the other side?

We cannot be closed and not demand that members of parliament have a role. We must demand that this government open its books. We must take our responsibilities as parliamentarians, something which Liberal members opposite are not doing. We must demand to see the documents and take part in the ratification process on behalf of the people, as did the 30,000 who rallied in Quebec City.

The Bloc Quebecois was there and it was even among the organizers of the summit for parliamentarians. These 30,000 people, who represented the public, along with parliamentarians, must feel comfortable with any agreement. They must not be ashamed of it. They must feel that their leaders are serving them well, unlike the Prime Minister, who looked condescendingly and contemptuously on them at the end of the summit and said “Get elected if you want to oppose or debate the FTAA”.

We were elected, and we did not even have a say in the drafting of the basic texts. We do not even have a say in the ratification process. What is the use of this parliament? Members opposite should ask themselves such questions. Why are they here?

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

London—Fanshawe Ontario


Pat O'Brien LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister for International Trade

Madam Speaker, the member who just spoke had a number of comments to make, and rather loudly at that. This is the latest in several opportunities that members of parliament have had to discuss the FTAA. I will be splitting my time with my colleague, the hon. member for Scarborough East.

I would like to address the great success of the Quebec summit. I would also like to indicate how consultations with Canadians contributed to that success. I was very honoured as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Trade to be present, along with some other colleagues on our side as well as the other side, to meet with parliamentarians and leaders from a number of countries and to talk with some of the peaceful protesters.

During Canada's chairmanship of the FTAA negotiations from May 1998 until November 1999 it was instrumental in establishing the committee of government representatives on the participation of civil society. This committee meets regularly as a consultative body in the negotiations and serves as a forum for input from citizen based groups, the business community and NGOs. It is an unprecedented step in international negotiations.

The motion calls for transparency and I would indicate that there has never been a more transparent trade negotiation process in history. A lot of what the member calls for has already been done.

As host of the FTAA ministerial that took place in Toronto in November 1999, Canada supported a civil society forum. It was organized by hemispheric organizations to parallel the American business forum. As my colleague opposite knows, a record 22 FTAA ministers and country representatives were present to hear civil society's views and recommendations on trade investment, labour standards and the reduction of poverty.

As the House knows, at the recent trade ministerial in Buenos Aires the Minister for International Trade took the lead, as he has for months, and was able to convince his counterparts to release the draft text of the FTAA agreement. It was agreed that soon after the conclusion of the summit these texts would be released. They are in translation now. The summit only concluded on Sunday, and today is Tuesday. The texts will be released in the near future, as was agreed to through the outstanding leadership of the Minister for International Trade.

I have heard the Prime Minister state in the House that he would very happily release the texts, but he was not prepared to do so unilaterally until there was an agreement. That agreement was achieved through the efforts of the Minister for International Trade.

I saw, as Canadians saw, the Prime Minister doing an outstanding job in chairing this very important multilateral meeting in Quebec City. We can all be very proud of the efforts that were made by the government, by civil society and by the peaceful demonstrators who expressed their views in Quebec City.

At the summit of the Americas this past weekend the government provided some $300,000 in funding to help the parallel summit take place. Labour leaders in my own city have said that the government has no interest in civil society and that it will not listen to them. That is just ludicrous when the government has put forth taxpayer money to help the very people who are levelling that criticism participate in a parallel summit. It cannot be both ways.

There were some 20 countries and five international institutions that met on the weekend with more than 60 representatives of civil society networks, groups and associations. These representatives who have been closely involved in the development of the summit's action plan came from across Canada and the hemisphere.

The Quebec City summit was a resounding success. In signing the declaration, the 34 leaders committed themselves to furthering democracy and to making democracy an essential condition for participation in the FTAA process.

This is a quantum leap forward from the few short years ago when a lot of the leaders of this meeting, if it had taken place, would have marched in in jackboots, epaulettes and military gear because they were dictators.

We ought not to dismiss so lightly the tremendous progress that has been made in this hemisphere toward democracy. Many experts would say that the democratic election of the Mexican president, Vicente Fox, is in no small part due to the liberalization of that society, which is also signified and enhanced by its participation in NAFTA.

In the same spirit, the leaders made a commitment to more specific support for the efforts being made by Haiti towards democracy through the good offices of the OAS and the CARICOM. There is great concern about Haiti. The Prime Minister and the other leaders have indicated that they want to do everything possible to support that society on its path to democracy.

During the summit the leaders decided, in order to ensure equitable distribution of the benefits and prosperity resulting from economic growth, to pursue discussions on the economic integration of the Americas and to continue negotiations to create a free trade area of the Americas, the world's largest free trade area, by the end of 2005.

The leaders also approved a series of measures to promote participation by citizens in the social, economic and political life of their countries in order to fully realize their human potential. This inclusive plan of action is targeted at everyone, including groups that all too often find themselves on the margins of society such as youth, seniors, women, persons with disabilities and aboriginal people, and ensures a full and fair opportunity to be properly included in the process.

The leaders went on to reach an agreement on a declaration of connectivity, which is a clear statement of their political intent to bridge the digital gap, and on the use of information and communications technology to achieve the summit's objectives.

Canada again showing its leadership also announced the establishment of an institute for connectivity in the Americas which would make it possible for us as Canadians to share our world renown expertise in this field with other poorer countries of the Americas, which simply have to be given the wherewithal to fairly participate in this FTAA. Canada is quite prepared to do everything to make that possible.

The government, supported by the multilateral development banks and other international institutions, satisfied itself that the necessary resources were available to support the objectives set by the leaders.

Those who participated in the summit in a violent way, and unfortunately some small minority did, created quite a bit of tension and damage to the beautiful city of Quebec. However they knew nothing about democracy nor did those who condoned such violent actions. It simply was not necessary for that to take place. There has never been a more transparent trade negotiation that Canada has been involved in. There has never been such a wide consultation for months and months and which will continue.

What the member's motion calls for is being done now, has been done for many months and will continue to be done as we move up to the conclusion of this treaty in 2005.

The Quebec City summit also provided an unprecedented opportunity for people right across Canada to be involved. I believe what the peaceful demonstrators helped to do was focus attention on the summit. Unfortunately, I suppose some would say that was achieved really by the violent demonstrations. I regret that that view exists because all it did was detract from the very real and important debate that was taking place in Quebec City.

I would like to just conclude by indicating that I would be remiss in not saying that the Minister for International Trade worked diligently on this file. Indeed the member from Joliette has shown consistent interest in the file. I know that. I worked with him at committee and we debated in the House. I believe this is his second motion already as a new member on a very important topic in the House. I do not know how it could be said that there was not been ample opportunity for members to be involved.

There have been a lot of opportunities. No, the texts are not yet public. However, through the leadership of the Minister for International Trade and the Prime Minister, an agreement was reached that they would be made public in the very near future. I await that with alacrity, as I know the whole House does.

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10:50 a.m.


Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, the parliamentary secretary said that the process was the most transparent ever seen. It may be so but I do not know, because I am not an expert on that issue.

However, I find it difficult to understand how the process can be considered to be transparent when members of parliament cannot have their say on the issue. This is why I hope the government will support the motion I have introduced, as well as the amendment.

I would also remind the government that members of parliament have a role to play, which they have played, though, unfortunately, within the limits imposed upon them.

With regard to what I call the basic texts issue, I remind the parliamentary secretary that, at first, it was almost suggested to us that those texts did not exist. We were referred to the website on the Canadian government's negotiating positions. Then, the government admitted that those texts existed. Later on, under the pressure of the opposition parties and the questions asked, the Minister for International Trade promised to ask his counterparts to make those texts public. To his own surprise, the other parties accepted.

Had the House not played its role, I am convinced that the Minister for International Trade would not have played his own role within that forum. It is, therefore, of the outmost importance that all members of parliament be involved in the negotiating process, to ensure that the goals are being met.

What I want to know very precisely is whether, in Buenos Aires, the international trade ministers agreed that the texts of what has come to be known as the draft agreement be regularly made public before ministerial meetings. I insist on the phrase “before ministerial meetings”.

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10:50 a.m.


Pat O'Brien Liberal London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, first I would like to address some of my colleague's comments.

He talked about the transparency of this process. He may have been present when I repeatedly put the question to expert witnesses at committee. I put the question to the NDP party, the only party in the House speaking against this, to give us just one example of any trade negotiation that was even anywhere close to as transparent to this one. Nobody replied. So there was an acknowledgement by their silence that this was certainly been the most open and transparent trade process to date. The government is working very hard to make it become more transparent.

On the hon. member's point that parliamentarians have not had an opportunity to participate, quite frankly I do not know how he draws that conclusion. As I said, this is the second motion that he has put in the House causing a full day of debate, a very important and useful debate, and I congratulate him for it. However he must realize by having this debate today he is having some of the participation which he says he was denied. I do not understand the logic there.

The member well knows that the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade has held extensive hearings on the FTAA and on the summit process. Before the last election it held hearings it. Those hearings were resumed after the election and started to include more and more of the summit process.

There is a subcommittee on trade which is specifically tasked to deal with this issue and other trade issues.

In this very Chamber I and I believe the hon. member opposite and other members participated in FIPA, the first forum of the interparliamentarians of the Americas. It was a very useful and extensive discussion. There have been repeated opportunities for parliamentarians to be involved.

He spoke about our negotiating position. For weeks and weeks five of our nine positions were available on the website. Many Canadians visited that website to see what our position was.

I challenge the member to go back some weeks and look up the comments of the right hon. the Prime Minister in the House of Commons. He said he would be very happy to release the text but he was not going to do so unilaterally. The for Joliette knows full well, because I asked him that at committee, that he agreed it should not be done unilaterally.

In Buenos Aires the Minister for International Trade showed his outstanding leadership in convincing the other ministers to release the text, which was supported by the Prime Minister. That is the kind of leadership that has made this transparency become even greater and that will continue in the future.

On the specific question that the member asked, I was not present in Buenos Aires so I cannot speak to the specificity of what the Minister for International Trade and his colleagues decided on what text would be released. We know it is the negotiating text. The timetable of which I am aware is as soon as possible after the Quebec summit. That will be honoured.

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10:55 a.m.


John McKay Liberal Scarborough East, ON

Madam Speaker, I am somewhat hesitant to engage in this debate as it seems to be something of a daunting task.

Like most members, I do not have any professional expertise in the area and I have not studied trade issues at a university. Frankly, at times my understanding of these issues is something of a newspaper understanding, but like many Canadians I can get myself exercised about countervails, softwood lumber, P.E.I. potatoes and rail against American protectionism.

I can work myself up into quite a lather about American trading practices. I could even give a bit of an historical view on how trade has affected this nation.

Nothing seems to animate Canadians more than debate about trade. Going back to Prime Minister Macdonald, he had quite some trade debates in his time, as did Laurier, Mackenzie and Prime Minister Mulroney. Even our current Prime Minister has a few political scars about the issues of trade in this country.

Why do Canadians get so animated about trade debates? I would suggest that trade is in some respects more than merely economic relations that it goes to the very essence and viability of our nation. No country in the world is more dependent upon trade than we are. Something in the order of 40% of our gross domestic product is directly related to trade. Compare that with our major trading partner, the Americans, where 20% of their gross domestic product is related to trade. Our trade with the U.S. is a billion dollars a day, and 80% of all our trade is with the U.S. The old saying goes that when America catches a cold we get pneumonia. Seemingly try as we might to diversify, we still seem to go to our old trading partners, particularly the United States.

Canadians are uniquely positioned to know how vulnerable we are on trade. Therefore our trade vulnerability makes our sovereignty vulnerability even more open to us. Sovereignty vulnerability in my view goes to the essence of who we are as a nation. The irony is that the more we trade, the more we plant our flag worldwide and the more Canadian we feel. Is that not an unique irony? Ironically, in some respects we also give up a great deal of our sovereignty.

What is it that Chris Hadfield is doing as we speak? He is planting a Canadian on the next frontier, the Canadarm. How did he get there? He got there basically because of a trade deal. Canadians in the family of nations are responsible for 2% to 3% of the overall cost of putting up the space station. As a result we get to play in our area of expertise. Our area of expertise is robotics and in some respects it is a quintessential Canadian trade deal. We establish a niche, make it very important and expand from there. Meanwhile we brand our product so that literally everyone in the universe knows that the Canadian astronaut up there is exercising Canadian expertise and planting it in the best advertising position in the world.

It is a Canadian style trade deal because we are not big enough to do a meaningful space program on our own. We end up giving away some of our sovereignty, our means to be independent and on our own, in order to take part in something that is larger and that we could not do on our own.

I submit that the summit of the Americas reflects that kind of tradeoff. At one level it is merely a trade deal. I have it, someone wants it, what is the price? At a more profound level it is a sovereignty tradeoff. What level of national sovereignty are we prepared to give away in order to get a trade deal from someone else?

I do not think my speech is the most insightful in the world but generally they do not turn the lights out on me at the same time.

Chapter 11 is at its essence a simple tradeoff. If I, the hated multinational corporation, for which, by the way, all our sons and daughters want to work at very good rates of salary, am to invest $100 million in a country I want to know what its rules and laws and regulations are. I do not want Mr. or Mrs. sovereign nation to change its rules or laws after the fact to make my investment worthless. At its core chapter 11 is that simple.

How much sovereignty is a nation prepared to give up? How much sovereignty, i.e. the right to make rules, regulations and laws unilaterally within a jurisdiction, is Canada or any other nation prepared to accede to a trade panel or to courts in a foreign jurisdiction? The answer is a lot and nothing, simultaneously in contradiction.

There is a rule in tax law that the taxpayer is expected to arrange his or her affairs to maximize the benefit to himself or herself and to minimize his or her tax liability. The courts recognize that rule. Revenue Canada has volumes of rules and regulations that would choke a horse in order to minimize that taxpayer intent.

When a sovereign nation enters into a trade deal the question is: What is it losing? If a nation is powerful like the U.S. and gets to change the rules ex post facto, the answer is not much. For a large nation such as Japan which can culturally frustrate virtually any trade deal, the answer again is not much. However leaders like Mr. Fox from Mexico or the prime minister of Costa Rica or Chile must make a bit of a Faustian bargain and hope the access they secure to the market is worth the sovereignty they must inevitably give up.

The lights have gone on so my speech must be very insightful at this point.

This is where it gets tricky because smaller nations, even nations such as Canada, have a lot of sovereignty to lose. I sometimes wonder whether those from the so-called civil society have appreciated that the more elements which are raised, i.e. environment, labour, working conditions, et cetera, the more difficult the equation becomes. It is particularly difficult if, as with many small nations with minimal democratic traditions, one has virtually nothing to give.

The commitment by the 34 leaders in the hemisphere to strengthen democracy has significance beyond the appreciation of both sides of the debate. It is something of a Trojan horse clause. Can one imagine APEC entering into a similar clause? Virtually half the nations in APEC are dictatorships or quasi-dictatorships. The situation is similar for the Organization of African States. I cannot imagine that hemisphere entering into an agreement where a democracy clause is a significant part of the deal.

Trade deals only work in democracies where the rule of law prevails. Therein lies the irony. As nations mature in their democracy, trade increases. When trade increases and democracy matures, sovereignty is a fact. It is quite ironic that Canadians have become a nation of flag wavers in lockstep with trade deals which apparently devolve significant elements of their sovereignty.

It is clear to me that the status quo will not prevail. A deal or deals will be made, be they bilateral or multilateral. The process contemplated by the motion will happen regardless of the will of government. The genie is out of the bottle and cannot be put back in. My only hesitation is that the debate should be informed and that government should reserve unto itself some strategic room to negotiate in the best interests of the nation.

Some interests will be contradictory, such as softwood. The Atlantic position is different from B.C.'s position, B.C.'s position is different from Quebec's position, and Quebec's position is different from Ontario's position. If we go into negotiations divided we will get the worst of all possible worlds.

It has been said that heaven is British government and French food. If this debate is poorly managed we might well get the reverse, French government and British food, and that would just be hell.