Mr. Speaker, the member for Joliette ought to be congratulated for his motion, which deserves to be supported fully. In light of what has been said so far, it is necessary and worthwhile to put on record some facts as to how this chapter has affected in reality the three countries involved.
Fact number one: the case of Ethyl Corporation has affected Canada. The amount claimed by Ethyl Corporation was $250 million. The settlement, which was paid by the taxpayers of Canada, was $18 million, with an apology on the part of the Government of Canada for having passed the legislation which was intended to protect the health of Canadians by banning manganese from gasoline as an additive.
Second, S.D. Myers Inc., an other American corporation, has claimed an amount under NAFTA of $20 million. It was awarded $5 million plus interest and damages.
Third, Sun Belt Water Inc. is an American water firm that is challenging British Columbia's water protection legislation and its moratorium on the export of bulk water. How much is it asking? It is asking for $10.5 billion under NAFTA. Imagine that. This matter is still undecided, thank God.
The next item is from Pope & Talbot Inc., a U.S. lumber company. It claimed the amount of $508 million. The tribunal ruled that Canada violated the NAFTA article, and Canada was ordered to pay $460,000 U.S. plus damages, plus interest, plus legal costs, for a total of $915,000.
These are the effects, and I am glad to see that the member for Etobicoke Centre, for whom I have the greatest respect, is listening to this because a few moments ago he said that so far it was damaging all three partners. That is not so. It has damaged Canada and Mexico but it has not yet damaged the U.S. Is that not strange?
What are we facing here with these facts? What is the situation? What is the reality? The treatment of foreign investors, under NAFTA, has to be better than our national investors. In other words, we have to give special treatment. We have a promotion of corporate rights which do not really make any sense.
It is claimed by previous speakers, including the parliamentary secretary in the last debate, that the NAFTA and this whole approach is for the promotion of prosperity, so is big business seeing the promotion of prosperity? There is no evidence to the fact that NAFTA has promoted prosperity in terms of reducing the gap between rich and poor, for instance.
A study by the Environment Commission in Montreal recently on this very subject came to the conclusion that there was been no impact one way or the other 10 years after NAFTA. In other words, it has had no impact on improving the condition of the lower incomes in relation to the higher incomes. It is neutral, so to say, and it is a document which is a public document available to everybody. This damages not only the Canadians and the Mexicans by virtue of the figures I mentioned earlier, but it also damages the significance of Parliament.
Some of us at least have been asking for some time for an interpretive statement to improve or to modify the way this chapter is interpreted. We have been told by the earlier negotiators that it has not been intended to be interpreted the way it has been interpreted in recent times.
We do not seem to be getting anywhere despite the assurance given by the former parliamentary secretary when he spoke in the House on the adjournment proceeding a couple of months ago.
The fact is that the NAFTA tribunals are not open to the public. The tribunals conduct their proceedings in secret. They grant investors a powerful new set of rights in their business dealings when they go abroad. However, they assign no new responsibilities. The net result is that NAFTA increases the powers of the corporate side and it diminishes the powers of government. We see democratically elected governments becoming less relevant and losing power to corporations. Is that what we want? I certainly do not think that we want that.
The signing of international trade agreements should not lead to a reduction of the state role in protecting the public good. This is what is happening at the moment. Imagine the case that I mentioned earlier by Sun Belt Water suing the government of British Columbia for $10.5 billion. God knows what it will be given in the settlement and imagine the impact.
There is plenty of evidence that this particular chapter needs to be interpreted in a new manner. However, that does not seem to get anywhere because we need the consent of all three international trade ministers to do that. If one disagrees, then the matter is not put on the agenda.
When we put this in other terms, what NAFTA does here is it allows corporations to make profits which corporations would not be able to make under national laws. However, under international laws, namely NAFTA, they can make a profit as Ethyl did. It claimed $250 million. Imagine the nerve of claiming $250 million because of a piece of legislation passed by the House of Commons and supported by the federal government. This was in 1999 and as I mentioned earlier, the company received $18 million in compensation in the end as a result of a piece of legislation passed by Parliament.
It is a perverse reversal of democratically adopted rules by a tribunal which acts in secrecy, is not democratically chosen, and acts on on the strength of an international agreement about which we ourselves have profound doubts. However, we do not seem to be able to do anything about it. That is the essence of this issue.
I wish to compliment and salute the member for Joliette for bringing the motion forward. It deserves the support of anyone who believes that foreign investors should have access only to the complaint mechanisms that domestic investors have, unlike the Canadian Council of Chief Executives of course, which produced these two pages of nonsense. That would be the right approach and I submit it for your consideration.