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House of Commons Hansard #64 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was environment.

Topics

Canada PostPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to present petitions from many people joining the thousands who have already written petitions and letters in support for the amendments to the Canada Post Corporation Act, library materials, which would protect and support the library book rate and extend it to include audiovisual materials.

Sri LankaPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Madam Speaker, I have three petitions concerning the Sri Lankan issue, signed by quite a number of people in my riding, again calling upon the UN to intervene so that the hostilities will cease, that it will provide immediate humanitarian relief and that access will be granted to international organizations.

As the House knows, the overt hostilities have ceased but, as of today, the Sri Lankan army is one of the largest standing armies in the world. The Sri Lankan government seems to believe that this issue can be resolved militarily, but it cannot. The people who signed this petition are extremely worried that this will result in some very difficult times for the Tamil population in Sri Lanka.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, if Question No. 119 could be made an order for return, this return would be tabled immediately.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker Ms. Denise Savoie

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 119Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

What is the total amount of government funding since fiscal year 1998-1999 up to and including the current fiscal year, allocated within the constituency of Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, listing each department or agency, initiative, and amount?

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Madam Speaker, I ask that all remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker Ms. Denise Savoie

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canada-Peru Free Trade AgreementGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Guimond Bloc Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to take part in today's debate on the implementation of the free trade agreement between Canada and the Republic of Peru. I had the opportunity to examine this matter with other colleagues on the Standing Committee on International Trade. We heard some very interesting evidence, which gave us a good overview of the issues surrounding this bill.

Based on what I learned during those meetings, there is very little that is specific to Peru's situation in particular. The agreement in question seems, instead, to reflect a broader vision of what Canada hopes to adopt as its trade policy in the Americas. In that sense, my criticisms of the agreement with Peru are very similar to the criticisms I might express concerning the free-trade agreement with Colombia, which has also been brought to our attention recently.

First of all, in both cases, there was a flagrant lack of transparency when the Conservative government began negotiations with those two countries. That kind of approach is becoming quite common, and we could very easily imagine that this will unfortunately become the norm when it comes to trade agreements. I find it truly appalling that a government can present Parliament with agreements that have already been negotiated and concluded, presenting parliamentarians with a done deal. That is definitely not the best way to serve democracy.

That being said, I must also mention that, for the Bloc Québécois, this kind of agreement poses an essential problem, namely, the preference shown for bilateral agreements. In addition to weakening potential multilateral negotiations, we believe that agreements signed in a piecemeal fashion, such as this one, are more likely to tip the scales in favour of the stronger side. Such an imbalance can easily arise when we negotiate with a country whose economic size is so different from ours.

Despite its strong performance in terms of economic growth in recent years, Peru is still considered a developing country. That means that, even though that country shows great potential and is rich in many aspects, it nevertheless still has many shortcomings in the areas of labour and environmental standards. That country does not satisfy the same criteria as Canada in those areas.

Despite what the government says, we are certain that Peru will not be able to solve its development problems by engaging in free trade with a country like Canada. Increased exports are no guarantee of better wealth distribution or greater well-being for all segments of the population.

In addition, a free trade agreement would have only a minor impact on Quebec's economy. Quebec's exports to Peru account for only 0.14% of its total exports, which is a very small proportion. This is not much incentive for us to want to enter into a trade agreement at any cost, without looking at the other factors involved.

The strong presence of Canadian mining companies in Peru is one of the factors we need to take a close look at. As long as agreements contain no real policy to hold these companies accountable, there will be concerns about their content. A great deal of effort has been made to change this situation. Many stakeholders who are concerned about this issue, including representatives of the extractive industry, have met to find solutions and make recommendations to the government.

They have taken this very seriously.

I would mention the work of the National Roundtables on Corporate Social Responsibility and the Canadian Extractive Industry in Developing Countries. Unfortunately, the government decided to do what it pleased and rejected all the proposals made by these roundtables.

Once again, we have to realize that the government does not care about the recommendations it receives. The current government rejected out of hand all the recommendations in the roundtables report I mentioned.

When asked to adopt mandatory social responsibility standards for Canadian mining companies abroad, the government decided to do the opposite and adopt voluntary standards. When asked to create an independent ombudsman who could conduct impartial investigations to validate complaints, the government created the office of the extractive sector corporate social responsibility counsellor, who reports directly to the minister and investigates only if authorized by the mining company. This is completely ridiculous. In other words, the government preferred to ignore all the recommendations it received and, by doing so, to benefit Canadian mining companies.

The Canadian government wasted a perfectly good opportunity to truly improve the living conditions of Peruvian workers. This same government says that it wants to help developing countries prosper only be selling them more goods at better prices. That does not work.

Therefore, at present, we still cannot rely on a truly independent organization to look into conflicts between workers and their employers. There has never been a truly level playing field between employer and employee and it is quite likely that the ratification of such an agreement between Canada and Peru will once again favour investors to the detriment of workers. That is what we will see, once again, in 2009. These types of agreements are thoroughly unacceptable for workers in developing countries.

In terms of the protection of investments, there are some very significant benefits for Canadian companies doing business in Peru. The provisions that protect their interests are taken straight out of chapter 11 of NAFTA, which has given rise to a number of legal proceedings in which we are involved. In short, these proceedings seek to place the interests of private companies on the same footing as the interest of a state in legislating for the common good. Giving the advantage to investors is completely reprehensible and goes against our very understanding of democracy and fair trade. This is a chapter that should be re-opened and not reproduced. Unfortunately, it has been reproduced too often of late.

There are other problems, as we are also concerned about the dispute resolution process.

The mechanism provides that a company considering that a government has violated the investment provisions can take direct action against the government before an arbitration tribunal. The tribunals hearing the disputes are set up to hear a specific dispute. The deliberations of the arbitrators and their decisions are secret, unless both parties to the dispute decide otherwise.

Let us imagine what would happen with workers and a major mining company. The code of silence would apply.

Instead of this mechanism, we would prefer to resolve disputes using a multilateral and centralized method, and not on a case-by-case basis. The Bloc Québécois is proposing constructive solutions. The Bloc is in favour of free trade and is in favour of multilateral agreements.

Furthermore, it really is too bad that the most controversial parts of this agreement are the most difficult to tackle, since they are an integral part of the agreement and unless we can change them, we will have to reject the whole agreement. The parts on which some progress has been made and which should be emphasized more must be treated the same way. This is the case for advances made in terms of labour and the environment.

To start with, the fact that the measures on these two issues were treated in the same way just shows that they were secondary concerns in this agreement. We would have liked these measures to be included in the body of the text of the agreement. That way, they would have had much greater authority over the agreement. Once again, we have made proposals. It is unfortunate that, for a lot of issues that have a direct impact on people's quality of life, we need to depend on the goodwill of the parties involved. Unfortunately, experience shows that a company's goodwill goes more easily with measures that can help their own investments. Measures to protect the environment and workers can be costly and do not yield instant benefits. That is why the government has a role to play.

We cannot be at the mercy of purely commercial interests. When we trade with another country, we cannot look only at the impact on our balance of trade. There are also lives at stake and the well-being of millions of workers and people who live in these countries. We need to take this into account, think about it, and do something about it.

I would like to tell the House about an interesting proposal put forward recently during a meeting of the Standing Committee on International Trade. This interesting proposal was put forward by the secretary-treasurer of the Canadian Labour Congress. After explaining how the current model of concluding free-trade agreements has failed so far—which he demonstrated very clearly—he talked about a new way of practising trade. I really like this new model, and so does the Bloc Québécois. He proposed the idea of concluding fair-trade agreements as opposed to free-trade agreements based purely on commercial trade. As I was saying, I quite like the idea, in the sense that it is understood that the agreement must be beneficial for both partner countries, for merchants in Canada, Quebec and Peru, for workers in Canada, Quebec and Peru and for farmers in Canada, Quebec and Peru. It must be fair. Such a fair-trade model would serve to reinforce social norms, and protect environmental and labour standards in both countries.

The main difference is this: with fair trade, the focus is on the social aspect and not on lower customs tariffs meant to increase exports. I think this proposal deserves our attention. It deserves our consideration, for this agreement and for all future free-trade agreements with other countries.

In our current approach, the primary goals of our negotiators are simply to seek out greater diversity in trade partners and expand the list of potential markets for Canadian products in Latin America. Clearly, achieving those objectives could be in the Quebec's economic interest, but the lack of overall vision shown by this government in matters of trade policy is worrisome.

The Bloc Québécois is effectively seeking a change in Canada's trade priorities. Canada should now shift its focus from trade liberalization to creating a more level playing field. With respect to the agreement with Peru, we believe that, on the one hand, it opens many doors to Canadian investments in mining in Peru but, on the other hand, it does not include adequate provisions to protect workers and preserve the environment. We also believe that, in the absence of any real policy to hold Canadian mining companies operating abroad accountable, it would be morally wrong to approve a free trade agreement with Peru, in light of that country's poor record on mine work.

As I said earlier, it can obviously be interesting for Canada to have an investment protection mechanism, as Canadian companies established in Peru stand to benefit from strong protection for their investments under this free trade agreement. This agreement will allow Canadian companies involved in mining, for instance, and whose human rights record is less than stellar to sue the Peruvian government, should it ever implement legislation that affects their profits. Substantial compensation is provided for in the event of nationalization or expropriation. In other words, the power to legislate as it sees fit within its jurisdiction is taken away from the state.

The Bloc Québécois objects to the Conservative government's strategy of piecemeal trade deals and advocates a multilateral approach. The current economic crisis is proof enough that the market economy cannot run properly without rules. That is what people are finding everywhere, even south of the border, in the United States. The market economy as we know it has to change. For that to happen, we need responsible governments capable of thinking more in fair trade terms than strictly free market terms.

That is what the Bloc Québécois has been trying to make this House and every committee we sit on understand.

Canada-Peru Free Trade AgreementGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Madam Speaker, I listened with great interest to the remarks of my hon. colleague from Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques. We work together on the Standing Committee on International Trade, where he is doing very good work.

We have had our differences in the past on issues such the softwood lumber deal, which has caused thousands of jobs to be lost in Quebec and which, sadly, the Bloc Québécois has supported. Another sellout agreement was signed with respect to shipbuilding, in spite of the fact that dozens of workers from shipbuilding plants in Lévis wrote to the Bloc warning that it would cause job losses and that they should not support it. So, we have had our differences. My personal opinion is that the Bloc Québécois made the wrong decision, but it will have to justify the position it took on that issue.

Today, we are on the same page, and I greatly appreciated the remarks made by the hon. member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, who has provided a very good critique of the agreement.

My question deals with the comments made earlier today by the parliamentary secretary about labour and environment rights provisions not being important and trade being what matters. Until now, the government always said it was trying to ensure that labour and environmental laws were protected.

Today, however, it has shown a bit more of its true colours, saying it was not important.

Could my hon. colleague comment on these remarks by the parliamentary secretary?

Canada-Peru Free Trade AgreementGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Guimond Bloc Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his good comments and kind words. I also greatly enjoy working with my colleague on international trade matters.

As I mentioned in my speech, we completely disagree with what the parliamentary secretary said this morning. We must review the rules of international trade and how we do business. In my speech, I mentioned what the Secretary-Treasurer of the Canadian Labour Congress told us. He said that it was time to change our practices and to include, in our agreements, fair trade provisions. We need forums and organizations with the means to verify and evaluate what takes place when free trade agreements such as this one with Peru are implemented.

We are forced to make decisions about this agreement, and others as well, without examining what will happen in Peru and Canada. We have no statistics. Thus, we are presented with a fait accompli, once again, and that is absolutely deplorable. My NDP colleague and I will work hard to ensure that the House includes such provisions in future agreements in order to ascertain what happens with these agreements.

Canada-Peru Free Trade AgreementGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Jean-Claude D'Amours Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Madam Speaker, I am quite surprised to hear this. I really had no idea that the Bloc Québécois would be against this Canada-Peru free trade agreement, and especially the MPs from ridings on the New Brunswick border.

I will give an example. Not too long ago, a company called Atlantic Yarns shut down in my riding, in the Atholville area in New Brunswick, on the Quebec border, near Pointe-à-la-Croix and Matapédia. Several dozen or even a hundred employees lost their jobs because it took too long to establish this Canada-Peru free trade agreement.

Today, I hear the Bloc member saying that we should not move forward with this agreement. However, to my knowledge, citizens of his province, Quebec, worked for Atlantic Yarns in Atholville. I am surprised, because even the plant union is in favour of the agreement, because it knows this could be one way to save the plant.

We know that the NDP is against it. Nevertheless, I would like my Bloc Québécois colleague to think about what I said. Instead of rejecting this agreement why does he not look at the positive side and the jobs that could have been saved and that could be created? In our case, jobs were lost and people from his own province perhaps also lost their jobs. I would like him to think about that and to comment on what I said.

Canada-Peru Free Trade AgreementGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Guimond Bloc Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to reassure the hon. member from New Brunswick, who represents a riding that neighbours mine. I want to tell him not to worry about all the thinking done by the Bloc Québécois before adopting a stand on current agreements relating to free trade and international trade.

The Bloc Québécois supports free trade agreements. However, we have a lot of issues with bilateral free trade agreements that are concluded without thinking a bit further, without thinking about what is going to happen, without thinking about miners in Peru. Canadian mining companies will come barging in with laws and agreements that will allow them to negotiate a lower quality of life for mine workers.

I firmly believe that it is unfortunate that workers are losing their jobs. Workers in my riding are losing their jobs and that is very unfortunate, but I believe they really understand what is happening. I am also convinced that these people are in favour of fairer trade.

Canada-Peru Free Trade AgreementGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, I have a question for my colleague. Before holding the prestigious position of member of Parliament, my colleague was an official with the Union des producteurs agricoles du Québec and an expert on supply management. Therefore, he is very familiar with the five products protected by supply management systems in Canada, and particularly in Quebec. These products include milk, poultry and eggs. These are important issues when the time comes to negotiate agreements and treaties.

The message that the Bloc Québécois wanted to deliver is that we must look at what is happening. As regards agriculture and international agreements, if the government had bothered to look at how important and how well managed that sector is—including in Quebec—it would have realized that Canada should have used it in all its agreements. This is to say that, before presenting such treaties, we must be aware of their long term effects, both here and in the other country that signs them.

I wonder if my colleague could tell us about his experience as a supply management expert.

Canada-Peru Free Trade AgreementGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Guimond Bloc Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for this opportunity to speak on agriculture, something I am passionate about, being a farmer myself.

I listened to the debate on this agreement this morning. I was somewhat taken aback by comments made during the debate. The member for Malpeque, who is also the agriculture critic, if I am not mistaken, quoted Laurent Pellerin, the president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture. He said that Mr. Pellerin supported the agreement with Peru and that it was a great deal for the producers in Quebec and Canada. I have my doubts about that.

When he appeared before the Standing Committee on International Trade, Mr. Pellerin said about this agreement between Canada and Peru, “Ce n'est pas le Pérou—it's not Peru”, meaning that it was not very significant. Certainly it is an export issue. This morning, the member for Malpeque talked about the potato producers in his riding. There is indeed a great deal of expertise there, but we are also talking about western Canadian wheat and about pork. It might mean only a few containers. We do not even have figures. We have no idea of how much is involved, but much is being made about the importance of exporting a few tons.

In closing, as a farmer, let me say that what producers in Canada, Quebec or Peru want is to be able to earn a decent living from agriculture, and not be flooded with export products. We want to produce and make a fair living.

Canada-Peru Free Trade AgreementGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to Bill C-24, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Peru, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Peru and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Peru.

I would like to start with what is positive. What is positive in this agreement, and obviously most Liberals and Conservatives are completely unaware of this, is that this is an NDP-amended document that is being brought into the House today. Why is that important? It is important because certainly as long as I have been in the House, for five years, we have been hearing a litany, both from the former Liberal government and the current Conservative government that trade agreement implementation bills were unamendable.

That has been a refrain from the Liberals since time immemorial, saying we cannot touch these agreements. Even though every parliament, congress and legislature elsewhere in the world does it regularly, for five years and even longer, Madam Speaker, as you well know, given your knowledge of parliamentary history, we have had Liberals and Conservatives saying we cannot touch these bills. Most notably and most recently that was with the shipbuilding sellout bill, with EFTA, where the NDP brought forward amendments to carve out our shipbuilding sector so it could survive. With the longest coastline in the world it would be important to have a shipbuilding industry, but Conservatives and Liberals said no, we cannot amend the implementation bill.

We now have a principle today in the House, which will rest for time immemorial, that Parliament does have the right and does have the obligation to look at a trade implementation bill and to make the necessary amendments and changes. For that, I think this is an important precedent. Obviously the Conservatives may not have tried to jib the fact that the bill has been amended with what they have been saying for years, and Liberals obviously did not think about the consequences to changing their particular statements, but the reality is the bill is amended and that establishes a whole new precedent for future bills.

We went through the softwood sellout, and I was told consistently, and our caucus was told consistently, that we cannot change the softwood sellout implementation bill. We knew that it would cost thousands of jobs, hundreds of millions of dollars to Canadians, that it was an appallingly shortsighted and irresponsible bill, but we were told by Liberals and Conservatives that we cannot touch it.

More recently, with the shipbuilding sellout, the EFTA bill, the NDP fought in the House day after day, read letters from hundreds of shipyard workers in Nova Scotia, British Columbia, Quebec and elsewhere, who were writing to members of Parliament to say, do not be irresponsible, do not sell out our shipbuilding industry, please carve out shipbuilding from the agreement. Liberals and Conservative said the same thing again. They said we cannot touch an implementation bill.

Today we have the answer to that. Yes, we can touch an implementation bill, and we can amend it. This will carry forward to all further debates on trade issues. Unfortunately, the Conservatives being Conservatives, and Liberals being Liberals, they did not take all the NDP amendments, including the amendment that asked for a five-year review clause. That is unfortunate. For that and a whole bunch of other reasons, as witnesses before the trade committee said very clearly, this is an inferior bill. It is an inferior treaty for Canada to what the United States negotiated with Peru and what the U.S. Congress did in changing the implementation legislation.

We have an inferior bill. That is the only word that describes it. It is inferior on labour and environmental protections to what the United States Congress put into the U.S.-Peru bill. It is inferior in terms even of access to the Peruvian market for Canadian agricultural exports. We have an inferior bill. The only really good thing we can say about it is that it is NDP-amended, establishing a precedent that will carry on forevermore. Madam Speaker, the next time a Conservative or a Liberal stands in the House and says trade implementation bills are unamendable, we have the answer. We have the precedent, and for that I am thankful.

What do we have in Bill C-24, the inferior Canada-Peru trade deal being put forward? A number of other speakers have already spoken to the inadequacies of any labour or environmental protections that were put in the side agreements. We had testimony before the international trade committee that was very clear on that. What we have is simply an attempt to draft side legislation as a sort of symbolic attempt to look at labour and environmental issues.

It is not included in the agreement. The U.S. Congress took its trade bill, toughened it up, and made it much stronger to actually protect Peruvians from the Peruvian government. It put in place the kind of ILO protections, the International Labour Organization protections, that most Canadians would want to see. We want to look at fair trade agreements that actually raise the quality of life and enhance environment protection, not push them down, for a number of reasons. One is that this is clearly an inferior bill.

Is that a problem? It is because witnesses who came forward even earlier this week to the trade committee, such as Maxwell Cameron from the University of British Columbia, said that currently, Peru is refusing to keep its obligations under the International Labour Organization treaties.

Even before this bill is implemented, we already have the Peruvian government breaking its word on other issues. It has already broken and refused to keep its commitments under the ILO. We have a government that is putting forward an exceedingly weak labour side agreement, which is essentially nothing but symbolic, and it is doing this knowing that even if it were not tougher, the Peruvian government would not be willing to keep its commitment under the ILO.

Therefore, we really have no mechanism that pushes to increase labour standards in Peru or increase environmental standards. The line of the government, up until today actually, has been, “We are really trying to do something good for the people of Peru, as well as ensure a market for our exports”. The parliamentary secretary came clean today. He said it was not important, that we are not actually looking at labour standards or the environment in this agreement. It is all about trade.

From that standpoint as well, the reason why the NDP is saying no to this inferior agreement is because the government had no intention of raising labour standards or labour rights, or raising environmental standards. The government says it is part of a broader trade strategy.

We then have to look at how our trade strategy is going so far. What has the government done on trade?

We had the egregiously bad softwood sellout, which most Canadians opposed. The Liberals and Conservatives ganged together, and I regret to say my colleagues from the Bloc as well, to vote the softwood sellout through, which instantly triggered the loss of thousands of jobs. Within the first week of implementation, 4,000 jobs were lost in the softwood sector. We immediately slammed the door on any possibility of softwood exports, and that hemorrhaging of softwood jobs continues today with tens of thousands of jobs lost.

In addition, because of the anti-circumvention clause that the NDP warned the trade committee about and warned Conservatives and Liberals about, and we warned them in the House as well, we now are facing, first, penalties of nearly $70 million that Canadian taxpayers have to cough up in fines under this ridiculously bad agreement. We now have, from testimony we heard just a few weeks ago, pending fines of over $1 billion. Assuming that we lose the next two cases, Canadian taxpayers will have to cough up $1 billion for an egregiously bad agreement that cost us thousands of jobs. One does not have to be thick-headed to understand that this was an appallingly bad agreement and that the Conservatives, with Liberal support, rammed it through.

Their first step on trade policy was an appallingly bad step that was taken by David Emerson, the former Liberal minister who crossed over to the Conservatives, and who brought with him the same stupid approach on trade. As a result, thousands of Canadian families have lost breadwinners.

What did the Conservatives bring in next? Next, they brought the shipbuilding sellout through the EFTA. They were told by every single member who participated at the trade committee, from the shipbuilding industry, whether from management or ownership or from the workers, that it would kill our shipbuilding industry, that it would undermine our shipbuilding industry, and that our shipbuilding industry would be unable to live with the clauses that were negotiated when there was no shipbuilding policy in place at all.

It is a shipbuilding sellout. The Conservatives and Liberals, again, despite the fact that there is universal condemnation of the agreement from the shipbuilding industry, rammed it through. That is strike two. On trade policy, the government has absolutely no understanding. We are talking about trade illiterates.

What we have now is what I guess we would all strike three, a clearly inferior agreement to what was negotiated between the U.S. and Peru, and what the U.S. Congress was able to do as well in terms of amending the agreement to actually enforce real and effective labour and environmental standards.

There is more. What the Conservatives want to bring forward now is a privileged trading relationship with the government of Colombia, whose president, according to U.S. defence intelligence briefings, documents that were declassified recently, was a friend of Pablo Escobar and closely linked with the Medellin cartel, drug lords.

That was not all he did. Subsequent to that, according to evidence and testimony presented just a few weeks ago, he has also been involved in the murder and massacre by paramilitaries of civilians in Colombia, and most recently involved in influence peddling scandals and overt surveillance by the secret police in Colombia of opposition leaders and judges.

We are talking about a country that has the worst human rights record on the planet, over four million displaced people, forced displacement by the paramilitaries, and the government wants to roll out the red carpet and give a special privileged trading relationship to an administration that is connected to murderous paramilitary thugs and drug lords. It is unbelievable. It would only be believable if we were to look at how egregiously bad the softwood lumber sellout was and then compare it. Then we would realize it.

We are talking about a government that has absolutely no idea what it is doing and what is worse, the Conservatives are telling their base that they want a privileged trading relationship with an administration connected to drug lords and murderous paramilitary thugs. Does anyone think any Conservative would actually want to do that? Of course not. From the membership of the--

Canada-Peru Free Trade AgreementGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order. On a point of order, the hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake.

Canada-Peru Free Trade AgreementGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Madam Speaker, as you know, we are at third reading of Bill C-24. Comments by members have to be relevant and very specific to the matter at hand. We are talking about Peru. The member has gone off on other tangents talking about trading relationships with other countries in Latin America and the United States. I would ask the Speaker to bring the member back to focus on the Peruvian deal that is before the House at this time.

Canada-Peru Free Trade AgreementGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

On that point of order, there is indeed a rule of relevance. Especially at third reading, it is more important to debate the contents of the bill. I would invite my colleague to focus on the bill in his closing remarks.

The hon. member has five minutes remaining in his time.

Canada-Peru Free Trade AgreementGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Madam Speaker, it is very relevant trade policy. We will have much time to condemn the links that the government has brought forward.

In my last few minutes I will come back to the Canada-Peru trade agreement bill. It has also been clearly identified as an inferior agreement, even by those who may give lip service to supporting this deal. We will save Colombia for another time.

What we have is essentially an inferior agreement. It is an agreement that is inferior on labour rights and environmental rights. It does not provide any of the protections that up until today the government purported to provide. We have to look at what the government said was its major reason for putting forward this agreement. It believes in a trade strategy. It obviously has not looked at the evidence.

In most cases, the bilaterals we have signed so far have led to a reduction of exports from Canada. We did increase the imports from those countries with which we signed the bilaterals, but we have to do our homework. If the government has not been able to look at the results of the bilaterals it has signed thus far, it is not doing its homework as it sits down to negotiate what in this case is an inferior agreement.

Exports go down. What is wrong with that picture? It is very simple. Putting aside all of the other issues we have talked about, such as the sellout of our own industries and the complete lack of concern for human rights, the government does not get trade strategy right. We heard testimony just a few weeks ago that the Canadian government provides $3.4 million in Canadian product promotion support for the entire U.S. market. The Australian government provides half a billion dollars.

We provide $3.4 million for our major trading partner. That is ridiculously small. It means that, because there is no overall trade strategy, we will continue to see what we have seen since the government has come to power, even with this inferior agreement, a completely aimless lack of focus on trade and now, as we saw a few months ago, the largest trade deficit in 30 years. That is incompetence. That is simple irresponsibility. That is a lack of understanding of how to put a winning trade strategy in place.

The government seems willing to do the ribbon cutting, even with the government of Colombia, yet it is not willing to do the hard work of actually increasing Canadian exports. What has been the net result? We have seen this over the last 20 years. StatsCan is very clear and tells us what the results have been. Most Canadian families are earning less now than they were 20 years ago. Certainly, it has helped corporate lawyers and CEOs. Their incomes have skyrocketed and now the wealthiest 20% in Canada take more than half of all real income.

However, for everybody else, the middle class, working class and poor Canadians, their real incomes have declined over 20 years. It is in large part due to the Conservatives following the same failed trade strategy that the Liberals put into place. One would think that somebody like DFAIT would actually say, “Hold on. This is not really working too well, is it? We are seeing real income sink. We are seeing exports fall after we signed bilaterals. There has to be a problem here”.

However, there does not seem to be any change from the ribbon-cutting approach to trade that we have seen with both the former Liberal government and the current Conservative government.

What we have in the Canada-Peru agreement is essentially investor-state provisions. They are the same failed provisions in chapter 11 that are leading to actions as we saw with Ethyl Corporation and as we are now seeing with Quebec and the outlawing of 2,4-D. Corporate CEOs can use those chapter 11 provisions and rights to ensure that they can push and control certain aspects of democratic override—

Canada-Peru Free Trade AgreementGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order, please. I would ask for the side bar discussions to occur in the lobby, please.

The hon. member for Burnaby--New Westminster.

Canada-Peru Free Trade AgreementGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Madam Speaker, I am not surprised at the interruptions from Conservatives. It is difficult to have to listen to a trade strategy that they clearly do not seem to grasp. If they had, a lot more Canadians would be at work today.

We have chapter 11 provisions. We have that reinforcement of CEOs. We do not have the labour protections. We do not have the environmental protections. That is why we are voting no to Bill C-24.