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--