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House of Commons Hansard #66 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was young.

Topics

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Madam Speaker, my NDP colleague is also alluding to chapter 11 of NAFTA, which was reproduced in this agreement. The Bloc Québécois is in favour of multilateral rather than bilateral agreements. Under a multilateral agreement, companies must adhere more closely to these standards. There are things that could be done but that are not being talked about with regard to this agreement. We need a fair and equitable agreement that would require mining companies to report annually on their activities abroad and comply with the standards. An independent ombudsman office could be created to receive complaints about the activities of non-compliant Canadian companies abroad.

There is nothing in this agreement that talks about the recommendations we made. A tripartite committee could be formed to monitor compliance with the standards. This committee would be made up of representatives of government, civil society and the extractive industry. There are ways to mine in compliance with environmental standards. There are even mining techniques that create less pollution. But there is nothing about any of this in this agreement with Peru.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, members have all received substantial input from various stakeholders and constituents about trade deals, probably more about the proposed deal with Colombia, but also about the Peru agreement. There is a form letter that starts, “I'm shocked and dismayed”, which has been going around.

Much of the debate that has taken place with regard to this particular bill, Bill C-24, the Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act, has been dealing with the more substantive concerns that Canadians have about entering into agreements with countries that have reputations on human rights issues that cause them concern, particularly with Colombia and the cocaine trade.

Having been a member of Parliament for some 15 years, one of the key lessons I learned from former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien was that it is very, very difficult, if not impossible, to achieve several objectives in terms of promoting Canadian values and interests at the same time. Sometimes we have to take a complex situation and deal with it separately.

Former Prime Minister Chrétien said that if we wanted him to be a boy scout, go to China and tell the Chinese what they should do about human rights, that would not do any good because then he would be out of the loop. Canada's trade relationship with China would become impaired and there would be consequences for being a boy scout where he could not do anything. He said that he would rather be at the table. He would want to be there, show them how Canada works, share the value system we have and show them we are concerned about and look for every opportunity to advocate for human rights issues, for environmental issues, for fair and free trade issues.

These bills raise all these kinds of concerns. On the Colombia deal, the Standing Committee on International Trade would probably say we should have a human rights assessment. That human rights assessment would show that there is a terrible drug trade and a lot of nastiness going on there. The human rights situation is terrible compared to Canada and this is really unacceptable.

This is a wonderful thing to do when we are talking about doing more business with that country. It rubs in its face the realities that we know. I understand it is important to keep the message in front of the world about the challenges that many countries have, whether they are human rights issues or environmental issues, or corruption, which is rampant. If we did a human rights assessment on all countries that we traded with and they did not pass the smell test, as it were, then we would say we will not trade with them.

Why do we not look at China? Would China pass a human rights assessment? Probably not. Would India pass a human rights assessment? Probably not. Would Colombia? Probably not.

How about the United States? There has been a lot of debate in this place about torture and tactics and even accusing people in this chamber who have views that in certain circumstances we need more aggressive techniques to get information from terrorists. It is totally unacceptable to many members in this place even to think that maybe there is a scenario under which more aggressive techniques should take place. I think the consensus would be that there should be no human rights abuses, no torture.

If we are to apply the same criteria that we want to apply to Peru about having a human rights assessment before we consider trading or expanding trade, that means we have to reconsider our trading relationship with our largest trading partner, the United States.

It is bizarre and it is probably a stretch, but it can be argued. I wanted to speak today because I receive so many communications from people who have been told that this is terrible and we should not be doing business with these people. Most of them unfortunately do not understand that we already have a trading relationship with all of these countries. We already do trade.

With regard to Peru itself, we have a significant trade deficit. We have $390 million in exports to Peru, including cereals, paper, technical instruments and machinery, but we import from Peru about $2.5 billion, mostly in minerals such as gold, zinc and copper ores, as well as animal feed and vegetables.

We have to ask ourselves whether or not Canada is prepared, notwithstanding the current recession and the economic climate, to sacrifice doing more business, growing our economy and creating jobs for the opportunity to say to them that the way they run their country, the laws that they have with regard to human rights, labour and the environment are the kinds of things that we have a problem with, and we would rather forgo the additional business with them because we are good boy scouts. We are the messenger. We would like to do trade with them but they have not passed our test.

That seems to be overly simplistic but if we listen to the debate that has gone on for some days now, it always comes back to the need for fair trade practices. We need responsible and fair labour practices. We need respect for the environment.

When I look at Canada's situation on the environment, who are we to lecture somebody else about our priority with regard to the environment? Who is Canada to lecture them, when our own government first of all cancelled every program that was set up to get Canadians onside to start dealing with greenhouse gas emissions and the consequences of global warming, which are horrendous?

The government also wants to set standards which tend to protect and insulate current industries and current practices. It came up with one scheme which said that they could pollute up to the same levels that they are doing right now. If they are going to produce more oil, for instance, as long as the incremental pollution and greenhouse gas emissions created are no greater than they are already averaging, then that is okay. In other words, the current level of pollution is acceptable. That is the position of the current government, to go ahead and pollute at the same levels.

Anybody who knows anything about the environment knows that at our current rate the damage is going to be tremendous. The book Sea Sick talks about phytoplankton and that the carbons being assimilated and dissolved into the water are reducing and killing the growth of phytoplankton. These are the kinds of things I wanted to raise because the seas are more sacred than the land, and if the seas go, the land is going to go right after them.

We have some serious problems on the environment, but I wanted to rise and say that we should not try to achieve all objectives every time we have a deal or relationship with another country. We do some trade now. Other countries have already entered into similar trade agreements. They have a competitive advantage over Canada. If we do not enter this deal, if we do not deal with those tariffs that we presently are facing, even the existing exports into Peru will disappear because we cannot be price competitive. That would cost jobs in Canada.

We have to think more carefully about what our objectives are.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Madam Speaker, I was listening to our colleague, whom we very much appreciate in the House and who often speaks. However, I do not necessarily always agree with his positions.

I would like him to explain why the Liberal Party—which may form the government in future, because it aspires to power—voted in favour of Motion M-283?

This motion says that “the government should act immediately to implement the measures of the Advisory Group report “National Roundtables on Corporate Social Responsibility and the Canadian Extractive Industry in Developing Countries” by creating, in an appropriate legal framework and with the funds needed, an independent ombudsman office with the power to receive and investigate complaints”.

You are familiar with the motion, and you voted for it. This agreement contains no provision that has to do with any funds, even though the motion called for providing funds. Yet you will vote in favour of the free trade agreement between Canada and the Republic of Peru. I would like to hear what you have to say about this.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I would like to remind the hon. member that he should address the chair. The hon. member for Mississauga South.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, this is precisely the point. I do not think there are many people in this place who do not believe in having a national round table or an international round table forum to discuss how we can address the issues that are being raised by that private member's motion by the member for Scarborough—Guildwood. Yes, I support it.

It is a definable, focused effort to do something concrete in regard to, for instance, mining standards, et cetera, and dealing with those who invest in things and destroy the environment. It does not have anything to do with trade, though. If we link that with something else and say that we will not do something unless something else is fixed, there are three or four issues on the table as well as the trading issues that this bill deals with, and if one of those things should fail, then the whole thing would fail.

The question for the House to consider is whether or not we should sacrifice trade, jobs and opportunities to continue to influence our actions and the actions of other countries with regard to commercial activity which negatively impacts the environment.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

John Weston Conservative West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Madam Speaker, I understood that there is a value in engaging the people of Peru or any other country just by being at the table even with outside agreements. Furthermore, this agreement contemplates side agreements that would bolster the whole human rights, social justice, environment and labour rights issues that have been raised by my colleagues from the Bloc and the NDP

Could my colleague from the Liberal Party confirm my understanding?

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, the member has it correct. Every relationship that we have with countries around the world provides opportunities on a number of fronts, whether they be economic, trade, labour, or the environment. Certainly international relations are extremely important.

To the extent that we become the critic of those who do not have the values or the standards that we have and whose laws are not the same as ours, all that can do is impair the relationship and make it even more difficult for us to be successful in terms of persuading, negotiating or dealing with a variety of subjects.

I would like to make one last point which I did not get a chance to make in my speech. It has to do with the whole question of side agreements as opposed to dealing with the matters in the main agreement.

I am not convinced right now, and I hope that some hon. members will rise and explain it to the House, why a side agreement is less binding and less effective than an agreement which combines all of the elements. NAFTA as an example has those side agreements. We are participants there.

If we have a model in which we deal with these various agreements and they are working in other jurisdictions, why would we argue that this would be less effective an agreement just because there are side agreements? I do not believe that is the case, but I am interested in some argument.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased 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.

Bill C-24 is the implementation legislation for the Canada-Peru free trade agreement, which consists of three parts: the main free trade agreement text, the labour side agreement and an environmental protection side agreement. It preceded and is nearly identical to the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement. Bill C-24 is also structurally identical to Bill C-23, the implementation legislation for the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement.

Canada is following the United States, which completed the free trade agreement with Peru under the Bush administration in December 2007, in spite of strong opposition from trade unions, civil society and Democrats who viewed the deal as an expansion of the North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA. Free trade negotiations with Peru date back to 2002 when the Chrétien Liberals first held discussions with the Andean community. That group consists of Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia. On June 7, 2007, then minister David Emerson announced the formal launch of free trade negotiations with Peru. The Conservative government signed the bilateral agreement in May 2008.

The NDP opposes the NAFTA-style treaties that put big business interests before workers and the environment at all costs. That has increased the inequality and decreased the quality of life for the majority of working families.

In the case of the Canada-Peru agreement, our concern is that a much larger and more developed economy will take advantage of a developing one and that large corporate interests will end up shaping the so-called free trade architecture to serve their needs and not the public interests of the two trading nations. The worst aspects of the free trade agreement are similar to those found in the Canada-Colombia agreement.

The Canada-Peru free trade agreement does not include tough labour standards. The labour provisions are in a side agreement outside of the main text and without any vigorous enforcement mechanism. That is the key to this.

Trade unions in Peru have expressed concern as Peruvian labour law is deficient in several areas. By addressing the environment in a side agreement, there is no effective enforcement mechanism to force Canada or Peru to respect environmental rights.

Canada, in the recent budget, took away some of the environmental protections under the Navigable Waters Protection Act that we previously had in this country. It is not just a one-way street. In this case, we are looking at the country of Peru and saying that it is not living up to standards and it is racing to the bottom, but we have examples on our side where it could be argued that we are doing the same thing in terms of racing to the bottom.

The Canada-Peru agreement on the environment commits both countries to pursue environmental co-operation and to improve environmental laws and policies, but it can only ask both parties to enforce their domestic laws. If they do not, there is no necessary consequence.

In terms of the investment chapter, it has been a major concern of the members of the Bloc who support the NDP in voting against this bill. The investment chapter has been copied from the North American Free Trade Agreement. We have had some experience over the years with how that works. As for chapter 11 investor rights, the Canada-Peru free trade agreement provides powerful rights to private companies to sue governments over their public policy, enforceable through investor state arbitration panels.

We have seen, through experience with the North American Free Trade Agreement, how this type of corporate rights regime undermines the legitimate role of government in protecting and improving the lives of its citizens and the environment. In some free trade agreements investors are essentially put on the same level as that of the state and this puts the state in a defensive position. Just yesterday, one of my colleagues mentioned some examples under the NAFTA where the government is being challenged by investors who are not happy with their treatment under the agreement.

While Parliament cannot modify the treaty itself, Bill C-24 is just enabling legislation and the final jurisdiction over treaties lies with cabinet. We would like the government to stop the bill and renegotiate the problematic parts but that, of course, is not likely to happen. That is our major concern with this legislation.

I would like to address a question asked by a member a few minutes ago.

The Americans are moving perhaps a year or two ahead of us in this area. They have passed their own free trade agreement with Peru. However, unlike the Canadian agreement, environmental and labour standards were included right in their bill. One could argue that the Americans had a better constructed bill than we have here.

Their experience so far has not been good because a race to the bottom is developing where Peru has issued decrees and has reduced its standards. Any analysis that I have read, particularly from the American point of view, shows that the agreement they signed is not working favourably for the poor people and the working people of Peru.

Surely we should learn something from the American experience. They have two years on us. They have a better agreement but it is not being enforced properly in terms of pulling both countries up. What it is doing is pulling them down, specifically Peru.

Before we go much further with this, we should direct our negotiators to at least move our agreement up to the higher standard of the American agreement and maybe get some improvements on the American agreement that would benefit the working people in Peru.

We have a number of good examples that we have accessed from people who have looked at how the U.S. free trade agreement with Peru has been working. We can take the example of teamster president, Jimmy Hoffa Jr., who has made several observations about the U.S.-Peru agreement. He has said that nothing will change for the 33,000 slave labourers cutting down the Amazonian rain forest. He has said that subsistent farmers will be forced off their land because cheap U.S. food produced by agri-business will undercut their prices. The same thing happened with the North American Free Trade Agreement which has resulted in millions of poor Mexicans leaving their farms.

How anyone in this Parliament could see it is as progress and an improvement to the country and to the world to take a group of people, who have been working on their farms for hundreds of years, and force them off their land and force them to buy subsidized imported food and get away from growing their own food, is beyond me

The previous speaker from the Liberal Party was essentially condoning the race to the bottom approach. He said that we could not question any country's practices because we will scare it off and it will not want to trade with us. I have news for him. People all over the world want to trade.

When a few protestors from my own province of Manitoba go to environmental commission hearings in Minnesota to complain about our hydro development up north, when it really is not a serious problem in my opinion, our government takes that very seriously. Why? It is because we want to keep selling power to the United States. A few protesters can have a big influence on our government policy in Manitoba. One or two people showing up at environmental commission hearings--

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The hon. member may continue his comments during questions and comments. The hon. Minister of Justice.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Niagara Falls Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson ConservativeMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Madam Speaker, a constituent of mine just recently asked me a question about another one of these trade debates. He asked whether it was the position of the NDP to oppose all trade agreements. I said that was pretty well the evidence on all these things. It has a long record in an era when sometimes people say that political parties or individuals may not be consistent. This is certainly a consistency of the New Democratic Party.

I remember the NDP's ferocious objections to the North American Free Trade Agreement. It has been very consistent. We will never hear NDP members stand and say that they were wrong and that trade between Canada, the United States and Mexico has grown exponentially over the last 20 years. In fact, they probably still complain about that free trade agreement.

It can pretty well be summed up that the NDP is prepared to help other countries but it always needs to be a hand out, never a hand up. Anything that might promote trade, help people to become prosperous, to get them working and to expand trade is something the NDP is always opposed to.

We know the NDP were against the Auto Pact, which was very important. Could the hon. member tell me if there is any trade agreement that has ever been concluded that they would support?

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, those are very silly comments from the member.

I spent a few minutes in my speech suggesting to the member that the United States signed probably a better agreement with Peru two years ago and that we should look at that experience to see how it has developed. In the case of the United States, it was smart enough to include labour and environmental standards as part of the agreement, not as side agreements, which is why we assume it has a better agreement.

I think it is incumbent upon the government to pay some attention. It is not too late to get its trade negotiators out there to try to at least elevate our agreement up to the level and as good as what the United States has had for the last two years. I was pointing out to the member that we have evidence that even that higher standard is not working. The Peruvian administration is racing to the bottom, changing the laws and forcing farmers off their land.

The member, obviously, was not listening to my comments on that. Yes, we do support trade and we support fair trade agreements. The Bloc members have been telling that member for the last few days the very same thing. We support fair trade. What is so complicated about that concept?

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Madam Speaker, my colleague's speech speaks well about why we have been asking for fair trade and not a free trade agreement.

I want to touch base on some of the comments by our other colleagues, and specifically the Minister of Justice, with regard to how free trade has actually worked. If free trade has worked so great in the U.S., why do we have thousands of people coming to Parliament Hill today to talk about forestry and the lack of attention that was given to that part of the agreement?

As well, a Liberal member talked about the greenhouse gas emissions. Under that party, we saw greenhouse gas emissions rise much higher.

Does my colleague think, as the Liberal member seems to think, that we should turn a blind eye to human rights when it comes to these free trade agreements?

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, the reality is that there are many ways to negotiate agreements and we want fair trade agreements. We want to take into account as many of the possibilities and eventualities that can happen, and whether that involves labour, environment or human rights issues, they should all be put into agreements because people want to trade. To get a sound trade agreement, people will agree to have decent standards if we require those in an agreement.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak in this debate 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.

Part of the context of our debate today is the fact that this morning and this afternoon thousands of members of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, CEP, my old union, will be gathering here on the Hill for a national day of protest to say that forestry workers fight back for jobs, pensions and families. I was a proud member of CEP Local 232.

One of the reasons this protest has been organized is because of the failure of free trade agreements between Canada and the United States and the failure of the softwood lumber agreement between Canada and the United States to protect the jobs of Canadian workers. That is one reason why thousands of people will be here in Ottawa today to protest the failure of Canada to protect Canadian jobs and Canadian workers through these types of trade agreements. That shows why it is so crucially important that we pay attention to these agreements as we sign them and as we develop them. I am glad that we have this opportunity to debate the Canada-Peru agreement here in the House today.

As my colleague from Elmwood—Transcona said, New Democrats support trade agreements but we would support fair trade agreements. We want to ensure they meet the social, environmental and labour goals of our country and that they support our democratic vision for our country and for countries around the world. We want to ensure that any agreement we enter into supports those standards.

I do not think that makes us Boy Scouts, as the member for Mississauga South indicated. I do not think the Boy Scouts would appreciate the way he slagged their intent to be honourable citizens. It does not make us Boy Scouts or naive to want to uphold those kinds of standards in these agreements. One might ask the member for Mississauga South if he is prepared to sell his soul for a mess of potage, which may be the other end of the coin when it comes to these kinds of agreements. This is a very appropriate time to give due diligence to these agreements and ensure they do what they say they will do.

We are very concerned and we always raise the context of labour rights, of environmental protections and the investor chapters of these agreements. This Canada-Peru trade deal is no different in those regards. We believe these agreements do put the interests of big business before workers and the environment and that is one reason why we do not support the agreement. We have not learned anything from the problems with NAFTA's chapter 11 on investor rights. We continue to be concerned that this would give corporate interests the ability to override the democratically elected representatives of the people of the country when it comes to corporate relations and some training relationships. These provisions have been maintained in this Canada-Peru agreement and it is one of our key concerns with that deal.

The other contextual setting that I want to give is with what happened with the U.S.-Peru free trade agreement, how that was implemented and its effects since it was signed in December 2007. It is important to understand what happened with that deal and to look at some of the differences between what the United States negotiated with Peru and what Canada has negotiated with Peru.

Some of this information comes from an article written by Mary Tharin, a research associate with the Council on Hemispheric Affairs. She has pointed out a number of problems since the negotiation of the U.S.-Peru free trade agreement. She claims, and backs it up with evidence, unlike other members of the House who seem to have opinions but no evidence, that the U.S.-Peru free trade agreement has been used by President Garcia of Peru as an excuse to dismantle environmental and labour standards that did exist, such as they were, in Peru, and that it has also led to further economic deterioration in Peru. Ms. Tharin says that this should be taken into consideration before other free trade agreements are signed by the United States. I think that is instructive for Canada before we enter into this agreement with Peru.

She also notes that corruption is a serious issue with the Garcia government and that there is a long and continuing history of scandals in that government, especially scandals of corporate interests and the involvement of the government and leading officials with bribery and whatnot. That context is an important one for us to struggle with as well. Do we enter into agreements that cannot guarantee the force and supremacy of law and get bound up in these terrible scandals related to the development issues of their country?

The article goes on to talk about how President Garcia has been implementing and changing the legislative framework of Peru to accommodate the U.S.-Peru free trade agreement. He has been doing it by the use of legislative decrees. In fact, in the first six months after the agreement was signed, he enacted a total of 102 legislative decrees designed to harmonize national laws with the conditions laid down in the free trade agreement between Peru and the United States.

It is interesting to note that the Peruvian Constitutional Commission has recently declared about 40% of those decrees to be unconstitutional, which again brings into question the Garcia government's commitment to the constitution, law and background framework of this agreement. There has been considerable comment in Peru, via the Peruvian press as well as politicians and activists, that the government has used these decrees to the detriment of labour, the environment, the agricultural industry and indigenous rights there.

One of the most controversial of the legislative decrees was decree 1015, which was passed in May 2008. That decree was designed to facilitate the privatization and stripping away of communal lands held by indigenous and subsistence farming communities. Any of us who know anything about Peru know that communal land is essential to the Peruvian understanding and the traditional way of life in Peru.

Previously, the law in Peru required a two-thirds majority in congress to authorize any land sales from these communally held lands. However, decree 1015 lowered this requirement to a simple majority in a clear attempt to encourage those kinds of sales and subsequent exploitation of the land by foreign and domestic entrepreneurs. That is one of the key changes that came about, despite the agreement between the United States and Peru.

Another legislative decree, 1064, eliminates the ability of landowners to negotiate with oil and mining companies over the use of their land. Before that decree, companies had to reach an agreement with property owners in order to buy or rent their land for commercial use. Only if negotiations failed could companies turn to the government, specifically the ministry of mines and energy, to force owners to sell their land. Decree 1064 cuts out landowners completely, leaving the entire negotiation process in the hands of government.

Certainly, by our standards, this would be a significant backward step in how landowners and traditional communal landowners in Peru deal with the negotiations with oil and mining companies. In the context where Canadians are increasingly aware of the activities of Canadian corporations overseas and requiring stronger measures around corporate social responsibility, I do not think the lowering of this standard in Peru says good things about our ability to enter into an appropriate agreement between Canada and Peru for trade.

Another decree, 1090, is known as the forest and wildlife law. It allows President Garcia to remove barriers that protected the country's national forest. It redefines national forest patrimony and lists protections against logging and other forms of exploitation. There is considerable comment in Peru, and among opposition critics as well, that talks about how this decree reduces transparency and eliminates input from civil society.

This also all happens in a context where the environmental standards negotiated by the United States are stronger in its agreement than they are in the agreement that Canada has negotiated with Peru. That is another key reason why we should be very concerned about this agreement. It is why I and my New Democratic colleagues will not be supporting the legislation and the agreement between Canada and Peru.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Ron Cannan Conservative Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise and acknowledge my colleague, the member for Burnaby—Douglas, from beautiful British Columbia.

As a member of the Standing Committee on International Trade, the Canada-Peru trade agreement was something we spent a great deal of effort and time on to ensure the agreement would not only help the folks of Peru but Canadian businesses as well.

As alluded to by the hon. member, the softwood lumber agreement is something that the Forest Products Association of Canada, FPAC, stood firmly behind. If we did not have that agreement in place, the situation would be even more dire than it is today.

We are facing a global economic crisis. A few weeks ago I had a chance to travel to Finland to look at the forest industry there. It is hurting as well, so we are working together. We need to help Canadian businesses expand markets.

I am proud of previous Minister Emerson and our present Minister of International Trade, who is broadening opportunities in Latin America.

On this agreement, the hon. member talked about human rights and labour agreements, which is something that is very near and dear to me. He does not have a monopoly on this compassion and caring factor. Our government is concerned about that and that is why we have entered into some of the most strongest and stringent labour and environmental side agreements.

How is this agreement different than the agreement of the United States, given that we have instituted these tough regulations?

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Madam Speaker, I am glad the member raised the whole discussion of labour rights in Peru because I did not get a chance to address that in my speech. This will give me the opportunity to note that the Garcia government has also continued its legislative decrees in a number of areas related to labour rights, which have been very controversial.

Peru has a very small organized labour community. Public servants are one area where the existing labour rights have been jeopardized since the signing of the agreement between the United States and Peru. Despite the arrangements it made to support labour rights in its agreement, things like punitive evaluations of current employees have been introduced into the labour standards for the unionized public service in Peru. This has been done outside of the collective bargaining process. It has eliminated not only the ability of Peruvian public servants to collective bargain, but it has also eliminated respect for the collective bargaining process.

Most Peruvians participate in what is called the informal labour market and this is a very significant issue for the majority of Peruvians. Even though there have been increases decreed by the Government of Peru, these have been unenforceable because there are no significant labour laws to do that kind of work.

It shows the kind of context where we try use some kind of lip service, and that is all we can consider it, because these agreements do not seem to have any enforceable measures to improve the adherence to the existing labour law in countries or see any improvements to those labour laws that protect the rights of workers in these countries.

The United States was unable to do that through its agreement. I do not have much faith that Canada's agreement will be able to do that for the labour standards that we are seeking to uphold and improve between Canada and Peru.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, the member has eloquently described how the American free trade agreement with Peru is superior and stronger than the current Canadian agreement that has been signed. Even in spite of that, the leadership in Peru has continued with a race to the bottom in environmental and labour areas. The government should pay attention to that and move quickly to try to renegotiate this agreement and stop this race to the bottom.

Would the member comment further on that?

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Madam Speaker, it goes back to the whole question that the member for Elmwood—Transcona raised about the need for fair trade agreements. That has become a slogan for the NDP. It is a standard we try to live up to in our review of these kinds of agreements. There has to be respect for the people of the country with which we deal, and we do not see that in many of these agreements. That is are our stand on this.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Madam Speaker, I believe this will be the last time I speak to this implementation bill. Practically, I owe this to the member for Kelowna—Lake Country, who of course has moved the previous question. Otherwise, I would not have been able to continue speaking on this bill.

It really is a huge undertaking to try to educate and teach some members of this House, be they Conservatives or Liberals. It has been said and we will keep saying it: in teaching, you have to repeat the message. I have a few minutes to repeat this message again.

All of them, Conservatives and Liberals alike, seem to be saying that we in the Bloc Québécois and the New Democratic Party are not in favour of our businesspeople and businesses being able to export and bring profits home to Quebec and Canada. The opposite is true, of course. In Quebec, we are great traders, and we certainly want to be able to pay for the social policies we adopt. Ordinarily we support these agreements. We always hope they will be multilateral, but in this case we are talking about a bilateral agreement between Peru and Canada.

Generally, the Bloc Québécois agrees with what is good for Quebec, but in this case, as in the other cases, no impact study has been done in connection with this free trade agreement, whether in terms of jobs in Canada, in Quebec or in Peru, in terms of workers’ rights or in terms of the environment.

Sometimes we wonder how the negotiators do their jobs if they have no impact study or, if they tell us they do not have one available, they surely have some minimal impact study so they can determine what the repercussions might be in the two countries.

I have always taken the position that when I engage in a business transaction with someone, I do not want to take advantage of that person, I want both parties to come out ahead in an economic transaction. That is also what I would like to see for all of the agreements signed by this House and implemented by legislation.

Yesterday, in debate on the implementation bill, a Conservative member made comments in which he repeated that two democratically elected parties held talks and decided to sign this agreement. But democracy is the power of the people. How were the people able to be heard and consulted, to speak out against the weaknesses in the agreement on various points, whether it be in relation to the investment agreement, the environment agreement, the labour cooperation agreement or the laws governing the accountability of our mining companies?

As well, the fundamental point for which the Bloc constantly fights is to bring us, instead, agreements that are under the umbrella of multilateralism. When I talked about democracy, agreements like these truly can result in a loss of sovereignty for some countries. This is particularly the case for the investment agreement. Certainly we have to protect someone who invests abroad against misconduct the other country or the other party might engage in. But when we say that a company abroad can have more rights than the people, that is a loss of sovereignty and a loss of democracy for the country in question.

This government also has a virtually knee-jerk reaction, particularly in an economic crisis like the one we are experiencing.

Its initial reflex reaction is to turn to less regulated markets, as in the case of the agreement with Colombia or the one with Peru. Things were not very complicated, on the other hand, in the case of the free trade agreement with the European Free Trade Association. The Bloc quickly supported it. We know that these agreements can be beneficial, but the parties have to be equals and the country we are negotiating with has to be able to ensure human rights.

During my first speech on this bill, yesterday, I referred to the remarks of some of the witnesses who appeared before us in committee, but I did not have a chance to finish. I want to go over three of them.

First, Ms. Theresa McClenaghan told us that investor access to states was very problematic. We should not have this kind of thing in free trade agreements. She referred as well to sovereign rights—those of the other country, of course, but also the sovereign rights here in Canada and Quebec of local governments and the central government. We have a good example of this now with NAFTA and 2,4-D. That is a pesticide we do not want used on our lawns for aesthetic purposes. Well, the company is suing the Government of Quebec.

When a government can no longer legislate for health reasons or out of the precautionary principle, there is a major loss of sovereignty. This agreement on investment is faulty, just like the one with Peru.

She pointed, as an example, to the agreement between the United States and Australia, which gives no direct investor-state remedy. She said it could be a model of social and environmental protection. Ms. McClenaghan was representing the Canadian Environmental Law Association. Although she was speaking on behalf of an environmental organization, she spoke mostly about the problem posed by the agreement on investment. She said that we should just send the government back to do its homework because it had done an incomplete job. This agreement is hardly ideal from the point of view of protecting people everywhere in the countries involved.

We also heard Mr. Rowlinson, a lawyer representing the steelworkers' union. He said labour rights were the main problem in the agreement. It mentions labour rights, of course, but talks only about basic rights and principles without really getting down to the fact that these rights need to be fostered so that the other party also benefits from the agreement. What it says about labour rights is very simply based on what currently exists. The same is true of environmental rights. They too are based on what currently exists in that country.

Automatically, we think that the mining or oil or gas companies set up there because there are collateral benefits. They have the advantage of a much weaker labour rights base. So it costs them less. The same may be said for environmental rights, and so it costs less to operate mines in these countries.

This gentleman wanted these rights included in the main agreement and not in the side agreements or parallel agreements, which, by their very nature, never meet. They are totally separate and based always on the minimum.

There was also Mr. Cameron, a lawyer who came as an individual and who told us that Peru, like Mexico, was divided into two social classes—the one benefiting directly from these agreements and the bulk of the population, benefiting much less.

I would like to come back to this important principle, as one member has introduced a bill and another a motion to make the mining, gas and oil companies operate more responsibly. If they are aware of the importance of all that, they will understand that they must reject this government's measure and not vote in favour of this implementation act. They must have it set aside so the government can redo its homework. In the meantime, they will be able to get their motion and bill passed, and we will support them in this regard, but not with regard to the free trade agreement with Peru.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Ron Cannan Conservative Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Madam Speaker, my hon. colleague from Sherbrooke is also a member of the Standing Committee on International Trade. We have had the opportunity to travel together. I appreciate his comments, but obviously we have separate positions on this specific trade agreement,

I would like to ask the hon. member about a couple of sections that we talked about within the agreement. We had the reference to the strongest labour and environmental side agreements that the Canadian governments have signed in any trade agreements. In speaking to constituents, I was talking with one not too long ago who has been in business for many years in Peru.

Looking at the health, safety and environmental measures, which are part of article 809 of chapter eight, investment, it states:

The Parties recognize that it is inappropriate to encourage investment by relaxing domestic health, safety or environmental measures.

Article 810, corporate social responsibility, states:

Each Party should encourage enterprises operating within its territory or subject to its jurisdiction to voluntarily incorporate internationally recognized standards of corporate social responsibility in their internal policies...

We had the opportunity to visit Colombia. I know that businesses in Peru have corporate social responsibilities. Canadian companies are raising the bar.

How will leaving the status quo help increase quality of life and give opportunities to the people of Peru?

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Madam Speaker, we are not calling for the status quo but, simply, for the government to resume negotiations and improve this free trade agreement. We refer to environmental and labour rights laws because the entire agreement honours only what already exists, the fundamentals. Our businesses, however, can take advantage of the gap between the fundamental conditions in Peru and those in Canada.

So the government would do well to renegotiate. Witnesses have said so clearly. The government's negotiators were not up to scratch. They did not manage to negotiate things that should have been negotiated, and the quality of what was negotiated left something to be desired. So it must redo its homework. We will support this free trade agreement with Peru when the government incorporates rights and the side agreements into the principal trade agreement and negotiates shorter periods. We know for a fact that the US has negotiated much shorter periods in connection with rights than those Canada and Peru negotiated.

So Canada must do its homework over, and the government's directives must be more specific so that we may promote labour and environmental rights.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to raise a question with my colleague from the Bloc that stems from a related bill in front of the House right now, Bill C-300, which addresses corporate social responsibility.

In light of my friend from the Conservative Party raising the issue, if we really want to deal with corporate social responsibility, I want to get his take on whether it would be better to have it embedded in a policy, not just for trade agreements and voluntary, which is the problem with this trade deal, but to have that kind of approach, that legislation, embedded in the Canadian governance model right across the board, for all companies.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The hon. member has 30 seconds in reply.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Madam Speaker, the Bloc Québécois is, in principle, in favour of Motion M-293 on the accountability act and Bill C-300, which also deals with accountability.

We agree in principle. Canadian companies abroad should be made more responsible, so this is an important step. There may, however, still be a sizeable gap between the laws and regulations of the country with which we are negotiating a free trade agreement and our own laws and regulations.

Accountability should also impose severe regulations relating to protection of the environment of these foreign countries. I believe that these two aspects can, and must, complement each other.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

June 2nd, 2009 / 11:45 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to rise to speak to Bill C-24.

Many have spoken of the concerns they have around this trade agreement. I think Canadians are listening carefully to the difference between what some call free trade and what we call fair trade. There is actually a shift in the debate around trade agreements and around how trade is done globally. I think we are going to see a change in the use of the term “free trade” because of the collective experience of countries with these agreements.

When we look at the details and drill down into some of these trade agreements, the notion that there is anything free is a misnomer. When we look at the give and the take, and what we end up with at the end of these trade agreements, many people have, quite rightly, been critical. I think we are going to move toward something more in line with a sectoral approach, that we really should not be doing these massive pieces of architecture to say that we are going to be all in or all out and give certain powers to certain sectors of society over others.

When we look at the experience with NAFTA, for instance, and chapter 11, and when we look at what was given up by Canadians to allow private corporations to meddle in the affairs of our governance, it actually undermines the fundamental premise of democracy. This is not free. This is actually a change of power where we end up with less and certain entities end up with more.

It has to do with the notion of sovereignty, as well. I think that most people would agree that our Parliament should be able to pass laws that are unfettered, in terms of outside interference, and be vigilant with respect to our obligations internationally, but also provide good governance for our citizens.

That is not the case when we look at the experience of chapter 11. In fact, not just people in this corner of the House have stated that but people outside who have critiqued these agreements have said that. That is one of the problems with this trade agreement. It continues down the ill-fated path of the chapter 11 experience. If we look at it, it really puts investors' rights over the rights of citizens. The fact that private companies can sue governments, with these chapter 11 provisions over our public policy choices, is a clear indication that there is something more than a free trade or an exchange or an opening of trade. It means that we are actually laying hands on certain people and giving them rights over others; in this case, private corporations.

I want to take that observation and align it with where Canadians are at and look at what is happening right now with another bill that is before us, Bill C-300, the corporate social responsibility bill. It is interesting. When people have critiqued Bill C-300, and I have a private member's bill that is similar to it and motions have been passed on corporate social responsibility, they have been concerned that extraterritorial provisions would be given to the Government of Canada over investments abroad in the extractive industries. It is interesting because when we take a look at chapter 11, what we are actually doing is legislating the rights of extraterritorial private interests to have influence on governance here. We do not hear them talk about that.

So, on the one hand we are saying we do not want to have too many rules for corporations when we are doing business overseas because that might interfere with the conduct of the business of certain countries, and on the other hand there is this chapter 11 cheque written out and handed over to private corporations with which we do these trade deals .

I think that is an important issue. I think Canadians want to know why these facets within these trade deals are being set. Who is benefiting? Is this helping the citizens of the countries with whom we are entering into these trade deals? I suspect not. I know that it is not. I think it is important because when we look at this trade deal, it again is reinforcing that.

When we look at this trade deal and we look at the side provisions on environment and labour, they are just that. They are side agreements. The language is voluntary. We cannot have voluntary human rights. Either human rights are embedded and we have strength in terms of support to ensure that those human rights are being granted or we do not. Having voluntary human rights, we might as well not bother. It really does a disservice to the whole concept and notion of human rights.

I can only think what John Diefenbaker would say to that. We have side agreements on human rights. I suspect that he would not be in favour of that notion and I think that is important.

I suspect that because the government thought there would be a furor over the lack of environmental and human rights provisions, it would do a little political inoculation and put a side agreement in, put a ribbon on it and everyone will be happy.

We on this side of the House see through that. We either have it embedded and strengthened with legislation or we do not bother. To have it on the side, as was mentioned by my colleague from the Conservative Party earlier in his intervention, makes it voluntary. It is like the response by the government to corporate social responsibility where it has taken a very robust report from both business and civil society about how we can do corporate responsibility and turned it into a suggestion box, that if we have a concern we can put the concern in this box and perhaps the government will deal with it. That is not good enough. We need to take this issue seriously because it affects the lives of ordinary people.

The trade agreement, sadly, is putting on the altar environmental protection and human rights protection for what? For profit. For the bottom line. As I said, I think people will see through that and we certainly do.

I would also like to point out where Canadians are in their view of where Canada should be when it comes to trade agreements. I want to reference a document that recently came out called “Back on the Map”. It is a very comprehensive overview of a study that was done for a new vision for Canada in the world. It was done recently by a non-partisan group called Canada's World during a national citizen's dialogue. The director is Shauna Sylvester whom I met with recently. She was pointing out to me the research that was done on what Canadians want to see in their foreign policy and in their trade agreements. One of the things in the research report said that Canadians wanted to see good governance as it relates to promoting good governance in trade deals. The report is based on researchers talking to Canadians about what they want to see in our foreign policy and trade deals.

They want to see the Government of Canada take a leadership role in convening and facilitating the reform of international financial development agencies; promoting fair trade practices and corporate social responsibility, particularly among Canadian companies with overseas operations; supporting a stronger voice for developing countries within international institutions; investing in public diplomacy; shielding effective programs from partisan politics; and instituting a federal process to help with that

What they want to see is Canadian governance in trade deals promoting fair trade, promoting corporate social responsibility and promoting the values that are embedded in our Canadian fabric, not to hand over to certain companies and interests a blank cheque to decide what they want to do with it and undermine not only our democracy but the interests of those in the country of origin; in this case Peru.

For those reasons our party will not be supporting this trade deal. I wish that we would have the support of the Liberals to oppose this trade deal because it is not good enough.