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House of Commons Hansard #81 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was countries.

Topics

Foreign AffairsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Okanagan—Coquihalla B.C.

Conservative

Stockwell Day ConservativeMinister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 32(2), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the following reports: a report entitled “Canada's Engagement in Afghanistan”; “March 2009 Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan”; “Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan”; and “Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan”.

Trafficking of PersonsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, today I have with me 5,859 petitions calling on Parliament to encourage everyone to support Bill C-268, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (minimum sentence for offences involving the trafficking of persons under the age of eighteen years), which is coming up at the private members' session this afternoon.

These petitions come from all over Canada, a number of them from Quebec, and call on parliamentarians to support Bill C-268.

Over the break, 4,562 people presented this and had it in my office for me to present today.

National MemorialPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

September 15th, 2009 / 10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Inky Mark Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour this morning to table, on behalf of hundreds of people across Canada, a petition calling on Parliament to provide a suitable area of public lands to be used for a memorial wall of the names of Canada's fallen and to consider a shared funding arrangement with the registered charity established by Mr. Ed Forsyth, of Toronto, for the creation and future maintenance of this national shrine.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

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

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Hog IndustryRequest for Emergency Debate

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The Chair has received a request for an emergency debate from the hon. member for Malpeque. I will hear the submissions of the hon. member on this point now.

Hog IndustryRequest for Emergency Debate

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I have made a request for an emergency debate on the hog crisis in this country. Members of all parties have been hearing from farmers right across Canada, from coast to coast. It is one of the worst crises the hog industry has faced in our lifetime.

In my area in Atlantic Canada we have only 14 hog producers left in P.E.I., which is down from 600 ten years ago. There are only seven producers in New Brunswick, and they are down to four in Nova Scotia. We are at the point that we may not even be able to feed the one remaining plant in Atlantic Canada.

There were 600 producers from western Canada at a meeting in Manitoba in the spring, which members of the government and we, as the official opposition, attended. Those farmers are extremely worried about their future. They are losing their assets; they are losing their livelihood. This country is losing an industry with tremendous potential.

I have made the request for an emergency debate so that all parties can participate and outline the concerns of primary producers in the hog industry and what it means to the Canadian economy. The public should be aware of these issues. The government could report on what it is or is not doing relative to this crisis and bring greater profile to the emergency that the hog industry faces in this country.

Hog IndustryRequest for Emergency Debate

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The Chair has carefully considered the remarks from the hon. member for Malpeque and also the letter he sent indicating his interest in pursuing debate of this matter in the House. While I have no doubt that there is a crisis in the hog industry in this country, it is not something that in my view is new. It has been going on now for many months, in fact.

The hon. member says it is worrisome, and I agree that it is, but I am not sure it meets the exigencies of the Standing Order in terms of being a sudden, blown-up crisis. It is a continuing and very serious difficulty that is faced by them.

I would urge the member to look at the possibility of having hearings in committees or other routes that are available rather than this one, because I am not sure it meets the exigencies of the Standing Order at this time.

Accordingly, I am going to decline the member`s request at this moment, despite his able arguments.

The House resumed from September 14 consideration of the motion that Bill C-23, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Colombia, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Colombia and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Colombia, be read the second time and referred to a committee, of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

When this matter was last before the House, the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster embarked on questions and comments following his remarks. There are five minutes remaining in the time allotted for questions and comments for the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster. I therefore call on questions and comments.

The hon. member for Windsor West.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to make sure that we start this correctly. Could my colleague outline some of the sidebar agreements this deal has that are very unusual and create some concern? The environment and labour practices in particular, which have been dominant in this agreement, will allow for greater exploitation.

Why would the Government of Canada go into a privileged trading relationship? It is very important that we define that. We currently have trade with Colombia and we will continue to have trade with Colombia, but by agreeing to this type of a deal in the way that it is struck right now, we will be moving to a privileged trading relationship with a government that has had labour and civil society problems that have not been rectified.

Why the government would continue down that road with sidebar agreements is very disturbing, and I would like the member to describe some of those elements.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Madam Speaker, it is inconceivable to me that Conservatives would vote for a privileged trade relationship, as the member for Windsor West mentions, with a government that has such an appalling human rights records.

It has the highest rate of killings of labour activists on the entire planet and a president who was named by the United States Defense Intelligence Agency as 82nd on the list of Colombian narcotraffickers. In the Defense Intelligence Agency's internal memos, he was defined as a Colombian politician dedicated to collaboration with the Medellin cocaine cartel at the highest government levels. Conservative MPs want this privileged trading relationship with somebody who is defined by the U.S. as a narcotrafficker. He was 82nd on the list.

The Conservative government tries to defend this by saying it has put in protection side deals. The member for Edmonton—Strathcona spoke very eloquently yesterday about the fact that the environmental side deal offers no environmental protection.

However, the most egregious aspect of the deal is the provision that one can kill a trade unionist and pay a fine. As the killing of labour activists continues, the Colombian government will essentially have to pay a fine to itself. That is the great provision the Conservative government and the Minister of International Trade have provided as a protection for human rights.

Imagine if Conservative MPs were trying to defend the same thing in their ridings, saying that one can kill people but they will have to pay a fine afterwards. That is absolutely appalling. I am glad the member for Windsor West asked that question.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to follow up on the answer to the question by the member who has been driving the effort to stop this free trade agreement and who has so far been successful in stopping it from getting through the House.

I am surprised that any member in the House would support a free trade agreement with a country that has seen 27 trade unionists killed as well as 60 to 70 extrajudicial murders in 2009 so far. I got these statistics from my local steelworkers. As a country that respects and lives according to democratic principles, why would we want to enter into any agreement of this nature with a country?

Yessika Hoyos Morales, the daughter of one of the trade unionists who was killed, was in my office last year pleading on behalf of the families of trade unionists who are simply exercising a right that we take for granted in this country and so many other jurisdictions around the world. She visited some other members as well. She pleaded that we stop this nonsense and not give credence in any way to a regime that is doing this kind of killing.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Madam Speaker, the number of killings has actually escalated. In 2008 there were nearly 600 killings in Colombia by paramilitary groups and the Colombian military, as defined by the Center for Popular Research, Education and Policy.

To those Conservatives who say he had links with the drug lords in the past but he has reformed, I will just mention that recently another drug lord, the successor to Pablo Escobar, said that he financed President Uribe's 2002 presidential campaign.

Shame on Conservatives. Shame on--

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Bloc

Jean Dorion Bloc Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Madam Speaker, many of my constituents have sent me letters and emails urging me to vote against the Colombia free trade bill before us today.

I have studied the bill and the current situation in Colombia, so I will have no problem doing as they ask because I feel the same way. I also had the opportunity to meet several Colombians, including refugees and unionists, who told me about the violence that prevails in their country and their complete opposition to Canada signing a trade agreement with the existing regime in Bogota. I would therefore invite my colleagues from all parties to oppose this bill for two main reasons.

First, the agreement will have a minimal effect on trade relations between Canada and Colombia. Colombia is just not one of Canada's more significant trading partners. As many members of the House have already said, the main reason that the Canadian government wants to sign this free trade agreement has nothing to do with trade and everything to do with investments. The chapter on investment protection is the real impetus behind this agreement. Canada-Colombia trade is a minor consideration, but current and projected Canadian investments are consequential, particularly in the mining sector.

I have no doubt that this draft agreement came about because special interests in that sector put pressure on the Canadian government. Judging by all of the investment protection agreements that Canada has signed over the years, this one with Colombia seems neo-liberal to the core. In fact, every previous agreement contains provisions allowing Canadian investors to sue the government of the signatory country in which they invest if that government passes measures that reduce their investment returns. Such provisions are particularly dangerous in a country where labour and environmental protection laws are arbitrary at best.

By protecting Canadian investors from requirements meant to improve standards of living in Colombia, this agreement could halt social and environmental progress in a country that desperately needs it. Any attempt the Colombian government might make to improve things would subject it to legal action by Canadian investors.

Second, Colombia has one of the worst human rights records in the world, and certainly in Latin America. To improve the human rights situation in the world, western governments, at least those that advocate for justice, generally use the carrot and stick approach. They support efforts to improve human rights and reserve the right to cut rewards if the situation worsens.

If this free trade agreement were signed, Canada would lose any chance of putting pressure on Colombia. In fact, not only would it give up the possibility of using the carrot and stick, but it would essentially hand them over to the Colombian government.

The government keeps telling us that the free trade agreement comes with side agreements on labour and the environment. But these agreements are notoriously ineffective and are not part of the free trade agreement, which means that some investors could destroy the Colombian environment, relocate populations to establish their mines, or continue to have anyone who opposes their project, in particular union members, killed, all with impunity. Since 1986, 2,690 union members have been killed in Colombia.

And we can unfortunately not count on the Colombian authorities to improve the situation.

The Colombian branch of the international organization Transparency International published a report last summer on corruption in Colombia. According to the report, which was the result of a project funded by the British and Dutch governments, only 4 of the 138 state entities in Colombia have a low level of corruption. It is a very detailed report that offers further explanation.

One of the organizations that the study found to have a very high level of corruption was the Colombian Congress itself. According to the report, the Ministry of the Interior and Justice has a high level of corruption.

Anyone who can read Spanish can view the detailed report on the Internet.

The Bloc Québécois is against trading away the Canadian government's ability to press for human rights to provide Canadian corporations with foreign investment opportunities.

Colombian civil society also opposes this agreement. However, because of the repression that exists there, it is harder for Colombian civil society to really get organized and have its say. But on February 11, 2009, four of my colleagues, the hon. members for Sherbrooke, Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, and Joliette, as well as Paul Crête, met with the Coalition of Social Movements and Organizations of Colombia, or COMOSOC. That meeting was organized by the CCIC. I would remind the House that COMOSOC is made up of the National Organization of Indigenous People in Colombia, the Popular Women’s Organization, the National Agrarian Coordinator, Christians for Peace with Justice and Dignity, the National Movement for Health and Social Security, the Afro-Colombian National Movement, and so on.

The COMOSOC delegation wanted to refute the claims made by the Colombian government and the Canadian government: the human rights situation in Colombia has not improved. Many organizations in Quebec and in Canada have spoken out against this agreement, including the Canadian Labour Congress, the Canadian Council for International Cooperation, Amnesty International, the Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec, the Catholic organization Development and Peace, KAIROS, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, Lawyers Without Borders, the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the National Union of Public and General Employees.

As we can see, many people oppose this plan. Once again, I invite all members of the House to vote against this bill.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Dean Allison Conservative Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Madam Speaker, as a member of the international trade committee, I had an opportunity to be in Colombia and meet with the president, as well as some of his other cabinet colleagues. I must say that I am very impressed by the number of witnesses who we were able to hear from and the challenges that country has had to undergo in the last number of years.

Our friends across the aisle talk about the violence and what goes on there. There is no question that country has had its share of challenges, but it is my profound belief that if we do not give it an opportunity to trade with this free trade agreement, we are going to limit the kinds of opportunities that country has moving forward.

I know my friends across the aisle like to comment on all the violence and crimes, and they refer to numbers in 2008-09. What they fail to recognize and acknowledge is that under this president, since 2002 more than 30,000 paramilitary fighters have returned to civilian life. Since 2002, homicides have declined by 40%, kidnappings by 82% and terrorist attacks by 77%.

I would say to my friends across the way that if they are going to quote numbers, let us talk about the historical context. Let us talk about the time since President Uribe has been in government. Let us talk about the time that he has had since 2002.

Does Colombia have challenges? There is no question it does, but I believe that free trade is one of the ways to help Colombia emerge as a stronger country. I also believe that Canada and the leadership that it is playing, because of its rich and diverse connections to that country and to the hemisphere, have made this possible. I realize that Canada has both the opportunity and the responsibility to be active in this hemisphere, and there are critical and important issues to all countries in this region.

I would like to highlight today the key features of our Americas engagement, which reinforces Canada's commitment to deepening its participation in the region. Clearly, as the region addresses the worldwide economic downturn, it is timely to assess how we are all acting and co-operating in bringing solutions.

We have evolved together in this region in the past to address a range of problems, from endemic poverty and inequalities to bolster common security and economic development. Canada has longstanding, rich and diverse connections to countries of the Americas. We have been forging privileged partnerships and commercial ties with the region as a whole for over 100 years, producing results that have been mutually beneficial.

The UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean reported last year that Canada has become the third largest investor in the region. Foreign direct investment from Canada into the Americas, excluding Mexico and Bermuda, now stands at approximately $95 billion. To put that number into perspective, that is about three times the size of Canadian investment in Asia.

While this covers a multitude of sectors, investments in financial services and extractive sectors have been notable. Canadian banks, with a long presence in the Caribbean, now bring stability and much needed credit throughout the Americas. Canadian mining and exploration companies are also on the leading edge of the application of the best practices of corporate social responsibility.

At a time when investment from outside the region is not always as scrupulous in attending to questions such as labour standards or community services and engagement, we are proud that Canadian companies serve as standard bearers to this region.

Up until the recent economic downturn, our commercial relations had been on a steep growth curve. Our trade with the region in 2008 grew by almost 30%. This is due to a combination of factors, including strong demand for Canadian offerings and our competitive price points, but I believe that the strong message that our government has been sending on the importance of bolstering free trade and open markets has played a key role.

Certainly, we have been among the most active free trader in the region. We are building our successful free trade agreements with the United States, Mexico, Chile, Costa Rica and a recent free trade agreement with Peru, which entered into force on August 1, 2009.

In 2008, Canada signed a free trade agreement with Colombia and it is now before us for ratification. Canada and Panama also concluded negotiations on August 11, 2009. We have ongoing negotiations with the Dominican Republic, CARICOM and Central American countries.

As for the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement and its parallel agreements on labour co-operation and the environment, it is part of a suite of instruments Canada uses in its engagement with Colombia. These instruments include bilateral and development co-operation, and the Department of Foreign Affairs global peace and security fund. All of these support Colombia's ongoing efforts toward greater peace, security, prosperity and full respect for human rights.

In the past five years, the Canadian International Development Agency has disbursed over $64 million alone in Colombia. CIDA's programming in that country is focused on children's rights and their protection while supporting initiatives that protect internally displaced people and other vulnerable populations.

I will say that while we were in Colombia, we had a chance to see first-hand some of the great work that CIDA is doing with those projects.

As a country of the Americas, Canada has a vested interest in the progress of countries in the Americas. Our economic success, our profound belief in democracy and the rule of law, and the national and personal security of our citizens, both within and beyond our borders, are all intricately linked with the welfare of our hemispheric neighbours. This recognition is at the core of Canada's engagement in the Americas.

As a committed member of the inter-American system, Canada has both the opportunity and the responsibility to be active on hemispheric issues of critical importance to all countries in the region. Our engagement in the Americas is focusing Canada's efforts on three interrelated and mutually reinforcing objectives: enhancing the prosperity of the citizens in the region; strengthening and reinforcing support for democratic governance throughout the Americas; and building a safe and secure hemisphere.

I will briefly summarize each of these points, beginning with prosperity.

To say the least, prosperity has become more elusive of late for all countries in all hemispheres. Canada is faring better than most countries but Canadians have not been spared from the wretched impacts of the worldwide recession. Despite continued economic uncertainty, most countries in the Americas are arguably better prepared than in the past to weather the global downturn. Since the 1990s, many have worked hard to improve their debt situations. They now have lower total debt ratios, reduced interest rates and increased debt service requirements. In fact, many of these countries enjoy fiscal surpluses.

Thanks to these efforts, many countries will be in a better position to rebound when better days return, and they will if the lure of short-term measures, whether populous or protectionist, can be resisted. In this regard, there does exist a risk that the blame for current market failure will be unfairly attributed to capitalism rather than to the specific capitalists who, in the absence of adequate supervision, contributed to this outcome.

In the region, one can detect the return of antiquated views, favouring import substitution and rejecting globalization. This must be resisted. Realistic solutions need to be identified and addressed.

Finally, we need to resist protectionism in every sense, and here I refer not only to tariff protectionism but also the impact of spending measures and rescue bailouts. Evidently, these must be managed in a way that does not damage market participation in the region.

On security, these effects on the economic crisis cannot be viewed in isolation. They have a clear and identifiable impact on security and governance in the region.

The medium-term implications on reduced remittances, returning migrants, rising unemployment and falling government revenues. Some might call that a perfect storm. What we see is a clear reason to increase our engagement in addressing security problems in the Americas.

As a result, Canada is assisting countries in the region in their efforts to strengthen their law enforcement, judicial system, disaster relief for preparedness and health issues. Working together, we are confident we can reduce the impact of crime, drugs, terrorism, disasters and pandemics on Canadians and citizens of the Americas.

In this vein, DFAIT's global peace and security program has developed over $14.5 million in conflict prevention and peace-building programs in Colombia between 2006 and 2009. This program focuses on truth, justice and confidence-building initiatives, supports political dialogue and enhances security and stability.

I believe there is every reason for optimism, the current economic climate notwithstanding. By pursuing this model of partnership, I have no doubt that together we can strengthen hemispheric co-operation in support of peace, security and development, and produce long-term results that will benefit us all.

For those reasons, I ask all hon. members for their support of this agreement.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, at the beginning of his speech, the member mentioned that the international trade committee visited Colombia. Obviously, it is best to have first-hand knowledge. I am very interested in what happened there because I have not heard about that visit or about what the member heard during that visit. If the member could give us more details, it would be helpful to all members in the House.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Dean Allison Conservative Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Madam Speaker, one of the things we, as a trade committee, found interesting when we went to Colombia was that we heard from a wide range of groups.

One of the things I found particularly interesting was who the president had surrounded himself with. As some may know, President Uribe's father was killed in a kidnapping attempt by the FARC in 1982. Some of the people the president had around him, in terms of cabinet ministers, had also been affected by the violence in Colombia. One of the things that is telling is when Venezuela showed up on the border of Colombia and the U.S. asked Colombia what it required, was it guns or ammunition, the president's response was, “We need a free trade deal.”

What I find impressive about the Colombian government and what I find interesting in talking to people on the ground is that they realize they have had a history of violence, civil war and a problem with a lot of issues. What I find surprising and interesting is that they do not want to continue on that path. They would like to use free trade as a means of trying to improve the quality of life of their citizens, to have more value in their country and to depend less on the drug trade.

One of the things I believe would be helpful is our support for this agreement that would help enable Colombia in that respect.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Madam Speaker, I am a little flabbergasted with regard to why the Liberals and the Conservatives would want to support such an agreement given the fact that there have been 2,690 trade unionists murdered in Colombia since 1986, 27 of them this year alone.

Do you think we should actually turn a blind eye to workers being murdered?

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I would remind the hon. member to address her comments to the Chair.

The hon. member for Niagara West—Glanbrook.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Dean Allison Conservative Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Madam Speaker, I know the member for Burnaby—New Westminster is always complaining about how we do not use facts, figures and studies but here is a study called “Colombia FTA: Prosperity & Democracy”. It states that the AFL-CIO repeatedly cites figures of 2,245 labour union members killed in Colombia since 1991 as a central argument for not approving the trade agreement. However, that figure is heavily front-loaded. More than four out of five of those killings took place prior to President Uribe's administration.

Once again I would ask for consistency across the aisle. Those members should not mislead the House in terms of where these situations are coming from and to recognize that there has been a challenge of conflict in this region and to realize that President Uribe is doing his best to reduce the violence. Yes, there is still violence, and we understand that, but, quite clearly, it is labour that wants to brand President Uribe's government with these deaths when these deaths happened before he was actually in government.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Conservative Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to direct the line of questioning to something the member was talking about concerning the importance of trade in this hemisphere and to contrast that with what we have done in the past.

Could the member touch on the impact President Chavez is having on some of the other countries with what he is doing as opposed to what Canada plans to do through free trade?

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Dean Allison Conservative Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Madam Speaker, I think what we see happening in Venezuela is more of a protectionist measurement. Colombia wants to reach out, not just to Canada but to other countries in order to be able to trade and rely less on the drug trade and some of the other issues they have had to deal with over time.