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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

TransportOral Questions

3 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, at Transport Canada we take our obligations for the safety of the travelling public very seriously. There is an important public role for the government in this area and we take it very seriously and will continue to do so.

Just in the budget this year, the Minister of Finance provided literally hundreds of millions of dollars of new resources to my portfolio to assist in ensuring that we live up to those obligations.

Safety is something that is very important in our civil aviation sector and one on which we will continue to put great priority.

JusticeOral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

Guy Lauzon Conservative Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Mr. Speaker, earlier today, the Minister of Justice announced our government's plans to introduce legislation to combat white-collar crime in our country.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice explain what his government plans to do about this serious problem and how it plans to protect victims of these crimes?

JusticeOral Questions

3 p.m.

Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles Québec

Conservative

Daniel Petit ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, white-collar crime is a problem that our government has always taken very seriously. Remember the sponsorship scandal. As the Minister of Justice announced this morning, we will create mandatory jail sentences for those who commit serious fraud, add aggravating factors to justify longer sentences, and ask the courts to consider restitution orders.

The opposition says that it supports our tough approach to crime. That is a laugh. Off camera, it does everything it can to block, delay and eviscerate our legislation.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I wish to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of three distinguished visitors: the Hon. Rosemary Mathurin, Speaker of the House of Assembly of Saint Lucia; the Hon. Juan Fernando Cordero Cueva, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of the Republic of Ecuador; and the Hon. Joan Purcell, Speaker of the Senate of Grenada.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Corrections ActPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin on a point of order.

Corrections ActPoints of OrderOral Questions

September 15th, 2009 / 3:05 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Ménard Bloc Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask for unanimous consent to adopt the following motion:

That, notwithstanding any standing order or usual practice of the House, Bill C-434, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (day parole — six months or one sixth of the sentence rule), be deemed to have been read a second time and referred to a committee of the whole, deemed considered in committee of the whole, deemed reported without amendment, deemed concurred in at report stage and deemed read a third time and passed.

Corrections ActPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Does the hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?

Corrections ActPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Corrections ActPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

There is no agreement.

Would the hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin like to rise on another point of order?

Corrections ActPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Ménard Bloc Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to know who refused unanimous consent.

Corrections ActPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The Speaker does not look at who is speaking. I heard “no” answers, and that concludes the matter. I regret to inform the hon. member, but I am sure that he knows.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-23. I join with many of my colleagues in our attempt to deal with an amendment which would deny second reading to the bill at this point because of the failure of the government to follow procedure when it comes to the development of such an important endeavour.

The amendment moved by the Bloc and the subamendment by the NDP speak to the importance of the work of the committee which was engaged in the discussions around a free trade agreement with Colombia.

It is paramount that the issues have full examination. We have heard the debate. We have heard the divergence of views that exist on this issue. This bill is not well understood by the Canadian public. It is not accepted by many people within the Canadian public. Groups and organizations have spoken out vociferously against it. I have been receiving emails for months from individuals who would like this free trade deal stopped. I have received countless letters from my constituents on the subject.

This issue needs much further examination. The minister has pushed this bill forward without proper examination and without proper analysis. The result is that today in the House of Commons we are speaking to an amendment that would block the bill moving forward at second reading.

Why is this amendment important, and why do I support it? We have broken with our democratic practices. We are not fully taking into account the process for examination of significant legislation.

As well, we need to give full weight to evidence from civil society. That will not happen before the committee has completed its work, completed its evidentiary gathering, written its report and presented it to the House of Commons. Those steps are missing. They make up an absence of understanding around this particular bill.

Without that report in front of the government, the government will not be required to do a proper analysis on the legislation regarding the free trade deal. It has not done an analysis on many of the free trade deals that have come before this Parliament over the last year and a half. It is patently absurd that we enter into free trade deals based on ideology. I would like to turn that argument around on the Liberals and Conservatives who keep coming after us saying that we are against free trade and that we are standing up over and over again based on ideology.

The government is supporting free trade based on ideology, not on the analysis of the impact of the deal on the particular sectors that are going to be affected, not on the analysis of free trade arrangements as they have impacted Canadian society. That work has not been done. That work will not be done if the Conservative government and the Liberal opposition continue to support free trade on an ideological basis rather than on a practical and pragmatic basis.

The amendment as it stands is important. It takes away from the government the right to bring this bill forward without the kind of work that needs to be done. That is why NDP members and Bloc members are standing up to speak to this amendment over and over again. We want to see Parliament work correctly. We want to see Parliament work for all Canadians. We want legislators to act with a rational and reasoned approach based on correct analysis rather than a simple ideological commitment to free trade.

I will now turn to the larger issue of the essential elements that would be involved in a free trade arrangement with Colombia. This is something that has occupied much of the debate and I certainly will add to it.

Why does Colombia want a free trade deal? Why is it that Colombia is pushing for a free trade deal with Canada? Is it that the free trade arrangement it was looking for with the United States has been unsuccessful? Is that why the emphasis is on Canada now? Is it hoping to go through the back door to get what it wants? Is that what is going on with this deal? Is that why the emphasis has been on moving ahead with this free trade arrangement rather than taking the appropriate steps, rather than doing the proper analysis? We are creating an opportunity not only for Colombia to move ahead with the free trade deal but put pressure on U.S. legislators right now who, quite clearly, are asking why they would want to support a free trade deal with a country that does not meet the minimum standards of labour and environmental practices, of common decency toward its society. There is a lack of criminal action at the highest level within Colombia. The Colombian government for all intents and purposes has been led by quasi-criminals for the past dozen years. It has an incredibly bad record when it comes to dealing with its citizens. It has a record of turning a blind eye to the most malignant forms of oppression that occur in any part of South America and Central America.

Conservative members have talked about the improvement in the number of people who have been killed in Colombia. They have talked about the improvement in the number of trade union people who have been killed. Do they not think that the wholesale slaughter of trade union members over the past dozen years has led to people taking their own steps to avoid repression, to avoid being killed? That government in Colombia and its leadership has taken so many actions against people that people have had to be very circumspect in how they deal in their own society. Is that not more likely the case? The repression that has occurred for so many years in that country has now played out to a point where the number of murders committed by death squads and the number of potential victims has been reduced. That is what has brought down the numbers, I am sure. It stands to reason.

With that society and that repression, the Conservatives talk about going into a free trade agreement. They say that things are improving.

Do we not have a minimum standard that we should apply to any country before we enter into a preferred trade arrangement with that country?

It is not good enough to talk about improvement in the number of people killed. We need to examine the nature of the society that we are proposing to link up with. That is the kind of analysis the Conservative government has not done and will not do, because it does not believe anything should stand in the way of free trade.

The U.S. Congress has a different point of view. The members of Congress are not NDPers. We join with our colleagues in the United States in standing up against this proposed free trade arrangement,

Mr. Speaker, I see that I am running out of time. I am sure there will be many other New Democrats who will stand to continue this argument, because this argument is important to Canada, it is important to this Parliament and it is important to the people of Colombia as well.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my hon. colleague's speech in terms of the fundamental question about what our obligation as legislators in Canada is to ensure full development of the Canadian economy and certain international standards of development.

My colleague kept raising the issue of ideological blinders on the Conservative Party. The Conservatives believe that the free movement of capital wherever, however, with whomever, is the only issue. It is a kind of hoodoo mysticism. They believe that as long as capital does what it wants, everything else will be fine.

We are talking about a murderous regime with a horrific record on human rights. Our colleagues in the United States, who in the past have supported some very murderous regimes, have raised clear objections. Clear objections have been raised to the Conservative government and yet it does not seem to have any interest whatsoever in addressing the serious abuses that are international in scope.

The Conservatives have thrown up this narrow fig leaf of respectability. They say that while fewer people are being killed now than before, that is an improvement. If we look at the history of Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua under the death squads, at a certain point there are not all that many people left to kill. The corollary to that is the fact that if enough examples are made out of people, it is hard to get other people to take their place. That is why they are called terror killings.

The whole point of terror killings is to make examples of people in villages, communities, factories and mines. An individual will be killed if he or she steps out of line. Mass murder does not have to be continued year after year to make it work. Examples just have to be made.

Even though we are hearing about fewer people being killed, we are still hearing about gross violations of human rights. This is only indicative that the policy of that outlaw regime is suppressing the basic rights and developments of the country.

Given the immense interest of the Canadian oil and gas sector and the Canadian mining sector in getting into Colombia to get at deposits, and the fact that the Conservative government is showing no interest whatsoever in establishing standards for human rights norms, what expectations does my colleague have that there will be any obligation on any company, Canadian, Chinese, whatever, going into Colombia to exploit its resources to have any obligation whatsoever to ensure that the communities affected will have some basic level of protection?

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, that is a question that leads me to support the amendment in front of us.

We do not have the answer. We do not have the answer that says these are the rules that are going to drive development within the country. We cannot have the answer because this Parliament has not done a fulsome and complete dissection of that society to understand what kind of society we are entering into an agreement with.

Parliamentarians took a trip to Colombia. I have heard a variety of views about that trip. That trip was very carefully managed. Obviously that trip spoke to individuals who wanted to carry forward the government's message. When they were not speaking to those types of folks, the people who were being interviewed in some cases were almost terrified for their lives. Parliamentarians reported back on these things.

Where do we find the justification, the understanding of the society, to put forward a free trade deal which would bring our companies into the region under rules that are not comprehensible to Canadians and to Canadian businesses? We are putting our businesses at risk here. We are not doing them a favour in the long run. We are causing them potential grief.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

Mr. Speaker, with respect to this very important debate on the free trade agreement between Canada and Colombia, trade not only brings economic opportunities, it brings dialogue between them. It brings ideals, beliefs and what they have in common. This trade agreement is very important. We have sees other trade agreements around the world, such as the NAFTA with Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, and how it forged our countries together, not only in trade but in our relationships with each other.

Very recently we went on a Middle East tour with the foreign affairs committee, and we talked to the people of Jordan. Jordan has a free trade agreement with Israel and Egypt. Those countries get along. They get along mostly because they are trading with each other. They are relying upon each other for exports and imports.

Regarding the European Union, with all the centuries of strife in Europe, one of the reasons it works so well in Europe is because they are traders now. It is very important that trade is happening around the world because it makes different societies and different nations get along.

Seven years ago, when I was on the trade committee, we went through South America. It was quite an eye-opener to see the potential in this region. We were there at the time we already had a free trade agreement with Chile. Our exports to Chile, such as paper products and airplane parts, increased when we had a deal with Chile, and we started buying products from it.

I remember that tour. We went all through those South American countries. With the ones that we had agreements with, especially Peru and Chile, there was a tremendous amount of trade. As well, air routes were open between those two countries, so there was a lot of dialogue.

We really should be looking at the potential for buying more products from Colombia. It is very strategic. We are in the northern hemisphere and we cannot get certain products here that it can provide. Right now we have SNC-Lavalin from Canada setting up shop there. There is so much we can gain.

A couple of years ago, when I was responsible for emerging economies in the previous government, I toured all these countries, especially the emerging economies in Asia. I saw how their economies were increasing and expanding, and it was mostly because of trade.

I visited the eastern European countries. After the Iron Curtain came down, we saw Poland, Romania and Hungary doing more trade with the rest of the world. Their economies got better. Their social networks got better. Even the labour laws got better in these countries because of trade.

We should not be so afraid of having a free trade agreement with Colombia. It is going to be very good for both countries.

We have to think of the situation right now in South America. Venezuela is strong-arming Colombia. It is helping with the guerrillas who are fighting the Colombian government. We should help Colombia break away from its dependence on Venezuela and the few countries it is trading with. We have to do trade with Colombia, because if it stays in the situation, it will constantly have strife and its economy will not expand.

We are not the first country to sign a free trade agreement with Colombia. I mentioned the European Union, which already has a trade agreement with Colombia. The countries of the European Union are all democratic countries. They have very vibrant trade unions. They are committed to human rights. They see the merit of having a free trade agreement with Colombia. If they have seen the merit and gone through all the hoops, we should be looking at it.

We see other countries stepping up to the plate to do trade with Colombia, such as the Scandinavian countries, Britain, the Netherlands, France and Germany. They are all helping Colombia prosper. There is a saying about prosperity, that people will flourish when things are happening, business is good, and people have jobs. But when people do not have jobs and economies are bad, it is very hard, especially on young people.

I remember visiting Syria. Syria and Cuba are boxed in and they do not have a lot of trade. There are a lot of young people in the streets who are not working. They do not see any hope in trade or business. They do not see any future. Many times in these countries, and it has happened in Colombia, they fall for the other side of the economy. That is not good. In Colombia, it is narcotics. A lot of young people have nowhere else to work but in those industries.

A lot of countries that do not have trade agreements and are not trading with the rest of the world are boxed in. They have a lot of young people. It brings nothing but strife and they cannot move forward. It is very important that we are one of the leaders on the trade agreement with Colombia.

Canadians are traders. We are one of the biggest countries in the world, with one of the world's smallest populations, and look at how much trade we do in a day. We are importing almost $1 billion and exporting almost $1.5 billion a day. When we look at the world, those numbers are tremendous for a small population of 30 million people. However, we are traders. We believe in trade, and we have to show leadership.

For 40 years, Colombia has been paralyzed and divided. They have been desperate. There is violence. Legitimate trade, not trade in narcotics, is what will bring Colombians out of it. We have to foster that trade and we have to help them.

I was talking to the member for Kings—Hants, who mentioned that even the U.S. is making a trade deal. The NDP talks about labour standards and how bad they are in Colombia. The member for Kings—Hants was there, and he said they have the strongest and best labour standards in the world. The biggest problem is that they do not have enough inspectors on the ground to make sure those rules are followed. Canada is helping them fund their labour inspectors so they can fulfill and push those rules.

We should not have a free trade agreement carte blanche. We should have labour laws and human rights attached to it. That is the way we should look at it. There is no reason we cannot. We have done this with other trade agreements.

It would be best to move the bill forward to the trade committee. I have been on the trade committee and I know how it works. Committee members are very efficient and they move fast. They will go through the legislation quickly. Let us dissect it and make sure those things are in place that some Canadians are concerned about.

Instead of stopping the legislation from moving forward, NDP members should be thinking about the people of Colombia. They should be thinking of companies like SNC-Lavalin that are working there. They should be thinking about the products we could pull out of Colombia that could make our lifestyle better, whether it is cut flowers, coffee or many of the produce items that we cannot grow in the winter. These are all reasons to move forward with the legislation.

There have been quite a few speakers over the last few days. There was a lot of information brought out, but some of it was misinformation. We should correct that for the record. We should look at this free trade agreement, because Canada is a leader in free trade agreements. It should not stop there, and we should help it move forward.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have been listening to the speakers from the Liberal Party on this issue for the last couple of days, and we certainly have a variety of views. The member for Mississauga South gave a very reasoned argument yesterday about why members should oppose this agreement but he seems to have been counteracted by members of his party who are in favour of it.

I wonder how far the Liberal members would want to go. If they are prepared to sign a free trade agreement with Colombia, would they sign a free trade agreement with North Korea? At what point do we have to ask for an independent analysis and study, and what is the harm of that?

Why not take a little longer, do a study on human rights, rather than rushing forward and joining government members who seem to be determined to sign a free trade agreement at all costs, as quickly as possible. The United States Congress has held back. The Obama administration has held back on endorsing this agreement, as has the British government. Both of these countries are our allies in the world, in Afghanistan and other places. The British government has pulled back on its military aid to the country because of human rights abuses. Certainly the killings are not decreasing, as the Conservatives are suggesting, so why--

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I will cut off the hon. member to allow the member for Sydney—Victoria a chance to respond.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

Mr. Speaker, the dialogue is interesting. I was talking to the member for Kings—Hants, who has just been down to Washington. The Obama administration is fully in favour of this trade agreement. I do not know where members opposite are getting their numbers or what is happening in the U.S., but it is fully in favour of it.

The member brought up North Korea. North Korea has nuclear weapons of mass destruction, whereas here we are helping a country get out of trading narcotics. We are helping a country step forward. How can members make that comparison with North Korea? It is mind boggling.

Going back to where we stand on this side of the House, I come here as the member of Parliament for Cape Breton who was a business person, who traded with these countries and traded all over the world. I know how important trade is for Canadians. I know important trade is for those young people in Colombia who are going to move forward. The proper way to go is to put the bill before committee and let the committee go through it.

But to the NDP, which is against every free trade agreement and believes we can somehow trade among ourselves and survive in this country, where would we buy the oranges and the coffee?

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, I want my colleague to discuss the situation on this free trade agreement and our party's position, versus the position of the NDP which was brought up earlier. The confusing part was with respect to the earlier speaker. They want to study it further when in fact they want to do what the NDP used to use, which was the wrecking ball diplomacy type of action. Lately NDP members have been a little more collegial, and I do not know what compels that, but in this case we are certainly arguing for further study on this.

Also, because the member does have an agricultural background, I would like him to talk about some of the sectors that will benefit from this free trade deal with Colombia.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

Mr. Speaker, the area of Newfoundland and Labrador is also a big trader, in fish products, oil and gas and also from the mines.

From my perspective, I was a trader before I went into politics. I did business in these countries and I could see the difference. When they start buying and selling goods, people start visiting these countries. They learn ideas. It is more than just money. It is that thing that happens between countries. What better way to open our doors to Colombians visiting Canada than to teach them how our laws, infrastructure and social networks work and show them the way.

The important fact was brought up that we are not passing this bill today. We are bringing the bill to committee, and that is the best place to tidy it up.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the words of the member for Sydney—Victoria and his insight and expertise in this regard.

I am honoured today to speak to the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement, Bill C-23, for some very good reasons as I will outline. Not just for the benefit of the great Kenora riding but for regions across Canada this is another important step in opening up trade throughout the world.

Canada is taking action during these difficult economic times by reaching out to our trade partners in reducing barriers to trade. This is not just about Latin America. This agreement provides Canadian companies with a competitive edge in many sectors, including wheat and paper products, which in northwestern Ontario, in the great Kenora riding, we feel we have an advantage in this regard. Mining is another strong economic driver in the great Kenora riding, as well as oil and gas, engineering and information technology.

These are just some of the examples of the government's efforts to strengthen our own economy and deepen Canada's presence in Latin America.

I understand some of the concerns outlined by our colleagues. Labour and environmental standards are important. However, labour and environmental standards are addressed within this free trade agreement. The side agreement with Colombia on labour and the environment will help ensure that this free trade agreement advances the cause of human rights and environmental protection in both countries.

The labour provisions commit all parties to this agreement to respect and enforce standards such as the elimination of child labour, freedom of association and the right to bargain collectively.

Environmental provisions will help protect and conserve the environment in those sectors where our country is active.

Obviously, during these tough economic times, it is more important than ever to open up new markets for Canadian companies. That is why our government has negotiated new free trade agreements, like this one with Colombia that we are debating today.

This agreement will create new jobs for Canadians and for Colombians as well. There are very strict labour and environmental standards included in this agreement. These standards help guarantee that these agreements will help advance the cause of human rights and the protection of the environment in the country. Colombia cannot make progress if we isolate it. We believe that political involvement, development assistance and free trade are all key to achieving success in Colombia.

Over the past six years, the personal situation of the vast majority of Colombians has improved. Illegal armed groups have been weakened and that progress is acknowledged by global communities and international organizations that are present in Colombia.

The February 2008 report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Situation of Human Rights in Colombia stated:

[It must be] recognized that Colombia has made progress in restoring security throughout the country in recent years, and the visibility given to human rights in the public agenda is a solid achievement

While important progress has been made, the Government of Canada continues to recognize that there are challenges in the overall human rights situation in Colombia. However, it is important to look at some interesting recent history, the context in which this agreement has arisen and the key content of the agreement that helps to serve some of the concerns we have heard from members of different political stripes in the House today and those that concern us as well.

In 2007 two-way merchandise trade between Canada and Colombia totalled more than $1.1 billion. That is significant by anyone's standards. It is certainly an important part of our history. Between 2005 and 2007, Canada provided over $33 million in development assistance to Colombia, mostly to address the rights of these vulnerable populations, which concern us not just in Colombia but throughout the world.

Articles 1603 and 1604 in chapter 16 of the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement set out the two countries' objectives and obligations with respect to labour. Annex 2 of the parallel agreement on labour co-operation sets out a maximum fine of $15 million for failing to respect the obligations set out in the agreement.

It is worth noting that the international labour agreement represents the highest grade of labour standards. The labour agreement covers the right to freedom of association, collective bargaining, the abolition of child labour, the elimination of discrimination, providing protections for occupational safety and health and minimum employment standards such as minimum wage and overtime pay.

Things are improving in Colombia right now. Colombia's social and security improvements since 2002 under the Uribe government are getting better. Between 2002 and 2008, kidnappings decreased by 87%. Homicide rates dropped by 44%. Moderate poverty has dropped from 55% to 45%. Colombia has attained coverage of 94% in basic education and 31% in higher education. These are important achievements.

We have an obligation to be there vis-à-vis this trade relationship to help it further its causes in these important areas. As a registered nurse, this is something that is close to home. We recognize that some form of health system currently covers 90.4% of the population, while the population subsidized by the state has doubled over the last five years to 23 million people. Universal health care coverage is expected in 2010.

I would submit that with solidified relationships, again vis-à-vis this free trade agreement and other important activities in which we engage in Latin America and Colombia, we can hopefully show them the way. Having advanced the cause of universal health care for some time now, we are leaders in the world with respect to providing some of the best universally accessed health care coverage in the world.

The Canadian International Development Agency is continuing with important ongoing assistance. Between 2006 and 2008, CIDA provided more than $32 million for projects and initiatives in Colombia. Since 1972, the total amount of CIDA contributions is $355 million.

There are more than 350,000 internally displaced persons with comprehensive protection and access to base social services in that country and training programs for more than 12,000 civil servants in the new Colombian law, on children and adolescents.

There are several other examples of how we are working in important areas. We have talked about health, education, improving conditions and outcomes for poverty and our relationships in these regards.

Through this free trade agreement, I am confident we will be able to continue to strengthen and build on this important relationship, not just in Colombia but throughout Latin America and other parts of the world. These kinds of free trade agreements would benefit not just Canada or the great Kenora riding but also the countries that we engage with in these important trading relationships.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the member, as well as others today. I have also read through the material and they have convinced me that the right way to go is to adopt this free trade agreement.

A number of constituents in my riding of Kitchener—Conestoga have approached me or have written to me about concerns regarding this agreement. The concerns generally revolve around the area of corporate social responsibility and the labour agreement as it relates to child labour, occupational safety and health concerns and the employment standards.

I know the member commented on those. Could he assure the people in my riding and Canadians in general that in fact these points are very clearly covered in this free trade agreement?

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is a very important question. As I highlighted in my speech, these are important principles not just in terms of how we do business in Canada but the image that we will put out on the world stage when we engage in trade agreements with other parts of North America, Latin America, South America and borders beyond.

It is imperative that we carry these core principles, the same ones we have here with respect to labour standards, with respect to protecting children's interests in terms of being exploited through labour and with respect to environmental protection, ensuring that we carry out the same kinds of activities by standards here in those countries. This trade agreement gives us an opportunity to lead by example and work with these countries in developing important standards in the regards that the hon. member has pointed out.