Mr. Speaker, no one in this House will be surprised to hear that the Bloc Québécois is opposed to Bill C-23.
I am proud of my party's position. I am particularly disappointed, however, in my colleagues from the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party. To them, a free trade agreement has become a panacea to allow globalization to take form and evolve. What they do not seem to realize is that if the agreement does not include provisions on workers' rights, the right to a safe environment and human rights, then we are in serious trouble.
Having examined the provisions in this agreement, I see that it is not actually a free trade agreement. I can say this to my colleague who spoke earlier and who is doing an excellent job on this file. We hear a lot of talk from the other side of the House, and on this side from the Liberal Party, about trade. It is very important. However, this is more of an investment agreement. When it comes to investments, we really want to protect Canadian investors and make sure that they do not become victims, for example, of nationalization. For instance, after they have invested their money, from one day to the next, the government could decide that the investments belong to the government from now on. We therefore understand the importance of reciprocity treaties between two economies to ensure that these things do not happen.
However, when it is associated only with doing business to the detriment of the environment, the workers and human rights in that country, we must put a stop to it. And that is the case with Bill C-23 before us.
When a government in a developed country, a western government like Canada or the United States, signs this type of treaty, it must ensure that it is able to put pressure on a government that does not respect human rights, workers or the environment. However, this treaty does not contain such provisions. The economy is given free rein. We are told that it will work itself out, and a side agreement or additional agreement will be added for the rest. Yet past experience shows us that this never works. It never happens like that. The free trade agreement is signed with a promise to add an agreement on the environment or on human rights later, but as time goes on any agreement is seen as so minor that it is not worth the trouble.
The Canadian government is therefore renouncing the carrot and stick approach. Such an approach would allow us to tell a government that we will withdraw whatever it was we were offering if it does act responsibly, and if things improve, we can tell that government that other things will be added. That goes hand in hand with Canada's vision, or the vision of any forward thinking society.
We therefore do not believe the argument that the agreement can be signed now, and the side agreements on the environment and human rights will follow at a later date.
There have been some problems. For example, chapter 11 of NAFTA is rather explicit. It covers a lot. I remind members that the free trade agreement we are negotiating is fairly similar to what is in that chapter.
The problems with chapter 11 of NAFTA have been pointed out; for instance, foreign investors could proceed directly to the courts without going through the government. When a government has a social conscience, it acts as a filter. It tries to ensure that any developments are fair and just. But in the agreements, the investors are able to go directly to the courts, regarding present or future investments, to dispute the fact that a government did not do its job and that the investor was harmed.
Suppose that there are children working in Columbia and we do not agree with this, but the investors claim that they earn more when they hire children, or when they ravage the environment, and that those things are not important because they want to increase profits. That is what it could come to.
There are also amounts for legal action that are not necessarily related to current investments, but that could be related to future ones. It will be a free-for-all. From then on, as soon as there are social or environmental measures that go against the interests of investors, they could take legal action. This was a problem contested and criticized by many people, and the previous government stopped including chapters that let the investors run the show.
Allow me to explain what I mean when I say that this is not a trade agreement. Usually, two countries that sign an agreement are on a par financially. But Colombia's GDP was $256 billion in 2007. Canada's was $1,610 billion. This is not the same level. Colombia is not in the same league as Canada. I believe that what the government wants is not necessarily a trade agreement, but an agreement on investments. Colombia has attractive mines. Investors want to invest in these mines. Therein lies the problem. Investors will be able to challenge more progressive social policies and environmental protection measures that the government wants to put in place. They will be able to challenge such measures in court.
Colombia's per capita GDP is $5,314, while Canada's is $48,000. What is in this sort of agreement for Quebeckers and Canadians? Nothing. It is not a trade agreement. It is an agreement on investors. Investors have a major stake in this type of treaty. That is why we are opposed to this agreement.
Colombia is a poor country where 47% of the population lives below the poverty line. Will this agreement improve the lives of Colombians? Will it lead to greater respect for the environment?
No, it will not. It will have a negative impact on our companies, because they have standards to comply with in the areas of human rights, workers' rights and the environment. And will we allow these countries to do whatever they want? They will make children work for 15¢ or 20¢ an hour. How will our companies stay competitive in the face of such measures and such lax standards? This is a negative step. I call on my colleagues to come to their senses.
In addition, there is an incestuous relationship between the famous paramilitary groups and the government. It is said that Colombia has become a narco-state. I believe it is true. Last week, I read that 30 members of the Colombian Congress had been arrested and that 60 others were under investigation. There is an incestuous relationship between the paramilitaries and the government of this narco-state. We need to wake up.
I call on my Liberal and Conservative colleagues to amend Bill C-23 and not pass it as is. We say yes to investors and trade, but not at the expense of workers, the environment and human rights.
I hope that our colleagues will take their lead from the Bloc Québécois, which has a very enlightened position on this bill, in my opinion.