Madam Chair, it is a pleasure to be in the House at this late hour with a multitude of my colleagues sitting around waiting for this speech to take place.
Before starting my speech, I would like to comment on something the hon. member from Alberta said a few minutes ago about jobs and the equation that the more agreements we have, the more jobs we will have.
I am wondering if he is aware of the fact that since FTA and NAFTA, we have lost over 300,000 manufacturing jobs in Canada alone. After the softwood sellout many lumber mills have shut down. The border has been closed to beef in spite of NAFTA but it is opening. And of course we have had the loss to farmers with the dumping of apples. Then we have the famous chapter 11 where corporations have sued. The hon. member from Newfoundland mentioned that when talking about AbitibiBowater.
There is another way of looking at agreements. I would submit that this agreement is not about trade. This agreement is about control. This is an agreement about our sovereignty. I would go so far as to say that CETA is another nail in the coffin of the sovereignty of Canada.
I would go further to say that perhaps the next election should be fought on the control of our country. Those who are in agreement with our country, with our sovereignty, with fair trade, with jobs for Canadians, should be on one side regardless of party. People who want to continue down the road to more trade and try to open up more markets, shutting down jobs and sending jobs offshore, should be on the other side. Let us have a debate in the next election about the future of our country. That is what I would like to see.
In my questions earlier, I referred to a very interesting and thorough legal opinion by Steven Shrybman of Sack Goldblatt Mitchell LLP, for the Centre for Civic Governance at Columbia Institute. It talks about municipal procurement.
I am going to spend the majority of my 10 minutes quoting from this document because I think it is very relevant. I am happy to see that some of my colleagues in the House have a copy of this document, and they have already brought it up.
On the first page we see a letter by Charley Beresford, the executive director of the Columbia Institute, saying the following:
Sub-national public procurement in Canada had largely been left out of earlier international trade agreements, such as NAFTA and the FTAA.
In other words, our municipalities did not have to worry about that under NAFTA, but then when we gave away a lot in this buy American deal, the Canada-U.S. procurement agreement, this came into play.
What happened is that we got the short end of the deal. Whereas communities in the United States said that they were going to continue with local procurement, we opened it up, and we sold out.
What this document is saying, and the research is saying, is that the European Union agreement is an extension of what we started giving away with the buy American agreement. It states:
The EU has made specific requests for full access to public procurement in cities across Canada, including the right of European multinational corporations to bid on core municipal services, such as public transit systems, water services and wastewater treatment. The leaked CETA documents explicitly propose that environmental and local economic development considerations be excluded as factors in procurement decisions, and the deal would open up opportunities for corporations who don't get their way to tie municipalities up with expensive legal challenges.
In other words, our tax dollars will be going to defend our communities against these legal challenges, just as they have gone to defend our country against legal challenges by corporations under chapter 11 of NAFTA. I repeat, this agreement is not about trade, it is about control.
Let us look further at this document prepared by Steven Shrybman. He says:
For example, Canada proposes to provide corporations with a virtually unfettered right to invoke international arbitration to seek damages where they claim a Canadian government or other public body has failed to comply with the investment rules of the regime.
Further on he talks about the Federation of Canadian Municipalities:
...and the FCM has also called upon the federal government to preserve the right of municipalities to insist on local content and job creation as conditions of procurement. In setting out the principles that should guide Canadian trade negotiations, the FCM stressed the importance of:
Canadian content for strategic industries or sensitive projects: A trade deal must recognize strategic and public interest considerations before barring all preferential treatment based on country of origin.
I will go on and talk about some excerpts from page 4. It states:
To put it simply, proposed CETA rules would permanently remove the option of using procurement in this manner. Thus under CETA, municipalities would no longer be able to restrict tendering to Canadian companies, or stipulate that foreign companies bidding on public contracts accord some preference for local or Canadian goods, services, or workers. As a result, municipalities would lose one of the few, and perhaps the most important tool they now have for stimulating innovation, fostering community economic development, creating local employment and achieving other public policy goals, from food security to social equity.
It also states that the agreement would target local food security. In other words, according to the research and the study, it would prohibit municipalities from using procurement for sustainable development purposes, such as promoting food security or adopting local food practices. Tell that to the folks in Toronto who have initiated the tremendous local food initiative or all those initiatives right across the country.
I repeat, the agreement is really not about trade. It is about gaining access or control of our way of life by European companies with the support of their governments.
I alluded to the recently concluded Canada-U.S. procurement agreement. It is a remarkably one-sided agreement, where most benefits flow to U.S. companies.
The argument and the hope is that we will open up more markets. I would like to note that we already have access to 20,000 tonnes of hormone-free beef, recently opened out of Europe. Our high-quality protein wheat and durum has no tariffs in the European Union. Although, wheat producers would like no tariffs for low-quality wheat.
Let us move on and see what the rest of this document says. It states:
Most importantly, given the failure of CETA proposals to preserve the right of municipalities to insist on Canadian content for strategic industries as the FCM called for, it would be reasonable to renew calls for the Federal Government to provide clear assurance that it will not trade away the authority of local governments to use procurement to achieve economic, social, environmental, sustainability and other valid public policy goals.
So far, I have not heard any assurance from our federal government in this regard.
To see how it can affect specifically, let us look at the province of Ontario and the Ontario Green Energy Act. This agreement could target that act. This act includes significant domestic content requirements for the procurement of renewable energy projects. According to this new policy, at least 25% of wind projects and 50% of large solar projects must contain Ontario goods and labour. CETA, with an agreement signed, according to the document that has been leaked, will do away with all of this.
The capital region district of Victoria is promoting environmental innovation with respect to the management of waste water. This would also come under scrutiny and threat of an agreement signed with the European Union.
I have already talked about food security.
Is it protectionism then to want to ensure that we have Canadian jobs or to ensure that we get the best deal and fair trade deal, as my hon. colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster often talks about?
To begin with, procurement was not, until the advent of a WTO agreement, a subject for inclusion in any international trade agreement. Canada has been a trading nation from its birth as a nation. We have traded with countries. We have had debates over free trade over the years of our history. Never before has the idea that local procurement or the control of water, sewage, energy products, or the building of municipal arenas or recreation centres would come under the scrutiny of some kind of trade agreement. As I mentioned, this was exempt even under NAFTA. Now all of this is into play, and I submit that it is not worth it.
Every agreement has its pluses and minuses, and we as parliamentarians have to have a really strong debate about whether it is worth signing away our sovereignty in order to get a few more supposed contracts from a union that has very protectionist policies of its own.