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House of Commons Hansard #19 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was agreements.

Topics

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Mr. Speaker, again, I appreciate the question from the hon. member. The answer is very clear. When we get through second reading debate, the bill will go to committee. I look forward to his comments and interventions at committee. I look forward to any assistance the hon. member and his party are willing to give to move the bill through the chamber, through committee and back to the House so we can actually put it into law.

Again, we have over-debated the Colombia agreement and we are still debating it, but I think there is a different spirit of co-operation on the Colombian bill. I certainly hope we will be able to move forward in a positive way on Colombia as well.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise today with great interest in and certainly initial support for this legislation, the free trade agreement that Canada has signed with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, to go to committee where we can hear from witnesses and scrutinize the legislation as we ought to with any legislation.

This FTA ought to provide Canadian businesses and entrepreneurs greater access to the Jordanian market by eliminating tariffs on most of Canada's exports to Jordan. This includes tariffs on Canadian manufacturing and forest products, and in certain cases Canadian agriculture and agri-food. Once again, our supply managed sectors have been protected in this agreement.

In terms of the numbers, last year Canada and Jordan traded over $82 million worth of merchandise. Almost $66 million of that, or 80% of the trade, was in the form of Canadian exports to Jordan. It is a fairly small number. Certainly, the precedent set by the U.S.-Jordan free trade agreement is encouraging. It increased ten-fold over a relatively short period of time so we would hope that could occur here.

While I spoke in general support of sending this to committee, I have to question more broadly the Conservative government's trade focus. With China and India growing between 6% to 9% per year, massive markets, incredible investments in infrastructure, water, sewage treatment, public transit, and green investments, all the kinds of products and manufacturing that Canada has some level of expertise in, I believe that the government ought to be focusing more on some of those larger opportunities.

The question of Africa is an important one and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade referred to North Africa and the Middle East, but for the Conservative government Africa has been largely off the map. I think there is a broad consensus emerging that the relationship between Canada and Africa has to go from being primarily one of aid provision to trade opportunity and the opportunity is significant.

I have spoken to people including David Rubenstein, head of The Carlyle Group, who believes that perhaps the best continent in the world to invest in over the next 10 years will be Africa. There is a great opportunity for us and there are tremendous historic ties that Canada has with Africa. We have some real advantages in terms of our relationship with Africa that I believe we ought to be focusing more on.

I would like to come back to this free trade agreement because notwithstanding my questioning of the government's overall macro trade policy focus, I believe that these kinds of agreements are helpful. I would like to see a lot more focus on some of the larger long-term opportunities for Canada.

The Jordanian economy is predicted to grow by 3% this year and 3.7% in 2011. It is a stable market, albeit a relatively small market for Canadian exporters. Like most of Canada's FTAs, this FTA includes agreements on the environment and labour cooperation that will help promote sustainability, and protect and ensure labour rights. More specifically, the Canada-Jordan labour cooperation agreement recognized both countries' obligations under the International Labour Organization, ILO, Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work including the protection of the following rights: the right to freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining, the abolition of child labour, the elimination of forced or compulsory labour, and the elimination of discrimination.

Both the labour cooperation agreement and the agreement on the environment include complaints and dispute resolution processes that enable members of the public to request an investigation into perceived failures of Canada or Jordan to comply with these agreements.

Canada already has one free trade agreement in place in the region generally. That is the FTA with Israel that has been in place since 1997. This agreement, however, is the first Canada has signed with an Arab country. It is fitting that this agreement would be, and this precedent would be set, with Jordan. Canada and Jordan share a friendly and constructive relationship as exemplified by our recent agreement on cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

Jordan has shown considerable leadership in pursuit of peace in the Middle East and has had a peace treaty with Israel since October 1994. Jordan has also helped to foster deeper relations and a greater understanding between the west and the Arab world. On the trade front, Jordan already has free trade agreements with some of Canada's most important trading partners. The FTA with the U.S. went into effect in December 2001. Jordan's FTA with the European Union went into effect in May 2002 and its FTA with the European Free Trade Association went into effect in September 2002.

Canada and Jordan also signed a foreign investment promotion and protection agreement, FIPA, at the same time as the free trade agreement on June 28, 2009. However, unlike the FTA, the FIPA is already in place. In fact, it went into effect on December 14, 2009. I am curious as to why the FIPA was kept as a separate agreement, even though the FTA and the FIPA were signed at the same time.

The FIPA is based on the principle of national treatment, from an investor's perspective that a Canadian investor in Jordan will be treated identically to a Jordanian investor in Jordan and vice versa. We have to treat Jordanian investors in Canada as we would treat our own investors. The principle of national treatment in the FIPA agreement is quite core to free trade agreements.

When considering the Bloc Québécois' public position against some measures within free trade agreements, it is curious that this FIPA includes measures that guarantee national treatment, often called investor-state provisions. We do welcome the support from Bloc members for this free trade agreement, but I would remind them that, if they are opposed to investor-state provisions and national treatment, the FIPA agreement has not been tabled in the House.

If that is an area that is of interest to the Bloc, in terms of investor-state provisions and the whole area of national treatment, the government has curiously chosen first, to separate the FIPA from this free trade agreement and second, to table only the free trade agreement in the House. In some ways, this contravenes the government's own policy on tabling treaties in Parliament. If one reads from the Conservative policy on tabling treaties in Parliament that went into effect on January 25, 2008, it says:

The objective of this policy is to ensure that all instruments governed by public international law, between Canada and other states or international organisations, are tabled in the House of Commons following their signature or adoption by other procedure and prior to Canada formally notifying that it is bound by the Instrument.

The FIPA with Jordan was signed in June 2009 and went into effect in December 2009, but it has never been tabled in the House. I can quote the member for Beauce, who was the foreign affairs minister at that time. He said:

As of today, all treaties between Canada and other states or entities, and which are considered to be governed by public international law, will be tabled in the House of Commons

He continued describing the government's commitment when he said:

This reflects our government's commitment to democracy and accountability. By submitting our international treaties to public scrutiny, we are delivering on our promise for a more open and transparent government.

I think it is important to remind the House that that was a firm commitment by the government to table all international treaties in the House. While the government has tabled the FTA with Jordan, it has not tabled the FIPA, the agreement on investments. I believe it ought to have done that prior to final ratification. This is not the first time the Conservative government has contradicted its own policy or commitment to democracy and accountability.

We know what has happened with prorogation and the attack of the government on democratic values. The Conservative government failed to table the buy American deal. It could not table that agreement because it had prorogued the House, which seemed rather convenient because it held a press conference on the buy American deal and only a week later provided the actual agreement leaving opposition and Canadians asking questions as to where the beef is on this.

Ultimately, we found out that the deal was not only late in coming, almost too late to benefit Canadians in terms of access to the American stimulus package, but it was also very weak in terms of the kinds of protection it provided to Canadian workers.

In terms of trade, the Conservative government has broadly failed to defend our interest with our largest trading partner, the U.S., and it has failed to diversify our trade relations by aggressively pursuing trade deals with the world's largest emerging markets.

We are a trade dependent nation, 80% of our economy and millions of Canadian jobs depend on our ability to access foreign markets. History would tell us that from beaver pelts in the past to BlackBerries today, Canada's prosperity has been forged in the markets of the world. We prosper because we can and we must compete.

Canada is a world leader in efficient natural resource extraction, as an example. Our manufactured goods are known around the world for quality and innovation. It is because Canada has the ingenuity and expertise to benefit from free trade. Canada profited when we signed the Auto Pact with the U.S. We have prospered under NAFTA.

However, under this government, in 2009, Canada faced its first trade deficit in 30 years. Unless Canada takes real and meaningful action to diversify our trade relations, we run the risk of falling behind as other countries diversify theirs.

I would like to speak for a moment on the whole issue of climate change, not on the environment and climate change, not in terms of environmental responsibility but in terms of economic opportunities. The fact is, around the world, countries are putting a price on carbon. We have seen it in various countries in the EU, and we have seen the EU move broadly. We see today in the U.S. there are three pieces of legislation under debate, the Waxman-Markey bill, the Cantwell-Collins bill, and more recently the development of senator Lindsey Graham's initiative with senator Joe Lieberman and senator John Kerry.

We do not know what is going to happen in the U.S. Congress. We are familiar with the dysfunctionality of Congress from time to time. However, I believe at some point, and quite possibly in the next few months, we will see some form of carbon pricing come out of the U.S.

Whether it is in the next few months or the next few years, we know that the world is putting a price on carbon. We also know that even in China, according to Fan Gang, who is one of the pre-eminent economists in China and, in fact, one of the authors of the five year plan, it is actually considering a carbon pricing mechanism for its next five year plan.

As the world puts a price on carbon, particularly in the protectionist U.S., we expect carbon price border pricing mechanisms to be included in those carbon tariffs. What it means for Canada in the long-term, in our high carbon economy, is that we will become less competitive than we are right now.

The approach of the Conservative government is to wait and see what the U.S. is going to do in terms of carbon pricing. That is a high-risk approach because the fact is that when the U.S. comes to a legislative or an administrative conclusion in terms of what to do with pricing carbon and it imposes it on us through the form of a carbon tariff, that could potentially have a very deleterious effect on our economy.

Canada is the biggest energy provider to the U.S., which means that we have a vested interest in the decisions made now in the U.S. Congress and by the U.S. administration. We should not be sitting back waiting for them to conclude those discussions. We ought to be engaged as their biggest energy provider.

We ought to be working more closely with them to develop cleaner energy solutions, cleaner conventional energy and alternative energy. We ought to be working with them to modernize energy grids and strengthen transmission, and to go toward smart grid and smart meters.

We ought to be working more closely with them to build a Canada-U.S. energy strategy that could help insulate us against the potential risk of a carbon pricing mechanism that is reached in the U.S. without any consultation with Canada, but also more fundamentally, to render both our economies more competitive in the emerging green economy in a global carbon constrained world.

At the World Economic Forum this year in Davos, Canada's Conservative Prime Minister was alone among all foreign leaders when he insisted that measures to address climate change will hurt the economy with “real impacts on jobs and economic growth”. He went on further to say, “There are serious trade-offs with economic imperatives in the short term”. His view was completely out of step with global leaders, including in recent months, President Obama.

Around the world, the conversation about climate change has gone from one of environmental responsibility to one of economic opportunity. Canada, as a major energy producer, can build on our expertise within the traditional energy sector to become a green energy superpower. We can position Canada as a global leader. We can position Canada as a clean energy partner for China and India, but only if we have a federal strategy, a national strategy working with the provinces.

Other countries have used their stimulus packages to become more competitive, to build more competitiveness in the global carbon constrained economy. The U.S. invested six times more per capita than Canada in clean energy through its stimulus package. Canada was among the lowest in the OECD in terms of green stimulus spending.

In December, China and the Obama administration in the U.S. signed an agreement on carbon capture and storage technology. Canada was not even at the table. This is an area where Canada has a comparative advantage. Forty per cent of the carbon stored in the world is sequestered in Weyburn, Saskatchewan. Weyburn resulted from the federal government's investment, at that time the Martin Liberal government, and the private sector to make that happen. It is a world-class facility in Weyburn with world-class technology.

Yet we were not at the table when China signed a deal with our largest trading partner, the U.S., on CO2 sequestration. This year, according to energy secretary Chu in the U.S., the U.S. is investing $3 billion in CO2 sequestration technology, and that is being partnered with $7 billion of private sector investment.

We have a narrow window of opportunity to maintain our advancement in terms of CO2 sequestration, but we are going to lose that very quickly as China and the U.S. move forward more quickly than we are doing in terms of investment and in terms of innovation.

The competition for leadership in the new green economy is fierce. China in 2008 became the largest producer of solar panels in the world. In 2009 China became the largest producer of wind turbines in the world.

We cannot wait while other countries act. If there was a first talker advantage, Canada would probably get it, but there is only a first mover advantage and other countries are moving. Canada is just sitting back and waiting.

At Davos this year, U.S. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said:

Six months ago my biggest worry was that an emissions deal would make American business less competitive compared to China. Now my concern is that every day that we delay trying to find a price for carbon is a day that China uses to dominate the green economy. China has made a long-term strategic decision and they are going gang-busters.

We need to deepen our energy relationship with the U.S. We must focus on coordinated carbon pricing mechanisms, integrated smart energy grid corridors and green technology research, development and partnerships. We must build on the Canada-U.S. relationship but at the same time, we need to become China's and India's clean energy partner.

We need a long-term strategic approach to ensuring that not only do we defend our interests in the U.S. against American protectionism, but also in the 21st century that Canada has diversified trading relationships around the world in the area where we have our strongest comparative advantage, and that is clean energy and clean energy solutions.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, in his comments the member for Kings—Hants mentioned that there has been some delay in tabling this legislation, but he would be well aware that the agreement was signed on June 28, 2009 and tabled on September 15, 2009. That included a copy of the free trade agreement between Canada and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the explanatory memorandum, as well as a copy of the agreement on the environment, a copy of the agreement on trade, and a copy of the agreement on labour co-operation.

I very much appreciate his comments and his support for this agreement. Plain and simple, this is a minority Parliament and legislation cannot get through the House without a cooperative attitude. I look forward to that not just on this agreement, but on others as well.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, my point was actually on the FIPA agreement, the foreign investment promotion and protection agreement. For some reason the government chose in this case to have a separate agreement, to separate the FIPA from the free trade agreement and to only table the free trade agreement in the House prior to ratification. In fact, the FIPA has already been signed and has gone into effect with Jordan.

I would appreciate hearing from the parliamentary secretary on behalf of the government why the government separated these two agreements and why it broke its commitment to table all foreign agreements of this nature in the House for debate and parliamentary ratification prior to their going into effect.

Again, the foreign investment protection and promotion agreement has already gone into effect without having come to this House.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed the comments by the member for Kings—Hants. He always defends well his position.

I agree with some of his comments, particularly on the delay the government has put into effect on the agreement itself. An eight month delay is absolutely ridiculous when all four corners of the House were saying to move this forward.

I disagree on one comment he made around NAFTA. As we all know, since the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement was implemented, most Canadians' family incomes have actually declined, not gone up. It is only the very wealthy in Canada who have seen their incomes go up.

His comments were interesting. I would like to ask him a specific question on the agreement with Jordan. Obviously there will be some concerns expressed around the agreement and some amendments will be brought forward.

Would the member support an independent assessment of the human rights and labour rights situation in Jordan as an amendment to the bill and the agreement? In other words, independent and impartial human rights organizations and labour rights organizations would evaluate how Jordan is actually implementing its responsibilities under the agreement.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I believe that one of the benefits of free trade agreements is that it gives us the capacity not only to discuss and engage on human rights issues during the debate of free trade agreements in the House, which we have seen on Jordan and which we are going to see at committee, but also on an ongoing basis. What I would actually like to see is more engagement on a long-term basis on human rights issues.

On the issue of whether to do an impact assessment of a free trade agreement that has yet to be signed, it is almost impossible to do a legitimate impact assessment of a free trade agreement that has not been signed. Frankly, one cannot with absolute certainty know the impact of a free trade agreement on human rights until we actually see an agreement in place and can evaluate.

I can tell the House that if we isolate a country, it is very clear that our capacity to engage in human rights is reduced. Engaging other countries economically fortifies our capacity to engage them on human rights.

That has been the position of my party for a long time, going back to Pierre Trudeau who was no slouch on human rights, but who saw the wisdom of opening up China. In fact, he was the first western government leader to establish trade relations and economic relations with post-revolution China. He did that because he believed very strongly in human rights and understood the capacity and the importance of economic engagement to foster better human rights.

The hon. member and I perhaps differ on this. He believes that somehow legitimate economic opportunity comes at the expense of human rights. I believe that Canadian companies and investors can do a lot to strengthen human rights in places like Jordan, Colombia and other countries around the world.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, earlier the parliamentary secretary stated that, given that there is a minority government, free trade agreements cannot be signed without cooperation from the other parties.

In terms of the free trade agreement with Colombia, we know he can count on the Liberal Party.

The member for Kings—Hants said that an agreement would have to be signed in order to do an impact assessment. A committee report accepted by the Liberal party says quite clearly that, before a free trade agreement is signed with Colombia, the impact such an agreement would have on human rights should be studied to be sure that the situation is steadily improving.

Now that the member has given his support for the free trade agreement with Colombia, is the member not saying the opposite of what he is doing?

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question from the hon. member, although it is not on Jordan, because he brings me to the issue of free trade between Canada and Colombia.

The fact is we have proposed, and the government has indicated that absolutely it would support at committee, an amendment to the ratification legislation for the free trade agreement with Colombia that would ensure on an annual basis that reports written by both Canada and the Government of Colombia on both countries' human rights and the impact assessment of this free trade agreement would be tabled in both parliaments. This means that on an ongoing basis, every year, we would have the opportunity at trade committee to hear from witnesses, to discuss those reports and to engage with the people of Colombia, with labour organizations, with human rights organizations, with civil society organizations, in an ongoing discussion of this. In fact, that is a far stronger commitment to some independent assessment prior to an agreement that has not even gone into effect yet.

We want to see the effect of the real agreement, not the hypothetical potential effect of an agreement that has not even been signed.

Keep in mind that these free trade agreements can be cancelled or annulled by either country with six months' notice. If there is some reason a future Canadian government decides it is not in Canada's interest or reflective of Canadian values to continue the trade relationship, the government has the capacity to do that.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would be interested in the hon. member commenting further on the hidey-hole strategy of the current government with respect to the U.S. and its unwillingness to engage in a proactive strategy with respect to the pricing of carbon, et cetera.

Certainly in Montreal last weekend where there was a very high level policy conference, there was a ridiculing of the cap and trade and a recognition that the taxing of carbon had to be done in some manner or another, a pricing of carbon.

I would be interested in his comments on the dangers of the current government's strategy of having essentially no strategy.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Order. Before I go to the member for Kings—Hants, I just want to remind all members that we are debating Bill C-8 today, the free trade agreement between Canada and Jordan.

The hon. member for Kings—Hants, a short answer, please.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, in fact, it does have an effect on our trade relations with every country in the world, including Jordan. Our competitiveness and the vigour of our relationship with the U.S. economically affects all of our trade relationships. I share with the hon. member his concern that allowing the Americans to effectively determine their approach to carbon pricing and then impose it on us is irresponsible from a national sovereignty perspective as Canadians, but it is also very dangerous economically.

Part of the consideration the Americans are going through right now is potentially a carbon tax being applied to transportation fuels, cap and trade on utilities. We should be engaged in the discussion with them.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Guimond Bloc Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, before I begin speaking about Bill C-8, I would like to congratulate the wonderful initiative of those who organized Earth Hour. On Saturday, more than 10 million Canadians and nearly a billion people throughout the world symbolically turned out their lights for an hour from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. In Montreal, Hydro-Québec turned off the logo on its head office. Even the Canadian Parliament participated. In all, more than 3,400 cities in more than 125 countries took part in Earth Hour.

Since we know how important the fight against climate change is to the Conservatives, we do not need to talk about the importance of rallying together to send a clear message to our representatives. We need to be giving this issue more attention. I would also like to take a moment to mention the exceptional work of my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie in the fight against climate change.

Having said that, let us return to today's topic of debate, the free trade agreement between Canada and Jordan. The Bloc Québécois generally supports this bill. However, we believe certain aspects should be revisited. The Bloc Québécois has come to this conclusion because, as always, it methodically studied this agreement and concluded that, for the most part, it respected the values of our party, and hence those of Quebeckers.

Last week, I rose in the House to denounce the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement because it does not in the least respect the principles defended by the Bloc Québécois—fundamental principles such as human rights and workers' rights, as well as respect for the environment. I can assure the House that we will rise and speak out as long as a treaty or government decision does not respect this moral standard.

In this case, there is no indication of a transgression of these principles and we even salute the efforts that may be undertaken. However, we must ask ourselves why sign an agreement with Jordan when our trade with this country only represents $92 million in goods? More importantly, trade with Quebec only represents a meagre $32 million.

Nevertheless, we believe that this agreement is necessary to balance our support in this part of the world. Knowing full well that Canada has already approved a free trade agreement with Israel, it is important, considering the tense political situation in the Middle East, to send a clear message to this region that we are open to fair trade and agreements with all nations in the region. This could even promote better relations between the East and the West and open doors to certain eastern countries that wish to cultivate better economic relations with the West.

Nor should we ignore the considerable efforts made by Jordan to modernize its government and its economy. These efforts will help deal with the difficulties created by the incredible gap between rich and poor. We should herald these efforts. Implementing this agreement would send, once more, a clear message to other Middle Eastern countries that it is important that they modernize their governments and economies.

A moment ago I said that Jordan is not a major player in terms of trade with Canada and Quebec. Despite that, the Bloc Québécois nevertheless believes that this agreement would be beneficial for Quebec. As the private woodlot critic for the Bloc Québécois, I am extremely troubled by the forestry crisis, which affects so many Canadian workers and especially Quebec workers. It is especially troubling knowing that nearly $10 billion was invested in the Ontario auto industry, while next to nothing has been invested in Quebec.

For some time now, the Bloc Québécois has been calling for loans and loan guarantees at the market rate for the Quebec forestry industry, as well as a comprehensive policy to support and modernize the forestry industry, including a policy to use wood in the construction of federal buildings. Bill C-429, introduced by my colleague from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, will help with that.

Furthermore, private woodlot owners in Quebec have been the forgotten ones in this forestry crisis. They need to be taken care of as well, perhaps through some sort of tax measures. Accordingly, the creation of a registered silvicultural savings plan would be a very important tool for these private woodlot owners. This could also one day, I hope, make it possible for them to export pulp and paper around the world, particularly to Jordan, the subject of our debate here today.

Despite everything I just said, the Bloc Québécois sees this agreement as a positive step for the Quebec forestry industry. Let us not be idealistic: this agreement is in no way a concrete solution to the Conservatives' inaction when it comes to the forestry industry, particularly in Quebec. However, the fact remains that this agreement would mean significant gains for this industry, one that has been in crisis for far too long.

There was $32 million worth of trade between Quebec and Jordan in 2008. Of this amount, $25 million was for our pulp and paper industry, which is a significant amount. Since Jordan has an obvious lack of forestry resources, because of its climate, and since the Quebec pulp and paper industry has been ignored by the Conservative government for a long time, the agreement being debated right now is an interesting solution to compensate for the lack of resources in Jordan and the Conservatives' passive attitude towards this industry.

As I mentioned earlier, the Bloc Québécois and I think that there are some points that will have to be reviewed and debated in order to justify an agreement of this nature.

As deputy natural resources critic for the Bloc Québécois, I, along with my Bloc Québécois colleagues, think that we absolutely must ensure that Quebec's significant water resources are clearly excluded from the agreement, to ensure that Quebec remains in control of its water resources. Although this is not mentioned in the agreement itself, this condition absolutely must be included in the agreement.

We will have the opportunity to examine the agreement more closely in committee over the next few weeks.

Although the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement is unacceptable in terms of agriculture, that is not the case with this agreement with Jordan. In contrast to Bill C-2 concerning Canada and Colombia, because of the small size of Jordan's market and the type of agriculture practised there, there is not likely to be a negative impact on either our Quebec agricultural producers or agricultural producers in Jordan. It is very important for us to respect our own agricultural producers, as well as those in the countries with which we are signing or trying to sign an agreement.

I am a farmer, and it is important to farmers to consider the particular agricultural situation in countries and help them develop. In Quebec, the Union des producteurs agricoles approved this agreement and said that it did not pose any problems. We could talk about farming for a long time in the House.

It is alarming to see what the Conservatives are doing about such a crucial issue. The government is definitely showing its ignorance and incompetence. Farming as it is practised here could be improved with some practical, low-cost, workable measures. There is no shortage of ideas; the Bloc Québécois has presented a whole list of practical solutions. There is a shortage of political will, though, especially among the Conservatives.

Knowing the government's intentions and where farming figures on its priority list, we find it hard not to be worried about the future of farming in Canada and especially in Quebec.

But let us come back to the free trade agreement between Canada and Jordan. The Bloc Québécois also condemns the Conservative strategy of signing bilateral agreements with other governments instead of the multilateral agreements we have long been suggesting.

The Bloc Québécois firmly believes that a multilateral approach is a better way to develop fairer trade and respect the interests of all the countries of the world.

In order for trade to be mutually beneficial, it must first be fair. The free trade agreement between Canada and Colombia is hardly fair, but the Conservatives, like the Liberals, do not seem too concerned about that.

A trading system that leads to the exploitation of poor countries and dumping in rich countries is not viable. The Bloc Québécois cannot accept a system of free trade that would be based on the lowest common denominator. We also cannot accept free trade agreements where the absence of environmental or labour standards puts a great deal of pressure on our industries, especially our traditional industries. It is very difficult for them to compete with products that are manufactured with no regard for basic social rights.

To make trade agreements fairer, the Bloc Québécois is urging the federal government to revise its positions in trade negotiations in order to ensure that trade agreements include clauses ensuring compliance with international labour standards as well as respect for human rights and the environment.

The Bloc Québécois believes that if Canada wants to maintain its credibility on this front, it should immediately sign on to the International Labour Organization's principal conventions against various forms of discrimination, forced labour and child labour, as well as those in support of the right to organize and collective bargaining.

Those are the issues we should focus on in our trade agreements. It is clear that the Conservatives—and lately, the Liberals, with their obvious complicity concerning the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement bill—have no desire to consider these issues.

The Bloc Québécois' support for Bill C-8 is a one-time-only offer. We will continue to keep a close eye on agreements signed between Canada and other countries. If Canada fails to respect the fundamental principles that our party stands for and the interests of the Quebec nation, we, the members of the Bloc Québécois, will stand up to criticize such agreements and do everything in our power to cancel or change them.

We will never ignore such legitimate issues, and we will never support such injustices, as the Liberal members have done with the Colombia free trade agreement.

I hope that the federal government will consider these principles in future agreements. That should go without saying, but the members opposite seem to have forgotten these humanitarian ideas.

All the same, every time the Conservative Party or any other party in power chooses to ignore these issues, the Bloc Québécois can be counted on to call them on it and defend these principles. This is about respect for human rights, for workers' rights, for the environment and for Quebec's interests.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, two weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting with Tom Dufresne, president of the ILWU, the longshoremen's union in Vancouver. I met with a number of executive members who talked to me about trade and how their members worked on the ports of Vancouver and the Lower Mainland, in fact all of British Columbia and across the country. They are dependent upon Canada having a free flow of goods between nations all over the world. However, he said that its membership was keenly aware that free trade must be linked with fair trade and principles of fair trade. They do not want to trade with anybody unloading cargo that comes from countries with brutal human rights records, where there is systematic discrimination or racism, or illegal behaviour by international norms. I think that is representative of many workers and Canadians across the country.

Does the member believe that entering into a privileged trade agreement with Jordan, in the absence of having an independent human rights assessment done in advance of that, is sound policy for our country?

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1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Guimond Bloc Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question and comments.

The Bloc Québécois is in favour of independent studies, particularly in relation to Bill C-2, in order to evaluate the agreement's impact on human rights in the countries involved.

My colleague also spoke about fair trade, which is an issue I feel strongly about, as does the Bloc Québécois. It is not overly complicated and, if we made the effort, it would be very easy to engage in fair trade. Fair trade has three pillars: respect for the environment in all dealings, respect for the economy—agreements must be economically viable—and respect for the social rights and societies involved in the agreements.

If the Government of Canada included these few guidelines and principles in its international trade policies, Canada's image in terms of globalization would be transformed.

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1:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Before I go to questions and comments again, I will remind hon. members that we are debating Bill C-8, the free trade bill between Canada and Jordan, not Bill C-2, the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement. Clearly there would be issues that would overlap the two, but questions that deal specifically and explicitly with other legislation are out of order and will not be accepted.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster.

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1:20 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I hope that the Conservatives understand that your warning is meant for the government members who seem to be wandering away from the debate on the agreement with Jordan. I hope they understand.

I have two questions about Bill C-8 for my colleague from Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques. I really enjoy working with him in committee.

We began talking about this agreement eight months ago. The Conservatives tried to hide this agreement behind another one, which I will not name. That pushed the debate back eight months. It is slightly odd that they are finally introducing the bill today. Why does my colleague feel that the government waited so long to present this agreement?

I would also to ask him the same question that I asked our colleague from Kings—Hants. Would the Bloc Québécois be willing to amend the bill to ensure that an independent and impartial evaluation of the human rights situation in Jordan is undertaken before the agreement is implemented and that these evaluations then continue on a regular basis?

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1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Guimond Bloc Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster for his comments. I also enjoy working with him on the Standing Committee on International Trade.

Approximately two of the eight months of delay can be blamed on prorogation, which was bad for us and for Canadian democracy. This has already been thoroughly discussed.

As we all know, last fall the Conservatives tried very hard to force Bill C-23, regarding the agreement with Colombia, down our throats.

My colleague from Trois-Rivières and I will be very vigilant on the Standing Committee on International Trade regarding the issue of water and the possibility of assessing the human rights situation for this agreement and all future agreements.

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1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, clearly, water is excluded from the implementation agreement with Jordan, but the exemption does not appear in the text. A few years ago, the House passed a motion calling on the government to exclude the export of water to the United States explicitly from NAFTA.

As we have heard, agriculture in Jordan is very difficult because it has a very dry climate. Does my colleague fear that we may one day have to export water from Quebec to Jordan?

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1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Guimond Bloc Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question.

The members of the Bloc Québécois and I personally will be very vigilant about the issue of water in this agreement. Water is Quebec's blue gold. It is very important. We are very careful about how we manage it. In the course of review in committee, we will ensure that we are fully satisfied with all proposed amendments.

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1:25 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques. I could have asked him a number of questions.

We are entitled, as members of the Standing Committee on International Trade, to make amendments to this bill.

Is he prepared to consider all possible amendments to strengthen this agreement and to address all the concerns that could be raised by witnesses who may appear in committee?

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1:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The hon. member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques for a short answer.

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1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Guimond Bloc Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, the shortest possible answer is yes. As it does every day, the Bloc Québécois will work hard on examining this agreement, as is has done for all the other agreements. Rest assured that we are interested in hearing everything that happens in committee and in studying any amendments that are made.

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1:25 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-8, which is the implementing law for the trade agreement between Canada and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

I will start by referencing the delay the government has put on. We have heard a lot of rhetoric around this deal as we have heard from previous deals the government has put forward. However, it is important to do a reality check. The government had a green light from all four corners of the House from the very beginning to bring it to committee. There are some major concerns that I will raise and reference a little later on.

I think it is fair to say that the controversy around Bill C-2 and the Colombia agreement is very clear and palpable on the floor of the House. With the Jordan agreement, all four corners of the House wanted to bring it forward, have it debated and sent to committee where we could have heard from the many witnesses who have an interest in this. The committee could then have made the necessary amendments.

However, for eight months the government has refused to bring it forward. For eight months it has hidden behind the Colombia deal and stalled on this bill. Far from agreeing with the rhetoric that this is another important step forward in trade policy for the government, we need to ask why the government stalled for eight months on this when it was given the green light to at least bring it to committee within a few days. All four corners of the House asked for it to be brought forward and the government said no, that it would not do that.

This speaks to a larger problem, which is the complete incoherence of the government's trade policy and industrial policy in general. For four years we have seen the kind of legislation the government brings forward. It is fair to say that the NDP has been front and centre in standing up to what the government has brought forward, but the delay around the Jordan bill just shows the dilettantism of the government when it comes to trade policy.

This is no small issue. When we look at the last 20 years, since the implementation of the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, the real income of most Canadian families has gone down not up. The real incomes of the two-thirds of Canadian families who comprise the middle-class and poor Canadians have gone down right across the country.

The only ones who have actually profited and seen an increase in their real income over the past 20 years, since the first implementation of these agreements, have been the wealthiest of Canadians. The wealthy 10% have seen their incomes skyrocket. One-fifth of Canadians, the wealthiest 20%, now take most of the real income in this country.

To say that the free trade agreements that have been brought in by the Liberals and Conservatives have led to instant prosperity is simply false. Statistics Canada puts the lie to those pretensions that this is somehow a coherent and smart industrial and economic strategy. There has been no economic strategy, no real focused trade strategy and the result has been that most Canadians are poor.

We need to ask about the actual record of the government since it came to power. We saw the softwood lumber sellout, which killed jobs right across this country, including 2,000 in the two communities in my riding of Burnaby—New Westminster. We have seen the shipbuilding sellout, which was opposed by the NDP because we heard from hundreds of shipyard workers from across the country, including Quebec, Atlantic Canada and British Columbia, who said that this wold have a huge negative impact on their industry.

The government did no impact studies. It was just flying by the seat of its pants. It was out-maneuvered by Liechtenstein. I hesitate to say it, but it is true that Liechtenstein, a tiny country in Europe, actually out-maneuvered the Conservative government.

We saw the softwood sellout, the shipbuilding sellout and the Colombia trade deal, which we can discuss another day because I know we should stick to Jordan, but the government's record is extremely poor.

What are our competitors doing? Our competitors are investing in export promotion support. The United States, Australia and the European Union are spending hundreds of millions of dollars every year in providing support for their export industries and export promotion supports. What are we doing? If the government actually wants to go beyond its dilettante approach on trade issues, what is it doing?

I was in Argentina last week with a number of hon. members, including my colleague from Honoré-Mercier, and we found out, astoundingly, that the Conservative government's total budget in export product promotion support for the emerging market of Argentina, a country of 40 million people and the wealthiest market in South America, is $400 a week. That is less than the average dépanneur in Quebec and the average corner store in Burnaby—New Westminster will spend for a marketing radius that is a few blocks on either side.

That is repeated across the board. In the United States we spend paltry cents on the dollar compared to other countries, like Australia. Its total budget for export promotion support is half a billion dollars. Our total budget is a few million dollars. This is what is wrong with the government's approach. It simply does not provide the kinds of supports that other major industrialized countries, our competitors, do.

What the NDP has been saying ever since the Conservative government came to power is that it needs to change that approach. The government simply cannot go to these trade agreement ribbon cuttings and expect that the job is done or will be done. Most Canadians are the poorer for it. Canada is making less and less as a result. We had our first export deficit in 20 years a few months ago. Obviously, there is something wrong with this approach.

Even if these trade agreements were fair trade based as opposed to the old NAFTA template model, do the trade agreements themselves make a difference? Obviously not, because with a number of these bilateral agreements our exports have actually gone down in those markets after being signed. In every case, imports from the countries that we have signed with have gone up. In other words, those countries have managed to profit from the agreements signed with Canada but in Canada's case, exports have actually gone down. How can we sign an agreement and not have the follow-up or strategy to bolster our exports? That is, indeed, what has happened.

The problem with the government's overall approach is that it not only has no industrial strategy but it also does not have an export-oriented focus and it is not willing to invest Canadian government funds in the way that other countries do to bolster their industries.

As there has been some rhetoric flying around the House this morning on this agreement, I should note that this whole idea that Canada should not be trying to protect and sustain certain key industries is something that every other industrialized economy has adopted and put forward as part of their industrial strategy. The Conservative government is seemingly selling out every industry in our country, but France, the United States and every other country are focused on investing in their key industries.

The NDP gets criticized by the Liberals and Conservatives for bringing forward buy Canada strategies but that is where the rest of the world is. It is ensuring it has a strong foundation.

Far from making things together, which is sort of the spin, the buzzwords that we hear from the Conservatives, Canadians are making less and less, exporting more and more raw materials, whether it is raw logs or raw bitumen, across the line, and those jobs end up elsewhere. That is the fundamental problem with how the government approaches economic issues generally and trade policy in particular.

Now we can talk about the more specific aspects of the Jordan agreement. As I mentioned earlier, this agreement needs to have a thorough vetting at the committee stage and amendments need to be brought forward for reasons that I will mention in a few moments. What we are endeavouring to do is to get this to committee so we can hear from labour activists, human rights advocates and from those who are concerned about women's equality because those are all issues that have been cited in some of the many reports that have come up about problems with Jordan.

It is fair to say that Jordan has made progress in a number of different areas. Jordan is certainly not Colombia with the horrific death toll, disappearances and killings of labour activists that are a tragic daily reality in Colombia with paramilitaries tied to the government and the Colombian military. In a very real sense, Jordan has tried to make progress and I will mention some of that progress later on.

However, the agreement itself is a NAFTA template style agreement, with investor state provisions that we have raised concerns about before, and labour and environment cooperation agreements that are toothless, which is the overall problem and the reason we will need to bring strong amendments to this bill at the committee stage.

There is no doubt that Canadian values are betrayed when we have toothless components around labour rights and environmental stewardship. Most Canadians want to see very robust protections there. We also undermine our own Canadian values when we subject the kind of democratic decision-making with an override, which is the investor state provisions of NAFTA. We have raised this issue before in the House. This is simply, in our minds, not the appropriate route to go.

Given the framework of the agreement, which is inadequate and is a template from which other countries have moved away and are looking at more fair trade approaches to their trading relationships, what is happening in Jordan? What are the issues?

I would like to cite three reports. The first report is from the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor which was released a couple of weeks ago on March 11. It is the 2009 country reports on human rights practices in which it cites Jordan and states:

Restrictive legislation and regulations limited freedom of speech and press, and government interference in the media and threats of fines and detention led to self-censorship, according to journalists and human rights organizations. The government also continued to restrict freedoms of assembly and association. Religious activists and opposition political party members reported a decline in government harassment; however, legal and societal discrimination remained a problem for women, religious minorities, converts from Islam, and some persons of Palestinian origin. Local human rights organizations reported widespread violence against women and children. The government restricted labor rights, and local and international human rights organizations reported high levels of abuse of foreign domestic workers.

The report goes on to cite some of the specific areas of concern around respect for human rights. I think it is important to mention those reports and to flag some of the comparisons with other countries.

Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life

There were reports during the year that the government or its agents committed unlawful killings.

On November 8, Saddam Al Saoud died of injuries allegedly sustained in police custody at the Al Hussein Police Station. On October 17, police arrested Al Saoud during a fight between street vendors in Amman. On October 18, authorities transferred an unconscious Al Saoud to a private hospital. Al Saoud's family said police caused Al Saoud's injuries when they hit him on the head with a gun. The Public Security Department (PSD) investigated the case, arrested six police officers, and charged them with two felonies: death caused by hitting and abuse of PSD regulations. At year's end cases against the officers were ongoing.

They also cite one other case, that of Fakhri Kreishan, who died of injuries sustained during an altercation with police in the southern city of Ma'an. Again police prosecutors investigated the case, arrested the police officer and charged him with two felonies. The case before the police court was ongoing.

In terms of unlawful deprivation of life, we have two incidences. It is fair to say that, in both cases, the police officers have been charged. That is important and it contrasts with other countries, most particularly Colombia, where the ongoing slaughter, and there is no other way of putting it, of human rights activists and labour activists was treated with impunity, where 95% of the cases did not lead to any sort of prosecution at all. In Jordan's case, the two cases have been followed up with charges.

Disappearances is category B. There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances, and that is welcome. Again it contrasts with other countries. I will take Colombia as an example, where there have been widespread disappearances, hundreds of people who have simply disappeared in politically motivated kidnappings or killings done by paramilitaries tied to the Colombian government and the Colombian military. In Jordan's case, there were no reports of politically motivated disappearances in 2009.

Category C is torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The report continues:

The law prohibits such practices; however international NGOs continued to allege that torture and mistreatment in police and security detention centers remained widespread. Nevertheless, some domestic NGOs claimed that recent reform efforts had reduced cases of torture and mistreatment in police and security detention centers.

The fact that NGOs are reporting that is welcome, and of course we contrast that with other countries. I will take Colombia, for example, where the Colombian Commission of Jurists has pointed out widespread cases of sexual abuse perpetrated by the Colombian military and by paramilitaries tied to the Colombian government.

For the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, there are obviously some concerns; however there are some indications of improvement.

I would like to move on to Human Rights Watch. Its “World Report 2010: Harsher Climate for Human Rights” cites concerns around migrant domestic workers and the abuse of women in Jordan. It states:

In 2010, Jordan should:

Strike clauses from the law that allow for punishment-reducing mitigating circumstances for “honor” killers.

Ease restrictions in the law governing the operation of nongovernmental organizations to bring it into compliance with international standards on freedom of association.

Revise regulations governing migrant domestic workers to comply with international labor and human rights standards, and set up a mechanism to investigate allegations of abuses against workers.

—again, a concern about domestic workers—

Strengthen accountability for torture by moving jurisdiction over acts of torture by police agents from the Police Court to civilian courts.

Stop withdrawing the nationality of Jordanian citizens of Palestinian origin.

These are concerns raised by Human Rights Watch.

The final report I would like to cite is done by Lubna Dawany Nimry, who is an attorney at law in Jordan, raising concerns about the treatment of women. She states that the number of so-called crimes of honour, and there is no other way of describing it except as abuse of women, averages about 25 a year.

She does reference the fact that civil rights activists were speaking out loudly and fighting this phenomenon and mentions that some members of the royal family have participated in demonstrations against article 98 and article 340 of the penal code. She sites that in some areas of Jordan, a woman's life is at risk if she talks to a man who is not a relative. She says very clearly that there is a need for substantial revisions to the code in Jordan to assure women's equality.

For those reasons, we raise concerns about this agreement.

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1:45 p.m.

Kootenay—Columbia B.C.

Conservative

Jim Abbott ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, I apologize to my friend that I did not hear the first part of his speech, so I am not really sure if he declared whether the NDP is going to be voting for or against this bill.

I make note, however, that he has had to do a lot of research, and I commend him for that, in order to find something negative in this bill to talk about. If I understood the latter part of his speech, he was basically going through a shopping list that he or his researchers managed to uncover so that he could say something negative about this bill.

No matter whether it is a Conservative government or a Liberal government that attempts to open up opportunities in the world for increased trade or open up opportunities for new markets for Canadian businesses, it is really regrettable that the NDP will find any old way to find excuses to say we cannot do that, to say we have to have a closed shop kind of idea.

I regret that I did not hear the beginning of my colleague's speech. Did he state at the beginning if the NDP is going to vote in favour of this bill or not?

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1:50 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to say a couple of words about the member for Kootenay—Columbia. I have not had a chance to pay tribute to him in the House, and I understand he is not going to run again whenever the next election is held, whether it is this year, next year—