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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

March 29th, 2010 / 5:45 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am here to participate in the debate on Bill C-8, which is about the implementation of the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

Mr. Speaker, you have given many warnings today. This morning, you often reminded us to stick to the text and the free trade agreement between Canada and Jordan. I will try my best. However, Canada has negotiated or is currently negotiating no fewer than 29 bilateral agreements on which the members of the House do not necessarily agree. The agreement with Colombia is one of those bilateral agreements that has led to much discussion.

The Bloc Québécois will support the agreement between Canada and Jordan because it believes that Quebec has something to gain from it.

Jordan is a small country, but it has had significant economic growth for more than 10 years. It is now one of the most open and competitive markets in the Middle East. It does not have many natural resources, but its population is both very young and very educated. International trade is a major component of its development plan. As well, it is one of the Arab countries that has signed the most free trade agreements.

Jordan's two most important sectors are the pharmaceutical industry and the production of agricultural fertilizers, thanks to its large reserves of potash and phosphate.

Jordan is different because it has created special economic zones that attract a lot of foreign investment. These zones create a favourable environment for export. The very well-known Aqaba zone has a fixed 5% tax on most economic activities. That is a relatively attractive rate. There are no tariffs on imported goods, and companies pay no property taxes. Jordan has taken these measures to improve things for itself.

Even though Jordan's unemployment rate is relatively high, companies that set up in the zone can hire up to 70% of their workers from foreign countries. As such, foreign companies that set up in the zone can bring in workers from their own countries. Also, foreign companies can take 100% of their profits back to their home countries.

The major challenges facing Jordan's economy are its lack of water reserves and dependence on the foreign market for energy and fuel.

That shortage of water resources is very important to Quebec because it has vast water resources. The Bloc Québécois will ensure that Quebec's tremendous water resources are excluded from the agreement so that Quebeckers remain in control of this resource.

Earlier, I mentioned that the primary purpose of this agreement was the export of Canadian agricultural products to Jordan. I also spoke about the shortage of water resources. Now, I will talk about Jordan's arid climate, which is not conducive to agriculture. Their agricultural sector has therefore been on the decline for a number of years, and represents only a very small part of their gross domestic product, around 2.4%.

For Canada, Jordan is just a small market, but we must realize that Quebec plays an important role in the total volume of Canadian exports to Jordan. Yes, I said that Quebec plays an important role in the total volume of Canadian exports. According to the Institut de la statistique du Québec, in 2008, 44.8% of all Canadian exports to Jordan originated in Quebec. This was an increase, since in 2007, that figure was 33.8%.

The volume of this trade is minimal, considering the total value of Quebec exports to Jordan was only $35 million. Quebec exports primarily copper products, followed very closely by pulp and paper. These two sectors represent $25 million of the $35 million of total Quebec exports to Jordan. We already have an open door when it comes to pulp and paper exports. We could perhaps move forward and continue to open up the market for our forestry industry.

As for imports of products from Jordan into Quebec, we import very few. A little less than $8 million worth are imported into Quebec, and they are mostly limited to textiles and clothing and also some exotic fruits and nuts.

Why, then, would we support a free trade agreement between Canada and Jordan? Simply because there are other factors motivating this agreement, such as the importance of balancing our support in the region. Because Canada already has a free trade agreement with Israel, it would be good for us to sign one with Jordan, too.

Jordan is a small country that is constantly modernizing. This sends a clear message to the rest of the Middle East that we can do business with a country that does not engage in protectionism and navel-gazing.

As I said when I began my speech, the Bloc Québécois is very much in favour of this agreement, because it believes that the agreement could be good for Quebec. The Union des producteurs agricoles du Québec also believes that this is a good agreement that does not present any problems. Since the Jordanian agriculture sector is small, our farm producers will not likely to be affected. Another factor I mentioned earlier should also be considered, and that is the possible development of a market for our pulp and paper industry. Because of its climate, Jordan has very little in the way of forest resources. We believe that Quebec's pulp and paper industry could benefit from increased opportunities in that country.

However, we do have some concerns about the growing number of bilateral agreements. I said earlier that Canada has negotiated no fewer than 29 bilateral agreements.

There is a difference between bilateral and multilateral agreements. Bilateral agreements are country-to-country agreements and are not subject to international standards.

Openness to trade and the establishment of international regulations to counter protectionism and protect investment are good things that the Bloc supports. Quebec is a trading nation. Our businesses, especially the high-tech firms, could not survive in the domestic market alone, and they know it. They need to export.

But it would be naive and wrong to say that all is well in the world of free trade agreements. While freer trade has led to greater wealth overall, it has also produced its share of losers.

Trade liberalization can only be profitable if it is guided by certain rules. We can already see the downside of unbridled, uncontrolled liberalization: heavy pressure on our industry, offshoring and trade agreements that are licence to exploit people and the environment in developing countries. This is one of the reasons we do not want Canada to sign the free trade agreement with Colombia. We believe that this agreement is not good for the environment or for labour.

For that reason, the Bloc Québécois is proposing a change in Canada's trade priorities. Canada should now shift its focus from trade liberalization to creating a more level playing field. The Bloc Québécois believes that our trade policy must focus on fair globalization, not the shameless pursuit of profit at the expense of people and the environment. That means that we must not accept a trading system that results in the exploitation of poor countries and dumping in rich countries.

The absence of environmental or labour standards in trade agreements puts a great deal of pressure on our industries, mainly our traditional industries. It is very difficult for them to compete when products are made with no regard for basic social rights.

The Bloc Québécois believes that child labour, forced labour and the denial of the fundamental rights of workers is a form of unfair competition, just like export subsidies and dumping. There is what we call monetary dumping and there is also social dumping.

We make the assumption that, if a country wishes to benefit from free trade, it must conversely accept a certain number of basic rules, particularly in the area of social rights.

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.

In their current form, side agreements on minimum labour standards and environmental protection lack a binding mechanism that would make them truly effective.

A multipartite agreement is one where several countries are involved with a number of them having signed agreements that protect human rights, or fight against child labour or protect the environment. Hence, the union of countries automatically ensures that the agreement will ensure compliance in all these areas.

When we prepare a bilateral agreement, we often do so only to expand trade and make money. We often ignore the other aspects that should be included in an agreement. The Bloc Québécois feels that, in order to be credible on this issue, Canada should quickly 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.

The free trade agreement with Jordan is yet another proof that Canada has abandoned the multilateral approach. Trade promotes progress for everyone. However, even though a bilateral free trade agreement with a given country may indeed further liberalize trade, it does not allow us to apply rules to civilize trade. That can only be achieved in the context of multilateral trade.

This is unfortunate, but the World Trade Organization recently examined Canada's trade policy and noted, with good reason, that:

...Canada's participation in negotiations and preferential trade agreements sparked some concerns about resources diverted from the multilateral trading system.

In light of this, the Bloc Québécois reiterates its confidence in the multilateral process. We believe this is the only forum in which countries can work towards adopting regulations that will foster fairer globalization.

Right now, when it comes to trade, the federal Conservative government tends to drop the multilateral approach, just like it is tempted to do with foreign affairs. Because it does not have a foreign affairs policy, it cannot have an international trade policy. However, the more we see it act—29 bilateral agreements with 29 countries—the more we realize that the government's policy is only about making money and establishing a trade policy, without taking into consideration agreements that could be negotiated to promote fair international trade.

Officials from the Department of International Trade and the Department of Industry admitted to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology that they did not make any study to determine whether these agreements will benefit our economy. The House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade even contemplated a free trade agreement with China. In 2005, Canadian imports of Chinese goods totalled $32 billion and generated a $26 billion trade deficit in Canada, or $1,000 per capita. One wonders about a bilateral agreement that generates five times more imports than exports. One wonders where we are headed.

The Bloc Québécois will only support future bilateral free trade agreements if it believes they will benefit Quebec's economy. This agreement could be politically viable, and could do some good for Quebec, enabling more development of its pulp and paper and forestry industries.

We will therefore vote in favour of this agreement.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to draw the member's attention to the fact that there are as many as 25 honour crimes in Jordan every year, and while the monarch and the royal family are certainly opposed to them, the fact of the matter is that the perpetrators of some of these killings receive an average of six months to one year in jail. This is where essentially if a female, because it is almost 99% female, brings shame to the family she is killed. It is permitted under Jordanian law, article 98 and 340 of the penal code.

I would like to ask the member to recognize that and probably agree that when this bill gets to committee, the committee will look at all aspects of the bill, including the human rights record in Jordan, which we have said over and over is not as bad as we find in Colombia. Nevertheless, we should look at the human rights record and certainly pay some attention to this whole issue of honour killings and what the Jordanian government is doing to eliminate them.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the NDP member for his question.

The Bloc Québécois is very concerned about this issue. It is clear that there is a world of difference between Jordan and Colombia. These two countries cannot be compared. Colombia is much worse than Jordan. That is why the Bloc Québécois is systematically opposed to the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement.

Why are we agreeing to examine the agreement with Jordan? Partly because it has a young population that is a bit more educated, and partly because the country has already implemented some mechanisms to deal better with human rights issues.

However, we are pleased that the committee will examine this issue before it returns to the House, because the Bloc Québécois absolutely insists that this free trade agreement contain clauses requiring that minimum standards on human rights, labour rights and respect for the environment be met. That is important to us. We trust the committee to examine the issue and take care of it.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, earlier in the day, on behalf of the Liberal Party, the member for Kings—Hants was advancing a theory that essentially stated that our trade policy should be based on the principle that if we engage economically with nations, somehow this will automatically have a positive effect on their human rights record. Of course, under this theory, there really is no practical reason why any country would improve its human rights record and there would be really no criteria to apply toward any country with which we trade. We could under that theory trade with any country in the world that has the absolutely most repressive record on any subject and just hope it would improve.

I am wondering what my hon. colleague's thoughts are with respect to when Canada should extend preferential economic relations with countries and what we should be expecting from those countries in terms of their human rights, environmental standards and labour standards as a condition before we trade, or should we have no conditions at all as the Liberal Party apparently thinks is the case.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question, one that is extremely important and allows me to talk about something that I have not yet had the opportunity to address.

In my opinion, as a country, Canada has certain responsibilities and Quebec also has certain responsibilities. Canada needs to assume its responsibilities. Canada has not signed all the agreements concerning human rights, labour rights, protection of workers and protection of children. When a supposedly civilized and democratic country, such as Canada, concludes an agreement with another country where human rights are violated, where child labour is used, where unionists are disposed of by killing them or putting them in prison, and where human rights are not respected, it is Canada's responsibility to ensure that that country has signed the convention for the protection of human rights and the convention for the protection of workers' rights. We must refuse to conclude an agreement with such a country until that country attains some degree of social justice.

On the other hand, we must be careful. We should not tell another country what to do or how to address human rights. The government, in other words Canada, has not taken an official position on Cuba, for example. It is not up to us to tell Cuba what to do about human rights. At present, there is still an embargo against Cuba because three countries did not sign the UN convention recognizing Cuba as a nation—Canada, New Zealand and the United States, along with a few small islands. In my opinion, it is not up to us to tell another country what to do. However, we need to assume our responsibilities, stand up and help another country implement human rights policies.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to follow up with the member regarding the honour killings.

The whole idea of honour killings is disturbing. We have to recognize first of all that Jordan is certainly not the only place where this happens. This is fairly widespread. We have to deal with it in a much broader area than just with Jordan.

Children born out of wedlock are considered a product of crime. Women cannot claim custody for such children and the children are placed in government care until they are 18 years of age. A divorced woman loses custody of her legitimate children if she remarries. Men can pass their nationality to their foreign wives and children, while Jordanian women married to foreigners are not entitled to have the same right.

The member agrees that we have to deal with this whole issue at committee. We have a standard here that is certainly not good. I am quite surprised that it has taken until the year 2010 for human rights organizations to deal with the issue.

The member may recall that just a few months ago there was a suggested honour killing here in Ontario involving some people who were drowned in a car. That was the first I had heard of honour killings. I have to admit it is disturbing that that type of activity still continues and is accepted in some areas of the world. Almost 100% of the victims are women.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is hard to give a brief response on such a broad subject. I could talk about women or honour killings. I could talk about many things.

First, I would just say that I trust the committee that is going to discuss this. Second, who are we to judge? Third, we, in the Bloc Québécois strive for the inclusion of all persons. We can accept them independently. Members of all nations are welcome in Quebec.

Of course there are limits, but I trust the committee. The committee will talk about this. I think we can work something out with Jordan.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to debate this bill regarding the free trade agreement between Jordan and Canada, and talk about it from the perspective of a trade deal that is flawed. However, all of us are in agreement to send the bill to committee to make it better.

Why is the agreement here in the first place? Why are we talking about the implementation of it rather than how we develop trade agreements? It seems that we do everything backward. The government goes about negotiating a trade deal without asking for input from this side of the House. It then brings it back and asks us to implement it. Then we get into these debates.

The government seems to be intent on doing bilateral agreements because the vast majority of its latest free trade attempts have been bilateral attempts, not multilateral attempts. That being the case, I would suggest to the government that it make it easy on all of us.

The government should bring it to the House and let us debate the labour aspects, the environmental aspects and the whole trade bill itself. Then the implementation of it should be pretty simple. The bill will be sent to committee. The committee will work on it and fine-tune it. The bill will come back to the House and we will vote for it, because we will have figured out what it is we want, rather than there being a one-sided approach where the government says it wants to do it one way, and we end up in a protracted debate. The government refuses to negotiate trade bills and come to the House and debate them. The government simply goes ahead and does it and says to accept it or not, and that is the end of it. That to me does not seem to be enlightened thinking. It simply causes government members a lot of heartache and slows the process down.

Notwithstanding that, a number of colleagues in the House today have mentioned the amount of trade that actually happens between Jordan and Canada. It does not necessarily have to be a large trade deal to go ahead with it. Does it always need to be of huge benefit to one country over the other? If it is not a big trade deal should we forget about it? That is not the case at all.

In the case of Canada and Jordan, we are looking at trying to establish a trade pattern that should be of mutual benefit to the citizens of the two countries. We should gain something from it and so should the Jordanians. It should not be a predatory process. We know what it is like to be exploited. All we have to do is look at NAFTA, the free trade agreement with the Americas, the free trade agreement with the U.S., and of course the most recent one which the government decided to enter into, the government procurement deal. We know all about being on the receiving end of that predatory bird picking away at us and devouring us, because with those three trade agreements, we have been on the short end of the stick.

When we talk to folks in committee about the latest trade agreements, and the most recent one was bilateral, no one from the department could tell us how much we would get, how much was available to us, whether it was a net benefit to the Canadian worker, whether it was a net benefit to the Canadian economy, none of those things. Yet the government went ahead and signed the agreement anyway when it came to government procurement. It is simply amazing.

I do not think we want to do that to the Jordanians, being the folks who we are who believe that a sense of fair play should rule when it comes to entering into these agreements. Maybe we have decided that we should take advantage of someone else because we have been taken advantage of so many times in the other deals and we have decided to push it. That is not what we want to do on this side of the House. We want a fair deal with the Jordanians and I think the Jordanians want a fair trade deal with us, but we need to help.

Folks have talked about the human rights abuses in other parts of the world when it comes to bilaterals, and the example of Colombia has been used, but that is not the debate today. Clearly, when we look at the human rights practices in Jordan, a number of them require attention. As recent as March of this year there is a report by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor on the abuses that happen in Jordan. It is the right of Jordanians to decide for themselves, but it is our right to say no to the trade deal if we do not agree with what they do internally.

If child labour is something the Jordanians want, then I guess it is not our right to tell them they cannot do it. However, it is our right not to have a free trade deal with them. Child labour actually exists in Jordan. In this country we decided that child labour should be abolished and we did something about it. If we are going to have a free trade deal with the Jordanians, we have to tell them we do not put children to work in this country. We certainly have young people who work in the summer to get work experience and make a few dollars as they head toward university and college, but we do not ask kids under the age of 12 to go to work on a full-time basis. It is against the law in this country.

I think we accept that this is not what we want to see happen around the world either.

It is not this state's right to tell that state what it should do. Again, I emphasize it is in our country's ability to say no to the trade deal.

When we look at the statistics, it ends up being close to, according to the government's numbers, 32,000 child labourers in Jordan. The population of Jordan is only a few million. It is not a hugely populated country.

The law says that it forbids children under the age of 16 years of age, except as apprentices. Last time I checked, apprentices actually were. Reports of child labour are being substantiated, such as children who work in mechanical repair, agriculture, fishing, construction, hotels, restaurants, as well a the informal sectors, street vendors, carpenters, blacksmiths, domestic workers and painters and in small family businesses.

When we look at that, we have to ask ourselves this. Is that something we want to allow and is that something a free trade deal might exacerbate? It is a legitimate question to ask. Or is that something a free trade deal may help put an end to?

We do not know the answers to those questions because we have not asked them yet. We did not put that into the free trade agreement in the labour piece of the agreement, which we took out and put to the side. We do not have a clause in there that says, “thou shall not have child labourers”. Maybe we should have asked that question. Maybe we should have bargained with it. Maybe we need it to go to committee to ensure that we get it and if we do not get it, we say no. That is the decision we will have to make as we send it to committee and work on it. If the end result is that we do not believe we can tell Jordan, as a state, that it should not have child labourers, then I guess we should say no to the free trade deal.

Again, I will quote the statistics. In 2008 the Department of Statistics estimated the number of working children between the ages of 5 to 17 at more than 32,000. Activists in the country said that they believed it to be higher. It is hard to document child labourers. Not too many parents will tell us their child is involved in child labour. Of course if it is illegal, not many companies are going to say they have children working for them. They do not want to get caught, so why would they tell us that?

We need to ask that fundamental question. I think all members in the House agree with me and would be proud to stand in their place and say that they do not believe children should be abused and worked before the age that we would understand is the normal working age. I do not think there is a member in the House who would say they believe in child labour and child exploitation. I know that to be true.

If that is the case, then we ought to say no to this free trade agreement until we are satisfied that the Jordanians are putting a mechanism in place to end it and that can be substantiated.

Let me also talk about labour rates. Labour rates are an important component of trade deals. There are certain industries that the major component of costs is the labour rate. When we look at the national minimum wage, as of January 1, it increased from 110 dinars a month to 150 dinars per month. What does that mean in Canadian wages? It means it went from $156 a month to $213 a month. Ostensibly it went to about $7 a day, give or take, depending upon the month.

If we are in a competitive agreement and suggest that Canadian wages can be competitive at $7 a day when I know in the province of Ontario the minimum wage just went up to $10.25 an hour, I am not quite sure how that works out. I am not sure how we square that circle.

When we look at all these things, we start talking about who is being exploited and are we being complicit in that exploitation. Do trade deals help the exploitation and those who exploit them, or do we, indeed, put an end to it? When I look at the side agreement on labour, I do not see anything in there that talks about how we would get rid of those who exploit and what we would do to end it.

There are nice things about telling Jordan it is not allowed to do certain things, but if it does and it gets caught and convicted, it will get fined. That is of course if it gets through the judiciary properly because the judiciary has some issues, which I will speak to in a minute. How much the fine is no one is really sure because it has not been determined. There is no maximum or minimum, it would just be subject to a fine.

If it happens to be a foreign worker, my guess is that person will be deported rather than fined. When we look at foreign workers, we find they have less rights than those who are born in Jordan. They end up with no rights when it comes to the labour force. What happens is they get deported if they complain. Foreign workers quite often are detained. In fact, the Jordanian government has admitted that what has happened to foreign workers is criminal, it needs to do something about it and it is making other attempts.

We at least need to look at the Jordanian king because the government emanates from him. It truly does because the king chooses the prime minister, the cabinet, he has a say with certain mayors of large cities, he dissolves Parliament and calls Parliament. Even though there is an elected House, its members do not have the ability to dissolve themselves or even ask to be dissolved. In this House—

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

An hon. member

We do not ask, either. We get dissolved.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

The government does not really ask us. At least the Prime Minister, as an elected member, has to go to someone else to ask, whereas in Jordan the king dissolves it or calls it if that is what he wants. He appoints the cabinet and so it is beholding to the king because the cabinet is not elected.

There is an autocratic piece at the top that runs the show and a democratized piece at the bottom that really does not have a lot of power. When it comes time to talk about who is actually running the country, it is in very few hands appointed by one person.

We are talking about whether it is our right to tell the king of Jordan that we think he should democratize more. I guess it is all right to ask. It is his right to tell us no thanks and then, again, I reiterate that it is our choice to say no thanks to a bilateral free trade agreement with Jordan if we do not see the fulfillment of the things being talked about.

Some colleagues have talked about what has been euphemistically called honour killings, with which I take great umbrage. How anyone could suggest that killing a woman is honour based is beyond me. There is no honour in killing another human being, let alone killing a daughter, niece, sister or wife. There is no honour ever in killing another human being. Yet we still see so-called honour killings in Jordan.

I use the term because its judiciary uses it. In fact, its judiciary has now set up a separate tribunal to talk about how it will punish those who have committed so-called honour killings. That is a type of murder. That is what it is and let us call it what it is in the House. It is murder. I know my friends across the way have a penchant to talk about law and order and what they want to see happen in our country. It seems to me that when it comes to the so-called honour killings that the Jordanians talked about, surely the Conservatives want, like all of us, to make sure that it does not happen in Jordan when it comes to the free trade agreement. We perhaps would want to say something to them about it.

Let me mention a couple of these horrific incidents so we can put this in context.

On March 20 of last year, a man beat to death his 19-year-old daughter with the assistance of two of her brothers. The woman's uncle reportedly had seen her wearing makeup. She was supposed to be running errands but he saw her in another location. This was a child. I have three children of my own who are older than that. This child was murdered by her father and her brothers for wearing makeup and for being in the wrong place when she should have been running errands.

Jordanians have the audacity to call that an honour killing. It was brutality at its utmost. This has to end. We have to make sure it ends. We should never have an agreement with a state that allows this to happen. That is not our role in the House. Canadians would never stand for this. Why would we enter into an agreement with a country that allows this to happen? It allows this to happen because of the way it treats those who perpetrate this kind of brutality.

We have heard others talk about people getting as little as six months in custody for crimes like that which I have just described. That is unbelievable. The Jordanians say they are correcting that.

No doubt some colleagues will point out that the last two individuals who did that received 15 years. Is that just punishment for what really was the brutal murder of a young woman? Does that seem like justice to us? If not, then why are we signing a trade deal with a country that thinks it is just?

Is economics just about economics? Is this just about turning a blind eye to all the abuses that happen? Is that we are saying? Is that where we have gone in the sense of making money? As long as we make money, does it not matter what they do? Will we just not see it? Will we put up our hands and shield our eyes from the horror? I hope we have not gone there.

It would be a shame if we as parliamentarians have decided that as long as there is a net benefit to some company that it does not matter about the people who live in Jordan. If a company is going to make out okay, then it is okay for us to sign the deal. I hope we do not go there.

We have to start looking at what is really critical to all of this. Trade deals are about reciprocal agreements between countries. They are about benefits to both countries. We are helping the Jordanians through trade. We are talking about a level playing field. Do we want to enter into a deal that is not on a level playing field?

If we are going to talk about fair trade agreements, which those of us at this end of the House talk about on a continual basis, then we need to talk about a level playing field. We need to enter these agreements as equal partners where people living in both countries will benefit.

Trade deals should be about Canadians, the folks we represent, and the citizens of the countries with which we negotiate. They should not be about some corporation, big or small. This trade deal should be about benefiting Canadians and Jordanians. Trade deals should not be about the CEO who receives the huge bonus because the company received a deal.

Let me talk about a few other instances that we have seen when it comes to academic freedoms and the freedoms of students. One of the things I have heard colleagues talk about here on a regular basis is the whole sense of free thought. We believe young folks should have the ability to go to university. We believe a university should be a place for free thought. That does not happen.

Members of the academic community believe that the ongoing intelligence presence in academic institutions, including the monitoring of academic conferences and lectures, continues to this day.

Mr. Speaker, there is a lot more I could talk about, but you have decided that my time for debate is up and I will respect that.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

6:35 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member was right to point out the abuses that are detailed by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor for 2008. We have to point out to members that this report is authored by the United States Department of State. We are quoting from a very reputable organization. For example, the report states:

Violence and abuse against women continued, including widespread domestic violence, numerous honor crimes, and spousal rape. In rural areas violence against women was reported more frequently than in major cities; however, women's rights activists speculated that many incidents in cities went unreported.

We have talked about the roughly 25 honour killings a year in Jordan, in which 99% of the victims are women. This issue is not under control at this point. That is why when this bill gets to committee we are asking the committee to put an effort into ascertaining the situation regarding the honour killings and to act accordingly. Would the member be in agreement with that? Does he have any other ideas as to how we might get to the bottom of this issue?

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

6:35 p.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is quite right. We need to delve into this question. We need to ask ourselves the fundamental question about how we help the Jordanians put an end to it. There are many other things happening in Jordan.

The report talks about student rights and student democracy. In our country, students have the right to elect their own student leaders in their universities. When it comes to Jordan, security bodies are interfering in student elections. Security personnel reportedly told students for whom to vote. That is hardly free and fair.

When it comes to freedom of assembly, the law was amended for public gatherings to say that organizations did not need approval to hold routine internal meetings and activities. However, routine public meetings, including workshops and training sessions, required approval. Imagine if the Conservative Party wanted to hold a workshop for the next election and needed our approval before it could hold one. If we felt like being nice that week, we would say yes. If we did not feel like being nice, we would say no.

It seems to me that in a society that has free rein and free democracy, one would have the ability to do that. Hopefully, they would allow them to do that.

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6:35 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, if a country does not have economic development, its people do not have hope. Certainly, it is one of the great challenges of the Middle East, where there is a huge swath of uneducated males without jobs. That provides fertile ground for people to be twisted into adopting an Islamo-fascist position that can be used against people in their own country and against us. The best bulwark against terrorism is the ability to provide individuals with jobs that will allow them to take care of themselves and their communities. In doing so, they become contributors to their society, not destroyers of it.

Does my colleague not think that a way to square the circle of the very legitimate human rights points he makes is to build a mandatory reporting system perhaps involving a third party that would enable the Jordanian government to provide yearly human rights feedback on the challenges within that country?

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6:40 p.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, it never escapes me that somehow we always just want to suggest, if we have an economic deal, that somehow folks will lift themselves up when it comes to human rights.

Human rights do not lift themselves up because of economics. That might play a role. The human rights of a country come up because of its belief and its fundamental sense that we should look after one another, that somehow people are as equal as each other, not less so, and that government institutions have a huge role to play in all of that. It does not depend on just needing to have a strong economy.

We can look around the world and find economies that are less strong but yet do not have the same human rights abuses we find ourselves engaged in.

There is a bit of a chicken and egg situation when it comes to the economy. Should we have a free trade deal and then hope that human rights come up and then we will just inspect it? Or do we suggest that countries build the capacity within their own state, where they respect the rule of law, where they respect their citizens no matter what their beliefs and what their differences are. If they do that internally, do we then say we are on an equal footing now and we will go ahead and develop an economic relationship?

The economy, economic relationships and human rights are not in lockstep. If that were true, then why is it that when we were not doing as well in this country, many years ago, decades ago when our human rights were on a par with most of the rest of the world, why were we not an abysmal failure when it came to our human rights record all those years ago, notwithstanding the aboriginal question, which is still an abysmal black mark on our record today?

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6:40 p.m.

Conservative

Lee Richardson Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I was almost scooped there by the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca with a very good question.

I will direct my question to the member for Welland, who often sits on the free trade committee. We are always delighted to have him there and not just because the regular member is not there.

I want to ask him this, though, because he has made an impassioned plea with regard to the parallel agreements on labour and on human rights in the agreement. I have not heard much in the debate from that corner of the House all day about the trade side of the agreement, which is fundamentally the main part of the agreement. It is a trade agreement.

Does the member have any comments on the trade side, or has he had a look at it?

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6:40 p.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, in response to my colleague, the chair of the international trade committee, yes, we have looked at the trade agreement. We have certainly done that.

The amount of trade we actually do with Jordan is around $92 million, give or take, and it has dropped. But this is the trade imbalance between the Jordanians and us. If we go back to the $92 million, $64 million was in one direction, from us to them, which only left them with $28 million coming back the other way.

Is it really a balanced trade agreement? I think the Jordanians would probably say no. In our case, I guess we can say we are the winners. Then again, winning by a few million dollars and losing by billions of dollars in the other trade deals we have done says to me that free trade does not work. It does not work for Jordanians and it did not work for us, and at the end of the day we need to go back to the committee and hammer it out.

I am sure the hon. member who is the chair of that committee will help us hammer out what we believe is a fair trade agreement. For once we will see a fair trade agreement, not a free trade agreement, come out of that committee.

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6:40 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Welland is one of the most learned members on trade issues in the House. He, like other members of the NDP caucus, has actually read the agreement. What we have seen time and time again is Conservatives trying to push bad agreements, whether it is the softwood sellout, the shipbuilding sellout or the egregiously bad Colombian agreement, which is a complete sellout of human rights.

My question for the hon. member for Welland is this. Why does he think Conservatives keep foisting these bad agreements on the House of Commons? Is it because they do not really understand what is in the agreements?

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6:45 p.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is absolutely right.

As I said earlier, if the government brought the agreement to the House and allowed the House to say, “Here is what we ought to be doing in an agreement”, we would have a better-balanced agreement, rather than bringing an implementation bill to the House and saying, “Let us just implement what we have already done”. Let us debate the agreement first and then take it out and we will find ourselves with a better-balanced agreement and actually better agreements.

This side of the House would be proactive with the government. We know the Liberals are on side when it comes to free trade. At the end of the day, we would balance that out and give the government a fair trade agreement.

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6:45 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I sense a lot of enthusiasm here. If I were to have my way, I would seek unanimous consent to speak for 20 minutes instead of five. That is what I was asked to do at first. Nevertheless, I will start now and perhaps come back later.

I am pleased to take part in this debate on the free trade agreement between Canada and Jordan, a country of roughly 6 million inhabitants. Hon. members probably heard some of my Bloc Québécois colleagues speak today on this issue. The Bloc is in favour in principle of Bill C-8, which is identical to Bill C-57, which was introduced at first reading stage in December 2009, before prorogation.

Mr. Speaker, there is still a debate going on behind me, but that is all right because I know you pay close attention and most people watching us on television are also more interested in what is happening here than in what is happening behind me.

Although Jordan is currently a minor market, and trade volumes between our two countries are small, this agreement will send a signal to other Middle Eastern countries that want to develop better economic relations with the west.

Jordan is modernizing its government apparatus and focusing heavily on international trade to support its economic growth because it has few natural resources. A free trade agreement with Canada could help this emerging economy make progress.

We have heard a number of arguments about human rights. The committee has to review all of the ins and outs of this type of agreement. That is why we want to send the bill to committee to be sure we have all of the information.

Canada signed a free trade agreement with Israel, a country bordering Jordan. An agreement with Jordan would demonstrate our balanced interests in the region given the tense political situation—as everyone knows—between Israel and the rest of the Middle East.

The potential trade opportunities are in the agricultural sector. As the Bloc Québécois critic for this portfolio, I have taken a special interest in this aspect of the agreement. Agriculture is not well developed in Jordan and poses no threat to Quebec producers. Its forestry resources are limited. This would provide a new opportunity for Quebec's pulp and paper industry, which already accounts for the largest share of Quebec's exports to Jordan.

Pulp and paper and copper are Canada's leading exports to Jordan. We have an opportunity to import a number of agri-food products from Jordan. We will figure out how these trades can be more beneficial to both parties. Unfortunately, I do not think we will be able to export our pork to Jordan.

The committee will have to consider one specific aspect that I am personally concerned about. Despite the fact that natural surface and ground water in liquid, gaseous or solid state is excluded from the agreement by the enabling statute, the Bloc Québécois noted that this exclusion is not written into the text of the agreement itself. In committee, we will make sure that Quebec's vast water resources are clearly excluded from the agreement so that control over their development remains in the hands of Quebeckers.

In comparison with the rest of Canada, Quebec currently does the most business with Jordan, although the numbers are not overly large.

This agreement would cover the export of agricultural products to Jordan from Canada. Low water reserves and an arid climate keep Jordan from developing a significant agriculture sector. It could be useful for Jordan to enter into a free trade agreement with us.

Jordan represents a relatively small market. As I mentioned, Quebec already provides a large percentage of total Canadian exports to Jordan.

I have statistics from Quebec's Institut de la statistique. They are from 2008, so they are relatively recent. According to these statistics, 44.8% of total Canadian exports to Jordan come from Quebec. In 2007, the number was 33.8%. In other words, there was an 11% increase between 2007 and 2008.

The total value of Quebec exports to Jordan reached only $35 million in 2008, while Canada's total trade reached about $92 million.

Earlier I spoke about the importance of studying this agreement in committee. I should say that the Conservative government is currently choosing to enter into bilateral agreements, although it has always been recognized that multilateral agreements are far superior in terms of protecting environmental, labour and social rights. That is the path we should be taking.

This should be taken into consideration when this bill is studied in committee.

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6:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The hon. member will have another 14 minutes the next time.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

6:50 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, on March 9, 2010, I asked the government why it was handing over even more environmental responsibilities from agencies legally mandated to protect the environment to agencies mandated to promote industrial development. In other words, why is the government putting the foxes in charge of the henhouse?

The recent budget clearly reveals the government's agenda to diminish the federal role in environmental assessments and regulatory controls over major projects when it declared its intent to “modernize the regulatory process”.

The first step by the government was creating the MPMO within the natural resources department. Despite several decades of a very effective role by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency in coordinating environmental assessments and providing information on environmental review processes, the government in its wisdom established another agency to do precisely that role, but more from the perspective of pro the project. That was the first step.

The second step was in last year's budget where the government took a piece of the responsibility for federal environmental assessment under the Navigable Waters Protection Act and, instead of coming to an open public review to the House through the budget, did away with that responsibility for environmental impact assessment.

This time around, in the budget, the government is removing Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency oversight over nuclear and major energy projects, shifting coordination of those projects to the National Energy Board and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

In this year's budget, the government took an even greater broad brush exempting all of its infrastructure projects, recreation projects, projects on first nations lands, energy retrofits and rural infrastructure.

Absurdly, the Minister of the Environment may actually exempt a project that is exempted from federal assessment if that project may cause significant adverse environmental effects. But of course we can never figure that out because the government has already exempted the projects from environmental impact assessments.

Who has recommended this? When I asked the question, the reply from the minister was that a number of people have recommended these massive reforms to diminish the federal role in environmental impact assessments and to transfer that role from a long-standing federal environmental assessment agency, which has had a very magnanimous role, a very important role in co-operating with provincial governments and making sure that they were coordinated, to other agencies.

The minister responded that the commissioner for sustainable development, in his 2009 audit report, recommended this very change. His report, however, makes no such recommendation. He does concur that there could be more timely delivery and a screening of projects and so forth, and he recommends, as does the agency itself, that these matters ought to be reviewed by the parliamentary committee in their statutory required review which is coming up in several months.

The question that I would have again to the government is, why is it superceding the very review processes that are set out in federal law for the parliamentary committee to review changes to federal assessments, including law and policy, and instead doing it through a budget bill where there is very diminished opportunity for public input and comment?

6:55 p.m.

Langley B.C.

Conservative

Mark Warawa ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, au contraire. I respect the member highly but she has it wrong, very wrong. She would have Canadians performing environmental assessments when they paint benches in Parks Canada, so she has it wrong.

This government is committed to environmental protection and sustainable development. Environmental assessments help us meet those objectives. Improving projects designed to prevent environmental harm before construction is both cost effective and prudent.

Budget 2010 will reduce duplication that results when the environmental assessment process and another federal process with public hearings apply to the same project. It gets rid of the duplication. Duplication is wasteful. It diverts taxpayers dollars away from the concrete actions that protect the environment. It adds unnecessary costs to the development of the projects that bring investments and jobs to Canada. That is what Canadians want: good, clean, green jobs.

Anyone who supports unnecessary duplication like the NDP is against strong environmental protection, investments and jobs for Canadians. A few facts are necessary to set the record straight.

Every year the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and the National Energy Board conduct dozens of environmental assessments of large, complex projects. That is not new. They have done so for 15 years.

The National Energy Board has 50 expert environmental staff engaged in this important work. It has a long record of hearing and evaluating environmental evidence along with safety, technical, economic and cultural information. The board makes significant efforts to facilitate public participation and that of aboriginal Canadians. Public hearings are held as close as possible to the affected communities.

The Nuclear Safety and Control Act states that the mission of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission is to protect the health, safety and security of persons, and the environment. The commission has 40 expert staff devoted to environmental assessment and environmental protection. It is a leader in ensuring public participation opportunities are part of every environmental assessment.

There are special cases when a review panel appointed by the Minister of the Environment under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act is used for a project because of the high potential for significant environmental effects and public concern.

Under the initiatives of budget 2010, the Minister of the Environment will use his power, where appropriate, to allow the public hearing process of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and the National Energy Board to substitute for a review panel when the project is also regulated by one of these bodies.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and the National Energy Board have public hearings. They are well versed in applying the act and it only makes common sense to use these processes to the extent possible.

This authority for submission was established by Parliament when the act passed in 1992. The fundamentals of environmental assessment are not changing and the requirements of the act will continue to be met.

6:55 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, contrary to what the member alleges, I would like to suggest to the House that, in fact, what the government is doing is creating duplication. We now have the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency in Canada whose singular role is to coordinate among the various federal agencies. So it is now creating three agencies we are supposed to coordinate.

The one thing that the Commissioner for Sustainable Development did recommend strongly in his 2009 report was that we should give the mandatory power to that agency to require the various agencies to actually respond in a timely fashion and that is what is causing the delays.

Another thing I would point is, yes, from time to time the National Energy Board does provide intervenor funding, but let me point out to the House the difference. In the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, where there is an environmental impact assessment, there is a mandatory obligation to provide public funding.

In the amendments in the new budget bill it is optional that those two authorities may provide intervenor funding. So, I do not call that a very fair system. It shows very clearly that we are going to have an unfair system when we are dealing with international pipelines and international exported power.

7 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, two blue ribbon panels have called for greater use of the substitution mechanism.

In 2004 the External Advisory Committee on Smart Regulation appointed by the previous government recommended this approach. In 2008 the Competition Policy Review Panel heard that improving certainty and timeliness, and reducing duplication for environmental assessment is key.

In 2006 a pilot substitution was used so that the National Energy Board hearings replaced a review panel for the Emera Brunswick Pipeline in New Brunswick. An evaluation of this effort by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency concluded that the substitution process was a great success.