Madam Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill S-3.
As my colleague from Outremont mentioned earlier in the House, we have great difficulties with the way the government is approaching legislation generally.
There are principles in this place that have been well established for generations and have been respected generally by all parties. What we have seen over the last few years, but particularly in the last few months, is a throwing out of those conventions of appreciation for democratic debate and respect for this place, respect for Parliament itself. We are seeing this illustrated once again by Bill S-3.
The first issue is the fact that the bill comes from the Senate. We must remember that the Conservatives, prior to the last election, promised that it would bring democracy to the Senate but they have appointed Conservative associates to the Senate. The Senate is now a legislative place with largely Conservative appointees.
Canadians do not want to see the perpetuation of a fundamentally anti-democratic system imposed on Canadian democracy and yet we are now seeing bills pushed through the Senate, where there are a bunch of Conservative Party appointees, who are responsible to nobody but the Prime Minister himself, creating this legislation and bringing it into the House of Commons. If that is not a fundamental rejection of the democratic principles on which this country is founded, I do not know what is.
When we couple that with prorogation, a refusal to table in this Parliament documents that should be, as the Speaker has ruled in the past, tabled in Parliament, we see a systematic obstruction of the democratic principles in Canada that have served Canada so very well. We now have a bill referred from the Senate.
The second principle that is being violated by the bill is the fact that the government has cleverly tried to insert a poison pill. The bill itself is a rather anodyne bill, a tax treaty bill that deals with Greece and Turkey.
Although concerns were raised earlier today in the House by a Liberal member, I do not think anyone in this place would have any strong differences with Greek fiscal policy or Turkish fiscal policy. We understand that their democracies are relatively advanced systems. Instead of submitting Greece and Turkey to a parliamentary vote, the government deliberately inserted the poison pill of the Colombian regime into the bill. Rather than respecting parliamentary debate and have two separate bills, the government deliberately tried to muddy the water and insert a poison pill. It is absolutely ridiculous and it shows the complete lack of respect that the Conservative government has for democracy.
Although we have no objections to the Greek and Turkish treaties on fiscal management, the tax treaties themselves, we will have to move in committee to split the bill so we can consider the case of Colombia. It is pretty appalling that the Conservatives would do this, but I do not think Canadians are surprised by anything the Conservative government does any more. It simply has no respect for democratic traditions, period.
The backgrounder for Bill S-3 put out by the Minister of Finance is very clear. I will quote it because it is a pretty strong illustration of how the government proceeds. What it says in the backgrounder, which is supposed to speak to all of these tax bills that are brought forward, is that Canada “will conclude no new tax treaty, or update an existing tax treaty, unless the treaty partner country agrees to abide by the highest international standards of tax information exchange”.
Anyone who knows anything about Colombia and the Colombian industry would know that Columbia is the producer of about 90% of the world's illicit cocaine industry. We are talking about a $90 billion a year industry, produced by drug lords, produced by paramilitary gangs connected to the government, produced by guerillas, produced by all sectors. There is no taxation system around this massive industry in Colombia. Therefore, the highest possible standards of fiscal probity cannot be maintained in what is a narco-economy.
The Conservatives and Liberals have admitted to this in the past. They have said that this trade agreement has been condemned by every major human rights organization around the world, particularly in Canada, every major civil society group, every major labour union in Canada and almost all of the Colombian trade unions except those directly affiliated with the Colombian government or under the thumb of the Colombian government. The Conservatives say that we need this treaty because it will eliminate the narco-economy. They know this is significantly the largest industry in Colombia and is not part of the tax foundation, the so-called prudent fiscal management of the Colombian government.
Therefore, getting back to the backgrounder which says “agreeing to abide by the highest international standards”, Colombia has already failed those standards even before the treaty was signed. Even before it was brought to the House, it had manifestly failed with a $90 billion a year narco-economy, not subject to taxation laws. Yet the Conservatives have the nerve to throw in this failed narco-economy, failed fiscal framework into a bill that affects Greece and Turkey.
We have to hand it to the Conservatives. The Colombia regime has been described as Hell's Angels with a public relations firm. Nowhere is it clearer than that when we look at the Conservative government trying to endorse Colombian fiscal policy with a $90 billion a year cocaine industry, an illicit industry outside if that fiscal framework.
Conservatives will say that this has nothing to do with the government. Anyone who is actually following the debate around why the United States Congress has refused to ratify a free trade agreement with Colombia, why the European Union is refusing to ratify a free trade agreement with Colombia, why EFTA is refusing to ratify an agreement with Colombia, anyone who does the due diligence, does the homework as a member of Parliament, and certainly the 37 members of the NDP have done their homework, their research and have actually found out what goes on in Colombia, would know that the Defense Intelligence Agency in the United States very clearly identified the Colombian president as being affiliated with drug lords.
In fact, in its document, which was released under access to information just a few years ago, it stated very clearly that President Uribe had risen to power through his connections to the Medellin drug cartel and was a close personal friend of Pablo Escobar. They are a notorious drug lord and a notorious drug cartel and the president is in their pocket.
Why would the Conservatives want to cozy up to a regime like that? Perhaps someone might say, that this was before, that he rose to power with the drug lords and the drug cartels, but now he is a nice guy. They might say that he has a good public relations firm, that we should treat him royally, that we should sign privileged trade agreements with him and that we should pretend the fiscal framework he runs is of the highest international standards.
However, we know the story does not end there. We know his connections with those murderous paramilitary thugs who kill dozens of people every year, who kill aboriginal Colombians or chase them off their land, with more forced violence displacements than anywhere else on the planet, who kill more labour activists than anywhere else on the planet. We see the forced displacement of Afro-Colombians, more than anywhere else. The Colombian Association of Jurists talks about the repeated and ongoing sexual torture, sexual assault and killing of Colombian women.
These are all present day circumstances that Conservatives tell us to disregard. They tell us that he is a nice guy, that he shook their hands so he must be great. They want us to forget about the past, forget about the drug cartels, forget about Pablo Escobar, forget about the killings and brutal rapes of children and women in Colombia. They want us to endorse his regime. They want us to think that he has excellent international standards on tax information and fiscal exchange, even when he does not.
The Conservatives are trying to make that argument, but this corner of the House has done its due diligence. We have done the work to find out what is going on behind this bloody, murderous regime, the secret police, the murderous paramilitary thugs and the Colombian military. They kill hundreds of innocent people every year under this horrifying rubric of false positives.
We know full well what is involved in this. That is why we will move to separate out Greece and Turkey, which meet those excellent standards, those standards that do not exist in Colombia. We should not say that this treaty-partner country agrees to abide by the highest international standards of tax information when it clearly does not, with a $90 billion illicit cocaine industry. At the same time, we should not allow the government to make another promise that it will break. It promised to clean up human rights abuses and it did not.
We will look to break the bill into two halves: one to deal with Greece and Turkey, the other with Colombia.