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House of Commons Hansard #59 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was colombia.

Topics

Bill C-2--Time Allocation MotionCanada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeMinister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, this issue has been debated abundantly in this House, notwithstanding the fervent efforts of the hon. member and his party to filibuster, delay and obstruct in every way possible.

In fact, the hon. member who just spoke, objecting to the lack of opportunities to speak to this bill in the House, has actually risen in this House to speak 71 times on this matter. Hold it, he spoke again. That is now 72 times he has risen in this House to speak to the subject of the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement.

I know he may think that having a chance to speak in this House, personally, 72 times is not enough, but I can say that from this side of the House we have heard quite enough from him to understand the issues and recognize they are not a reason to keep Canada from having the opportunity for the jobs and prosperity that this trade agreement will allow. There is an economic growth potential, and indeed there has been ample time to discuss and debate, including the 72 times he has risen to address it.

Bill C-2--Time Allocation MotionCanada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Bloc Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of all Bloc Québécois members, I would like to point out to the minister and to the Conservative government that they have once again hamstrung us, just as they did in committee. They hamstrung us to prevent us from carrying out an in-depth study of this bill, which would implement a trade agreement with one of the world's worst human rights offenders. Colombia's record on this issue is so bad that even the United States, which had already opened free trade negotiations with it, has not pursued the matter because it knows that the human rights issues have not been resolved.

At least the Unites States is using its proposed agreement to exert pressure on Colombia, but Canada, which is one of the world's most highly industrialized countries, is about to sign an agreement with an outlaw nation. That will not benefit Canada or Quebec at all. We will be doing business with one of the world's biggest pariahs.

Bill C-2--Time Allocation MotionCanada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Madam Speaker, there has been a lot of debate about this free trade agreement between Colombia and Canada. For example, the Bloc Québécois has spoken about this issue throughout numerous speeches from 41 members. That represents a lot of debate on this subject and plenty of opportunities for the Bloc Québécois to express its objections to this free trade agreement, which offers a lot of potential to Canada's workers and a lot of potential for economic growth in both Canada and Colombia. We are satisfied that all of the issues that could have possibly been discussed here have been.

Bill C-2--Time Allocation MotionCanada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Madam Speaker, I have two quick questions for the minister.

My first question is with regard to the allegations about labour abuses and human rights abuses. This is the first time in over 30 years that Colombia has been taken off the labour watch list. That is significant. There has been no recognition from that at all from the other parties.

My second question to the minister is about the accusations made by the member for Burnaby—New Westminster at committee. He brought forth the terrible accusation that the government of Colombia had murdered 12 members of two different Awa indigenous people's families in the jungle. He insisted that was correct. He insisted that was actually performed by the government. We found out that was not true at all. It was actually his socialist brethren in the FARC who murdered these families. The member totally misled the committee and has still never apologized for that.

I wonder if the minister would care to comment on both of these questions.

Bill C-2--Time Allocation MotionCanada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Madam Speaker, our government is of the view that Colombia, particularly in recent years, has made considerable progress under the current administration to address issues of human rights, to take on the challenge of dealing with the narco-terrorists, the criminal gangs, who have caused so much disruption and been the source of the human rights violations that we have seen going on in Colombia for some time.

Considerable progress has been made. This free trade agreement is another example of that progress, which helps move along Colombia and improve the living conditions of all Colombians.

My friend raised the issue of the International Labour Organization's watch list in which it lists countries that have problems respecting workers' rights. After 21 years of being on that list, during president Uribe's administration, Colombia moved off that list because of exactly the improvements and living conditions that we have seen.

The International Labour Organization, the United Nations-based organization, is a respected organization. I did believe that the NDP respected its views but apparently that is not a view shared by the hon. NDP member. We certainly think it is consistent with what we have seen.

We have parallel agreements to deal with the environment and labour in this free trade agreement. The parallel agreement dealing with labour secures the fundamental rights of workers, the freedom of association and the like. These are all things that are protected within the agreement.

They have been debated at length in this House. We are simply asking that this House have an opportunity now, after over 100 full speeches addressing the issue of the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement, to be given an opportunity to vote and decide on this bill.

Bill C-2--Time Allocation MotionCanada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, it has been four years since the Bush administration signed an agreement with Colombia and yet the U.S. Congress has not ratified it. That should tell us something. For four solid years the United States of America has not seen fit to ratify its agreement with Colombia.

When the Conservatives were in opposition, they decried the whole idea of the Liberal government bringing in closure. The Liberal government brought in closure, I believe, 150 times. When the Conservatives were in opposition, they said that if they formed government they would not bring in closure. They have gone back on their word. They have broken the trust of the people of Canada. I ask them to come clean and admit that.

Bill C-2--Time Allocation MotionCanada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure I would use the U.S. Congress as my test of how one would approach trade policy. It may not have ratified its agreement with Colombia but nor has it ratified its agreement with Panama. I do not hear the NDP citing human rights abuses there, nor its agreement with Korea. I think the same applies there.

In fact, that is the same Congress that brought in buy American provisions that cost the jobs of Canadian workers until this government was able to obtain a waiver through the Obama administration from those protectionist measures.

Therefore, I am not sure we want to use that as the test of how we should be making our decisions. In fact, Canada is a country that believes in free trade, that has succeeded through free trade. Two-thirds of our economy is trade based with 4.1 million jobs having been created in this country since we entered into the North American Free Trade Agreement. We now have a doubling of our trade with the United States and increased fivefold with Mexico since we entered into that free trade agreement, and prosperity and jobs have followed.

I understand that the New Democratic Party is ideologically opposed to any kind of free trade. I understand that its members will delay and obstruct. I know that they do not vote in favour of any trade agreements. That is fair, that is its policy.

However, that should not put the NDP members in a position where they deny to the rest of the members of the House of Commons the opportunity to actually vote. That is what they are doing by delaying and obstructing the House through extensive parliamentary tactics. They have had 41 full speeches and they only have 36 members in their caucus. They can hardly complain of a lack of opportunity to address this matter. They have addressed it fully.

What they should allow is an opportunity for the members of the House to vote on the bill and decide whether or not they wish to adopt it.

Bill C-2--Time Allocation MotionCanada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, I have said this in the House before and I will say it again.

I was a trade unionist for 16 years. I went to work every day and I defended workers when they had issues at work. I defended workers when they wanted to discuss, and sit down with their employers and talk about their working conditions.

Colombia is the number one country in the world for murdering trade unionists.

I stood in the House and read out the names of the number of trade unionists who were killed.

The Conservatives can make fun of us over there, they can make light of it all they want. I wonder how they would feel if people they worked with were murdered because they went to work every day.

This is the country that the government wants to sign a preferential trade deal with. I would hasten to add that there are other countries in the world right now that have better records of human rights that Canada could and should be trading with.

For the government to stand up and pursue a trade agreement with Colombia says a lot. It speaks volumes about the lack of values that the government has and the lack of respect it has for the rights of workers in this world.

This has nothing to do with trade. Our party has always stood up for trade with other countries. Canada is a trading nation. It is ludicrous to suggest that any party in the House does not support trade.

The question is this. Do we support trade with butchers? I would ask the government to stand up and tell Canadians why it wants to sign a trade deal with one of the worst butchering governments on this planet.

Bill C-2--Time Allocation MotionCanada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Madam Speaker, when the New Democratic Party members voted against free trade with the United States, I do not know what their test was. Perhaps they say the test is whether or not they are butchers. We do not consider the U.S. government to match that description. I do not recall the NDP members actually ever supporting that or the North American Free Trade Agreement. In fact, I have trouble recalling any free trade agreement they have supported.

However, there is no one that can credibly argue that this trade agreement will in any way hurt the living conditions of the Colombians. In fact, those who are objecting to it are simply saying, “We don't like Colombia”, not that this trade agreement will be bad for the people of Colombia.

It will improve the living conditions of the people of Colombia not only because of the economic prosperity and job opportunities that will result but because we have in our parallel agreements protections for people through the environmental accord and labour accord.

The labour agreement covers and gives people guaranteed rights: the right of freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining, guarantees the abolition of child labour, the elimination of discrimination, and providing protections for occupational safety and health.

These are all protections that are being provided and guaranteed through this agreement with the Colombian government, something that I think we should all recognize as positive progress consistent with the overall positive progress that we have been seeing.

Bill C-2--Time Allocation MotionCanada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands Saskatchewan

Conservative

David Anderson ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board

Madam Speaker, I am very disappointed in the extreme reaction of the NDP members. They do not seem to want to allow the minister to speak. They are screaming at him, they are using extreme language and maybe that is more an indication of their position here rather than dealing accurately with the bill.

These free trade agreements are great things because they do a number of things. The NDP opposes even a general sentence like that. I do not know how those members can stand and say that they want to support free trade. As the minister pointed out, they have opposed it at every possible place and every position they can.

Free trade agreements open up trade around the world and allows nations to step into their place in the global economy. They give opportunities, particularly for nations which need to improve their economies, to improve the conditions in their country. It requires responsibility from these countries as well, and that is one of the reasons why we do this. The NDP does not seem, as usual, to understand that either.

I also point out that I am from an agricultural area and there is significant agricultural trade with those South American nations and with Colombia. We never hear the NDP members talk about that. They refuse to because they do not have any connection any longer with the agricultural areas in this country or anywhere else around the world.

Once again, those members are shouting across trying to keep other people from speaking, but that seems to be the way they want to conduct this debate. Therefore, we have come to the point today where it is time to vote. They have had their say, but they do not want anyone else to have their say.

I would like the minister talk a little about the benefits to agriculture as well as the overall benefits of this agreement for Canadians, for Canadian farmers and for Colombians as well. It is time to move on from these old-fashioned ideas of the world, which we hear from across the way here. Those members believe in protectionism and fear over facts. They believe in using misleading statements. They will even try to present information at committee that is inaccurate. They do not seem to be willing to apologize or to accept the fact that they have been misleading Canadians and parliamentarians with their information.

Why would NDP members be locked in a time warp like this? They seem unable to get out of it. Could the minister explain to us the benefits of moving ahead, the benefits of free trade, the benefits that Canadians and Colombians might experience from this agreement?

Bill C-2--Time Allocation MotionCanada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Madam Speaker, the reason why Canada enters into trade agreements is because it offers benefits to Canadians, benefits in terms of increased economic prosperity and job opportunities. In the case of our trade with Colombia, it already totals $1.3 billion. It has been growing significantly. A large portion of that is agricultural products. In fact, wheat, pulses and barley, largely grown in the western provinces, significantly are gaining access to the Colombian market and are very attractive exports.

Similarly paper products are important for our lumber and forestry sector, which has been troubled with recent economic challenges. It stands to benefit greatly as do the workers in the pulp and paper industries. I know the NDP is not concerned about their prospects, but they are offered great potential from this agreement, as are the manufacturers of heavy equipment much of which is exported from Canada to Colombia. We have an opportunity to increase that trade, increase the opportunities for the workers in those areas.

The question in front of us on this motion is a very simple one. Has this been debated sufficiently in this House and is it time to stop the delay and obstruction and allow the members of Parliament to finally have a vote on the bill and decide whether they wish to endorse free trade with Colombia, yes or no?

The NDP members will have an opportunity, should that vote proceed, to object to free trade and oppose it as I know they do at every turn. We simply think members of Parliament should have an opportunity. Since the 36 members of the NDP caucus have already made 41 full speeches on this, we are confident they have had their say. We are confident they have had an opportunity to air all the issues they think are important for a decision to be made. We now look forward to the opportunity to let the rest of the members of the House express their view through a vote on the bill.

Bill C-2--Time Allocation MotionCanada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Bloc Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Madam Speaker, I have a few questions I would like to ask the minister. What is the ranking of Canada-Colombia trade compared to all trade between Canada and other countries?

Is it ranked 30 or 40? If so, why insist so much on entering into a free trade agreement with this country?

Is this agreement not really more about protecting the investments of Canadian mining and oil companies that exploit natural resources outside Canada? Is that not the real objective?

Bill C-2--Time Allocation MotionCanada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Madam Speaker, Colombia has a dynamic economy, which has recently experienced a great deal of growth. There is a great potential for exports of our products, which would have many benefits for Canadian workers. For example, in the forestry sector, our exports to Colombia are already substantial and we expect to see a little more growth in this sector in future if we have a free trade agreement with Colombia.

We are only asking that members of this Parliament have the opportunity to vote on this bill and indicate whether or not they wish to have a Canada-Colombia free trade agreement.

Bill C-2--Time Allocation MotionCanada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

For the questions and comments that follow, I would ask members to keep their questions very brief, because I see several members rising to speak.

The hon. member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor.

Bill C-2--Time Allocation MotionCanada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Madam Speaker, I want to ask a quick question about the social concerns involved in this free trade debate. One issue I hold dear for my riding and for the entire country is social concerns for workers, such as workers' compensation. The workers' compensation program, despite some of its flaws, is still very good and it is a standard for our nation.

Would the minister please comment on what this will do for the rights of workers, especially in regard to workers' compensation, for the people of Colombia?

Bill C-2--Time Allocation MotionCanada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Madam Speaker, as I have indicated, in this free trade agreement there is a parallel accord on labour. The protection of labour rights, with significant penalties involved, if Colombia does not respect its labour obligations, is a state of the art labour agreement. It is about the highest level of protection one could see in an agreement of this type.

Also a treaty has been entered into by the government, at the request of the Liberals. They asked that there be a reciprocal deposit of reports in the House on an annual basis, reporting on the human rights situation of the respective countries as part of the passage of this agreement. The bill was amended at committee to reflect that. It has been agreed to by the government. We are confident that this goes one step further than has ever been the case to address the concerns in this matter. We do not believe that is necessary. However, we were happy to do it in order to see the bill have an opportunity to be voted on and gain the acceptance of the House.

Bill C-2--Time Allocation MotionCanada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Peterborough Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Madam Speaker, I have listened to a number of the comments from NDP colleagues across the way. I find them really quite stunning, especially when we consider we hear no such comments about people like Hugo Chávez from Venezuela, Muammar al-Gaddafi from Libya or even Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from Iran. I have never heard them speak this way of Hezbollah in Lebanon. I have never heard them speak of Hamas or Fidel Castro. I have never heard them speak this way of any of them.

It is quite profound that we are hearing it. Is this not really just about an anti-trade, put-up-the-wall ideology, say whatever the NDP can to make it stick. It has nothing to do with anything factual and simply has to do with what the NDP's ideology, which is to put up walls, to block Canadian trade and to prevent economic growth in our country. When it comes to economics, the NDP members are backward.

Could the minister comment on that?

Bill C-2--Time Allocation MotionCanada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Madam Speaker, as I indicated, we know the New Democratic Party is opposed to free trade as a matter of policy, and that is fair. It is fair to have that policy, to run on that policy and seek the support of Canadians on that policy. That is what NDP has done and that is why it has 36 members of the House of Commons, which has 308 members.

However, the majority of the House of Commons has members who support the concept of freer trade with other countries around the world. That is why we have been able in this Parliament to successfully adopt a free trade agreement with Peru, which we are implementing, and one with the European Free Trade Association, which we are implementing as well. We have other bills awaiting, one with Jordan and we will be introducing one to deal with our free trade agreement with Panama. We believe in freer trade. We believe jobs and opportunity lie there.

The question is this. Should a single party be allowed to hold the House hostage through extensive filibusters, delays and obstruction and prevent the members of the House from having an opportunity to vote and decide on this bill? After having 36 members make 41 full speeches, after one single member has risen and spoken to this 72 times in the House for the NDP, we think they have had their say. It is time to give the other members of the House a chance to have their say in a vote.

Bill C-2--Time Allocation MotionCanada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Madam Speaker, the minister is not even aware of the export figures from his ministry. We asked him for the constant dollar value of exports into the countries with which we had signed bilateral trade agreements and his ministry could not furnish constant dollar figures. What they show is that exports have gone down every time Canada has signed a bilateral trade agreement. Obviously, there is something wrong with the Conservative approach. I will let the minister chew on that.

There are two elements he needs to understand since there has only been two hours of debate at report stage and the government has brought in the bulldozers.

First, every human rights organization on the planet disagrees with him and says that there are serious human rights concerns. He and his Conservative and Liberal colleagues say that everything is fine in Colombia, but the experts disagree. Human rights organizations have said that there is constant targeting of human rights activists, trade unionists and aboriginal and Afro-Colombian peoples as well as the lesbian and gay community.

Second, his pretension that the kill a trade unionist, pay a fine component of his deal is somehow—

Bill C-2--Time Allocation MotionCanada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order, please. I would like to give the hon. minister time to respond. I see other people standing.

Bill C-2--Time Allocation MotionCanada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Madam Speaker, it is interesting when a member from the New Democratic Party decides to talk about numbers because it always has a problem with numbers. To make the suggestion that, for example, over a 500% increase in trade with Mexico in unadjusted dollars to constant dollars would not be an increase is a pretty wild calculation. I do not care whether one uses constant dollars or real dollars, one will find that 500%, since we entered into NAFTA, is a huge increase in trade from which our country has benefited.

It is not surprising. That is the same member who has now risen 73 times in the House and thinks this is not enough of a full debate.

Bill C-2--Time Allocation MotionCanada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Bloc Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like the minister to answer the question my colleague asked. The Bloc Québécois does not oppose international trade. However, it has always subscribed to the principle that international trade must allow for the mutual enrichment and development of both parties.

What provisions will force Colombia to respect and honour social commitments, and what sanctions does the minister plan to impose on mining companies that violate these rules?

Bill C-2--Time Allocation MotionCanada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Madam Speaker, as I indicated, we have a state-of-the-art parallel labour agreement with this free trade agreement, covering issues such as the right to freedom of association, collective bargaining, the abolition of child labour, the elimination of discrimination and providing protections for occupational safety and health.

In terms of Canadian extractive companies, we encourage them to abide by and take advantage of the policy on corporate social responsibility that we have enacted, including the establishment of a corporate social responsibility counsellor, a state-of-the-art best practices centre to advise companies on adhering to those and the expectation that they will adhere to the widely-accepted principles of corporate social responsibility.

We believe that creating jobs and opportunity in Colombia for Colombians is also a good thing and a good side effect of the agreement. We think it will provide a higher-quality of life. Higher prosperity and secure jobs are all good things for Colombians too, not just Canadians.

Bill C-2--Time Allocation MotionCanada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The 30 minute time limit has expired.

Before I put the question, it is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, Public Safety; the hon. member for London—Fanshawe, International Co-operation.

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Bill C-2--Time Allocation MotionCanada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.