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House of Commons Hansard #74 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was agreements.

Topics

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, clearly, if the corporate sector and the wealthy are not paying their fair share of taxation in any country, in Canada or in Panama, then there is a huge gap in what is available to the government and to the people of that country to improve their situation and deal with the developmental issues that they face.

We face that here in Canada. We make difficult choices about how we use our resources, where those resources go and the kind of revenue the government has available to do that important work, but when wealthy individuals and big corporations are allowed to avoid paying taxes and to ship their money offshore into a tax haven, it gets even worse and it exacerbates all of those problems.

It is not an appropriate way for us to behave and it is not an appropriate way for Panama to behave. Panama has not responded to the international pressure that it has received to clean up its act on this part. There is no way that we should be entering into an agreement with a country that has been reticent to do that and has outright refused to do that. It has made absolutely no progress toward those goals.

It would not serve our people and it would not serve the people of Panama to enter into that kind of agreement and reward a government that has refused to work on those important issues.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, again today we have listened to members of the New Democratic Party stand in this House and debate against more open trade, more free trade and, indeed, more trade. I have been here 10 years now and I have never once heard the New Democrats stand and endorse any trade agreements that we have made. Their talking points remain the same. They always stand and say that they are not opposed to trade, just not this agreement, that they are not opposed to trade, that they just want fair trade.

This agreement has moved Panama into a position where now it has to look at environmental practices. It has to better the environmental practices that it has at the present time. It has taken the labour agreements that we have and put in place such things as the abolition of child labour and bans against those sweat shops.

Those are some of the issues that, in the past, that party has stood and debated against. That is what these side agreements deal with. They deal with the right of the freedoms of association.

Another speaker, not the last one, wanted to know why we would even bother moving toward a free trade agreement with such a small country. It is obvious. We are committed to enhancing trade agreements. We are committed to more free and fair trade agreements. We are committed to the Americas, to South America and Central America. We have trade agreements with Colombia, with Chile and with many other countries, and Panama is there.

Why are they opposed to Canada being able to--

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The hon. member for Burnaby--Douglas.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, Panama has shown itself to be very resistant to influence from anybody with respect to cleaning up its act in some of these areas. It has resisted the International Labour Organization. It has resisted the OECD. It has resisted the United States in terms of cleaning up its act on tax havens.

Why does the member think that this agreement with Canada and the side agreement on labour, weak as it is, will somehow have any influence over the Panamanian government whatsoever, when it has resisted big international agencies and has resisted the United States, with which it probably has a far more significant trading relationship than it has with Canada? It is just not in the cards.

It is patently silly to suggest that what we have before us would in any way influence the government of Panama to clean up its act. The government of Panama has committed to reducing child labour and to ensuring that children have education. However, in the last year alone, 20,000 more children between the ages of five and 17 have joined the labour force in Panama. Panama is not meeting its obligations.

What does the member think is in this agreement that will magically force Panama to meet those arrangements, when all of these other agencies and countries have failed to do that? There is nothing here that is going to move Panama forward on that.

This agreement is weak from the beginning. It is not going to lead to any improvement in those serious areas.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the Conservative position. The government's position is that it will sign a trade agreement, that it will be able to extract resources from Panama, and that somehow, the world will be better, but it will not ask for any firm commitments.

I want to go back to the issue of the tax havens and Panama's very dodgy and secretive banking record, especially given how much narco-money is moving around and being laundered in that part of the world.

The Public Citizen, out of the United States, in its trade campaign said that it is critical that any free trade agreement with Panama “must be conditional on the country's government eliminating excessive banking secrecy, re-regulating its financial sector, forcing banks and multinational subsidiaries to pay taxes, and signing international tax transparency treaties,” such as exist in the United States, “which Panama has thus far refused to do”.

We hear the Conservatives talking out of both sides of their mouth.

The government was in the process of deregulating our banking sector and was caught by a massive recession. Fortunately, because of New Democrats' efforts through the years to stop them from deregulating the banking sector, we still actually have banking rules. Now we hear the laissez-faire minister of the economy go on and on about how we have a regulated banking sector.

Why does the member think the government is saying that it is perfectly okay to sign onto deals with a country that has absolutely dodgy banking practices?

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I do not think I am any expert on understanding the mind of a Conservative or a Conservative government or someone who is negotiating these deals on behalf of the Conservative government. There is a real problem with the whole approach.

New Democrats have been very clear. We have put forward a five-point plan on how we believe fair trade deals can be negotiated. It is a very detailed and clear plan.

We have also put forward a plan on how we can test and understand the effectiveness of trade deals and how those trade deals are working out. Our plan includes performance indicators that would tell us how those deals are working out. There is a long list of them.

The government should be examining standards that are already in place that deal with the quality of employment; the impact on wage levels; prices and market concentration, including the effect of currency manipulation; public health; environmental standards; human rights standards; the level and types of investment by industry; economic diversification; food self-sufficiency; consumer safety; the effect on farms and the number of farms; access to essential services; the fiscal system; and intellectual property and copyright.

We should be examining all of those things in light of the deals we have already signed to make sure that we are doing the right thing and that these deals are fair, both to the people of the countries we signed the deals with and to Canadians.

The Conservatives are not doing any of that kind of work. They stand up and say, “It is a free trade deal, it is great, hurray.” They say that all the time. We do not have proof. We do not have the proof that they are increasing trade, and we do not have proof that they are meeting any of these indicators. We need that. The government needs to do its homework. Otherwise, it is just a lot of hot air.

Premature Disclosure of Private Member's BillPrivilegeGovernment Orders

September 30th, 2010 / 3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. In relation to the issue raised by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, I have looked at the document, and I believe that inadvertently, I placed it on my website in advance of it being received in the House.

I would never do anything purposely to go against the rules of this place, and I apologize to the House for this inadvertent action on my part.

Premature Disclosure of Private Member's BillPrivilegeGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Thank you. Resuming debate, the hon. member for Davenport.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, as a member of the international trade committee, I am pleased to speak on behalf of Bill C-46, the Canada-Panama free trade agreement. As we will be studying the bill in committee, I think it is very important to listen to the debate and the concerns of members in the House. However, it is also important to get the bill to the committee so that we can hear from our constituents, from the communities that are concerned, and from different stakeholders. I think the appropriate way to deal with issues of concern in the House is to have the committee study, consult, meet with our stakeholders, and have a full discussion. That is why I am supportive of the bill, but there are also many things I believe very strongly we should be pursuing as we move forward with this particular agreement, which Canada entered on May 14, 2010.

As we are all aware, Canada is a trade dependent nation. Although 70% of our trade is with the U.S., there is a growing need for us to diversify our trade with our partners throughout the world. The Americas are a growing market. They are our neighbours, and it is an area we have to focus on. We have, over the last few years, been focusing on the Americas.

Mr. Speaker, 80% of our economy depends on access to foreign markets for Canada's exports. I support this initiative, because I think it will improve Canadian businesses' access to these different markets.

In 2009, we exported about $90 million in goods to Panama, and we imported about $40.7 million. Bilateral trade in total was about $132 million. It is small. Panama is a country of a little over 3.3 million people, and it has a relatively small GDP of about $38 billion. However, it is an important country in that region, and not just because of the strategic importance of the Panama Canal and the investment that has been made in the Panama Canal. It is also a hub for business in commerce. It is a stable country and is a partner with Canada.

We have to recognize the fact that Panama, given its long, turbulent history, has become, over the years, a very stable and progressive economy, and it is looking for partners throughout the world. Certainly other countries have made inroads into Panama. It is only fitting that Canada, as well, would want to be a partner in that economic growth.

I would say that the growth in Panama has been nothing but phenomenal. The GDP grew by about 10.7% in 2008. That was one of the highest in the Americas. The projected rate of increase for the GDP this year is about 5.6%. These are impressive numbers given what has happened globally during the incredible economic crisis facing the world. We see a country that has really withstood the recession and the economic crisis and has moved beyond and exceeded most developed countries. We are very pleased to see that a country like Panama, in which we have taken an interest, is doing extremely well. It bodes well for the future of Panama and for our trade agreement, which can grow and provide our businesses in Canada with access to Panama.

I just want to focus on some of the issues that will be of concern and that need to be raised, particularly in terms of the issues that will be affected by this particular trade. The primary Canadian merchandise exports to Panama include machinery, vehicles, electronic equipment, pharmaceutical equipment, pulses, and frozen potato products. Canadian service exports include financial services, engineering, and information and communication technology services. Merchandise imports from Panama include precious stones and metals, mainly gold; fruits and nuts; and fish and seafood products.

There are a variety of different products we would engage with. As I said, it is a relatively small economy, but it is one that is growing. We need to ensure that we are part of that growth and that Canadian businesses share in the profit from that growth.

The Panama Canal is at the moment going through a major investment. It is a passageway for thousands of vehicles each year and plays a tremendous role in international commerce and the world economy. It is a vital, strategic canal that is expanding. It is slated to be completed in 2014. That project alone is an $5.3 billion expansion.

It is expected to generate opportunities for Canadian companies in construction, environmental engineering, and consulting services for capital projects. We have a great opportunity to play a major role in the expansion of the canal. Canadian companies can have a stake and would profit from this particular expansion.

Some of the issues that will be covered by this free trade agreement with the Republic of Panama include market access to goods and cross-border trade in services, telecommunications, investment, financial services, and government procurement. These are some of the basic issues we will be dealing with.

The deal will have the added benefit of eliminating about 99% of tariffs on current imports from Panama. It will also address non-tariff barriers by adopting measures to ensure non-discriminatory treatment of imported goods and the promotion of good regulatory practices, transparency, and international standards.

As several members in the House have stated, there are also side agreements on both labour and the environment. These agreements would be signed with the Republic of Panama. They will cover issues such as the right to freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining, the abolition of child labour, the elimination of forced or compulsory labour, and the elimination of discrimination. These provisions in the side agreements that would be signed by the two countries would in many ways ensure that both Canada and Panama have a stake in the development of human rights and labour rights in that country. We would be a partner to make sure that they were in compliance with those international obligations. Canada would not just be signing a free trade agreement with Panama. As a country, we would also have a duty and an obligation to make sure that the particular provisions that specifically deal with labour and environmental issues are, in fact, enforced. This is not just a moral obligation; it is a legal obligation on the part of Canada to ensure that if this agreement is enacted, those provisions will be looked at.

Although I support where this is going, I think we need to move forward with more robust and comprehensive free trade agreements with some of our larger partners, and not just the European Union, with which we are presently negotiating. The European Union is a very important market, and there is probably very broad support in the House to move forward with that agreement.

There are also countries that play a major role internationally. Two I would like to speak about are Brazil and India. They are important partners for Canada, and we need to move forward with some type of free trade agreements. Brazil, as we know, is a dynamic and growing economy in our hemisphere. It has a very young population and a large and growing middle class. It will also be hosting both the Olympics and the World Cup.

There is an incredible boom of investment in that country. Over the next 10 years, it will be over $100 billion. We would like to be there to ensure our construction contractors, engineering companies and different sectors of the Canadian economy play a major role with the growth in that economy. Not only stadiums and new facilities are being built, but a fast-rail link and a new metro system is as well. There is incredible opportunity for us to show Canadian know-how in a very dynamic country like Brazil.

India is the largest democracy and Canada has a very large Indian diaspora. India is growing, not just in south Asia, but across the world. It has a major influence in buying companies, certainly in the area of high technology and engineering. It is playing a major role internationally and we are very proud to see the success of that country.

India is a partner of which Canada is very proud. Yesterday the minister mentioned that he had an opportunity to meet with his Indian counterpart last Friday in Parliament. I believe he had an opportunity to discuss the possibility of some type of free trade agreement in the future. I would encourage Canada to move in that direction.

I mention those two countries because they are very large and substantial countries. We need to move forward beyond agreements with important countries but small ones. We are talking small in comparison to Brazil and India. We have signed other deals with Chile and we are now looking at Jordan. These are important countries, but nothing to the size and scale of those two superpowers of both Brazil and India.

This is where we as parliamentarians have to make a decision. I do not see what good would come out of a delay of six months to be honest. The appropriate thing to do is to move this forward to committee so that I, as a member, and other members of the committee have an opportunity to hear from stakeholders. That is the reason why I would like to support the bill and move it forward. I encourage other members to do so.

The time is now. I do not think by delaying it six months, I do not think much can be achieved. The appropriate place to raise these issues is at the committee level. There is a lot here that I have already raised and enunciated from this agreement, which merits it going forward to committee.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I think everyone in this place would recognize that the member's intervention was in stark contrast to much of what we have heard from the NDP and from the Bloc Québécois. I applaud him for the fact that he is willing to discuss this in a reasonable and intelligent manner. He contributes in a positive way at committee as well.

First, we have to get this to committee. We have to take a much more thorough and indepth look at it. I think we are all satisfied to do that.

However, what I do not understand is why the NDP members would put a hoist motion onto this trade agreement. They do not support any trade agreement, so it is no surprise they do not support this one. However, a hoist motion effectively kills the bill. It does not just set it aside for a period of time. As anti-trade as that group is, I do not understand why those members would want to kill the bill.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I agree and concur with my colleague. Delaying this for six months does not make any sense. Nor is it of any benefit to Canadians and Canadian businesses. As I mentioned, there is a major expansion taking place in the Panama Canal. We want to be good partners and ensure we are part of that development.

On the six month delay, I am not sure what would be accomplished. If at the end of the day I believed that the NDP would be supportive of this after six months, then maybe I could see it as a rationale, but in reality we all know that is not the case.

I ask my colleagues to move this to where it needs to be, and that is at the committee stage, so we can hear from stakeholders. Right now we are depriving Canadians, Canadian businesses and stakeholders from all communities to come before committee. As parliamentarians, we should give them the opportunity to speak on their issues and concerns.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the member's comments, giving us reason after reason why he thought there was a good economic case to be made for this trade agreement. I do not happen to agree with him, but I want to take my question in a bit of a different direction.

I am aware of the member's constituency. I have spent some time there and know for a fact that when the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement was before the House, there was a public meeting in his riding. It was co-hosted by the member for Burnaby—New Westminster and the NDP candidate in that riding, Andrew Cash. It was a packed hall of his constituents who were opposed to the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement.

One of the reasons they were opposed to it was the free trade agreements were not fair trade agreements. They do not respect environmental protection. They do not respect human rights. They do not respect social justice. In fact, even on economic grounds, as many of the speakers on this side of the House have made clear, they are not economically viable.

When the member says he wants to have consultations in committee, is he willing to have a public meeting in his constituency so he can consult his constituents who seem to share our concern that we should engage in fair trade rather than free trade?

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to assure my hon. colleague that I consult my constituents on a regular basis. In fact, I did that over the summer and spent a great deal of time with my constituents on a whole host of different issues. I also attended different meetings and events with them.

I am proud of my record over the years. I like to take a bit of credit. I have been elected there six times over. I believe I probably know best what is in the best interests of the community of Davenport.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I was very interested in my colleague's point about the need for opening up trade negotiations with larger countries, such as Brazil.

I am interested in that as well because Brazil and many of the countries in South America are forming a common market through Mercosur and are working toward the goals of regional self-sufficiency, national ownership of resources and those types of things.

How would the hon. member see the Conservative government negotiating, with its principles of open markets in every respect, with countries that actually want to follow an industrial strategy, which will leave them in a better and stronger position, as those countries such as Brazil are doing today?

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have raised in our committee the importance of that very large giant in the Americas, Brazil. We have done a report on Brazil, but we also want to ensure the government pursues that relationship with Brazil to see if we can get a free trade agreement.

As the member had mentioned, it is complicated regarding the issue of Mercosur. Brazil was one of the founding and largest contributors to that common market. It is moving forward, along with Argentina, Panama and Uruguay. Now I believe Venezuela is also going to join Mercosur.

There is already a partnership and it is probably more complicated to enter, just like there are complications in Canada entering with the European Union, because we are entering it with a larger market. However, it is one that is in Canada's best interests. I would encourage the government to do everything possible with an agreement with Brazil, to see what obstacles are in front of us and if we can all work together to achieve that end goal. Brazil is an emerging market. I very much appreciate the fact that the member had also raised this issue in the House.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, this issue really is not about trade because Canada already trades with Panama. We know that because there is about $140 million of trade going on between the countries. This issue is about the concept of free trade, which is about the removal of tariffs so goods can pass back and forth between the countries without any tariffs.

My question is about comparing the labour standards between the two countries. It is my understanding that the average wage in Panama is $2 an hour. What the bill proposes to do is to let goods that are manufactured in Panama, with a labour input rate of $2 an hour, to come into the Canadian market and compete against our businesses and our labour force that have to pay a labour rate many times more than that.

Could the hon. member tell us what he says to Canadian businesses that, if the bill passes, have to contend with goods coming into their markets and competing with those with a labour input cost of $2 an hour, when they have to pay $15, $20, $25 and $30 an hour? How is that fair to Canadian businesses?

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I understand the member's question, but I have some trouble understanding in what direction he is going. Is he proposing that Canada should only sign free trade agreements with countries that have the same salaries as in Canada or higher? I am not sure what that does for countries like Brazil. His colleague said that we should probably look at Brazil. We know that the average wage in Brazil is not the same as in Canada.

The reality is we have an opportunity to move forward with a free trade agreement with a country that is stable, that has very impressive growth rates, that can offer opportunities for many Canadian companies to export their goods and trade with that country. Why not support Canadian companies and industries that want to do more business with Panama?

If the member has concerns, he is more than welcome to attend our committee meetings and raise those concerns as well.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join in this debate. I see my friend the parliamentary secretary is here today and participating in the debate. I appreciate that. The member fromCrowfoot has been here all day.

Let me acknowledge to both my colleagues, who have said that we in the NDP oppose only the trade deals that the government brings forward, that they are right.

Let me tell the House why. First, we are not debating trade policy. Bill C-46 is “An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Panama”. It goes on to talk about environmental and labour side-agreements. We are not talking about debating trade policy from the perspective of what we want to see in that policy. We are talking about how to implement trade policy, how to nip around the edges and tinker with this piece or that piece, adding a word here and deleting a sentence there. Fundamentally, what we are looking at is free trade, full stop.

I would say to my colleagues that if they truly want to debate trade policy with New Democrats, or with me, a member who attends the trade committee 80% of the time, then I would suggest that we debate trade policy. Let us not debate implementation of free trade, which is a fait accompli. The government is not interested in talking about trade. It is interested only in talking about free trade. Free trade is one of the many aspects of trade policy: whether it is called fair trade, which I would suggest is significantly different from free trade; whether it means trade agreements like those we see in the Mercosur that Brazil has with its neighbours; or whether it is EU trade through the EU trade division. There are a great number of agreements across this globe that we have neglected to look at because are fixated on free trade.

Why we are fixated on only one aspect is beyond the comprehension of this member. Ultimately, when we look at the stats for those who are trying to work in this country, we see the poor staying as poor as they were, getting no further ahead.

Brian Mulroney said that this country would never be recognized again if we implemented free trade. So he did. He was right. We do not recognize this country.

Members can come down to Welland and take a look at where this policy, with its promise of the return of manufacturing and replacement jobs, has now taken my town. In 13 years, in terms of earnings per worker in Ontario, it has gone from third highest to almost the lowest, courtesy of free trade.

Of course, the government and the Liberals would have us believe that we were winners under the free trade model. What do we see for middle-income workers? Their income has come down 5% over the last 15 years.

I am not sure how mathematicians make minus five a plus. I know in the old days minus five and minus five gave plus 10. All I know is that when a person has a job that used to pay $22 an hour and now that person is working for $14 and the person's mortgage is still the same, that person is not better off, but worse off. If that is the minus 5%, then workers in my riding did not benefit from free trade. Yet we insist on talking about it.

The Liberals insist that we are in the way and will always vote against it. Of course we will, because it does not help workers. It does not help average Canadians. It does not help the middle class. It only helps 1% of the richest folks in this country, who are getting richer and richer by the day.

The government and the Liberals seem to have a red-blue alliance. We might call it a coalition, but they have not formalized it yet. I would encourage both parties to bring forward an open trade debate, so that we can talk about different trade policies. Let's see if we cannot find a way to make Parliament work. Let's see if we can compromise and find a trade policy that works for everyone across this country.

Ultimately, it is not about building trade policies for Panama, Colombia, Jordan, or anywhere else in this world. It is supposed to be about Canadians. We are supposed to develop trade policy that benefits Canadians. That is who we represent. We do not represent Panamanians, or Jordanians, or Colombians. Our role is to protect our citizens, and part of that protection is the viability of the economy. Canadians need work. When folks are not working, they are either unemployed, on social assistance, or out on the street somewhere. Our responsibility is to ensure that this does not happen to them.

I would encourage the blue-red alliance to come forward with a debate about trade policy. Then we can move away from this fixation of one-size-fits-all. We are told that we are all doing well. But we are not doing well at all.

The rebuttal will be that this is not true. I invite members to look at the StatsCan reports and read the quintiles, as it calls them. They show where folks are in the economic scheme of things. It is ironic that when the Minister of International Trade spoke at an event organized by the Fraser Institute, the Vancouver Sun said that the trade minister “appeared amused at the diplomatic necessity of avoiding the term “free trade” when negotiating with the Europeans”. This from a government that comes in the House and waves the flag of free trade and says all is wonderful. Yet when the minister goes to Europe, we have to call it a “comprehensive economic trade agreement”. Why is that?

If the government is certain that free trade is the be-all and end-all, then why can't the minister go to Europe and say that, although it might not translate well into French, German, or Belgian, the bottom line is that free trade is wonderful and we should simply call it what it is. Maybe it is because the Europeans do not agree that free trade is the be-all and end-all, and they want to talk about something else instead. This raises an interesting question. If this is the case for the bigger group, why not for those elsewhere?

As we look at the free trade policy, we see, starting in 1995, the gutting of manufacturing in the heartland of this country. Anyone who does not believe it should come to the auto sector today. St. Catharines had 11,000 workers in 1993; now it has 1,800. Where did those jobs go? The vast majority went to Mexico. In 1990, General Motors employed about 2,500 workers in Mexico. By the late nineties, there were some 40,000. There were less than 20,000 in Canada. It used to be the reverse.

When we opened up free trade in the North American Free Trade Agreement, we saw an outpouring of manufacturing jobs by multinationals in Ontario and Quebec. Those of us who live there, who represented workers, and who represent workers today have continued to see it. Whether it is the manufacturing of automobiles, steel, or chemicals, that is the way free trade has been for workers. If they have kept their jobs, they have seen their wages decline. They are told they must compete with Colombians, Panamanians, Mexicans, and everywhere else that fell under free trade. Companies told workers that if they could not compete with them, their jobs would be moved.

In 2008, just prior to the last federal election, a John Deere subsidiary went to workers during bargaining and said they had to deal with free trade. I know this to be true, because it is my union that represents those workers.

The company told those workers that they needed to understand that it could be moved to the States or Mexico. The subsidiary told the workers that they had to bargain a collective agreement that showed an understanding of free trade.

The Canadian Auto Workers is a responsible union. My brother from Quebec knows this; he is a Quebec director. He knows how responsible that union is.

In 2007, we bargained a responsible agreement with John Deere that said we would protect those workers. We would make sure they were not affected by free trade and that they had offsets for the company.

What did the company do in 2008? The company closed the plant, moved to the United States and Mexico, and destroyed 800 families. What did the company get in that one year period? It managed to pay lower wages, lower pensions, lower benefits. They got a cut rate for a year and then they deserted the community and the workers.

We saw the same thing at Atlas. We saw the same thing when it came to UCAR. We saw it right across the manufacturing heartland of this country.

Free trade does not work for workers, period. It does work for some folks who bleed workers dry and then discard them.

The most recent example of how free trade works is J.M. Smucker's, a big multinational company out of the United States. It just closed.

Those who like Bick's Pickles should know that as of next year a Canadian-made Bick's pickle will not be available. The plant will be closed in 2011. What will that mean for 150 workers at Bick's? It means they will have no job. What will this mean to the hundreds of farmers in southern Ontario who supply the ingredients for these pickles: the cucumbers, the tomatoes, the onions, the cauliflower? It means they will have no market for their goods. What will they do? I guess my friends on the other side will tell them that it was free trade and it was good for them.

As we move products to free trade regimes that do not have the same food inspection standards, will we know what we are buying? The CFIA's audit says we will not know what we are getting, because there is no common standard of inspection from country to country. We have equivalency inspections with a few countries in four significant areas, but pickles is not one of them.

For those who enjoy the Bick's Pickle brand, after November 2011, I would suggest they check the label. The ingredients will not be Canadian. I would suggest checking where they come from, because they might not have gone through the same inspection equivalency. That is shameful, but that is what free trade gives us.

Is that really what Canadians are asking for? In my constituency, the answer is a resounding no.

Workers get the message on free trade. They are either working for less than they did before or they do not have a job at all.

The Conservatives keep foisting this red-blue alliance on the workers of this country. The whole thrust is that free trade is good for them, when the evidence clearly demonstrates that it is not. They are worse off than they were in 1995. It is an abomination. I do not understand how anyone can stand up and try to tell us that things are better, when those of us who represent workers know that it is not true.

Why do we do this? I am not sure. I have sat on the international trade committee for the best part of a year, and I have yet to hear a compelling argument, unless we are talking about protecting the wealthiest folks in this country and allowing big corporations to do whatever they want. If that is the argument, fine. I understand that, because it works for them.

Free trade clearly works for large multinational corporations. It works for those who service them, like trade lawyers and accountants. Large corporations need a support system to keep them alive. Ultimately, those businesses are doing okay. But the workers inside those businesses are not doing well.

So in this whole sense of keeping on doing the same old, same old, one would have thought that after we got beat up on chapter 11 from a number of places we would want to strike that out. But, no, we keep leaving it in there, the old chapter 11 under NAFTA, not chapter 11 necessarily in this agreement, not the same chapter but basically the same deal. So we can have a company such as AbitibiBowater that sues us for 130 million bucks and we give it to them. Ultimately, that is what we end up with.

Let me just give folks some background about how I used to bargain agreements and what it means when we have a side deal. When the employer and the bargaining unit sit down, the reason they do a side deal is that they actually do not want folks to find it well. That is really what it is about. That is why we do a side deal, because if we were really serious about making sure it was important to us, it would be in the main body of the agreement. That is where the important stuff is, between the first page and the last page, not stuck on the back or stuck off to the side.

Yet, again, even though we had this debate with the free trade agreement between Colombia and Canada on the importance of these international agreements for the environment and with the international labour organizations about labour, as much as our entreaty to the government was that these were hugely important and they should be back in the centre of the agreement, what happened this time? They were off to the side again, with no sense that maybe it was really important and it could be put inside the agreement, built inside. Clearly they do not believe that they are important enough to include in the agreement.

I know some folks will say that it does not really matter because they are there. It does matter. That is why we do the things we do, that is why we include things in a certain order, that is why we have definitions, that is why we have collective bargaining, that is why we do collective agreements, or that is why we do contracts. Lawyers who do them will tell us that it is important where we place them.

What do we see inside the labour agreement? We actually see the ability of the corporation to get arbitration through the Patent Act. However, through the labour agreement, which is a side deal, if workers in Panama want to go to arbitration, they cannot. Think about that. As a worker in Panama, if one cannot get to arbitration, why not? It is a fundamental right, it seems. That is something that we ought to do. Yet we are still not encouraging them to follow through so workers can actually get to a place where they can perhaps seek some form of redress, some form of justice.

If that is the case, why would we not make sure that those side agreements on the environment and on labour are struck right in the middle? Fundamentally, why do we not just simply have a debate about trade? Maybe if we did that we might find some sort of an agreement, not just with the red-blue alliance but perhaps all the way through with a multicoloured approach.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

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 Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, Government Policies; the hon. member for Vancouver Quadra, Offshore Drilling.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have been up a couple of times and have gone on about the New Democrats always saying the same things. I do not want to always say the same things, but I will perhaps just make a comment.

One of the things in my riding of Crowfoot that has been always impressed upon me, especially in the agricultural sector, is that we do not want to rely just on a few countries. We especially understand this with beef. We understand it with many of our grains and oilseeds, and pulse crops as well. We cannot just rely on one big neighbour, one big country that is a trading partner with us. We have to continue to look beyond the United States, even beyond China, and attract business of some of these smaller countries.

Earlier, one of the NDP members asked why we were spending our time with small countries. The answer is that we want to build trade with every country. We want to build trade with these countries and have side agreements where we move them forward in environment and in labour.

In this bill we are going to see many advantages for Canadian farmers. Our free trade agreements are going to be put in place and will benefit Canadians, first and foremost. In terms of the pulse industry, for Saskatchewan, which used to be a hotbed of New Democratic Party members, this would open the market, big time, for pulse crops into Panama, as it would Colombia and others.

Again, I simply want to say that agriculture is critical to our economy. It gives us another opportunity to get some of our good products into Panama.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I understand what the member for Crowfoot says when it comes to agriculture. I live in the middle of the Niagara Peninsula and residents know all about agriculture, albeit a different kind. It is one of the greatest tender fruit growing places, I would say, in the world and what has happened? Free trade closed CanGro. Will there be canned peaches in this country anymore? No. Will there be canned pears? No.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Crowfoot, AB

What about the wine industry?

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, the wine industry is doing remarkably well, but can people have peaches on their ice cream when all they grow is wine grapes? I guess that is the question I would ask the hon. member.

The bottom line is free trade took the cannery away. It is not that we could not grow the best peaches, pears or cherries in the world. We can do that. Free trade basically took that cannery away, the last one east of the Rocky Mountains. It is gone.

My friend from Crowfoot will understand, as he lives among farmers. I am not sure if he is a farmer himself, but he will know that when there is no market, it gets pulled out. That is what happened. The week after CanGro left, the peach trees were out of the ground, because they produce a canning peach, not a fresh peach.

Ultimately, at the end of the day, what does a farmer do? I agree that farmers need markets. The farmers in Niagara need markets and we need to find a way to do it, but it does not always mean that we can do it just through free trade. There are others way to do it and I would encourage the member to support that.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, looking at farmers and the effect that free trade has had on some of our farming sectors as was just pointed out, in British Columbia apple and cherry growers often cannot make ends meet because, as a result of free trade, there are subsidized apples and cherries coming in from Washington state. I am wondering whether there are going to be any ramifications for the farmers of Panama, for example.

I have some points before me with regard to the Canada-European free trade agreement. We see that this agreement will basically colonize Canada for the global corporations. Farmers' ability to save, reuse, exchange and sell seed will be destroyed. Dairy, poultry and egg supply management and the Canadian Wheat Board will be at risk. We see that using farm-saved seed could cost the farmer his or her farm, that this agreement with Europe will enable corporations to obtain the precautionary judicial seizure of infringing property, land, equipment and bank accounts for alleged violation of intellectual property rights. The agreement will prohibit subnational governments from giving local contracts.

Does my hon. colleague see this kind of negative spinoff effect on countries that we deal with, when we try to impose our free trade on them?