Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by talking about the NDP approach to fair trade issues. As members know, we have come forward in the House for years and offered some of the best existing practices on trading issues around the world. We have come into the House and talked about the binding social obligations of Mercosur, for example, by social democratic countries in South America that have come together and put in place binding social obligations to reduce poverty. When we have raised that in the House, the Conservatives, not wanting to have anything to do with any sort of progressive fair trade agreement, have always said no. We have brought forward the progressive and binding human rights components that the European Union signed with countries outside of the European Union, again a product of a strong social democratic practice and principles, to make sure that those trade agreements actually include binding human rights obligations. The Conservatives and the Liberals have said they do not want any part of that.
We have pointed to some of the social democratic innovations. Australia, for example, has said that it would not put in place investor-state provisions because these override democratically elected governments. In an almost Flintstonian approach to trade taking us back centuries, the Conservative government continues to say, “Even though we're the only country in the world with these right wing investor-state provisions, we're going to keep them, Fred Flintstone. We're just going to keep pushing these bad components, primitive components, that every other country has moved away from, including the United States”. After the United States signed the NAFTA, it moved away from the investor-state provisions which these Conservatives hold so dear. We have offered that innovation and the Conservatives again have consistently said no.
We have offered all of these progressive fair trade approaches. These are the kind of trade agreements that are actually catching fire around the world, but every single time the Conservatives have said no. They have never seen a progressive fair trade agreement they cannot say no to every single time.
We have offered examples like the auto pact that we strongly supported in the past, a pact that actually helped to sustain and build up our automotive sector. The Conservatives say no to that type of progressive fair trade agreement. The Conservatives have never seen a fair trade agreement they like. They have never wanted to move forward with any type of progressive legislation on trade. They continue with their Fred Flintstone approach to trade with an antiquated, 30-year old infrastructure and template coming out DFAIT.
Conservative members might say that although it is antiquated and is Fred Flintstonian, it creates jobs. Let us look at the facts. Let us look at the impact of this type of Conservative approach to trade over the last few years. I know members are aware that we have the worst, the most horrendous, merchandise deficit in our history in this country. That means we are not exporting manufactured goods any more but importing them. We are creating jobs in other countries of course, but the result in this country has been a hemorrhaging of manufacturing jobs, good family-sustaining jobs, which used to sustain families right across this country. Nearly half a million manufacturing jobs are gone because of the government.
The government might say that it is exporting natural resources and, of course, the jobs go with them hand over fist. However, if we look at the overall balance, the current account balance of Canada's balance of payments, it is at its most horrendous deficit in Canadian history too. Even there we see a massive failure by this government to actually manage trading relationships in such a way that we would actually create jobs in Canada.
We have biggest most horrendous merchandise deficit and the biggest and most horrendous current account deficit in our balance of payments. Those facts speaks for themselves. There is not a single Conservative who is able to stand up and address that. It is a massive failure. The Conservatives just have to wave the white towel and say they have failed. I can see some of them smiling and nodding: they understand they have failed on this issue.
What has been the result? Of course, we have seen that hemorrhaging of manufacturing jobs. What has replaced them? I will come back to the Conservatives' bogus job figures in a moment, but when we actually look at what they have done to the economy, they have lost jobs, and the jobs they have created have been part time and temporary. Most tragically, the jobs the government has managed to create pay on average $10,000 a year less than the jobs they have lost.
After six years in power, we have seen the Conservatives attempt to bring forward a very misguided and antiquated template dating back to another century and there has been a lack of follow-up. From that they have managed to create an economy where we are throwing the good jobs away and, at best, getting part-time and temporary jobs paying $10,000 a year less.
What has the impact been for the average Canadian family?
I know that members and the people listening to this debate are aware that the average Canadian family over the last year has lost about 2% in real wages. Real wages have been tumbling. The decline has been serious and has had an impact not only on families but also on small- and medium-size businesses across communities and, as a result, on whole regions and provinces. It has an impact right across this country. We are looking at a 2% real wage fall for our middle class and hard pressed, poor Canadian families. We are seeing Canadians living through a substantial problem.
Tragically, the result is that Canadian families across this country from coast to coast to coast are now living with a record level of debt like we have never seen before in Canadian history. This level of debt has a stupefyingly significant impact on the average Canadian family. Families are already earning less and less because of some deliberate economic and trade policies of the government, and because of that level of debt, families are being more and more constrained.
These are the economic results we have to look at when we talk about what the government has done after six years in power. The results are the worst merchandise deficit in our history, the worst current account deficit in our balance of payments in our nation's history, and the worst level of indebtedness in our nation's history. That is Conservative economics.
Now the Conservatives will say they have created some jobs. Their jobs poor quality, part-time jobs, but they say they have created those jobs nonetheless. However, the reality according Statistics Canada data is that since May 2008, the government has actually created a quarter of a million jobs short of the level required just to maintain the same percentage of the labour force employed. Some 450,000 Canadians have come onto the labour market since May 2008, and only 200,000 of them have found work. That was even before we entered the catastrophic last six months under the current government.
We have seen job closures, factory closures. We have seen White Birch Paper, Electro Motive Diesel, and a whole litany of closed manufacturing facilities. At the same time, we have seen 60,000 full-time jobs evaporate, that is, 60,000 families losing a breadwinner. That is the record of the Conservative government.
The Conservatives say that their trade policy accentuates job creation, that somehow, magically, by signing these trade agreements, it will lead to job creation. However, in virtually every case where Canada has signed a trade agreement under the Conservatives, the exports to those markets have fallen after the agreements were signed.
There is only one exception and that is Mexico. I will not return to what my colleague from Surrey North mentioned, the catastrophic meltdown in rural Mexico that has led to ongoing drug wars that have killed tens of thousands of people. That in part has been due to the economic policies of the Mexican government, as well as the removal of the tariffs that has destroyed much of rural agriculture in Mexico.
What we see in every case is a fall in exports to those markets, in real terms, which Conservatives do not use when they bring out the figures. Then, when they have put together such a catastrophic list of trade deals, where in virtually every case our exports to those markets goes down, what are the Conservatives doing wrong, aside from the Fred Flintstonian approach to trade templates from 30 years ago, stuff that has been disregarded by most of the progressive world? The other aspect is Conservatives simply do not walk the talk on providing support for export industries.
On research and development, we have the worst level of public investment among industrialized countries, the worst level of patent development among industrialized countries, the second worst level of Ph.D. development among industrialized countries. The reality is, even before we get to the research and manufacturing capacity, when we look at what Conservatives put out there in exports, it is tiny. It is pennies compared to what our major competitors are putting out to support product promotion and product support in those export markets. Australia spends half a billion dollars. Canada spends $13 million.
I have met trade commissioners, as I have travelled around the world with the trade committee and other committees, who do not even have the budget to buy a cup of coffee for a potential client of Canadian goods and services. The Conservatives have simply not walked the talk. They have starved that needed support for export industries for product promotion.
This brings us to Panama. The Conservatives failed on the trade strategy. They have not walked the talk on actually providing support for our export industries. For the third time they bring forward a bill, Bill C-24, on an agreement with Panama.
What is the problem with an agreement with Panama? We talked about this earlier. The state department in the United States has very clearly declared that Panama is one of the worst countries in the world for the money laundering that comes from illegal drug activity.
The government does not think about the impacts. It never does. There is never an in-depth study of the impact of signing a trade agreement with any country, which is part of the Fred Flintstonian approach of the Conservative government on trade issues. It does not do an evaluation before it enters into a trade agreement and it does not do an evaluation afterward. In fact, those figures I cited, in real terms, about export development did not even come from DFAIT. We had to get those figures ourselves. Nobody on the Conservative side of the House is even monitoring what happens after a trade agreement is signed.
What we have is an agreement that the government has signed, in complete denial of what is a fundamental problem with Panama, and that is the fact that Panama does drug money laundering on a significant and ongoing massive scale. It has been cited by a number of organizations, the IRS in the United States, the U.S. State Department and the OECD, all of which have said that this is a tax haven for drug money, for illegal drug gangs in Colombia and Mexico.
The government, so panicked by its lack of economic performance, throws this agreement onto the floor of the House and does not even have the decency to do its due diligence before it gives it to members of Parliament to evaluate.
On this side of the House, the NDP caucus does thorough evaluations. We read through the bills. We take the government at its word and read every word to find out what the actual impacts are. Since the government does not do any due diligence and has no evaluation of what the impacts of the agreement are, we have to surmise and look at the impacts of the agreement.
Very clearly, from the outset when the government put forward this idea, we said that there was no way we should sign a trade agreement with Panama unless there was a solid and binding tax information exchange agreement in place. In a very real sense, we should not be importing from Panama the drug money, money laundering that takes place in Panamanian financial institutions. We said that very clearly when the government talked about negotiating an agreement. We said from the very outset that we needed a tax information exchange agreement.
To its credit, the government sent a letter to the Panamanian government. In the letter, the government said that it thought the Panamanians should try to close out the drug money, money laundering. It said that tentatively. The member for Prince Albert said earlier that the Conservatives did not want to lecture to drug gangs. I am sorry but on this side of the House we believe that when there are drug gangs involved, we should be cracking down on them. We should be more than lecturing, but the Conservatives may disagree.
We are talking about pretty fundamental economic policy but, more important, it is a reflection of Canadian values. It is also this idea which, on our side of the House, is something we take very seriously. We believe in walking the talk. When we talk about economic development, we believe in putting in place the mechanisms so Canada can grow and prosper economically. When we talk about fighting drug gangs, we do not say that we will try to fight the drug gangs in Canada, but that it is okay if they are in Panama laundering money and then sign a trade agreement that has no provisions to stop that money laundering in Panama from coming to Canada. We believe in walking the talk and being consistent.
We said that the tax information exchange agreement needed to be signed. We made that very clear from the beginning.
We heard testimony from a wide variety of people who came to the trade committee to talk about the trade agreement. It is important for members of the House, particularly on the Conservative side, to understand what the witnesses said about this agreement and the advisability of signing an agreement without any mechanisms to prevent money laundering.
Mr. Todd Tucker, who is the research director for Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch said:
—Panama is one of the world's worst tax havens. It is home to an estimated 400,000 corporations, including offshore corporations and multinational subsidiaries....According to the OECD, the Panamanian government has little to no legal authority to ascertain key information about these offshore corporations, such as their ownership. Panama's financial secrecy practices also make it a major site for money laundering from places throughout the world. According to the U.S. State Department, major Colombian and Mexican drug cartels, as well as Colombian illegal armed groups, use Panama for drug trafficking and money laundering purposes. The funds generated from illegal activity are susceptible to being laundered through Panamanian banks, real estate developments, and more.
As well, Dr. Teresa Healy, the senior researcher from the social and economic policy department at the Canadian Labour Congress, talked about the context of labour rights currently in Panama. She said:
In response to the international perception that Panamanian labour laws were rigid and a disincentive to foreign investment...[there were] unilateral changes to labour law...from workers, it allowed employers to fire striking workers and replace them with strike-breakers, it criminalized street blockades, and it protected police from prosecution. The severity of this attack on labour rights was met with strikes and demonstrations. The police were exceedingly harsh in their response.
She was talking in 2010. She went on to say, “At least six people were killed, protesters were seriously injured, and many were blinded by tear gas and police violence”.
These are the kinds of issues that were brought forward to the trade committee, concerns that were raised about Bill C-24.
On the other side of the House, Conservatives say that there are export markets to be had. However, the reality is when we look at the practices and we look at the record of the government, in every case, save one and that case over the past few years was one that was not signed by the Conservative government, following the signing of those agreements, we have seen a decline in our export markets.
We are facing a serious situation: a decline in manufacturing capacity, a decline in jobs, a reduction in real income and a profound level of indebtedness in our country that we have never seen before. We need a fresh, new approach on trade, not a Fred Flintstonian approach from 30 years ago that has clearly failed. A new NDP approach on trade could really bring jobs to Canada and could bring a new prosperity to our country.