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House of Commons Hansard #88 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was liberal.

Topics

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I rise again to speak to this particular bill, which now has a new title and a new time in the House of Commons. Through the last Parliament we debated the bill at length because we had incredible concerns about our ability to understand what we were doing with our free trade deals across the world. We understand the difference between free trade and fair trade, but we want to know what the government stands for when it makes these types of arrangements with these countries and what drives it forward.

We agree that certain products are going to be easier to move into Panama. That is fine, but do we weaken our integrity in doing so? Do we weaken the direction our country can move in? Do we weaken the state of the world when we make deals that are unsatisfactory? Is that what we accomplish when we reach a free trade deal with Panama, a country dedicated to money laundering and tax evasion? Panama has so many corporations listed there, not because they do any work there but because they take advantage of the very lax practices there. Not only are the practices lax there, but they actually promote tax evasion and money laundering as a basis of industry.

Here we are, entering into a relationship with a country that has those principles and values. Does it bring us down to that level? By going along with these types of relationships, does it mean that we then lower the bar as far as our ability to enhance our prosperity is concerned? Is that what we are doing? Are those the trade principles of the Conservative government? That is our question, and I think it is a fair question.

I would welcome a debate in the House on trade, generally. We see that the government is engaged in trade discussions with other countries. We are all concerned with what the Prime Minister's visit to China means for our country and our relationships. Before the Prime Minister left for China, I remember his interview with Peter Mansbridge on CBC Television, in which he stated unequivocally that our energy policy is made by the free market and that we are an energy exporting country. He was saying that our exports are determined by the free market. That is his point of view. Two weeks later he was off to China, where he set up a deal to move energy, in a certain fashion, to the Chinese. We now see that the government, in its relationship with China, has agreed to terms and conditions regarding the environment and the processing of energy products with China. Those do not strike me as part of the free market, but rather an expression of Canada's need to enter into various relationships with a command economy like China's.

Do I appreciate those relationships? No, I do not, because I think the Prime Minister should have come back to Canada and set up a national energy strategy in which we could actually determine the value of the relationships we are establishing in exporting our products to countries like China. When we do export raw bitumen to China, as is proposed for the Gateway pipeline, we will become a supply link in a chain that can only be filled with that product moving to China for upgrading there. That is pretty clear. At the same time, interestingly enough, we have struck a deal to liquefy natural gas in Kitimat. Natural gas will be shipped over to China where it will be used to upgrade the same bitumen.

In reality, we are taking two energy products that we can use in Canada to increase the prosperity of our economy and do so in an environmentally correct fashion, and yet are moving them over to another country. That is our trade policy. That policy has an impact on billions of dollars of trade.

How does that fit with a free trade agreement with Panama?

That is my point, because we do not have any definition of what the government wants to accomplish with trade. What we have, as the Prime Minister said, is an ideological commitment to a free market. However, that is seriously disengaged from the reality of many of the products we are selling. I believe we are the only energy exporting country in the world that does not have a direct say on those energy exports. Now we have to take it on faith, and by confusion, and have to fill that role anyway.

We cannot be honest with ourselves and look at how the world is actually developing. It is not developing in the direction that we thought it would through the 1990s and the last decade when free trade was the mantra. No, in an era of increasing population and declining resources, command economies are taking over. We are starting to see that is the way of the world now. It is in this context that Canada, with its natural resources and riches, which we should be preserving for our grandchildren, is making decisions that are not correct.

When we come back to the free trade agreement between Canada and the Republic of Panama, we have to ask where the logic of it is. How does it work? Is it really a free trade agreement or is it a free investment deal? Is this really about Canadian multinational companies that want to take their profits out of Canada and invest them in things like the Panama Canal? Is that what this is really about? Is that the underlying principle that we are dealing with? We do not know because the Conservative government very rarely, if ever, presents principles and directions so that we can understand the purpose behind its actions.

When we look at these free trade deals, we have to be able to say to ourselves that, yes, we have followed to principles regarding non-criminal activity in our marketplace. We espouse the need to close down tax loopholes that have starved governments around the world from their rightful share of the riches that are made by corporations. These are things that we espouse, yet at the same time we are quite willing to give them up because some Canadian companies could perhaps invest in the expansion of the Panama Canal, then take those profit and give them to their shareholders around the world.

When we talk about free trade deals, we have to take them in the context of what the world is doing. The world is changing quickly in this new era, in which command economies will play a larger and larger role. We understand that and have addressed it.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Kenora Ontario

Conservative

Greg Rickford ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, at the very end of the member's intervention he commented on the context.

Here is the context: the people of Northwest Territories, who make significant contributions to our supply chain in a number of important areas, are involved as a part of many, if not all, free trade agreements, including with Panama. I wonder if the member can tell us what kinds of products are involved in the Panama free trade agreement.

Why is he not standing up for the interests of the great folks up in the territories who want to contribute to this and produce goods for a number of countries, including Panama, where there are exciting economic opportunities for them and that country?

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, that is a bit of a strange question, but I will try to answer it the best way I can because I appreciate my colleague's concern about the Northwest Territories. In the Northwest Territories right now, our people have all agreed to build the natural gas pipeline. That pipeline would supply the oil sands with needed natural gas to perhaps upgrade bitumen to a synthetic oil.

By aiming to put a million barrels a day across the border with the Keystone pipeline and 800,000 barrels a day out the door from Kitimat in northern B.C., we are basically saying to the Northwest Territories that we do not want to develop its natural gas now because we are going to send this product, unprocessed, to other countries where they can develop their natural gas supplies. In fact, we are going to take the natural gas from northern B.C. and liquefy it at a cost of about 35% of that energy and we are going to send it to China where the processing can be done.

Where does that leave the Northwest Territories in this whole equation?

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I can assure the House that my colleague speaks not only highly of the Northwest Territories but that he is also a very hard-working member of Parliament for the north.

Trade deals are a reality, as we live in a global society. However, are the bases of these trade deals fair, equitable and sustainable? We know for a fact that Panama has been used as a money laundering state by drug cartels from Mexico, Colombia and other parts of South America.

I am very concerned about the danger of some of the money being laundered through Panama being invested in products or funnelled to Canada. Does the member share those concerns?

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, it is a very good point that my colleague makes. What happens to money laundered in Panama when there are many corporations that have registered in Panama to take advantage of a situation where money can be cheap? When money has to be laundered, there is an opportunity for other companies to pick it up. The more relationships we set up with Panama, the more we legitimize the work that is going on between our corporations in Panama and Canadians. The more we say that the free flow of money between Canada and Panama is going to be unhindered, the more we are saying we support this process. That is the reality of it and it really does not matter what the Conservatives say: reality is reality.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for this opportunity to enter the debate on Bill C-24. I thank my colleague for Western Arctic for very capably articulating many of the positions of the NDP and the reservations we have with this bill. I will do my best not to repeat the many legitimate points my colleague made.

However, I will say with some frustration that I have been tracking and following this debate since August 11, 2009. when the government, unilaterally and without consultation from Parliament, concluded its negotiations. I cannot criticize this, as governments do have the right to enter into free trade agreements. However, they then need to ratify them with the Parliament of Canada where the legitimate concerns that the parties may have on behalf of our representatives can be made known. In any serious consultation, there should be some accommodation of the legitimate concerns the other parties brought forward in the context of the free trade agreements entered into.

I raise this only because it has been a constant source of frustration to us that the consultation has not been meaningful or robust and it does not, by any stretch of the imagination, even meet the definition of true consultation if the government side has not accommodated at least some of the legitimate concerns brought forward. I would refer members to recent Supreme Court decisions that dealt with the issue of what constitutes meaningful consultation.

I do not think, by any stretch of the imagination, we can conclude that meaningful consultation took place, because not one of the amendments brought forward by the official opposition were entertained or allowed by the ruling party, even though some of the concerns brought forward would meet the nod test from the general public. A lot of Canadians would be upset to learn that we are entering into this trade agreement with a country like Panama without taking steps and measures to ensure that Panama is worthy of a free trade agreement with Canada.

I do not use that word lightly. Trade with Canada is a privilege, not a right. I am the first one to admit that free trade can help elevate the standards of both parties to a trade agreement. We do not look for mirror image countries. This is not some kind of vanity exercise where we will only trade with countries that are just like us, but surely they must meet some minimum ethical, labour and environmental standards. For Heaven's sake, they should not be the tax haven of choice and the money laundering country of choice for the international drug cartel. Why would we reward bad behaviour?

It comes to mind that Panama is probably dining out on the fact that it has achieved a good housekeeping seal of approval by Canada which has seen fit to enter into a trade agreement with it. It says that maybe all the accusations of being the drug laundering capital of Central America and South America cannot be true because otherwise a nice country like Canada would not sign the agreement with it.

I am here to say that the world is not satisfied that Panama has taken corrective action. It is not a responsible actor in the international financial community. The president of France said so as recently as November 5, 2011. He cited a number of countries that should be shunned by the international community. Guess what countries are on that list? They include Antigua, Barbuda, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Botswana, Brunei, Panama, Uruguay and Venuatu. President Sarkozy threatened that the countries that remain tax havens will be shunned by the international community. How does that jibe with us having this debate today and about to enter into a process that legitimizes and validates the behaviour and past practices of that country.

International tax havens are a scourge on the international financial world and they should be stamped out. They should not be allowed. I go to chartered accountants' websites sometimes to track what is being pushed around here. They call it “tax motivated expatriation”. That is the nice sanitary term for what I call “sleazy tax cheating loopholes” that are ubiquitous among a certain financial class of people.

The OECD has a grey list. Panama was removed from the grey list. It reads:

Panama today moved to the OECD’s list of jurisdictions considered to have substantially implemented the standard for exchange of information when it signed a tax information exchange agreement with France. This brings Panama’s total agreements to the critical 12 that meet the international standard.

Since then, it was when Mr. Sarkozy, in a speech made at the G20 conference in Cannes, named the Caribbean countries and eight others, including Panama, as countries that remain tax havens and should be shunned by the international community.

What is this almost obsession to sign as many of these trade agreements with as many countries as humanly possible without even doing the due diligence, the scrutiny and the oversight that one would expect? These are binding agreements.

The amendments that my colleague brought forward, the terms and conditions under which the government could garner NDP support for these, were reasonable ones that I think would meet the nod test from almost all ordinary Canadians. One was that we address the status of labour rights in Panama. If it is our goal to use our trade relationships as an objective to elevate the standard of living conditions for the trading partners with which we sign these agreements, why do we need to have a side agreement on labour rights that is virtually unenforceable? Why is that not part of the substance of the text of the actual agreement?

Environmental concerns are something that the NDP always wants to see addressed. We should be setting the industry standard, not tacitly endorsing the bad practices of other countries by entering into these legitimizing trade agreements.

There has not been a business case made on how this is categorically in the best interests of a majority of Canadians. Of course we want trade. We are a trading nation and we do rely on trade. We are blessed with natural resources. We export, we extract and export. However, some of us would say that current and recent past practices would indicate a lack of commitment and perhaps a disturbing trend of not putting enough emphasis on value adding our resources before they are exported from this country.

I will give one example as it relates to my own riding of Winnipeg Centre. I used to have 43 garment manufacturers in my riding, the largest of which had 1,800 employees at its peak. Many of them had 300, 400 and 500 employees. Some were small boutique custom made shops. We are now down to nine. I am talking about the period of time that I have been a member of Parliament, from 1997 to today. It went from 43 to 9, 10,000 to 12,000 employees, just in my riding, and that does not include Winnipeg North where my colleague used to have garment manufacturers.

We decided to cut that sector loose. Somebody made a conscious decision to stop the duty remissions and all the efforts we made to keep manufacturing in Canada. Somebody turned a blind eye to the trade provisions. When China was invited into the WTO, the partners to the WTO could have signed phase-in agreements but Canada chose not to.

Therefore, we got the 200% and 300% impact all in one year. Countries like the United States had a 10-year phase-in at 5% to 10% a year. For Canada, it was all or nothing and, believe me, that was the death knell of the garment industry in my city. To whose benefit was that? Those were great entry level gateway jobs, often for new Canadians. They were not big paying jobs but they were good unionized jobs with a day care centre, a pension plan and a dental plan, and they are all gone. The government in its wisdom watched them fly out the window and did not lift a finger to save them. That is the same attitude that we see toward these trade agreements. The government is being irresponsible.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Kenora Ontario

Conservative

Greg Rickford ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, as usual, the member's use of the English language and the emphasis he puts on it is sometimes inspiring and sometimes not so inspiring.

The member said that there was no business case for the Panama free trade agreement. However, let us look at Manitoba with its precious stones and metals, oilseeds, cereals and pork. Farmers working in the province of Manitoba want their member of Parliament to stand up in this place and explain to them why he cannot support an agreement that would do so much for the great people of Manitoba, my next door neighbours, “Mantarians” we call ourselves collectively. The member should stand up for what is right in Manitoba and Mantario. Why will he not do that?

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, the member from Mantario, for that remark and for the backhanded compliment about my oratory.

Since he raised agriculture, I will point out that the Conservative government just systematically dismantled the most effective export instrument that the Canadian agricultural sector has ever known, the largest and most successful grain marketing company in the world, a $7 billion a year corporation. The Conservative government just legislated it out of business. That was how we used to export the product of the prairie region, 20 million tonnes a year, consistently providing the best rate of return ever. We have the evidence, the Conservatives have none. They were on some ideological crusade because they thought it was Communism or something. When prairie farmers united together to act in their own best interests, the Conservatives systematically destroyed the largest, most effective and most successful grain marketing company in the world.

Canadian farmers will still export their grains and their products but we do not need to do a deal with drug dealers to sell our products. If we want the free movement of goods and services, then we should trade things that are legal, not deal with some narcoeconomy of money launderers and dope dealers.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I do not blame the member for Winnipeg Centre for getting a little agitated at that last question from the member for Kenora.

I have had the opportunity to work with the member for Winnipeg Centre and I saw how he stood up for farmers in western Canada and others in the Canadian Wheat Board fight. However, the one thing I did not see were the backbenchers on that side who come from Western Canada stand up. They did not allow democracy to flourish. They would not allow a vote. They broke the law in order to implement their ideological position.

My question for the member on the Canada-Panama trade agreement is--

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There are some things that we can let pass in the House, and the member for Malpeque has a lot of liberalism in the House, but he just stated that the Conservative government broke the law. He knows very well that the court decision that just came down about 10 days ago or less said that the Conservative government acted in full respect of the law in all of the legislation and everything that pertained to it.

The member should correct himself.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, one of the big areas in the Panama trade agreement is the reconstruction of the Panama Canal to allow super Panamanian vessels to go through it. The government has not informed us on this issue but the Panama Canal authority gives preference to Panama nationals and maybe even to the United States in this area.

Does my colleague see that as a concern?

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I absolutely do see that as a concern. I think this might be a half-baked document that we are dealing with. If we have not gone to the greatest length possible to ensure the best advantage to our country and not just to benefit others in this, then why are we in such a rush to do it? We believe that fair trade should be the overarching principle and not just an afterthought of these negotiations.

We should not need to debate these things in the House. Eleven legitimate amendments were put forward at committee and not one was accommodated by the other side. Members cannot tell me that none of our international trade critic's comments had any merit whatsoever. That is not the spirit of open and honest debate and consultation. That is ramming something through for some other vested interest, not the best interests of Canadians and Canadian industry.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is always better to follow the member for Winnipeg Centre because then everybody on the other side of the House is awake and I appreciate that.

I get nervous when I read about free trade deals with countries like Panama. I come from a labour background, working for trade unions. I know when we reach agreements with other countries that have very poor labour relations records and very low wages, generally Canadians suffer. Canadian workers suffer, unionized or not, because we are now trying to enter into a race to the bottom. That nervousness is part of what drives me to want to speak to this bill.

The agreement with Panama does not correct the very shoddy state of the labour relations in Panama. We are not dealing with a country on an even footing. I appreciate the comment of my friend from Winnipeg Centre, that we do not always want to be on an even footing. We want to have agreements with countries regardless of whether they are our equals because we hope that our entering into these agreements will raise everyone's standard of living in both countries.

However, the experience I personally have had is that when there is a low-wage jurisdiction to send jobs to and there is nothing to prevent the products or services that come from that low-wage jurisdiction, Canadian corporations, even big multinational corporations based in Canada, are quick to send those jobs to those other countries, thus hurting Canadian workers. Even in knowledge-based industries, film and television production and in the newspaper business, we have seen jobs move out of Canada into low-wage jurisdictions like Panama because there is nothing the government has done to prevent it. There is no barrier whatsoever. With this bill, we would create even fewer barriers to a low-wage jurisdiction and one that has very little, if any, labour protections for organized labour in that country.

We spent quite a bit of time debating Bill C-10, which had in it some raising of the bar for people who were involved in drug trafficking, with a mandatory minimum five-year sentence those people. Even if that person is growing as few as six pot plants to alleviate symptoms from multiple sclerosis, he or she might go to jail for five years. The good news in that case is that person would not stay in jail for five years because he or she would likely be dead before that.

The problem is we are about to enter into an agreement with a country with a large part of its economic basis being the drug trade. How is it that we are opposed to the drug trade when it is in Canada, but we are in favour of entering into a deal with a country where probably billions of dollars, because there is no way of disclosing how much, is being laundered from the drug trade in that country? That gives me pause and it should give everyone here pause, that we should not be encouraging deals with drug dealers. That is just not on, as far as this side of the House is concerned.

There is no agreement on tax information exchange, so we do not even know the size of the problem. Both the Conservatives and the Liberals have agreed that the tax-doubling agreement is enough. It is not enough. It does not disclose any of the illegal income that is floating around in that country as a tax haven, a tax haven for drug dealers and drug cartels. We believe most of this income is from money laundering that cannot happen in Canada because we have good financial and taxation regimes that prevent it. Now we getting into bed with a country that permits it and will not even disclose it. The OECD had it on its grey list as one of the countries to not do business with, yet we are about to do that.

There are already too many drug dealers in my riding. What kind of a message does it send to those people who are doing harm to our community and our citizens when we are entering into an agreement with a country that is notorious around the world for being a haven for money laundering for drug dealers? I am sure there are a few Panamanians in my riding, although not very many. There are probably far more drug dealers.

Last summer we had the police task force on anti-violence and drugs in my riding. Our riding was showered with many more police officers over the course of the summer to try to weed out some of that drug problem. Yet we are saying that it is okay to do business with what essentially is a country that harbours and is a haven for the drug trade. That does not make sense to me and it should not make sense to my constituents either.

For example, last week I had a meeting in my riding with a bunch of youth from the York Youth Coalition. One of the young folks asked me what he should tell the kids in the riding who could not get jobs. Over the course of the past few years of trade deals all the manufacturing jobs have left the riding. In part, they have gone to the U.S. and to low-wage countries as a result of free trade deals that the government has signed with other countries. These kids who cannot get jobs, or if they do get jobs, they are for 20 hours a week at $9 or $10 an hour, discover very quickly that they can earn $300 or $400 in an hour standing on a street corner selling drugs. He asked what he should tell these kids. He said he told them that it is wrong to sell drugs, but he wanted to know what to tell them about how they could move forward in society, how they could expect to, at some, point make a living that would sustain a family when the jobs had disappeared.

As with my friend's riding of Winnipeg Centre, which had huge and burgeoning textile businesses, we used to have a litany of manufacturing that was part of Ontario's manufacturing industry, to the point where every June the manufacturers would line up in the high schools to solicit the kids graduating to come and work in their factories. The last time that happened was probably 30 years ago. Stores like Wal-Mart certainly do not line up in the high schools looking for kids. The kids come pounding on those doors looking for $10 an hour jobs. It is a very desperate situation where I am. We have only ourselves to blame as a result of some of these trade deals.

I am not saying that we, as an opposition, are opposed to anything to do with trade. That is not the case. However, we need to protect our interests. We need to protect the interests of Canadians in the deals that we do exercise with other countries. We need to protect the labour rights in those countries. We need to ensure that we are not in a huge race to the bottom in which our minimum wage will never go up because we now compete with minimum wages of $1 an hour or $1 a day, depending on the jurisdiction with which we are about to compete. There are no protections from labour unions in those same countries.

We have made proposals in the past to amend these agreements to protect the labour rights of Canadians and to protect environmental rights and they have been rejected by both the Conservatives and the Liberals. Therefore, these kinds of sensible applications need to be made to this kind of an agreement before we enter into it.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, if I understand the member correctly, he is saying that Canada should just ignore countries that have some internal problems with which they are struggling. In the case of Panama, he says that the drug industry is creating an economy there and that there is no hope for it. We should let the good folks of Panama suffer under whatever type of nasty environment is there, cut them loose and forget about them, rather than try to develop a relationship with them through trade and show them that there is another way to improve their economy, which is through good trade practices with a country like Canada. We have many things we can teach countries like Panama.

A few short years ago, Colombia was a country that no one wanted to go to. Look at Colombia now. We have a trade agreement with it. It has a burgeoning tourist industry. It has turned around because there were some people in charge of the government who said that there was a way out, that there was hope for the country and they looked for help.

Does the member, maybe just for a second, think that Panama is asking Canada to give it a hand to get out of that desperation? Is he cutting the kids in his riding loose? I do not think so.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, the issue is not that we cut these countries loose. The issue is that we insist, when we enter into negotiations, that they clean up their act, that part of the condition for Canada entering into an agreement with a country like Panama is that it prevents the money laundering that continues to go on for the drug cartels, that it enters into legislation that gives workers the right to organize and the right to have their disputes settled by arbitration.

Those are the kinds of things we should do, but for some reason, the government is opposed to those kinds of measures in these trade agreements. I think it is because they are really investor agreements and not trade agreements and the government is trying to protect the investors. I hope I am wrong.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

March 2nd, 2012 / 1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, Canada depends on international trade. We are a trading nation. Canadians share the same values in terms of wanting to do what they can to fight for issues such as human rights and basic labour standards. We do not like child labour. We want to ensure that environmental concerns are being addressed. The whole concept between sustainable development and so forth.

These are issues that are very important to us, but also we see the value in terms of international trade. There are trading countries in the world that we have concerns with today. I could cite China and many others that were very dependent on those trade links. Now we have a free trade agreement that we are supportive of in principle. We still believe we could have done more with our neighbours to the south and other nations like Korea and so forth, but we do believe in value for free trade agreements.

The NDP, to the best of my knowledge, has never voted in favour of any free trade agreement. Members are trying to make Panama look like an ugly nation when there are many positive things in Panama. Has the NDP ever voted for a free trade agreement, whether it is Panama or any other agreement that has come before the House of Commons?

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the member that we are a trading nation. One of the difficulties with the current position on trade is that we do not all live in Alberta. Therefore, we cannot all benefit by the jobs created in Alberta because we do not all live there. As the jobs disappear from Ontario, 400,000 good manufacturing jobs that disappeared since the government took office, those people are unemployed and that is a problem.

The NDP believes in trade. We know that trade is a good thing, but there have to be protections in the agreements that we sign with trading partners before we will agree, and there are none in this agreement.

Members' Access to Parliamentary PrecinctPrivilegeGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am rising on a question of privilege. I will be brief because not all the facts are in, but given the rules regarding a question of privilege, I understand it is my obligation to make you aware of circumstances at the earliest opportunity. If you wish, I will make an effort to gather the rest of the information and submit those details at the earliest possible opportunity next week.

Some of my colleagues have been experiencing various levels of obstruction from fulfilling their duties today by virtue of the extraordinary security measures on Parliament Hill. I understand the need for more security when a head of state is here, but I believe that the balance is out of whack in this case. In one case, a 15-year veteran member of Parliament who was known by a security officer was sent back to his office to get proper identification.

I raise this question in the context of the larger issue that I have tried to raise in the House of Commons before, in that it is a disadvantage to members of Parliament and I believe it can even be a matter of violating our collective privilege in that we are not masters of our own chamber but only tenants in the House of Commons. I refer to the fact that although the Speaker of the House of Commons and the Speaker of the Senate are in fact masters of the parliamentary precinct, they have delegated the authority for all the operations, maintenance and security to the Department of Public Works and Government Services and other agencies and we are not, in fact, in control of our own chamber. This, I believe, contradicts the 2000 edition of Marleau and Montpetit, page 275, chapter 7, which states:

One of the fundamental privileges of the House is to regulate its own internal affairs, holding exclusive jurisdiction over its premises and the people within.

Notwithstanding the fact that certain government departments have a role in the upkeep, such as the Department of Public Works and Government Services and Heritage Canada, it is our collective privilege to control the House and the surrounding precinct. If in fact we are only tenants in our own House of Commons, the disadvantage that members of Parliament and the NDP experienced today would suggest it is time for a tenants revolt in the House of Commons.

I refer the House to page 170 of Parliamentary Privilege in Canada by Joseph Maingot, where it is stated:

--the House of Commons is not a department of the government of Canada, but exists as a constituent element of Parliament.

It is further stated on page 170:

Each House of Parliament is entitled to the administration of affairs within its own precincts free from interference.... Control of the accommodation and services within the Parliament Buildings is therefore vested in the Speakers...on behalf of their respective Houses. Thus Public Works and Government Services and other government departments act only on the advice of officials of each House.

This came up when I tried to have the Canadian flag lowered to half-mast whenever a Canadian soldier was killed in Afghanistan. It was ruled that simple act of respect was beyond the purview of either chamber in Parliament and it was the responsibility of the Department of Public Works and Government Services to decide how and when to raise and lower the flag atop the Peace Tower in the Parliament of Canada. That struck me as absurd. Are we not masters of our own domain? Why do we have to ask a department under the direction of the government for an expression of our Canadian Parliament? We have to put significant distance between Parliament and the ruling party, between Parliament and any government department under the direction and control of the ruling party.

It is stated on page 230 of Maingot's second edition:

Members are entitled to go about their parliamentary business undisturbed.

In House of Commons Procedure and Practice, chapter 3 on privileges and immunities, at page 85 on the topic of obstruction, authors Marleau and Montpetit state the following:

In circumstances where Members claim to be directly obstructed, impeded, interfered with or intimidated in the performance of their parliamentary duties, the Speaker is apt to find that a prima facie breach of privilege has occurred. This may be physical obstruction, assault or molestation.

My colleague was not molested to the best of my knowledge, although he may want to share with us if he was. However, members were interfered with to an extent that I do not believe is justified. It was like a fortress today around Parliament Hill. I approached the double fence and asked the RCMP officer if I could pass through. He asked me if I was a member. I said, yes, that my office was in Centre Block, and he allowed me through. However, three or four other members, and even my colleague here, were denied access and were sent back to their offices to get further identification.

Mr. Speaker, I think you would be the first to agree that all members of Parliament are equal in their privileges in this House of Commons and no one should have been interfered with or disadvantaged in any way in accessing their office to conduct their duties as a member of Parliament.

That is the extent of my intervention. I raise it without any criticism of the officers in question. I have every respect for the work that they were doing in following out their orders to make Parliament a secure place and to welcome our guest, the head of state of Israel who was here today.

However, I do remind the House that as members of Parliament we should be in control of our own parliamentary precinct. This work should not be contracted out to Public Works and Government Services Canada or anybody else. It should be the Speaker of the respective houses who control the operations, maintenance and conduct of every aspect of Parliament. We are not just tenants here. As it was put very capably, we are a constituent element of Parliament.

Members' Access to Parliamentary PrecinctPrivilegeGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Cambridge Ontario

Conservative

Gary Goodyear ConservativeMinister of State (Science and Technology) (Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out to the House that this morning when I approached the Hill I too had my vehicle stopped. The trunk was searched. I did not mind at all because we have a well-respected international leader visiting our House today.

I know the NDP like thuggery tactics and would like to see all this security taken away and I do know that the member opposite loves the sound of his own voice. However, I am here to say that I do not mind that minor inconvenience to protect another human being who is visiting our House.

Members' Access to Parliamentary PrecinctPrivilegeGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I would report on an incident that happened last fall when there were protesters on the Hill against the Keystone pipeline.

The Hill was double-fenced and the stairs were closed off. I approached the RCMP officers who were doing due diligence there and asked if I could stand on the stairs. The RCMP told me I was not allowed to do that. A discussion incurred. An RCMP officer went away and came back with a book on procedure. After reading the procedure with me, he granted me access to that space. Quite clearly, no parliamentarian can be denied access to the Hill for any particular reason.

I would say that an issue that is brewing is the unrelenting increase in security which is hampering our privilege on the Hill. I would like to see the Speaker deal with this question of privilege in good fashion and come back to us with a report on the nature of security vis-à-vis the privilege of parliamentarians.

Members' Access to Parliamentary PrecinctPrivilegeGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Carleton—Mississippi Mills Ontario

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor ConservativeMinister of State and Chief Government Whip

Mr. Speaker, reasonable people have to find a balance between security and access. I acknowledge that members of Parliament have the right to operate within the precinct with free will as long as they are not impeding anybody else. However, when there are visitors here, and we have had many honoured visitors, the security has to go up. When the Prime Minister is around, the security goes up. We have to balance security and access.

This is not the 1800s any more. There is a lot of communication and we have many threats of terrorism from all over the place. We have to make sure that a tragedy does not occur here and that someone does not get injured or killed because security was lax. There will always be difficulty in finding a balance between security and access.

I am sure the Speaker will take this up and investigate it. However, I cannot believe that there was any bad intention to try to impede MPs. I recommend that the Speaker look at this and make sure that there is a balance between security and access.

Members' Access to Parliamentary PrecinctPrivilegeGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, in terms of access to the Hill, it is incredibly important that members of Parliament feel confident in their ability to access this chamber, especially when the House is sitting. A very obvious statement that needs to be reinforced is it is critically important that members of Parliament representing Canadians have the ability to be in here when the House is actually sitting.

There are arguments to extend it beyond that, but I do not want it to be a reflection on the people in security. My understanding is that they do have pictures of all members of Parliament. Identification is provided to us. We have a special pin. It is not unrealistic for us to expect that we might have to produce identification at some point. The other day I was walking to the chamber with some of my Manitoba colleagues who have been around a bit longer than I have. I was asked to produce some identification. There is always a changeover of staff and some staff members may not know the faces of all 308 MPs.

Having said that, there needs to be something in place that provides comfort to all members of Parliament that they will have the necessary and warranted access to Parliament Hill. The point on access is very critical for us.

Members' Access to Parliamentary PrecinctPrivilegeGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The Chair thanks all members who have made contributions relating to this question of privilege. What I can share with all hon. members is that earlier today the House did request a report be brought forward in terms of what did happen this morning. One of the hon. members asked that a broader report also be tabled. I will leave that for the Speaker to determine. He will come back to the House in good time with a response to this question of privilege.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is not a question of the NDP being against free trade. What we have always asked for is that trade be fair, and that labour and environmental standards be enshrined in trade agreements. That is a tenet of a social democrat. It is no good that the workers in this country benefit, if workers in the country that we are trading with do not benefit as well.

Let us look at Mexican workers. We were told during the free trade deals with Mexico that their living standards would rise and rise, and so would ours. Well, 400,000 people lost their jobs in Ontario, no rising there. I have been to Mexico a fair number of times, and I have seen some whose standard has not changed too much.

In trading with Panama, the reality is this is a country that is inadvertently a tax haven for nefarious organizations, such as the drug cartel. One would think that if Canada wanted to trade with Panama that it would be paramount that we get Panama to agree to stop being a tax haven for that type of activity. That should have been number one.

Number two, where are the labour and environmental agreements enshrined in this agreement? They are not there.

Number three, the fact is our colleague, the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster said very clearly that with the 11 amendments that would have strengthened the agreement, it would have gotten New Democratic support. However, every single one of the amendments was ignored.

I remember a Conservative committee that denied every amendment from a gentleman from Mount Royal on Bill C-10. Every single one of those amendments was defeated at committee. Yet, when it came back to the House for third reading, the government wanted to institute those amendments, but it could not do it. The government took it to the Senate, where the amendments that the gentleman from the Liberal Party proposed were then put in.

Why did the government do that? Just because it has a majority does not mean it has all the good ideas. Our colleague had some very sound and basic ideas to improve and strengthen the trade deal with Panama. They were rejected outright. It was not because the members of the committee understood what he was saying, it was because they were told to reject them. It is as simple as that.

If the government brings us back an agreement that includes labour and environmental standards, and ends the tax haven for drug dealers, maybe the NDP will support this initiative. Until that happens, the government should send it back. The reality is that on every single trade deal that has been out there, the NDP has been front and centre. We have been very clear that there is no deal unless labour and environmental standards are enshrined in the deal. There can be no side agreement, no bargain back here. They should be enshrined in the context of the deal.

That way, labour unions in Panama could collectively bargain with their employers and with their government to have the same rights that our trade unions have here in Canada in their collective agreements. That is the commonality we look for. We also want environmental standards to increase in both countries in order to improve the natural environment of both countries.

If the government does that, we should be able to enter into trade deals in order to assist businesses and workers. Unless that happens, there is really no deal on this side.