Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-24. Back on February 7, 2011, I spoke to the bill when it was Bill C-46. Sadly, the concerns I raised then have not been addressed.
I also want to acknowledge the very good work that has been done by the member for Windsor West and the member for Burnaby—New Westminster. Back in those days, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster proposed a number of amendments to the free trade agreement, including amendments that would deal with some of the issues around sustainable development and investment. The government did not see fit to incorporate these amendments.
As well, that bill had gone to committee, had some extensive review and had a number of concerns raised around labour, human rights and the investment climate. Again, none of those concerns were taken into consideration when the bill was resubmitted to the House.
Members can probably gather by the tenor of my introduction that the NDP is opposed to this bill for a number of reasons. One of those concerns is the poor record of labour rights in the country. I did mention the fundamental flaws that were addressed by amendments proposed by the member for Burnaby—New Westminster.
The government talked about taking on tax havens. However, one of the most glaring flaws in the agreement is that tax disclosure issues have yet to be meaningfully addressed, despite protestations to the contrary by the Panamanian government.
Often in the House we will hear members opposite talk about the NDP never seeing a trade agreement that it liked, and it is for a very good reason. In fact, we have actually supported a trade agreement. However, what comes up consistently is the fact that the government continues to negotiate trade agreements that do not take into consideration the social and economic justice that we think is fundamental to what should be included in them.
The government also does not negotiate these agreements in an open and transparent way. We only have to look at what is happening currently with the CETA agreement. I know that I and many members of the House get numerous emails about the fact that this agreement has been negotiated behind closed doors, that we do not know what the impact will be on our agricultural communities, on pharmaceuticals, on access to natural health products and that our municipalities may be hampered in their procurement processes.
This is just an example of an agreement that could have a very far-reaching impact, and yet Canadians have no input. They have no ability to get at the very meat of what the agreement is about.
When we talk about how we should negotiate these agreements, Panama would have been a great start to having a fair trade agreement versus a free trade agreement. One of the fundamental principles is fair trade. I want to talk about some of those principles and what is absent in the Panamanian agreement.
This is an older article, but I thought it did a very good job of outlining the principles of fair trade. It is from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Richard Tarnoff, in October 2004. In this article he says:
While the principles of “fair trade” have been around for a long time, and are primarily based on ideas of human rights and economic justice, the fair trade movement is a relatively recent development. To a large degree, it is a response to the rapid growth in the global economy, in which more and more of what we consume is being produced in Third World countries, where labour and environmental standards are low or non-existent.
He talks about both the principles of fair trade and the fair trade movement. Many of us are very familiar with the fair trade movement. Many of us, when we go to buy our coffee, look to see if it is fair trade certified. There are also principles that apply to fair trade when negotiating these kinds of international agreements.
Tarnoff goes on to say:
One response to this situation has been the effort by labour, environmental and human rights organizations to have minimum standards included in trade agreements. Sometimes described as the demand for “fair trade rules,” these efforts have been vigorously opposed by the multinational corporations for the obvious reason that this is what makes production in Third World countries so profitable.
When he talks about profitable, he talks about how, in these countries, people are paid grim wages, not remotely close to living wages, often in desperate working conditions. Canadians benefit from those kinds of working conditions. We would not want to see any of our neighbours, our children, our brothers or sisters working in those kinds of conditions. Yet because we continue to negotiate the kinds of trade agreements that are before us today, we continue to profit from somebody else's misery.
I will not go over all the principles of fair trade that he outlined, but I want to touch on a couple. I can imagine Canadians listening to this would say that this makes absolute sense, that a trade principle should be that there would be no forced labour and exploitive child labour. It makes sense. We would not want to see young children working 10, 12 hours a day in hot, overcrowded conditions with no lunch breaks, no adequate remuneration. Never mind remuneration, why would we exploit them in the first place children? Most Canadians would agree that makes sense.
What about encouraging sustainable production techniques? It would make sense that when we import agricultural products from countries, we would want to ensure that they would be sustainable, that they would not use the kinds of pesticides not accepted in Canada, that their workers would be protected from access and that they would have all the safety standards and safety equipment needed so when they handled pesticides and herbicides, they would not become ill. The life expectancy of many farm workers in developing countries is so low it is embarrassing.
Another principle is that working conditions be healthy and safe. That just makes sense. Too many of us have heard the horror stories about children who have been trapped in factories as they have burned down because there are no exit doors. They have long days with no breaks, working seven days a week and not having adequate living conditions when they leave those factories. Working conditions that are healthy and safe just make sense.
Another principle is that equal employment opportunities be provided. This means women have access to good paying jobs, that they are not disadvantaged, that they have access to management jobs in some of these factories and that all aspects of trade and productions are open to public accountability.
Recently we saw the backlash against Apple when it turned out that some of the factories producing some of its component parts were not open and public and that the public was demanding the kind of a accountability to ensure workers were not being taken advantage of.
This is a bit of an aside, but it does link to the trade agreements. Tarnoff goes on to say:
It is not only Third World farmers who have become victims to the economics of globalization. Many small farmers in Canada and the U.S. have found themselves struggling to survive in markets dominated by giant corporations. One solution has been the development of a type of “fair trade” called Community Shared Agriculture, in which urban customers enter into agreements to have a local grower supply them with all their produce for the year. So far, over 1,000 farms in North America have made this arrangement.
When we talk about sustainability, ensuring that there is not exploitive practices, Canadians can support our local farmers, get to know them and buy their produce. Community shared agriculture is a way to ensure that farmers stay in business, especially the smaller farmers.
My riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan has a number of CSA farmers, and I am proud to be one of their supporters. We also have a fisherman who has taken the initiative to have a community supported fishery, so he does the same thing as the agriculture sector. He sells shares in advance so he can ensure he has a livelihood to support himself and his family. That is the kind of community supported agriculture we should encourage both in Canada and in countries with which we develop trade practices.
He goes on in this article, and there has been criticisms from the multinationals about any concept of fair trade, to talk about some typical criticism that have come from some of the mainstream economists. He mentions Professor John Ikerd, professor emeritus of Agricultural Economics. He said it was interesting that when economics laws and theories about fair trade being ethically right and being social justice, how suddenly the multinationals and their friends talked about how harmful it would be for the economy.
We need to do a much better job of incorporating principles in trade that are not just about the bottom line. There has to be a social justice component of it so that workers and their families have access to adequate wages and income, that the environment is not damaged and that there is a reasonable and fair distribution of wealth.
I encourage all members of the House to vote against this legislation and send the government back to the drawing board so it can come back with a fair trade agreement, not a free trade agreement.