House of Commons Hansard #136 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was panama.

Topics

Questions on the Order PaperPoints of OrderBusiness of the House

3:20 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I will say initially that in terms of budget consultation, we had probably the broadest public consultation in Canadian history in preparation of this budget. Literally hundreds of consultations were done by the Department of Finance. As well, cabinet ministers and members of Parliament prepared summaries and submitted them to the Department of Finance for its consideration in preparation of this budget. That is why, when the word “countless” is used, it is actually quite accurate.

I carried out a number of those myself, and I cannot recall how many women were involved, how many women led the groups with whom we spoke, or whether I could say that someone was the leader of a group of not.

Mr, Speaker, while I appreciate that the member may wish that there was some kind of excessive record keeping when we consult the Canadian public, I think you will see that the nature of the consultation—how broad it was, and how many thousands of Canadians participated in the many consultations—makes what he is seeking difficult to provide. In any event, I expect I will be back with some further submissions on this.

Bill C-24 — Time Allocation MotionCanada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

moved:

That, in relation to Bill C-24, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Panama, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Panama and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Panama, not more than seven further hours shall be allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the bill; and

at the expiry of the seven hours, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the said bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.

Bill C-24 — Time Allocation MotionCanada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

As we have done in the past, we will have a 30-minute questions and comments period. We will ask members to keep their questions or comments to about a minute and their responses to a similar length of time.

Bill C-24 — Time Allocation MotionCanada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Nycole Turmel NDP Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, once again, the government wants to invoke closure. Why? Why has the government invoked closure time and again on all issues for the past year?

We must have a discussion about whether or not it is in Canada's interests to enter into this free trade agreement. The government must answer to Canadians. It must fully explain to them the reasons for the agreement and not hide again behind closure in order to impose on Canadians matters that affect them directly.

I want an answer. Why is the government acting in this way?

Bill C-24 — Time Allocation MotionCanada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, the real question is why the New Democratic Party continues to resist any measure that brings into place legislative measures that are designed to achieve economic growth and prosperity for Canadians. The purpose of this bill to implement the Canada–Panama free trade agreement is to create economic opportunities for Canadians.

In 2011, Canada's exports to Panama totalled $111 million. That was a 20% increase over just two years earlier. We export a wide variety of goods and services to that country, and the result is the creation of jobs and economic growth and prosperity here in Canada.

We want to see those exports grow. We want to see those markets grow so that Canadians have more opportunity to benefit from the jobs that would result. The real question is why NDP members always resist, to the fullest extent possible, such measures to create jobs for Canadians.

Bill C-24 — Time Allocation MotionCanada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, what we are really talking about here is the issue of process.

The government has continually brought in time allocation and has made it a part of standard procedure. This is the 25th time. This happens to be on a freer trade type of agreement with regard to Panama and the environment, but the real issue that Canadians need to be concerned about is the attitude of the Reform-Conservative government in wanting to stifle debate in the House of Commons.

Does the government House leader not recognize that there is a need for the government House leader to work in co-operation with the opposition House leaders to ensure adequate debate on bills that both the government and the opposition see as important? It is called democracy. Does the government House leader support the need to work with opposition parties in dealing with legislation before the House?

Bill C-24 — Time Allocation MotionCanada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. Liberal member said that the real issue here is parliamentary procedure. I know we are taking advantage of the standing rules and moving forward on that, but I think for Canadians the real issue is actually the economy. The real issue is job creation and economic growth, and the real question is whether the people here in the House of Commons are committing themselves to making decisions that reflect the interests of Canadians and advancing those objectives of job creation and economic growth for all Canadian.

For example, people working in the sector of manufacturing machinery are exporting products to Panama right now, but they know that they face very steep tariffs. They would like to see those tariffs removed. For over two years we have had a free trade agreement with Panama that seeks to do that, but we have to pass the law in this Parliament in order to have the benefits of that agreement.

Canadian manufacturing workers want the benefits of that agreement so that their products can be exported to new markets, so that their jobs will be more secure, so that we will have prosperity into the future. Those are the issues I think Canadians are most concerned about, not parliamentary procedure.

Bill C-24 — Time Allocation MotionCanada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Philip Toone NDP Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think that Canadians agree entirely: they want a strong economy. However, the economy is not what is being debated here. The bill is not even up for debate. We are debating the fact that there is yet another gag order. As my colleague just pointed out, this is the 25th occasion. It demonstrates a lack of democracy and transparency.

We want a bill that benefits from consulting Canadians and getting their feedback. That is not achieved in half an hour. It takes time to develop good legislation.

The government House leader cannot convince us that his bill is faultless, that it is perfect and that it would not benefit from debate. Debate is par for the course. The reason debates are held in the House of Commons is so that the government can take advantage of the opportunity to consult Canadians.

I would like to ask the government House leader the following question: does he think that he is in a kingdom or a democracy?

Bill C-24 — Time Allocation MotionCanada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, there has been ample democracy in this case. We have already had six days of debate and some 65 speeches in this House of Commons this session. As well, this measure dates back to previous Parliaments; we had eight days of debate in the previous Parliament and seven days at committee. There has been lots of ample debate. The problem is that the NDP does not want to see this pass and, as they so often do, they are willing to resort to every measure to stop job creation and economic growth measures.

The member asked why it has to be passed now. It has to be passed now because we are in a fragile world economic situation. Canada has had strong economic growth but remains threatened by conditions elsewhere, and Canadian workers and Canadians are looking for the economic growth, job security and opportunities that flow from an agreement like this.

We want to see those tariffs reduced so that Canadian manufacturers of machinery, farmers who are exporting meat, people in the mineral and fuel sectors, and those in the paper and paperboard-producing sectors of the economy who have been challenged recently can be more secure by exporting more to Panama and seeing their personal economic prosperity benefit, as well as that of their communities.

Bill C-24 — Time Allocation MotionCanada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, to clarify what the government House leader said in response to my colleague's question, I just want to put this on the record to make sure that I did not inappropriately understand. Did the House leader say that Canadians do not understand parliamentary procedure, so it is not important? Is that what he said? To me, that is what it sounded like.

Does the fact that Canadians do not understand parliamentary procedure mean that the government does not have to follow parliamentary procedure and can therefore just bully everybody around and pass these bills willy-nilly? Is that what I heard?

Bill C-24 — Time Allocation MotionCanada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I can confirm that the member did mishear me. I said that the priority for Canadians is not, as his colleague from Winnipeg suggests, parliamentary procedure. That is not their priority. Their priority is the economy, job creation and economic growth, and that is our priority, a priority we share in mind.

That is what we believe Canadians sent us here to do: to make decisions on legislative proposals that will advance job creation and economic growth. That is what we are doing with our economic action plan 2012. It is also what we are doing with our free trade agreements, including the one that we are talking about here, the one that was signed over two years ago, the Canada-Panama free trade agreement, and our legislative efforts to implement it.

This agreement would have enormous benefits for Canadian sectors, including the economy of Quebec. As this hon. member comes from Quebec, he would be interested in knowing that his pork producers in that province will benefit from this agreement. Industrial and construction machinery manufacturers from Quebec will benefit. Pharmaceutical exports to Panama from Quebec are common; they will also benefit. There are many more sectors of the Quebec economy that stand to benefit from this agreement.

Bill C-24 — Time Allocation MotionCanada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Romeo Saganash NDP Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, once again, the government wants to shut down debate on an important bill. This is the same story all over again. Last time it was a free trade agreement with another country in the same region, Colombia.

What lessons have been learned? We had concerns about that agreement, and yet the Conservatives and Liberals supported it. We had serious misgivings regarding the rights and freedoms of Colombians. We have the same concerns about this agreement and would like to debate it.

Why are we not being allowed to do so? The lessons learned from the agreement with Colombia should be helpful this time around in this august House. That is why we believe that it is important to continue the debate on this agreement.

Bill C-24 — Time Allocation MotionCanada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure I heard the hon. member correctly. I do believe that Panama is a democracy with a solid human rights record. No one has raised issues of that in the past that I am aware of. Certainly it is the kind of country with which we are proud to be a trading partner. In fact, we already are. Many Quebec companies, businesses, enterprises and farmers are already trading with Panama.

I am sure they would be disappointed to hear that this hon. member and many of his colleagues from Quebec are trying to shut down trade with Panama and do not want to see this free trade agreement implemented, which was entered into over two years ago.

The aerospace sector in Montreal is very significant. It exports to Panama. It would like to be able to export more. If the NDP has its way, it will not be able to. The engineering and construction sectors in Quebec are proud organizations that have done a great deal, particularly some of the engineering companies on the world stage. They would like to do more. The NDP wants to stop them from doing more.

This will only lead to more challenging times in the Quebec economy and the Canadian economy at a time when we are seeking to grow those economies for the benefit of all Canadians and to create jobs.

Bill C-24 — Time Allocation MotionCanada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, in Parliament for the last year and change, we have been discussing parliamentary procedure and the use of it. I would suggest to the government House leader that there is such a thing as the tyranny of the minority.

In the case where the opposition, as is its right, uses parliamentary procedure to stall legislation, and it has become pretty apparent to me in the last year and change that the opposition does not want us to pass any legislation of any kind whatsoever, it will use parliamentary procedure, that is, debating ad nauseam and indefinitely on every piece of legislation.

From my point of view, and I would like the House leader's comments on this, we are simply using legitimate parliamentary procedure to in fact move ahead the legislation on behalf of the Canadian public in spite of the tyranny of the minority.

Bill C-24 — Time Allocation MotionCanada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for that insightful question.

Obviously the hon. member for Edmonton Centre has been spending a far bit of time in this House, observing the practices of the various parties and their approach to legislation.

Our approach as a government has been to ensure a productive, hard-working and orderly Parliament. Part of being a productive, hard-working and orderly Parliament is to allow ample debate. We have had that. We have had that in the case of this legislation. By the time we are finished, we will have had close to two weeks of debate in this House.

That is a lot of debate before making a decision. It is more than most people do in their homes. It is more than most people do in their workplaces when they take an issue and decide whether to come to a decision.

After that, it is not finished. It still has to go to committee, report stage, third reading and then over to the Senate. There still will be days and days, weeks, months, and if the opposition has it way, years more debate.

We do have an obligation at some point to actually make decisions here in this House. Nowhere is that more important than on legislation that touches on questions of economic growth and job creation in a time of a fragile world economy.

That is why we need to vote on this bill at second reading and get it on to committee to be studied there in detail.

Bill C-24 — Time Allocation MotionCanada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2012 / 3:35 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to quote my friend who worries about the tyranny of the minority. When in opposition, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism spoke about the Liberal government's use of these tactics to shut down debate on a bill, which we are debating right now. At that time, the current Minister of Immigration said:

I am displeased that the bill represents the 75th time that the government has invoked closure or time allocation since it came to power...abusing that very significant power to limit and shut down debate in this place more than any other government in Canadian history.

The problem with the current government is it is seeking to break the record of the previous Liberal government's tactics in shutting down debate, and it now claims that the use and abuse of these tools is somehow good.

My question for my hon. friend is this. He said he is not aware of any human rights concerns within the state of Panama, yet we have a human rights report from the UN, which I know he is a big fan of, that says:

...the absence of a process of consultation to seek the prior, free and informed consent of communities to the exploitation of natural resources in their territories; the ill-treatment...

of first nations people.

I do not know why the government members do not see that as a concern and pause, yet they do not. What they want to do instead is say they do not see any evidence of any human rights concerns in Panama or Colombia or, in fact, anywhere in the world. All they want is trade deals, regardless of what is in them, because they think they are good by their very nature.

The NDP has said that there are good trade deals and bad ones, but what must be respected in this place most is this place. The government members, when they were in opposition, used to believe in this principle. They used to respect the practices, and now we see a government that is growing increasingly addicted to such worrisome tendencies.

Bill C-24 — Time Allocation MotionCanada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, a report that says perhaps one should perhaps improve one's processes for consultation with one's communities is hardly evidence of human rights violations. We are always trying to find better ways to consult with elements of our population.

However, we can proud if we implement an agreement like this and create more opportunities for Canadian mining and resources companies to participate in the Panamanian economy and create jobs there and prosperity in Canada. However, they will be doing so abiding by principles of good corporate citizenship that Canadian companies have demonstrated all around the world, and we are very proud of that. The key thing is that they have the opportunity to do that.

Canadian foreign investment in Panama has been significant and so have the exports of financial and other services to Panama from Canada. Those have all created jobs in Canada. Economic growth, job creation and prosperity here; that is the focus. That is why we are moving forward on this. Our approach is one of allowing ample debate. This bill has seen that in the House of Commons but it is time also, from time to time, to do what we were sent here by Canadians to do and actually make decisions. That is what we want to ask this House of Commons to do on this particular bill, in principle.

Bill C-24 — Time Allocation MotionCanada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is the 25th gag order that has been imposed on us. At this rate, an unenviable record is going to be set. In 2015, I am convinced that Canadians will remember the way the Conservative government ran this country.

I also have some examples for the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, who is telling us that Panama is fantastic and that we are going to trade with this country. Panama is certainly one of the most prosperous countries in Central America. However, some members gave examples earlier about workers' rights in that country, and I have a few more. In 2010, Panama passed a law against protests. Workers are treated like criminals when they take to the streets to protest, and people have been killed at such demonstrations.

Furthermore, the OECD considers Panama to be one of the world's worst tax havens.

I have a question for the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons. Before signing this type of free trade agreement, why not sit down with the authorities in these countries and urge them to comply with international tax treaties and workers' rights, among other things?

Bill C-24 — Time Allocation MotionCanada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, occasionally we even have demonstrations on the streets here in Canada, so I will take from that what it is worth.

The focus for us in this government is job creation and economic growth. An important part of that is finding new markets for Canadian manufacturers, workers and farmers so we can, by having those new markets, create jobs and prosperity here. Canada is a relatively small country in terms of population and market. We depend to a magnificent extent on exports abroad to other countries for our jobs and economic growth. That is the nature of Canada. We are integrated into the world economy. That is why we are so aware of the challenges of the global economy that other parties seem to ignore. That is why we are so focused on ensuring we take every step possible to secure the long-term prosperity of Canadians. Being able to trade in those marketplaces is part of securing that long-term prosperity.

This bill is part of that important agenda of securing markets abroad to ensure our long-term prosperity and ensure jobs for Canadians, not just today but for years and generations to come.

Bill C-24 — Time Allocation MotionCanada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, the purpose of debating bills in the House is to come up with informed decisions. When the Conservative government shuts down debate, I do not think that leads to informed decisions being made in the best interests of Canadians. When we debate bills, we gather information from experts and constituents. That would lead to better decisions being made in Parliament.

We like to see trade agreements that will have net benefit to Canadians. Why are the Conservatives so afraid to debate these very fundamental issues in the House, so we can make decisions that are based on information and facts?

Bill C-24 — Time Allocation MotionCanada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, there are many who have accused the NDP of being excessively academic in its approach. I understand that in common rooms at universities it is fashionable to talk about things for a long time and maybe never take decisions, or maybe debate issues for years and years but never actually do anything. However, once people graduate from university, go into the real world, try to create jobs and try to secure futures for their families, they actually have to do things and, in the process, make decisions. They are in the real world and the real economy.

That is what we are doing here for Canadians, and that is what Canadians asked us to do when they sent us to Parliament, not to be just a talk shop. We are not here just to philosophize and have ideas, all of which is important, but at the end of those debates constituents want us to make decisions. That is all we are asking.

With regard to the Canada-Panama free trade agreement that has been around for more than two years since we completed negotiations, that has had literally weeks of debate in Parliament and that has already been passed at second reading in a previous Parliament, all we are asking is that we have that vote again, send it to committee, allow it to be studied in detail and then we can have the debates in committee, at report stage and third reading and, guess what, do the same thing over again in the Senate. A lot of debate is still ahead, but it is about time we made a decision in principle on the bill.

Bill C-24 — Time Allocation MotionCanada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Halton Ontario

Conservative

Lisa Raitt ConservativeMinister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take the opportunity to tell the House as Minister of Labour that, as part of the free trade agreement, there is a labour co-operation agreement, and in it we provide something called technical help. I had the great pleasure of visiting my counterparts and the leadership of the Panama Canal this past year in order to ensure they understood that we are here to help and want to trade our best practices. Indeed, I had great conversations not only with management and government but also with trade unions in Panama. They indicated to us that they want more information about inspection and help with best practices, which we are providing through the labour program.

My question to the minister is this. From the perspective of the trade side, is there an urgency for us to finalize this agreement for the betterment of the Panama Canal coming online in the next couple of years and, indeed, for the overall economy of our country?

Bill C-24 — Time Allocation MotionCanada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. Minister of Labour not only for her question but for her involvement in this file. She has taken a great interest in the issues and the parallel agreements to cover labour issues and has seen to their advancement.

With regard to Panama, one of the hopes when this agreement was signed, which can be seen in the statements made by me and others at the time, was that we would be able to take advantage of the massive opportunities created by the expansion of the Panama Canal, for which Canadian companies were ideally suited to win contracts. Unfortunately, because of the delays and obstruction by the NDP in the House of Commons, we are sitting here more than two years later without this agreement being in place.

I bet there are not too many contracts left. Most of that work is completed. There may be a few dollars left here and there, but the reality is that those opportunities have been lost and jobs have been missed because the NDP has obstructed this bill for over two years.

Let us get on with it. Let us at least send this bill to committee so we can make decisions on it and so we do not face more lost opportunities for Canadian workers and for Canadian businesses to create jobs for workers.

Bill C-24 — Time Allocation MotionCanada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Dany Morin NDP Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very dissatisfied with the answer from the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons. He mentioned earlier that 65 people have spoken about this issue and that he believes that justifies cutting short the debate and preventing members who represent their constituents from speaking.

I have news for him. I had prepared a speech on this issue for today. The people of Chicoutimi—Le Fjord oppose this bill, which would result in trade agreements with a tax haven just when the people of my riding are about to get hit with reductions in employment insurance, which will be increasingly limited.

I have the right to speak in the House of Commons and that right has just been taken away. I find that unacceptable. For that reason, I am rising in the House today. Unfortunately, it is not to voice my opposition to the bill, but to condemn the government's actions. There have been 25 time allocation motions. That is simply irresponsible. However, it does not surprise me, because the government is irresponsible.

Bill C-24 — Time Allocation MotionCanada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, with 65 speeches in this Parliament so far, 66 in the previous Parliament and 35 witnesses at the parliamentary committee, we have been getting an awful lot of content.

I know the hon. member is keen. He could, hopefully, prevail upon his whip to allow him to speak in the balance of this debate. If not, maybe he could speak during report stage debate. Maybe he could ask to appear on the committee and participate there. Maybe he could ask to have a chance to speak during third reading.

My point is that there has been ample debate already and there is ample debate yet to come. The difficulty is that the hon. member from the NDP does not want to ever have to make a decision, and that reveals his real motive.

The fact is that the NDP members oppose free trade agreements reflexively in every circumstance. That is their position. They are opposed to free trade. It is simply ideologically rejected. They do not want us to take a vote on this matter because they wish to obstruct it for another two or three years if they have the opportunity to repeat what they have done in the past.