Mr. Speaker, I am happy to have the opportunity this afternoon to speak to this important subject, Bill C-30, regarding the comprehensive economic and trade agreement between Canada and the European Union.
Canada is a trading nation. As we have heard so many times in this debate, we need good trade agreements, and we need to diversify our trading markets. Trade is too important to get these agreements wrong, especially with such an important partner as the European Union. We have to take the time to get it right. However, the Liberal government seems to be in a real rush to get this treaty ratified. The government signed CETA on October 30. The government has a set policy for the tabling of treaties in Parliament. That policy states that the treaties must be tabled with explanatory notes 21 days before the enabling legislation is presented. What happened with CETA? Bill C-30, the enabling legislation, was put on the Order Paper two days before the agreement was even signed, and it was tabled in Parliament on October 31, the day after the signing. What is the hurry? The European Union nations will be taking their time to make sure that this deal is good for them. Why are we giving them that advantage when we should be taking our time to make sure we get it right as well?
There are obviously good things about freer trade with Europe. We are happy to see the reduction or elimination of tariffs on Canadian industries, particularly those in the agricultural sector, such as beef, pork and canola. We like free trade when it is fair trade.
There is a forest products mill in my riding called Greenwood Forest Products, which creates laminated pine shelving and furniture parts. It sells its own products across western North America, but to serve eastern Canada and the eastern United States, it imports finished products from Romania. It is cheaper to do that than to ship products across Canada. That is another story. Therefore, it depends on trade with the European Union to survive. It does not pay any tariffs on products coming from the EU now, so CETA will not directly benefit it, but it does appreciate any strengthening of trade ties between Canada and Europe. It may likely have to do more business in Europe in the near future because it is deeply concerned about the direction that the softwood lumber agreement is taking with the United States. Its products have never been hit by countervail duties or tariffs in the past with the U.S. However, the recent moves in the United States between the U.S. lumber industry and the U.S. Department of Commerce have apparently expanded the number and types of products covered under the industry complaints to include a wide variety of value-added products, instead of being restricted to the dimension lumber, as it has been in the past. Therefore, it is very disappointed with the Liberal government's inaction on the softwood lumber front.
That is a good example of why we need to diversify our trading relationships. We need good trade deals with other nations and other regions. However, we do not want bad deals that will result in decreased market share for Canadian companies, unfair competition, reduced sovereignty, and significant job losses.
We are particularly worried about the investor-state dispute provisions brought in by this agreement. Under similar trade agreements, Canada has become one of the most sued countries in the world, winning only three of 39 cases against foreign interests, as we try to maintain our sovereignty in legislating protections for the environment, health, and other social interests.
I would like to quote something from the Canadian Environmental Law Association about this. It states:
[CETA] will significantly impact environmental protection and sustainable development in Canada. In particular, the inclusion of an investor-state dispute settlement mechanism, the liberalization of trade in services, and the deregulation of government procurement rules will impact the federal and provincial governments’ authority to protect the environment, promote resource conservation, or use green procurement as a means of advancing environmental policies and objectives.
Yes, there are carve-outs for some of these categories, but that will not stop corporations from initiating litigation, forcing us to prove that we are protected, and putting a regulatory chill on governments across this country, stopping them from enacting progressive legislation as they fear possible litigation. Since some European regions are clear that they want this provision removed, why does Canada feel compelled to insist on this part of the agreement when it is clearly not in our national interest?
I am also concerned about what CETA would do for drug costs in Canada. Changes to intellectual property rules for pharmaceuticals under CETA would be expected to increase drug costs by more than $850 million annually. This would not only be harmful to individual Canadians and their families who are struggling to get by but would make it increasingly difficult to bring in a national pharmacare program in Canada, something this country desperately needs.
We in the NDP are also concerned about compensation for sectors that would be negatively impacted by CETA. The dairy industry was promised compensation by the previous Conservative government, but the current Liberal government is now offering dairy farmers less than 10% of the amount previously on the table. There are other sectors that would be directly or indirectly affected by this agreement.
As many members know, my riding of South Okanagan—West Kootenay produces the finest wines in Canada. I will admit that good wines are produced across the country, from Vancouver Island to Nova Scotia. I have sampled a nice wine produced from grapes grown by the President of the Treasury Board, and I hear that the member for Brome—Missisquoi makes a great late-harvest Vidal.
The Canadian wine industry is a very important sector in the Canadian economy, contributing $8 billion to the national bottom line. It almost died after the free trade agreement with the U.S. in 1988, but through hard work on the part of a few small wineries, a long-term vision, and attention to high-quality products, the industry survived to live another day and now produces some of the best wines in the world.
In 2004, Canada signed a wine and spirits agreement with the European Union. Since that time, imports from the European Union to Canada have increased by 40 million litres to 180 million litres a year, valued at $1.16 billion. This compares to Canadian exports to the EU of only 123,000 litres, valued at $2.7 million. It is a significant imbalance.
Canada has one of the fastest-growing wine markets in the world. More and more Canadians are drinking wine, but three-quarters of that growth has gone to imported wines. The Canadian wine industry is not asking for protection or tariffs under CETA. Members of the industry are in favour of continued free trade in wine with Europe, but they are asking for help from the federal government to build the domestic industry to a level at which they can fairly compete with Europe and other wine regions of the world. The Canadian wine industry, through the Canadian Vintners Association, is asking the federal government to implement a 10-year wine industry innovation program to support the growth of this industry and to create jobs across Canada.
We need to be supporting Canadian industries at this time so they are not unduly harmed by these trade agreements but can truly take advantage of them.
To conclude, the NDP is very much in favour of trade. We are very much in favour of good trade agreements. We simply want to ensure that these agreements are in the best interests of Canada, that they help grow local industries, and that they support job creation across the country.