Mr. Speaker, hats off for my colleague, the member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke. I want to second the comments he made, giving thanks to all his supporters and their work.
I am particularly grateful to my family, in particular, my brother. Now that it is 40 below with wind chill in Alberta, he graciously put my car in the garage, so I thank Peter Duncan.
I also want to thank all who support me in my work and, frankly, all in this place who do incredible work for the public every day we are here.
As my NDP colleagues have repeatedly stated, our party favours international trade agreements that are fair and reciprocal. During my tenure in this place, we have supported several that met these conditions. The previous government was quick to sign any agreement just to sign so-called free trade agreements. The current government promised better deals but instead signed off on the Conservative-negotiated deal with Europe, despite the unaddressed concerns expressed by many Canadians.
As has been mentioned, changes to intellectual properly rules will cause drug prices to skyrocket. Considering our aging population, mounting household debt, and the number of Canadians, in particular seniors, already struggling to pay for food, rent, and medicines, this deal will seriously impact affordability.
The government should have at least assessed and addressed this impact in advance of signing, particularly since it appears pharmacare is missing from the government's priority list for additional health transfers.
CETA also poses significant impacts to Alberta's agriculture and agrifood sectors. In particular, concerns have been expressed by our dairy and dairy processing sectors. While most attention has been focused on the impacts to the Quebec dairy sector, Alberta dairy will also be impacted.
We are told that Canadian manufacturing standards, combined with generous subsidies for European producers, make it almost impossible for cheese makers to compete, at least to compete fairly.
The government promised dairy farmers and processors a total $350 million investment fund over four years to help them modernize their operations, increase their productivity and efficiency, as well as diversify their range of products in order to capitalize new European markets. Unfortunately this is far less than the Conservatives promised.
I am deeply proud of the contribution to our economy by our Alberta dairy farmers. I meet regularly with them to try to address their concerns. One incredible multi-generational farm family, the Bococks, operated a dairy operation since its immigration from Ireland in 1921. It not only introduced many beneficial innovations for sustainable farming, on retirement the family donated 777 acres of their operation to the University of Alberta for dairy research. Its contribution has been recognized with the Dairy Industry Achievement Award. It is farm families like the Bococks that are being impacted.
While the program will, for the most part, benefit the largest processors, the amount is far from adequate, as has been shared often in the House on debate of this bill.
These pioneers, other Canadian dairy families and processors who continue to produce fine product should be factored first in considering any potential impacts of trade deals. While Alberta dairy producers and processors are grateful some compensation has been promised, they are only matching funds and limited to modernization investments. This support will be unavailable to those who have already invested in changes, yet, they may still be impacted.
Alberta cheese makers estimate a loss of 17,000 tonnes in cheese sales. They are concerned if the promised funds are to be allocated to producers and processors or if they will they be partly eaten up by administration of the fund. Also, they have expressed concern about how quickly the money will flow as they need to get out ahead of anticipated changes to the market.
CETA could also be problematic for our pork and beef industries. Although they potentially will benefit, there are European regulatory obstacles that must be addressed.
I wish to reiterate concerns expressed by many about the government's insistence on retaining the investor-state provisions.
Shifting authority to an independent court to rule on corporate complaints of what it deems unfair environmental or health provisions is reprehensible, certainly in a country that believes in rule of law. Surely such a measure contradicts the very principles the government claims to espouse, that the financial interests of investors should not be permitted to supersede the public interest, including environmental protections.
Successful industrial state-investor claims under the trade deals have already created a regulatory chill and, as some of my colleagues have shared, we have lost most of those cases brought against our country by investors.
It is the continued erosion of environmental protection prevailing over trade deals that troubles me the most. In the mid-1990s, when the North American Free Trade Agreement was entered into by Canada, the United States, and Mexico, Canada also signed on to several side agreements. One of those was the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation. Every trade deal since has strayed from those foundational principles and institutions, including provision for independent assessment and reporting on the parties' adherence to the environmental commitments.
Yes, there are vague mentions of environment in CETA, but the measures fall far short of the bar set under the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation. Absent is any independent environment secretariat or council of environment minsters to monitor and act on complaints of failed environmental enforcement or delivery on public rights of engagement in decisions that place economic considerations ahead of the environment. In place of these credible mechanisms, the parties will merely appoint some officer as a contact point, presumably low within their respective bureaucracies.
There is no provision for independent assessment and reporting. Gone is the commitment to prepare and make public a state of the environment report, a matter that has been raised with me a number of times in the last few weeks. Whatever happened to the state of environment reports?
Gone is commitment to ensure public notice and right to comment in advance of any decision impacting the environment, including trade deals and agreements negotiated among the provinces, territories, and the federal government on climate. Gone is the framework for effective environmental enforcement. These are necessary to hold the government accountable.
Finally, what will be the effect on Canadian local job creation through the burgeoning Canadian renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors of article 24.9? It requires removal of any obstacles to investments in goods and services for renewable energy goods and related services. Will there be barriers to local hiring and incentives? Has the government even examined that?