Madam Speaker, I had the privilege of going with the member for Essex to her riding. I saw first-hand the impact NAFTA has had in her community over the last 24 years.
First and foremost, I reiterate, for the House's attention, that the Prime Minister has made income inequality between workers and CEOs one of his principle themes in all his international discussions. Quite frankly, thanks to his leadership and that of the other cabinet ministers, and indeed all members of this House, this whole idea is picking up speed in the international community as one of the great issues of our time that we have to resolve.
Let me get to the question at hand posed by the hon. member for Essex. Overall, our objective has been to not only modernize NAFTA but to introduce ideas that will ensure that we do not leave workers behind. From the beginning, our intent has been to introduce progressive labour ideas, ideas that benefit women, who when they earn a fair day's wage, it will be for a fair day's work. They should not be treated one whit differently than men.
We have made good progress in Montreal over the last couple of days. I had the good fortune to be there for most of it, accompanied by members from the NDP and the Conservative Party. I am glad to say that it was a unified front we presented to our American and Mexican colleagues.
Having said that, progress is slow. At the top of this idea, in terms of modernization, is to make sure, as articulated in the Prime Minister's vision of making sure we are addressing income inequality internationally, that the workers are not left behind, as happened 24 years ago. Indeed, quite rightly, the hon. member for Essex identifies her riding as particularly hard hit.
Six days ago, I had the privilege of being in North Carolina. I met with members of Charlotte, a city of about 600,000 or 700,000 that is booming as a result of reinvestments accrued as a result of the benefits of NAFTA. At the same time, there were many workers out in the countryside who lost their jobs 24 or 25 years ago. Quite frankly, this is what our innovative labour chapter for NAFTA is meant to mitigate against. Let us not leave the workers behind.
What does this mean? We want to make sure that, for example, it is not a race to the bottom in terms of the Labour Code. As articulated by the hon. member, who is quite right, a variety of corporate decisions were made in Canada and the United States over the preceding 24 years to relocate displaced factories to Mexico, where the average cost per worker is far less. In large measure, our progressive idea about the labour standards that could be shared among the three countries tries to address the income inequalities that exist between the Mexican worker, the Canadian worker, and the American worker. Is it going to take some time to resolve? Of course it is.
We are making the assumption that NAFTA progression will continue at its slow and steady pace, but let us not forget that, quite frankly, the introduction of the labour chapter is very progressive. It is also very ambitious. There are some details to be ironed out over the next little while.
Let me also point out that I had the pleasure of meeting representatives from Unifor, the Teamsters, and PSAC, and the list goes on, not only in consultations in Montreal but elsewhere. The bottom line is that we are listening to their concerns. We have networked widely with them. We have received tremendously valuable input from front-line union managers as to what is required as we make this evolutionary leap forward.
I am very confident that subject to the will of the other two participatory nations, we will be able to get good jobs for Canadians, protect Canadian jobs, and make sure we leave no workers behind.