Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise just a little after midnight to return to an important issue I have had occasion to raise in the House and at committee. It has to do with the provisions of the trans-Pacific partnership deal, particularly chapter 12, and the potential effects of that chapter for Canadian tradespeople.
Chapter 12 of the TPP is about entry into Canada for temporary foreign workers. Unfortunately, it recreates some of the worst abuses of the temporary foreign worker program that we saw under previous Liberal and Conservative governments. The Liberals have said they want to the program. However, on the one hand, they say they are trying to fix, On the one hand, through the trans-Pacific partnership, they are actually reinstating it.
Often when I have raised this issue, I have been drowned in platitudes by the government. I thought it might be useful to refer to the text to try and orient the debate on the real concern. It is a concern we have heard loud and clear from building trade unions, which have a lot of experience in interpreting these kinds of documents, whether they are collective agreements or other policies that have a direct impact on workers.
The provisions we are particularly concerned about have to do with the number of categories under which we believe workers can enter Canada to perform trades work and if they meet the spirit of the agreement or not. We have certainly seen instances before where companies bring in workers in defiance of the spirit of agreements for temporary workers.
However, the TPP is very clear. For these categories of workers it states, “Canada shall grant temporary entry and provide a work permit or work authorisation to”, in this case professionals and technicians, “and will not:
(a) require labour certification tests or other procedures of similar intent as a condition for temporary entry; or (b) impose or maintain any numerical restriction relating to temporary entry.
Members of the building trades have been very clear, to us on this side of the House, and they have made similar arguments to members of government, that this essentially means that there will not be any ability to have any kind of meaningful skills testing or to ensure that the workers who are brought in meet Canadian standards. There is also not going to be any attempt to canvas the Canadian labour market to ensure there are not qualified Canadians looking for that work.
I am coming back to that issue. If we look at agreements like the trans-Pacific partnership, and we have seen it in other trade agreements, when big business wants something in the agreement, it gets it, and it gets it in the legal wording of the text. Those are the types of assurances it gets and it knows it can go to court, whether to a real court, a national court, or an international trade tribunal established under the auspices of whatever agreement it is, and get satisfaction if those rules are broken.
However, when it comes to workers, there is no guarantee for workers in these agreements. When it comes to workers, it is always, “Trust us. We're going to set up a little program” or “We'll have some regulations.” However, that will depend completely on the government of the day. There are no real assurances that the government will have any meaningful enforcement mechanism when it comes to this. There is no reassurance that it will be able to track these workers once they are in the country and ensure they perform work in accordance with this deal.
Therefore, why is the government willing to put assurances in these deals for big corporations and not for workers?