House of Commons Hansard #28 of the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was deal.

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Speaker's RulingCanada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Speaker, I congratulate my hon. colleague on his maiden speech.

I am from a forestry riding in the province of British Columbia, in which 140 communities are dependent on forestry. Tens of thousands of jobs have been lost just in the last year alone. The Liberal government has dithered away time and has not secured a new softwood lumber agreement.

I would ask my hon. colleague why he thinks the Liberals missed a key opportunity to negotiate a new softwood lumber agreement in this new agreement.

Speaker's RulingCanada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Dave Epp Conservative Chatham-Kent—Leamington, ON

Madam Speaker, the short answer is this. I have no idea why the Liberals would not address such long outstanding issues such as softwood lumber, buy America provisions and a whole host of other provisions. I do not know.

Speaker's RulingCanada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Simon-Pierre Savard-Tremblay Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of the Bloc Québécois to speak to the Canada-United States-Mexico agreement. The Standing Committee on International Trade has put a lot of time into analyzing the agreement. My colleagues who sit on that committee with me can confirm that we have worked late on many occasions.

As I reminded members in my first presentation to the House on this topic, Quebec's separatist movement does not need any lessons on fostering trade with the rest of the world. Free trade with the United States is the result of a successful gamble taken by Jacques Parizeau and Bernard Landry following—and this is interesting—a fear campaign led for the most part by the House targeting Quebec's presumed inability to survive without the Canadian economy. That was not the case.

We took a chance on free trade, and what a success it has been, since access to the market south of us has been such a windfall for our SMEs, especially because Quebec has always managed to merge openness to trade with economic nationalism, using the most effective tools. However, as Jacques Parizeau later criticized, free trade has too often become synonymous with secret negotiations in favour of multinationals, ranging from the relinquishment of political sovereignty to sacrificing the most vulnerable members of society.

What does all this mean for CUSMA?

First of all, transparency was severely lacking from the entire process. At the Standing Committee on International Trade, the economic impact study authored by the chief economist at Global Affairs Canada was not tabled ahead of his appearance. How were we supposed to read and go over that study with enough time to prepare speaking notes?

What is more, the study presents a dubious and dishonest methodology because it compares CUSMA to the absence of an agreement. It compares CUSMA to nothing, as though NAFTA has not been in effect for years. Of course, some might say that without CUSMA there would be nothing left.

Personally, I cannot imagine a situation in the near future where Canada and the United States would no longer trade with one another. We can only conclude that, without CUSMA, we will revert back to NAFTA. If we tear up NAFTA then we will go back to the FTA. If we tear up the FTA, then there is always the World Trade Organization.

I know that each of these scenarios does not amount to the same thing. I know that it would be better to have a direct channel between the signatory countries. Nevertheless, it is just fearmongering to claim that we would somehow magically end up in a situation where trade between the United States and Canada would no longer exist.

I would also like to address another matter. The first version of CUSMA, as presented in recent years, was completely unacceptable. Just think of the provisions that would have allowed the digital giants to bring their goods into Canada without tariffs and to sell them tax-free. The provisions concerning pharmaceutical patents would also have benefited major corporations and increased the cost of prescriptions. Fortunately, these provisions are not in the current version of CUSMA.

I must say from the outset that the current version of the CUSMA is far from what an agreement should be in 2020. I will take the example of the environment. Although we are in a climate crisis, the agreement contains next to nothing on the environment, except for some good intentions. There is no mention of environmental agreements other than those that were in NAFTA. There is no climate standard, no acknowledgement of climate change and no system to deal with problematic cases, except for the state-to-state dispute settlement mechanism, which is not exactly known for its amazing efficiency.

However, when compared to NAFTA, CUSMA is an improvement in some respects. For that reason, we must opt for this version rather than the status quo.

CUSMA abolishes the ban on limiting exports of Canadian oil to the United States, a measure that could hinder efforts to fight climate change, and that is just fine.

The agreement reaffirms the cultural exemption, which we are very happy about. Quebec has been actively advocating at UNESCO, with the support of France, to make sure that culture is not treated like a commodity.

The elimination of NAFTA's chapter 11 is another significant step forward. This chapter dealt with investor-state dispute settlements and sacrificed political power in favour of a virtual government of multinationals. These multinationals were able to sue states if they had the misfortune of limiting the ability of a corporation to make profits while trying to protect their citizens.

Ottawa was sued several times over the years, for example for its decision to restrict imports of a fuel additive suspected of being toxic, for restricting the export of toxic waste, for revoking patents for medications of questionable quality, and also for Quebec's decision to ban the sale and use of certain pesticides on lawns and Quebec's moratorium on drilling in the Saint Lawrence. That list is far from exhaustive.

Canada is the NAFTA country most often sued by private investors. The worst thing is that this mechanism has subsequently been emulated in all of the free trade agreements. Around the world, 60% of these lawsuits have ended in multinational corporations triumphing over the states being sued or negotiating a friendly agreement, according to the UN report. That means that in 60% of cases, the power of money partially or totally prevailed over the states' political will and the power of democracy. Naturally, this quantitative assessment does not factor in the constant pressure on public decision-makers, who need to censor their own comments to avoid getting dragged into court.

Jacques Parizeau used to say that globalization was like the tide. We cannot stop the tide, but we can build dikes.

This chapter of NAFTA did not even allow us to build dikes. Now that this chapter, which had such serious consequences, is gone, all we can say is good riddance. However, we will keep a vigilant eye on the new chapter on good regulatory practices. The chapter is quite restrictive, and its tone reveals a deep-seated distrust of state intervention. That is something we will certainly have to keep a close eye on, to ensure that it does not turn out to be a new impediment.

The elimination of the provision allowing private investors to sue states is a laudable precedent. It will be hard to bring back that type of mechanism in future international negotiations.

Other gains were sadly much too symbolic. CUSMA includes one chapter dedicated exclusively to small and medium-sized businesses and it emphasizes how important they are. That is very good, but this chapter unfortunately does not go beyond affirming some basic principles. CUSMA fortunately protects market access for these businesses in most sectors.

The chapter on labour does contain some notable improvements, in particular for the auto sector. Although Quebec has no direct ties to this sector, the provision does indirectly establish a minimum wage that, I must say, will be difficult to enforce. Nevertheless, that is definitely an improvement.

Other categories of workers will unfortunately not benefit from that same improvement, although this chapter does give workers some recourse. Will these methods be effective? Only time will tell.

However, CUSMA is not free of grey areas. It is important to mention that one of them is softwood lumber. The softwood lumber situation is a constant irritant. It never stops. It is like a problem that is never solved. As we know, the United States has always applied punitive tariffs on our lumber. The U.S. math has always been clear: Industries are driven into bankruptcy while the wheels of justice slowly turn.

Washington has always been able to play outside the rules. The CUSMA negotiations could have been an opportunity to clarify those rules to ensure that such unfair practices no longer occur. That was not the case.

That is why I introduced an amendment to have the minister create an advisory committee on softwood lumber products that are not on the export control list.

As my colleague mentioned earlier, some copyright issues are being addressed similarly to how the United States is addressing intellectual property. This approach may well favour big business.

The dairy sector has clearly suffered a setback. The scenario is always the same: Every governing party makes a heartfelt commitment during the election campaign to never tamper with supply management again. Every party tells us not to worry because it will not touch it, unlike its predecessor. However, when that party takes office, it goes about negotiating in secret, like its predecessor, and then we learn that supply management has been affected. When the agreement under discussion becomes public, the excuse is always that it is only a small breach and that we must not worry because it is only a small percentage. Okay, fine, but when those small breaches are taken together, let's face it, they amount to a sizeable crater.

In CUSMA, giving up 3% of the market means losses of about $150 million per year. The agreement also eliminates class 7, which dealt with the dairy protein problem. Worse still, it gives Washington the ability to limit the amount of dairy protein our producers can sell to other countries. Allowing one country to oust another as a global competitor by controlling its exports is, we believe, unprecedented.

We will not back down on this. The government must provide direct compensation to affected farmers without delay. I would also encourage the House to support the Bloc's bill banning any future hits to supply management. Our food supply is too important to be subject to the rules of global economic war. Lip service and simple election promises do not cut it anymore. We need a legal obligation here. Our farmers, the very people who enable us to fill our fridges every day, have been made to suffer enough. The first thing we do when we get up every morning is open the fridge. We owe our farmers a debt of gratitude. After all, they are the only professionals we need every day, many times a day.

On the sensitive issue of aluminum, the government pulled a classic Canadian move. Despite the government's denials, aluminum, a Quebec industry, was not given the same protections as Ontario steel. While the government was celebrating this agreement, the Bloc Québécois noted that the protections were not the same and spoke out about it. The agreement protects only North American aluminum parts, but requires that steel be melted and poured in North America. However, Mexico does not produce aluminum and could continue to use dirty Chinese aluminum, which is lower quality and made in coal-fired plants. This dumping would have jeopardized the expansion projects of Quebec aluminum plants, threatened jobs in those plants and undermined the tremendous environmental opportunity presented by our carbon-neutral aluminum, which is the greenest in the world. What is more, in an era of climate change, the trend in the auto manufacturing industry is to move toward lighter parts. The Quebec National Assembly voted unanimously on a motion to support our aluminum workers and industry.

At first, the government denied the elephant in the room, but we held firm. That paid off and the government committed to collect real-time data on aluminum imports. If that data shows that Mexico is indeed sourcing foreign aluminum, the government promised to revisit this issue and ensure that our aluminum gets the same protection as steel. Mexico's angry response shows that there is indeed a problem that the government insisted on ignoring.

Although certain representatives tried to claim that there was no real change, Canada's chief negotiator, who was responding to a question I asked in committee, acknowledged that this definitely constituted a gain. We will be keeping an eye on the government to make sure it keeps its word. The burden lies on its shoulders. We will therefore be voting in favour of CUSMA, not happily and not particularly enthusiastically, and, more importantly, knowing we will remain extremely vigilant. In fact, I promise to be the watchdog at the Standing Committee on International Trade. We will also keep a close eye on all this here in the House.

In closing, I want to talk about a long-term vision for the future. In this file, as in many others, we tried to minimize the losses. The Bloc is always hard at work when it comes to damage control. However, we must not forget one basic rule: Those who are absent always get the blame. Not being at the table when decisions are made definitely has its consequences.

In fact, in the negotiations for the agreement with Europe, the former Quebec representative within the Canadian delegation said that the role of the Quebec delegation was unfortunately limited to offering a love letter. In other words, people were hard at work everywhere, especially behind the scenes, where they were trying to influence the delegation, except at the decision-making table. This cannot always be without consequence. Those who are absent always get the blame. That is why the ultimate, long-term goal of our actions is of course the independence of our nation, Quebec.

Speaker's RulingCanada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal Humber River—Black Creek, ON

Madam Speaker, the member is on our international trade committee and I appreciate his support and participation.

Looking at the cultural exemption in particular, that is something very important to all of us and certainly to the government. It means that with this agreement we will be protecting a $53.8-billion industry, thousands of jobs across Canada, 75,000 of which are in the Quebec region.

I would like to hear my colleague's comments on whether he thinks that is a worthwhile part to have in this agreement.

Speaker's RulingCanada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Simon-Pierre Savard-Tremblay Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, I talked about the cultural exemption in my speech. We are pleased that it is being reaffirmed. I would remind hon. members that Quebec fought hard for this UNESCO recognition. There are some things that cannot be treated entirely as commodities. Our culture is undeniably very rich and recognized around the world. That being said, we do not have anything that resembles Hollywood. That is why we need to have practices and guidelines in place to regulate and protect our culture and offer it preferential treatment. The cultural exemption is an excellent way to do that. It is not the only way, but it is essential.

Speaker's RulingCanada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Madam Speaker, I listened to my colleague's speech intently and I want to thank him for his work on the international trade committee. He mentioned how Canadians are going to be paying the price for the Prime Minister's weak leadership. He talked about the aluminum industry, the dairy sector and the softwood lumber sector, all of these lost opportunities.

One point he brought up that is incredibly important to Canadians is the lack of transparency. The original TPP that was negotiated five years ago by the government had a positive effect of $4.3 billion on our GDP. The new agreement, according to C.D. Howe and as we heard in committee, is a $14-billion hit to our economy. The economic impact studies, as the member so carefully pointed out, were not even available to us until one day before the end of the agreement.

The Liberal government told Canadians before the election that this was a win-win-win, if members remember. It was a great deal for Canadians. Then we found out their own numbers. In my own community of Oshawa we have had a $1.5-billion hit to the auto industy and a decrease of 1.7% for production.

The member said that he is a watchdog and he is going to be a good watchdog working together on committee. I see myself in that form as well. There is so much misleading information and a lack of transparency.

How important is the implementation of this trade agreement and the oversight for that implementation, given the support for the negatively affected sectors? Also, because of the government's weak leadership and tendency to secrecy, how important are that implementation and oversight going to be?

Speaker's RulingCanada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Simon-Pierre Savard-Tremblay Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, transparency is essential. Sadly, it has always been lacking in this type of agreement. It is imperative that we find a way to come up with institutional mechanisms. The committees are one. We will do our job and I invite the other opposition parties to do theirs.

The Bloc, the NDP and the Conservatives all agreed on the fact that this process was short on transparency. Generally speaking, these types of negotiations are held with very little consultation. This is true even at the preliminary stages, before anything is discussed with parliamentarians. Civil society groups are rarely consulted. In the end, they win some and they lose some. We must certainly find a way to monitor this, and I invite my colleagues to give that some thought.

Motions are moved in committee on specific aspects of the potential consequences of trade. We must ensure that we do our job effectively. Yes, negotiations are held behind closed doors, but this issue needs to be debated at the political level thereafter.

Speaker's RulingCanada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, in his speech, the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot mentioned that an agreement had been reached between the Bloc Québécois and the government regarding the aluminum sector.

In committee, we heard that the government already had mechanisms in place to find out how much aluminum was in transit from China to Mexico. The information needed to find out what is happening is therefore already provided.

How is the agreement between the Bloc and the government different from what the government is already doing?

Speaker's RulingCanada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Simon-Pierre Savard-Tremblay Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, the hon. member was at committee when this gain was acknowledged. Although the commitment to provide us with all the data had already been discussed, this new measure goes beyond that commitment. We will have a lot of work to do in committee. If dumping were ever to occur, we now have a clear commitment that the government will raise the issue again and give aluminum the same status as steel. That changes absolutely everything.

Speaker's RulingCanada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Simard Bloc Jonquière, QC

Madam Speaker, I commend my colleague for his well-researched speech. It stands in contrast to some of the speeches we hear in the House, when members spend their time thanking their families and colleagues. I think his speech was strong and contributed to the debate. For those reasons, I salute him.

As my colleague noted, we have made what we can consider to be a gain on aluminum. At the very least, we have been able to reduce the harmful impact that the agreement might have had on Quebec aluminum.

My colleague mentioned softwood lumber in his speech. I appreciated hearing him mention that the United States is behaving in an underhanded way by dragging certain Canadian lumber producers through the courts until they run out of steam. I also liked his comments on supply management.

He ended on a strong note by telling us that the solution may be independence for Quebec. However, in the meantime, the Bloc Québécois may have a solution to propose. If the Quebec delegation were given a larger role, through some sort of mechanism, would that not result in better agreements? I would like to hear my colleague's thoughts on that.

Speaker's RulingCanada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Simon-Pierre Savard-Tremblay Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, honestly, that would be great, and we are working hard to make that happen. That is of course an area we will be investing energy in. The problem is that we could invest our energy in so many other things if we were truly free to make our own decisions. We would not get bogged down in convoluted squabbles with the rest of the country, whose interests are sometimes diametrically opposed to ours.

I fully understand why the rest of Canada might not care about aluminum, because aluminum is a Quebec industry. I fully understand why the rest of Canada would make concessions and not do anything for aluminum because it would rather put its eggs in another basket. There is no doubt in my mind that becoming good neighbours would be in our mutual interest.

Speaker's RulingCanada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I am sure my friend would recognize that in virtually all provinces and territories there is a certain element of uniqueness in terms of their economy and different industries and so forth. There is a high demand for people to participate in the negotiations and as government we have a role to play.

The member made reference to supply management and we will use that as an example. The original proposal from the United States was to completely dismantle supply management. This government, working with partnerships, was able to ensure that supply management continues on as part of the Canadian heritage and tradition. Does the member not see that as a positive thing?

Speaker's RulingCanada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Simon-Pierre Savard-Tremblay Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, as you can see, I learned my lesson.

As for what may have happened at the bargaining table, we are well aware that the United States wanted to eliminate the entire system. That goes without saying. However, since the government had made a direct promise not to touch the agriculture industry, this sector should not have been touched. At the very least, it should have been an untouchable, but that was not the case. The government promised several times not to touch it, as the previous government had done. In the end, it did touch it. At some point, the government needs to stop insulting people's intelligence.

Speaker's RulingCanada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I have found the third reading debate and indeed this whole process around the Canada-U.S.-Mexico trade agreement interesting. Today I watched as the governing Liberals, the opposition Conservatives and the separatist Bloc all tried to take credit for free trade and sing the praises of free trade. I can tell members that the New Democrats are not here to sing the praises of corporate free trade; far from it. We have been pretty consistent critics of this model of trade, but not trade itself.

One of the sleights of hand that too often happens not just in this place but in the media about trade is that somehow the corporate model of free trade that has been very good at reinforcing corporate rights over the rights of people and the environment is somehow the only way to do trade. New Democrats are not under that illusion. We know that too often corporate free trade deals have meant that countries get trapped in a race to the bottom, that these deals are structured in a way to allow international capital.

We hear in other debates about how Canada needs to compete for investment, and if it tries to regulate in the public interest in areas that have to do with the environment or workers that international capital is going to leave and go to other jurisdictions. These types of free trade agreements are all about making that easier and all about intensifying the threat of capital flight in the event governments choose to stand up for their workers, the environment or the rights of indigenous people within their territory.

CUSMA unfortunately is part of that model. What is different here is that we are not talking about going from no free trade agreement to having a corporate free trade agreement. What we are talking about is two different agreements and which one we are going to have. As some people mentioned earlier, if we did not go for the new CUSMA and the existing NAFTA was abrogated by the President of the United States, there would still be a free trade deal in place, the original free trade deal between Canada and the United States.

We are not in a position where we are talking about whether Canada is going to sign up for some new commitment under the corporate free trade agreement. What we are talking about is which commitment is going to serve Canadians better. That is an important point to make, and that has been a consistent theme throughout the debate on this. Certainly it has been an important part of the NDP's deliberations on this particular deal.

In my speech at second reading, I said there were two questions that were going to guide us in our thinking. One was whether, on balance, this deal would leave Canadians better off than the current agreement. The second question I said would guide our deliberations was whether we could leverage the process around this deal, which we knew was going to pass anyway because the Conservatives said early on that whether they liked it or not or studied it a long time or a short time, ultimately they were going to vote for it. We knew that this was an agreement that was going to pass, and the question was whether we could use the process around this ratification in order to get a better process that made the next trade agreement negotiation more open and transparent to the Canadian public.

I want to talk a little about some of the problems with the model and then I want to talk a little about this particular agreement and why, on balance, we think that the package of things that comes with this agreement will leave Canadians a bit better off than the status quo.

In addition to the problems of the corporate free trade model I mentioned earlier, particularly that race to the bottom when it comes to environmental standards and labour standards, there is another problem. We hear often from Conservatives that what they do not like about government is that it picks winners and losers, except that they have no problem with that when it comes to free trade agreements. Often the Conservatives negotiate the deal and then the Liberals sign the deal. That seems to be the pattern.

The Liberal Party and Conservative Party work very well together when it comes to advancing this corporate model of free trade, but Conservatives do not have a problem picking winners and losers in free trade agreements even though they do not like the idea of picking winners and losers when it comes to funding renewable energy, for instance, over other industries. They say that is an unacceptable picking of winners over losers. However, when it comes to sacrificing the dairy industry in agreements, we know the Conservatives negotiated concessions on supply management in the TPP, which ultimately the Liberals signed on to.

I was trying to listen in the best spirit and interestingly, optimistically, I heard members of the Conservative Party defending Canada Post, a Crown corporation. That was great to hear. I might add that is not reminiscent of the way the Conservatives behaved as a government, but it was nice to hear. That was another instance where they were decrying picking winners and losers. I am inclined to agree that Canada Post should not have been singled out, because I am a proud supporter of Crown corporations. I hope their resolve carries forward with them into whatever future positions they may have in this House, be it government or the fourth party. We can only hope.

I mentioned also that CUSMA picks winners and losers when it comes to the digital economy. Unfortunately, the losers, by and large, are Canadians themselves. This has been another feature of these corporate free trade agreements where governments, I think quite needlessly, tie their hands when it comes to making good public policy. One of the things this agreement does is it really constricts the options Canadian governments have going forward on how to deal with what is a new, emerging and very important and significant aspect of the global economy, which is the digital economy.

For instance, in this agreement, the government has agreed it will not make third party platforms responsible for the content posted on those platforms. That is a major policy decision. It is one that we may well live to regret. It is a discussion which, in my opinion, should have happened in this House in a far more robust way. That is not the kind of thing we should have been negotiating with trading partners prior to having a meaningful debate about how Canada wanted to treat this issue.

In some places within trade agreements we get protection for existing laws, rules and policies. We really have not had the opportunity to establish those in a meaningful way for many aspects of the digital economy. We see the government already signing away its ability to make those decisions and, by extension, the ability of this place and Canadians themselves to decide how they want their digital space managed going forward. That is a feature of these kinds of agreements. It is the kind of thing the NDP has been a vocal critic of. We think it is one thing to decide we want to trade with another country, but when we look at agreements like the Auto Pact, which were not global free trade deals but about dividing up the wealth that comes from producing those products and ensuring that the trading partners each were getting their fair share of the wealth generated by the products that were going to be moving freely across the border, that is not what free trade is. Rather, it is more about, as I said earlier, setting up rules to make it easy for multinational corporations to move their production around. That may have a short-term benefit on price, but it does not always. We know companies charge what the market will bear. In the long term, I think there are many Canadians who would appreciate the opportunity to pay a bit more for a good or service that contributes to Canadian workers and keeps wealth in Canada, but I digress.

I mentioned earlier there were two questions that would guide our deliberations. I want to speak to the first one now, which is whether, on balance, this agreement is better than the status quo. There are a few things I would point to that are laudable, despite the faults of this agreement.

One is the elimination of chapter 11 of the original NAFTA. That was the clause under which foreign corporations, not Canadian corporations—although I would not have been a fan of that, but I think it was that much more egregious that it only gave these rights to foreign corporations—could sue the Canadian government for creating laws or instituting regulations that protect the environment or workers that they saw as costing them profit. Canada not only put that in the original NAFTA, but these investor-state dispute settlement clauses have been in most of the trade agreements that we have negotiated. Canada has paid out the most in the world under these kinds of clauses, so I am glad to see that go. I note it was something the President of the United States wanted gone and that initially our government defended, which has always seemed backward to me. Nevertheless, regardless of who got it out, it is out and that is a good thing.

It is likewise with the energy proportionality clause. It said that if, in any given year, we take the average percentage of Canadian production of oil and gas that went to the United States over the previous three years, in future years the U.S. would have a right to insist on that percentage of Canadian production. Regardless of whether there was a domestic shortage or whether we could get a better price somewhere else, the United States would have a right to that percentage of our production of oil and gas. We have always seen that as a completely unreasonable, to put it mildly, infringement on Canadian sovereignty and something that was not in the best interests of Canadians, so we are glad to see that go.

There are a number of new North American content provisions for the auto sector, which we think is a good thing. They hearken back to the Auto Pact. Those provisions are actually least like free trade provisions, but they are being lauded as potentially doing the most for the Canadian auto sector. I think this is a signal that the free trade model, in itself, is not enough for Canadian success.

One of the other things to note is that in the original version of CUSMA there were provisions that would have significantly increased the cost of biologic drugs. This was due to, unfortunately, not our own government, but to the Democrats in the United States who went back to the table. Because they were not satisfied with the original agreement, those provisions came out. That means that some of the increases in the cost of prescription drugs that were going to happen as a result of this agreement, which we have seen in other agreements like CETA and the TPP, are not happening in this agreement. That is a good thing. One of the reasons that the NDP has often opposed some of these trade agreements is because they offer unreasonably good protection to international pharmaceutical companies at the expense of Canadians who require medication to improve their quality of life.

We also saw, in the second round of negotiations spurred by the Democrats in the United States, first-of-their-kind labour provisions in a trade agreement. I will not say that they are perfect; a lot of work is going to have to be done in order to ensure that they are implemented in a way that realizes the maximum potential for workers in Mexico, but these agreements would provide some upward pressure on wages for Mexicans working in the auto sector. I think just as, or more, importantly, and we heard this at committee from a Mexican member of the labour movement, it will make it easier for them to organize real unions in their workplaces. Evidence shows that when there is a union, one is able to get better working conditions and secure better wages. That is good for Mexican workers and for workers in the United States and Canada as well. This is to the extent, and that extent remains to be seen, that companies will not be picking up their operations and simply moving them to Mexico because it is a way of getting out of having a union in a workplace and paying higher wages.

Again, this is not a panacea; it is not going to change things overnight, but these enforceable labour provisions are the kinds of things that New Democrats have said for decades ought to go hand in hand with the rules that are established, and very strongly protected, in international trade agreements.

By voting for this agreement at this time, we are trying to consolidate the gains of having chapter 11 eliminated, having the proportionality clause eliminated and having the potential increase in prescription drugs stopped. We want to give a chance to allow these first-of-their-kind labour provisions to play out and to see whether we can use trade agreements to increase fairness for workers. I hope, if we can show that there is success on that front, that one day we could get meaningful enforcement of some environmental rules across jurisdictions too.

This agreement really does not do that. It does not mention the most important agreement designed to address the most important environmental challenge of our time, which is the Paris accord and climate change. I think that is where we are going to need to get if we are going to have accountability internationally for countries reducing their climate emissions. We need to tie those accords to economic accords as well, so that there can be meaningful consequences for countries that do not live up to their expectations.

I want to spend a little time now talking about the second question that I said would guide our deliberations on this matter, which was whether this ratification process could be leveraged to get a better trade process for the next time.

This process in itself was not great. We heard other members speak earlier about just how late Parliament got an economic impact assessment. By everyone's admission, we are talking about a major deal. We are talking about a lot of trade crossing the border every day, and there has been a lot of commentary on the agreement. The surprising thing for Canadians who may just be learning about this, if they are watching at home, is that debate was not supported by any real economic data because the government did not release it until the day before the end of the committee hearings, which was just the last sitting Thursday. Therefore, the economic report that actually puts some numbers to what we are doing here came out on the Wednesday and the committee study concluded and moved along on the Thursday. That did not make a heck of a lot of sense.

There are other things that have not made sense over the years, particularly the high degree of secrecy around trade negotiations. As I mentioned in my speech at second reading, two of our biggest trading partners, with which we have concluded free trade deals, the European Union and the U.S., both released far more information about their negotiation process to the public. They create far more of a space for civic engagement around trade negotiation and allow their citizens to weigh in on what is important to them, what they think their executive is doing right in those negotiations and what it is doing wrong. We saw how that interplay between the legislature and the executive can create opportunities to get better deals. We saw that happen with this very agreement, unfortunately not here in Canada but in the United States where Congress was able to get involved and require the President to go back to the table in order to get a deal that was acceptable to the legislature.

This Parliament only deals with trade deals once they are signed, sealed and delivered and there is no possibility of going back to the table. That was why I contacted the Deputy Prime Minister early on in this process, to talk about some of those problems of process and how we might be able to improve those going forward. That precipitated a period of negotiation, at the end of which the government committed to put in its policy for tabling treaties in the House of Commons a new commitment. The government will now tell Parliament formally, 90 days before beginning formal negotiations with another country or group of countries, of its intent to bargain a new trade deal. It will table its negotiating objectives in Parliament, which means publicly, 30 days before those negotiations. That is comparable to what already happens in the United States, and is even less stringent than what happens in the European Union, so it is a completely reasonable thing to do and Canadians will be better off for it.

Finally, on the topic of the economic impact assessment, we got a commitment from government that it will make it a matter of policy that governments table economic impact assessments side by side with the ratifying legislation so that we never again end up in the ridiculous position we were in this time, where we were being asked to study a bill without having any economic data about its impact. I should not say “any”; we did have some from the United States because a year ago, it published an economic impact assessment. Canadians and their parliamentarians should not have to look to our trading partners for information about how a trade deal is going to affect us. We should be able to get that from the government. We now have a commitment to make it a matter of policy that governments will provide that information, which is important.

There is more I would like to say, but I look forward to the question and answer period.

Speaker's RulingCanada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Kenneth McDonald Liberal Avalon, NL

Madam Speaker, the member of the NDP mentioned a couple of things of interest. One was he mentioned the original status of the trade agreement and that leaving it as it is probably would not have been a bad thing. Has he forgotten about the tariffs that were imposed under that trade agreement, with its lack of defining things? There were the tariffs that were put on aluminum, that were put on steel, that were put on wood products, paper and whatnot. He has forgotten that.

The member mentioned the corporate free trade deal. A lot of the corporations that are in favour of this trade deal employ hundreds of thousands of people across this country, many of them unionized employees, to their benefit. In my riding, Ocean Choice International applauds the trade agreement because it enables the company to open markets free of tariffs and to provide well-paying jobs to the people who work for that company. Can the member say whether he still supports that, or whether he would just as soon those corporations did not have that ability in those free trade agreements?

Speaker's RulingCanada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I am just digesting the question. I hope I was clear enough that I am not a supporter of the original NAFTA. The NDP was not and is not.

What I was saying is that I do not like the model. I do not like the model that that agreement was signed under, and I do not like the model that this agreement was signed under. What we have been tracking in this debate is whether, overall, the one agreement under a bad model is, relatively speaking, better than the original agreement under a bad model.

Of course there are lots of corporations that employ a lot of Canadians; that does not mean they can do no wrong. That does not mean that they are all wonderful people. That does not mean they are all looking out for the interests of their employees.

I would refer the member to the 400,000 Canadians who have lost manufacturing jobs since the signature of the original NAFTA, including those in Oshawa who just recently had their plant closed, despite the fact they did award-winning work, because that plant moved to Mexico for the sole purpose of low wages. Canadians workers should not be forced to compete with that. That is exactly what these deals do.

There is some relief from that, for the first time, in these labour provisions. We are interested to see how those play out.

Speaker's RulingCanada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Simard Bloc Jonquière, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to make a quick comment about something my colleague just said. He said that the manufacturing sector lost a lot of jobs when NAFTA was signed. I do not necessarily see things the same way he does. That problem with the manufacturing sector coincided with an increase in the Canadian dollar, which happened because the oil industry is seen as the only factor in the Canadian economy. That is what we call the Dutch disease, and I do not think it has anything to do with the first NAFTA.

What does my colleague think about that?

Speaker's RulingCanada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, there were clearly many job losses between 1994 and 2007-08, when the Canadian dollar was at par with the U.S. dollar. The appreciation of our currency may explain some rather recent manufacturing job losses, but it does not explain the jobs lost between 1994 and 2007-08.

Speaker's RulingCanada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to congratulate the member for Elmwood—Transcona on clearly laying out the NDP trade policies. I congratulate him on his very effective work as our trade spokesperson.

The member does not take enough credit for something I think we will regard as historic. When we look back on the changes that his work with the Deputy Prime Minister led to in the way we approach trade agreements, we are going to see this was a historic change, providing more transparency, more openness and a role for Parliament in having input into the trade agreements instead of a last-minute yes or no, as in this case.

I wonder if the hon. member could give us some idea of how these agreements he reached with the government will apply to the upcoming trade negotiations with other countries?

Speaker's RulingCanada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I am going to go back a little ways to a process that some might remember around what was referred to as the security and prosperity partnership, SPP.

One of the really frustrating aspects about those negotiations was that we did not know the full extent of them. In one of the minority Parliaments that preceded 2011, there was an attempt to get documents, just for Canadians to get some basic information about what the government was doing at the negotiating table with the United States on that file. A Conservative chair of the committee at that time stood up and walked out of the room, lest emotion pass demanding information about what was going on at that table.

What we have negotiated with the government and what should be different is at least Canadians will know that a negotiation is taking place. That sounds really basic. It does not sound particularly exciting. It sounds like the kind of thing that of course we would know, because the government always tells us. However, the fact is that there is no requirement for the government to tell us. The SPP was a great example of a time when it refused to tell us.

Not only would we know that that negotiation was happening, but we would have, at the very least, the high-level negotiating objectives, which were presumably were different for the SPP than they were for the TPP or CETA.

This is one of those things that are easy to understate. It sounds like it is not that big of a deal, and that the government was already doing that. The point is that it was not. People in the trade justice network, labour unions and other parts of civil society know that these trade agreements can have a real impact on the lives of working people, not just corporate tycoons who are going to make more money but real Canadians who have a real potential to lose out on things that matter to them in their lives. This is going to give them a window in, to know where to start looking and sniffing around to find out what is going on and how it is going to affect people, whether they are members of unions or organizations, or just ordinary Canadians whose welfare they are concerned for.

That is why it is a really important starting point.

Speaker's RulingCanada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

Noon

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I am encouraged by the Deputy Prime Minister and her ability to reach out to find ways to improve upon the system. I applaud the member's approach in trying to deal with that issue.

However, I would not want to give an impression that all of a sudden a group of individuals in the United States met with representatives from Mexico, an agreement was signed and no background work was done. For months, if not years, there were discussions and dialogue on a potential agreement that needed to be achieved in Canada. There was industry representation from all regions of the country and hundreds of hours of debate, not only on this issue but on other trade agreements.

Therefore, we should not give Canadians a false impression that everyone was blindsided. Even after the agreement was signed, the Deputy Prime Minister offered the leadership of all parties the ability to participate and gain more information.

Could the member provide a general overview of those comments?

Speaker's RulingCanada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

Noon

NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I know the Deputy Prime Minister has made a lot about the amount of consultation that went on. However, there is a big difference between consulting sector-specific people under the cloak of NDAs, or non-disclosure agreements, where they are not allowed to talk about anything, versus bringing it to Parliament where there are things we can discuss. There is a difference between sharing objectives at the negotiating table with people who are not allowed to talk about those with anybody else and sharing them in Parliament, where the country can have a conversation about what should be on the list and what should be taken off the list, and supply management is a great example.

Dairy farmers are hit hard by this agreement. I hope there will be another context. It has been done somewhat at committee, where we have talked about ways government can mitigate some of the ill effects that are part of this agreement. That debate should have taken place with more information on the table. Up until two weeks before this version of the deal was signed, dairy farmers were told they would be okay, that there were not significant concessions beyond what was in the original NAFTA.

People were caught off guard. Public debate has a way of bringing those things out. It does not always, it is not perfect, it is a blunt instrument, but it can really bring things to the surface. That is why it was such a priority for us to take the first meaningful step on a road toward a better, more transparent process. In the long term, that will help us get better deals that are fairer for workers and the environment.

Speaker's RulingCanada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

Noon

Vaughan—Woodbridge Ontario

Liberal

Francesco Sorbara LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue

Madam Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise to speak to Bill C-4, an act to implement the agreement between Canada, the United States of America and the United Mexican States.

We must ask parliamentarians to come together and join our partners in the United States and Mexico and ratify this agreement. We need to ratify it expeditiously and ensure certainty for businesses and, more important, ensure certainty for employees across this beautiful country we call home. It is of paramount importance.

I recommend all my colleagues and all Canadians watching read the economic impact assessment on the new NAFTA, the CUSMA. I will read some of the preamble, which states:

The final CUSMA outcome effectively achieved Canada’s overarching objectives by preserving key elements of NAFTA, modernizing and updating the Agreement to support Canada’s access to and integration with the North American economy, providing important stability and predictability with respect to overall market access, and addressing the harmful impacts of U.S. Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum, as well as threats of similar tariffs on automobiles and auto parts.

I am sharing my time today with my hon. colleague, friend and mentor, the hon. member for Humber River—Black Creek.

Two aspects of the agreement need to be highlighted as we begin the debate in the House. These are of paramount importance to the New Democratic Party, the Conservatives, the Greens, the Bloc and the Liberals.

The first is that this would ensure Canada's trading partners in North America would maintain high levels of labour and environmental protection. This agreement has bipartisan support in the United States between Democrats and Republicans. It has been ratified already by the United States and Mexico. It has support from our major unions in Canada, Unifor, Canadian Labour Congress. The agreement is a win for the environment. It is a win for labour. It is a win for hard-working middle-class Canadians from coast to coast to coast. It is a win for our businesses to help grow our economy and keep it moving forward.

Second, the agreement would strengthen the state-to-state dispute settlement mechanism between parties and would ensure that disputes would be settled in an effective and efficient manner. This is all contained in the impact assessment that was done by Global Affairs. It is a great read, is quite insightful and it provides an overview of where we will go with this agreement and how it will benefit all three trading partners and their workers.

We all know we live in a world that is currently seeing a lot of uncertainty with COVID-19. I want to express my sincere appreciation and full support to our health professionals in Canada and across the world who are on the front lines of the situation we are facing. I pray for them and thank them again for what they do.

Many of my colleagues will know that I am economist by training. I worked globally in Toronto, New York City and spent time in Europe before I entered politics. In my view, Canada, its workers and businesses are well positioned to handle the evolving economic environment or landscape. As a country, we will continue to succeed and grow as a people and our economy. We will continue to create jobs.

I witnessed first-hand the tech boom and bust, the global financial crisis of 2008 and 2009, which at one point our U.S. neighbours to the south were losing several hundred thousands jobs a month. Thankfully coordinated action by the Federal Reserve, under Ben Bernanke, central bankers everywhere and policies pursued by the Obama administration staved off what I believe would have been a second global depression.

As parliamentarians, we must understand how interconnected the global economy is and with that how interconnected the global energy sector is. We have all read the headlines. There are many forces at work currently in the global energy markets, and I wish to begin part of my speech and speak to the importance of Canada's energy sector to Canada's economy today and in the years and decades to come.

CUSMA guarantees access for Canadian products and services to the United States, keeps barrier-free from happening and is good for our energy sector among all other sectors, such as auto, aluminum, steel, dairy, services, intellectual property, etc.

I would like to express my thanks to all of Canada's energy and mineral mining sector workers, whether it be those in the oil sands sector, those working in the western Canadian sedimentary basin, those mining uranium, those maintaining our nuclear plants in Ontario and those working on the TMX pipeline or on the Coastal GasLink, which will supply LNG to the Asian markets, displacing coal and thus reducing the world's global greenhouse gas emissions.

We speak about climate change. We speak about saving our planet. We speak about moving forward. One of those aspects is displacing coal through LNG and that needs to happen so we can get to where we need to be.

CUSMA provides the energy sector, auto sector, our tremendously hard-working dairy farmers, steel and aluminum sector workers and the entire Canadian economy with certainty. However, again, let us focus on Canada's energy sector, which accounts for a very large portion of the two-way trade between Canada and the United States and for a very large portion of the trade between all three countries.

Here are a few facts about how important the energy sector is to the Canadian economy.

As of 2018, Canada's energy sector directly employed more than 269,000 people and indirectly supported over 550,500 jobs. It is all on Enercan's website and I encourage Canadians who want to analyze how important this sector is to take a quick look. That is over 800,000 good, middle-class jobs, with the overwhelming majority providing good wages and benefits to families across Canada.

According to 2018 statistics, the energy sector accounts for over 11% , or $230 billion, of Canada's nominal GDP. Direct revenues from energy to governments totalled over $14 billion in 2018.

As an economist, one measure I like to see is our merchandise trade statistics that are published monthly. In 2019, the Canadian oil and gas sector generated a trade surplus of $76 billion for our economy. That is money flowing into our economy to pay for schools, bridges and roads and to maintain our high standard of living. We can compare this to the auto sector, which is so important for Ontario, that has a trade deficit of $20 billion.

Behind that $76 billion trade surplus, Canada is the sixth largest world's energy producer, the fifth largest net exporter and the eighth largest consumer of energy. Frankly, energy drives our economy, our daily lives and our standard of living.

Total energy exports in 2018 were $132 billion versus $55 billion of imports, with oil and gas exports at $118 billion of which 95% were to the U.S. Notably, we export energy products to approximately 148 countries and 90% of that goes to the United States.

Human capital is a paramount strength of Canada, its people, its diversity, the ability to be an inclusive society and strengthen our economy. That is what makes our country a blessed place to live. When we also include Canada's natural capital resources, whether it is our agricultural sector, our forestry sector, hydro-electric power driven by our rivers and waterways, the mineral and energy wealth our country, Canada and its citizens are blessed and our potential when we work together is endless.

The new free trade deal between the three countries provides certainty to over $1.4 trillion, and growing, in trade volumes. Trade generates jobs, grows our economy and ensures a bright future for all children, including my own.

The world is becoming more interconnected. Our trade deals, CETA, CPTPP and CUSMA allow us preferential access to 1.5 billion individuals across the world. They allow us to continue to export our goods and services. Canada is a magnet for immigration. The best and brightest want to work here. They want to invent. They want to raise their families here. They want to call Canada home, and we welcome them.

On that front, CUSMA will allow us to move forward. When I read the economic impact assessment produced by Global Affairs, I saw what we have done, what the team under Steve Verheul has done. I applaud them. I applaud the Deputy Prime Minister for her steadfast commitment to ensuring a great deal for Canadian workers and businesses.

I have heard from all sectors and stakeholders in our economy and they all want this deal to pass. Whether it is the Chamber of Commerce, both locally and Canada-wide, or Unifor or the Canadian Labour Congress, they all want certainty. In this period of time, we need certainty for our economy. This deal would deliver it.

I look forward to debate this week and participating in it, commencing with today's speech. We know we need to provide certainty for our workers and literally the millions of Canadians whose livelihoods depend on trade with the United States and Mexico.

Speaker's RulingCanada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Simard Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I learned from my colleague's speech that he is an economist by training. I want to take this opportunity to ask him a question.

There was some confusion in the House. Several members of the party opposite told us that aluminum received the same treatment as steel. Inevitably, following discussions that we had, the government admitted that aluminum actually had not received the same treatment as steel.

Just once, I would like a member of the Liberal Party to clearly tell the House that aluminum did not receive the same treatment as steel until the Bloc Québécois intervened.

Speaker's RulingCanada-United States-Mexico Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Francesco Sorbara Liberal Vaughan—Woodbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member from Jonquière for his question.

First of all, on CUSMA, the cultural exemption was maintained in the deal. We know how important that is for Quebec's economy and its cultural sector, which is very large and employs, I believe, over 75,000 workers.

With regard to the aluminum sector, I had the pleasure many years ago of visiting the Alma smelter, which I think is in the Lac Saint-Jean region. I spent a couple of days there touring the plant. It is beautiful to see how it harnesses the power of our natural resources.

I would like to answer the member's question directly with a comment from Mr. Simard, the president and CEO of the Aluminum Association of Canada. With regard to the revised USMCA, or CUSMA, he stated, “We think the USMCA (United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement) is the right way to go.”

I believe we need the support of all parties in the House to provide certainty not only to the steel and aluminum sectors, but to all sectors in Canada and all workers.