Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be speaking today about Bill C-46. This debate has been lively because of the divergence of opinions among the various political parties as well as their different values. The debate about these free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama is a debate about conflicting values.
I am speaking about this bill today because it deals with an agreement that I have been following for a while, having sat on the Standing Committee on International Trade for a few years.
To begin, I would like to say to the House that we, too, will be supporting the proposed amendments, even though they would void this bill. The fact remains that we think that is a good thing. In fact, this bill would allow Canada to sign an agreement with a tax haven, that is, with Panama. While the government is saying that it wants to fight against tax havens, it is now ready to sign a free trade agreement with a country that is on the OECD's tax haven blacklist.
We are against this free trade agreement. We now know that this tax haven, Panama, denied Canada's request for more tax information. In exchange, the two countries agreed on double taxation. That is nothing like our request for more tax information from each country once the agreement is signed.
The Bloc Québécois is not against all free trade agreements. We were against the one with Colombia, clearly, as well as the one with Panama. However, we were the first party in this House to call for a free trade agreement with the European Union. And we believe that agreement is more fair and reasonable for Canada and Quebeckers.
And we, the sovereignists, orchestrated the free trade agreement that was signed in the 1980s with the United States and Mexico. We are in favour of a free trade agreement when it is fair to workers and the economy and when it complies with environmental or labour standards or standards that make investment as prosperous for Quebec and Canada as for the country signing the bilateral agreement.
In the case of the free trade agreement with Colombia, I participated in the mission to Colombia and Panama in order to meet with different people affected by the agreement. I remember very well that the unions, women's groups and labour groups were opposed at that time to the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement for all sorts of reasons. There was the corruption, even within the Uribe government, and the role of the paramilitary, who protected some mine operators who exploited workers. We were against the agreement. It was unacceptable to Quebec and Canada.
Justice and fairness are values held by Quebeckers. We meet the standards of the International Labour Organization, as well as environmental standards. It is hard for us to imagine signing agreements with countries that do not respect these fundamental values.
As a leader in labour, environmental and economic relations, we should set an example and sign agreements with people and countries that respect our values. The opposite is true in the case before us. We are signing agreements with countries that do not respect our values. There is a lot of talk about drug dealers in Panama. It is a country where drug dealers launder money, a country that has many tax shelters. This agreement could allow some companies to avoid paying taxes, which would further reduce Quebec's and Canada's tax base. Our tax base equips us with more health and education services, social policies and social programs.
By signing an agreement with this country, the government would certainly encourage some companies to export, but there is a risk that these companies could take advantage of very low taxes and tax opportunities in Panama, which would lead to the loss of considerable revenue.
The situation in Panama is not as serious as the situation in Colombia, but it is still rather worrisome. First, there is the issue of workers' rights, which are not very well protected in Panama. Members will recall an announcement that made international headlines on June 30, 2010. The government of President Ricardo Martinelli passed Law 30, which was deemed to be anti-union legislation. This law included a reform of the labour code that was considered to be repressive because it would criminalize workers who demonstrated in defence of their rights. The Government of Panama recently agreed to review this law, but we have every reason to be concerned about the government's true willingness to comply with international labour conventions.
As parliamentarians and in the name of international solidarity, we must take action and speak out against bilateral free trade agreements that violate workers' rights.
Unfortunately, the Conservative government, with the support of the Liberals, is claiming that this kind of bilateral free trade agreement will generate revenue, create jobs and improve our competitiveness. I do not believe that the Canada-Panama free trade agreement will benefit workers in Berthier—Maskinongé or the rest of Quebec.
We must not forget that Panama is still considered to be a tax haven and a place that does not comply fully with international labour laws. The Conservative Minister of Finance told us that he was currently negotiating a tax treaty with Panama in order to tighten the rules on banking transparency to better combat tax evasion. We recently learned that Panama has no interest in signing this type of treaty. Furthermore, nowhere in the Minister of Finance's records do we see any evidence that such a treaty with Panama currently exists or is under negotiation.