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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was actually.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Liberal MP for Willowdale (Ontario)

Lost her last election, in 2011, with 40% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act September 27th, 2010

The Conservative government has created trade deficits for the first time in more than 30 years. There needs to be more effort and a greater commitment to improve this situation by increasing international trade between Canada and other countries in the world.

Canada relies on trade. Eighty per cent of our economy depends on access to export markets.

The Liberal Party supports the principles of free trade as well as initiatives that improve access to foreign markets for Canada's businesses. Even though Jordan's economy is not that large and trade between Canada and Jordan is not extensive, we can make a comparison with what has happened in the United States.

Since 2001, when the United States and Jordan signed their free trade agreement, their trade volume has increased tenfold. We hope to see similar results here.

Like Canada's free trade agreements with Chile and Cost Rica as well as the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Canada-Jordan free trade agreement includes side agreements on labour co-operation and the environment.

The Canada-Jordan labour co-operation agreement recognizes both countries' obligations under the International Labour Organization's Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, which requires that each country's national laws, regulations and practices protect the following rights: the right to freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining, the abolition of child labour, the elimination of forced or compulsory labour and the elimination of discrimination.

Both the labour co-operation agreement and the agreement on the environment between Canada and Jordan include complaints and dispute resolution processes that enable members of the public to request an investigation into perceived failures of Canada or Jordan to comply with these agreements.

The free trade agreement with Jordan is another opportunity to increase access to more markets for Canadian farmers and businesses. It will eliminate all non-agricultural tariffs and a majority of agricultural tariffs on our two-way trade.

Canadian businesses that are particularly well placed to benefit from this greater access will be farmers of crops such as lentils, chickpeas and beans. Frozen french fries are included, as are animal feed and various prepared foods. The agreement should expand opportunities for Canadians in other sectors, such as forest products, industrial and electrical machinery, construction equipment and auto parts, because the agreement will eliminate tariffs on such Canadian products as forest products, Canadian manufacturing products and certain agriculture and agri-food products.

Here are a few numbers: Canada's GDP was over $1.5 trillion in 2009. Jordan's was a little over $26 billion. Ten years ago, the value of trade from Canada to Jordan was approximately $22 million, and the value of trade from Jordan to Canada was about $3 million. Last year, the corresponding numbers were almost $66 million from Canada to Jordan and almost $17 million in the other direction.

As noted earlier, these are not very large numbers in the grand scheme of Canada's trade. However, we are very hopeful that the experience in the United States since entering free trade with Jordan, where trade expanded tenfold, will be repeated here in Canada. The Jordanian economy, good news, is predicted to grow by 3% this year and by 3.7% in 2011.

I will repeat that the experience of the U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement has been very encouraging. That agreement was signed only in 2001. Since then, trade between those two countries has increased tenfold. We are very hopeful of having a similar experience as a result of the agreement between Canada and Jordan.

Jordan has also entered into free trade agreements with some of Canada's other important trading partners. Jordan's free trade agreement with the European Union went into effect in May 2002, and a free trade agreement with the European Free Trade Association went into effect in September 2002.

From a political perspective, we support increased trade and engagement with Jordan because it further facilitates engagement with the country and encourages stability in the region. Canada has had a free trade agreement with Israel since 1997. This would be the first signed with an Arab country. It is appropriate that this agreement be with Jordan, as Jordan has shown considerable leadership in pursuit of peace in the Middle East, and indeed, has had a peace treaty with Israel since October 1994.

Countries like Canada should take the opportunity to encourage those efforts and should support constructive efforts toward forging better, more engaged, more prosperous and more peaceful relationships in the region.

This particular effort builds on the fact that Canada and Jordan already share a good and constructive relationship, as exemplified by our recent agreement on co-operation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, signed in February 2009.

In addition, Canada and Jordan have a foreign investment promotion and protection agreement. It was signed at the same time as this free trade agreement but is already in force. It is based on the principle of national treatment from an investor's perspective: a Canadian investor in Jordan will be treated identically to a Jordanian investor in Jordan, and of course, vice versa in Canada. This principle of national treatment is a core component of free trade.

Like most of Canada's free trade agreements, this free trade agreement includes agreements on the environment and on labour co-operation that will help promote sustainability and protect labour rights. The Canada-Jordan labour co-operation agreement recognizes both countries' obligations under the International Labour Organization Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, including the protection of the following rights: the right to freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining, the abolition of child labour, the elimination of forced or compulsory labour and the elimination of discrimination. Both the labour co-operation agreement and the agreement on the environment include complaints and dispute resolution processes that will enable members of the public to request an investigation into a perceived failure of Canada or Jordan to comply with these agreements.

I will say a few words on human rights. The question of human rights will always come up in the House when we debate free trade agreements, and rightly so. As I have said in the House a number of times, it is a good thing Canadian members of Parliament are concerned about international human rights. I have noted that we all, regardless of what party we sit for, want full human rights for everyone around the world. We do, however, from time to time, disagree on what Canada can do to further that goal and on how it can do it.

Some of my colleagues will say that putting up walls and preventing more open trade and engagement will somehow help, that somehow, Canada, by wagging its finger at other states instead of fully engaging them, will miraculously be listened to. I am afraid that that is not how the world works. I believe that rather than building walls, freer trade opens windows through which light gets in and opens doors through which we Canadians can engage on all sorts of levels with others. If we isolate a country, our capacity to engage in human rights is reduced.

Economic engagement increases our ability to engage in other areas, such as education and culture. All of that engagement increases the capacity to engage in the area of human rights. It gives us, as Canadians, a greater opportunity, through business people, customers, clients and others, to show by example, not with a paternalistic, finger-wagging, we know best attitude, how things work so well for us here in Canada. We can show that we are willing to share, on a friendly basis, those examples.

As I have said many times, it is the citizens of a particular state, not Canada, who are responsible for improvements at home. Canadians have a wonderful opportunity to engage with those citizens to expose what works in other parts of the world and in particular here, where we are proud of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, our successfully pluralistic society, and our peace, order and good government approach to governance.

In this regard, with respect to Jordan, we do not have the heightened level of concern we have had with Colombia, as witnessed by the significant debate in the House with regard to human rights in the free trade agreement with Colombia. That is not the issue in regard to the free trade agreement with Jordan.

I want to take the opportunity here to commend my Liberal colleague, the member for Kings—Hants, my predecessor in the role of critic for international trade, for the excellent work he did on the human rights amendment to the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act. Under that Liberal-negotiated deal, Canada and Colombia must publicly measure the impact of free trade on human rights in both countries. It is the first trade deal in the world that requires ongoing human rights impact assessments. Again, I commend my colleague for Kings--Hants for his excellent work in this regard and for hearing the concerns of every member of the House with respect to improving human rights for others in other countries.

All of this goes to my support and my party's support for Bill C-8 and for free trade with Jordan. Greater economic engagement helps us all economically, through more jobs and more prosperity, in both Canada and Jordan. Free trade is, in this case, a win-win opportunity. However, I wish at this point to highlight some real concerns about the Conservative government's approach to international trade generally.

We are losing the concept of free trade with our biggest trading partner, the one to the south, the United States. When the recession hit, the U.S. government responded with protectionism by putting forth its buy American policy and tighter rules. The Conservative government stood by watching as if it did not know what hit it. It engaged in photo ops in Washington, not realizing that the battle needed to be fought all across the States at the state level.

By the time a so-called exemption was worked out, which in and of itself required significant concessions by Canadian provinces, the protectionism in the United States had already hurt many Canadian businesses and had cost many Canadian jobs. Even the so-called exemption only covers 37 states, a great example of how it is not just Washington that must be engaged. Despite our vociferous efforts to get the Conservative government to engage much more forcefully at the state level, the government just did not seem to understand the whats of the negative effects on Canadian business nor the hows of fixing the problem. Now, here we are again.

The United States is threatening more protectionist legislation, the Foreign Manufacturers Legal Accountability Act, which, although not technically aimed at Canada, would significantly hurt many Canadian businesses and would affect Canadian jobs.

What is the minister's response? There has been no action whatsoever. Instead, he said that it is too bad, that we are always collateral damage in the battle between the United States and China. Then he said that we are hoping that it does not reach the vote stage before the U.S. election. Then he said that if it passes, we will probably seek an exemption for Canadian companies.

With all respect, it is simply not enough to, one, dismiss Canada as collateral damage, or two, to merely hope that it will not pass, just like the last time. We are urging the government to get on the ground, not only in Washington but across all of the states, to ensure that Canada is exempted from this very damaging proposed legislation before it happens. Canadian businesses need something done to prevent this from happening, not some day, and not with hopes and prayers.

I also want to use this opportunity of debate on the merits of free trade to exhort this government to do much, much more in dealing with China, South Korea and others. I acknowledge the announcement and the production of the report this last week on Canada and India, and I encourage this as moving in the right direction. However, having just returned from China and Korea, I am overwhelmed by the growth, the size, the pace, and the scale of what is happening over there. I am in turn dismayed by how little the Canadian government is doing to capitalize on the extraordinary growth and scale that presents such fantastic opportunities for so many Canadians.

There are incredible investments being made in infrastructure, water, sewage treatment, and public transit. We have been told repeatedly by the Chinese that they are looking for green technology, for forestry products, and for investments in the financial services industry. There are tremendous opportunities for trade and educational services and for cooperative engagement not just at the Canada-China level but at the provincial and municipal levels. My colleagues should understand that I do not suggest for a minute that the federal government impinge on those jurisdictions. Rather, I stress that we here in Canada could work much more cooperatively and productively by engaging all orders of government in a concerted effort to take much more advantage of the opportunities these extraordinary economies offer to Canadians.

We in the Liberal Party have stressed and will continue to stress the importance of Canada in the world. In this we have proposed a concept of global networks. The concept of trade and commerce, the older assumptions of trade and commerce, should be expanded to include all forms of engagement: educational, cultural, people exchanges of all kinds. Canada should be taking advantage of the extraordinary opportunities that this government, so far, simply does not seem to understand.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act September 27th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak today in support of Bill C-8, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and having it reviewed at committee.

I am pleased also to participate in a debate that, unusual for this House in recent times, should be relatively free of heated partisan rhetoric.

The official opposition supports the passing of this bill for many of the same reasons that members sitting on the government side of the House support it. We should take advantage of these opportunities when they come along, as they do so rather rarely. However, before my government friends get too excited, I will be raising some real concerns about the government's lack of action on increasing U.S. protectionism and on the missing trade opportunities with China, South Korea and others.

Canada is now experiencing the first trade deficits it has seen in 30 years. Indeed it set a record this July, not a record to be proud of, at a deficit of $2.7 billion. Something is going wrong. We must challenge the government hard on why that is and what we can do about it.

Although we in the Liberal Party want to see continued work on the larger multilateral trade negotiations, and I note that two of my colleagues just now have spoken about the desire for greater multilateral negotiations, we would like to see Canada work even harder in promoting a multilateral approach. We recognize the practicalities and challenges we see happening in that regard. In the absence of progress on the multilateral level, we in the Liberal Party encourage Canada to work at the bilateral level to enhance our trade with as many other countries as possible.

Canada is a nation that supports free trade. Our origins are those of a trading nation, starting with fur and wood and other natural resources. Trade accounts for a significantly greater proportion of our overall economic activity than many other nations. Indeed, 80% of our economy and millions of Canadian jobs depend on trade and our ability to access foreign markets.

Canadian exporters benefit from the reduction and elimination of tariffs on their goods destined for other countries. Canadian manufacturers benefit from the reduction and elimination of tariffs at the Canadian border of the various materials that go into their products. Canadian consumers benefit from the lower prices of imported goods when tariffs on those goods are reduced and eliminated.

Although there will always be debate about protectionism and what steps are best to foster and promote Canadian business success and therefore jobs, most Canadian businesses that look to domestic markets benefit from free trade, not only for all the reasons I have just given but also in being forced to innovate and compete with others from abroad, provided that those abroad comply with international rules of trade, tariff and non-tariff barriers. In the long run, Canadian businesses are more than capable of being strong, innovative and competitive when not hiding behind protectionist walls.

I am proud to rise in the House today for this debate and to show my support, on behalf of the Liberal Party of Canada, for Bill C-8 on the Canada-Jordan free trade agreement, the Canada-Jordan agreement on labour cooperation and the Canada-Jordan agreement on the environment.

The Harper government's careless handling of Canada's trade relations has led to trade deficits—

International Trade September 24th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, first, that heavily touted exemption actually covers only 37 states, so it does not go very far.

Second, the member said that we are “following” this effort. “Following” does not do anything for Canadian businesses and jobs.

I would say that the ambassador in the United States is working hard to pursue this. That is a good thing, because the minister is not.

I would offer that in this circumstance we need a strong, united Canadian front to battle this legislation, which could be very damaging, and we need to do it now.

I am offering my help. Will the minister accept? If so, can we start today?

International Trade September 24th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, the United States is once again threatening protectionist legislation that will significantly harm Canadian businesses and jobs.

The minister's response? Nothing. First he said that we are just collateral damage in the battles between the United States and China. Then he said that we are hoping it will not get to a vote before the American elections. Then he said that if it does, if it passes, we will probably seek an exemption for Canadian companies.

Who is the minister kidding? Canadian businesses need something done. What action will the minister take and when?

Competition Act June 14th, 2010

Madam Speaker, I would like to commend my colleague for introducing Bill C-452 with regard to the Competition Act. I would like to commend all of my colleagues for participating in the debate on this particular topic. We all, I believe, understand the value of competition.

Certainly, we in the Liberal Party value and understand the importance of competition in the market and understand that a competitive economy is a more prosperous economy. We also understand the need for protecting consumers and to ensure that the market itself is not so much protected but operated in a manner that prevents distortions in the market that may result from concentration or inappropriate behaviour.

Although the Competition Act and the Commissioner of Competition have important rights, which we value in terms of investigating particular businesses and their activities, the commissioner can only do that as a result of a specific complaint from an entity, individual or some other enterprise. In the market there are times when an individual or entity may, in fact, be hesitant for competitive, market or other reasons that we may not be aware of to raise a specific complaint with the Competition Bureau. In that sense, where those situations exist, it is important to give the Commissioner of Competition the opportunity to look at an entire industry sector.

I have no intention today of raising specific industries. My view is that this is an opportunity for the Commissioner of Competition, when it is appropriate, regardless of the industry, if there are issues that have been raised that suggest that an investigation is warranted into the industry as a whole. This is indeed an improvement to the Competition Act that would allow the commissioner to do just that.

I would like to thank my colleague for introducing this bill, which would enhance the Competition Act. Liberal members understand how important it is to have marketplace competition, but we also recognize the importance of protecting consumers by ensuring that prices and products on the Canadian market comply with the law.

There have been a number of arguments put forward in debate in this House that perhaps this gives too much discretion to the Commissioner of Competition. I would argue that this is not a situation where the commissioner would undertake an investigation willy-nilly. The history of the Competition Bureau has been one of operating with significant understanding of the Canadian market in all the different industries that have been looked at.

I would also argue that the Commissioner of Competition has had the opportunity to review certain industries as a result of investigations into particular business activities, particular activities engaged in by particular enterprises. That particular study ends up being done appropriately but too often through the back door. The addition of this provision would allow the competition authorities to engage in that larger investigation of an entire industry where warranted.

To address a concern that somehow this would provide an opportunity to go looking for problems, I completely disagree with that. The history of the Competition Bureau has been one of real understanding of the need of when to be involved and when not to be involved. I will repeat my earlier comment that up until now the opportunity has only arisen when a specific complaint has been laid.

The addition of this clause would allow the Competition Bureau to investigate an entire industry sector. That would not happen out of the blue. The entire history of the Competition Bureau would suggest that any such investigation would only happen when there was sufficient information available, whether through the market or through other indications that such an investigation would in fact be warranted.

In that regard, I have considerable faith in the Competition Bureau as an entity and in the people involved not to be engaging in witch hunts but, in fact, to take advantage the addition of a clause like this one to enhance their ability to balance the needs in the Canadian market of encouraging competition and competitive activity in this country in order to ensure the most prosperous domestic economy that we can achieve. We must also ensure the greatest level of global competitiveness that we can, all the while understanding the need to ensure that consumers in Canada are able to obtain the best products at the best prices without any undue influence in the market or any distortions in the market that may be seen in any particular industry.

I want to again thank my colleague for introducing this amendment to the Competition Act. I want to thank all of my colleagues who have participated in this debate. I have heard some of the arguments against it, but I would suggest that we should have a greater level of confidence in the Competition Bureau and the people who work in the Competition Bureau to use this to enhance their ability to encourage competition, and to ensure the best market and economic opportunities, and the protections that consumers need in Canada.

I look forward to hearing continued debate.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act June 11th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his initial kind words.

Despite the temptation to descend into a more personal approach, because I believe very strongly in our obligations here in this House to work together as much as possible with as much respect and civility without personal labels, I will say that in addressing the one issue about the trade committee's position on this issue I will repeat what I said in my answer to my other colleague from the Bloc Québécois.

We have been able, through the hard work and the excellent work of my colleague from Kings—Hants, to address significantly the fundamental concern that so many people have had with regard to human rights through the amendment, through the extra portion of this agreement on human rights, specifically. I am very proud of that fact. It was because of concerns raised by members of our own party, it was because of concerns raised by members of the public, that we were able to address those specific concerns. That is why, now, the Liberal Party is in a position to support this free trade agreement.

I want to commend all the colleagues who participated in that. I want to commend the colleagues on the opposite side of the House who appreciated the fact that that intervention, that amendment, that focus on human rights, was in fact what we needed to allow this to move forward. I would hope that my colleague would understand that we are at least trying to make progress.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act June 11th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question.

I would like to say two things. First of all, I am proud to be a member of a party that brings together people with different opinions, a party in which we can have discussions in order to achieve consensus and one that is able to find common ground that we can support. In the end, we determined that it was better to adopt this position for Canada and for people elsewhere.

I would also like to say that the speeches given by my hon. colleague from Kings—Hants on human rights greatly helped convince other Liberals that, as a party, we can now support that position.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act June 11th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for his comments. I will point out that earlier, the minister had said that the addition in terms of human rights was not necessary. I am glad to hear my colleague now acknowledging that in order to move this through and to get approval, in fact, the work by my colleague from Kings—Hants and the Liberal Party was instrumental in getting this to the point of getting it through the House, so I thank my colleague for that.

I will also say that when the government first came to power a few years ago, the attitude was not the one that I have been promoting. There was an element of sitting here in Canada and wagging our finger at other countries that did not engage in activities the way we preferred them to be. The government, to its credit, has acknowledged and has realized over the last few years, and it has a long way to go but at least it is making some progress, in recognizing that Canada cannot accomplish what it sees to be opportunities internationally by wagging our finger, but rather through engagement.

I will also comment on the reference to democracy in Colombia and reiterate what other colleagues have said. It is a democratic country. It is not perfect, but in the elections that we have seen, we have seen an overwhelming support by Colombians for free trade. They understand the value of engagement.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act June 11th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, first and foremost, I commend the efforts of all our colleagues in the House because of our very strong collective interest in the promotion of human rights elsewhere in the world. My thanks go to everyone for the spirited debate, the substantive discussions that have taken place in the House with that as an end.

In some cases I know we disagree very much on the how, but I want to stress that I believe very sincerely that there is a view among all members of the House that human rights are very important and, in particular, that the rights and protections of Colombians are very important to us all.

I want to thank all my colleagues in the House, because I know we have not necessarily always agreed during our debates, but I want to assure the public that I believe all members in this House want to see human rights respected all over the world. We are now talking about Colombia. We all want to ensure that human rights are respected in Colombia as well. We now have differing ideas and opinions as to how we can accomplish what we want to do in terms of human rights.

I will to speak now on why we have those differences and perhaps why I, in particular, feel strongly that the Liberal Party supports the free trade arrangement with Colombia. We believe very strongly that in the support of increased human rights, there is the option to say that we will put up walls and allow human rights abuses and other activities, which we find abhorrent. We can encourage the building of walls so people can hide behind them, or we can participate in the opening of windows through which we and the world can see and through which daylight can shine.

We can engage in avoidance. We can pretend that bad things are not happening and we can say that we are going to carry on with our own activities, or we can actively engage.

My view is that engagement is the opportunity to participate in encouraging, not just improvements in trade, not just improvements in the economic situation of both countries, but improvements in human rights in Colombia. We can engage in criticism. We can wag our fingers and say that they must do better, or we can engage in support of action and wherever possible support improvements where we see them.

As I said, I believe that all members in this House want to improve human rights, but the question is how to go about it. We have options. We can help build walls so people can hide behind them, or we can participate in the opening of windows through which we and the world can see and through which daylight can shine. We can pretend that bad things are not happening or that they are not our problem, and we can say that we are going to carry on with our own activities, or we can actively engage.

With my speech today, it is clear that my view—and I believe the view of the Liberal Party—is that engaging with Colombia is much more important. We can criticize. We can stand here and say they are doing things we do not like, or we can give our support when we see progress and the possibility of improvements. That is exactly what I want to see Canada participate in by supporting progress wherever we see it.

It ultimately comes down to a philosophy of whether it is better to encourage human rights. I absolutely believe in free trade on the basis that it will encourage economic prosperity in Canada and in all the countries with which we engage in free trade, and in this case with Colombia. Free trade is an avenue to greater economic prosperity for both countries and for the people.

However, clearly the issue, as has been discussed in the House with great emotion, has been the concern about human rights in Colombia. Therefore, I will focus on that. It is, without question, a philosophy of whether we believe that if we engage, it will help the cause of human rights in Colombia, or whether it is better to retreat and to avoid. I firmly believe engagement is the right direction for us to take.

I will use China as an example, and I know some of my colleagues may find it a bit odd. We all know that China still has major human rights issues about which we are all very concerned. However, I have a little anecdote. My mother travelled to China 30-35 years ago. When she came back, she had all sorts of very interesting stories, but one had to do with the control. It was not even a question of freedom of speech; it was a question of speech at all. Everywhere she went, she had someone controlling her move. She was prevented from speaking with anyone locally on the ground. It was not a question of freedom of speech, it was a question of speech alone.

I will look at what has happened with China over the last 35-40 years. It has been extraordinary. We know there are still significant concerns with regard to human rights, but the situation has so massively improved. I will venture to say that it has to do directly with the incredible growth of engagement, primarily on an economic level between China and the rest of the world. I will stress again, things are not perfect, but they are far better now than they were a mere few decades ago.

On that basis, I will speak about the issue of whether we need to focus on the status quo, or whether we need to focus on the current specific situation in Colombia, or whether we have an opportunity to look at the importance of the direction of the progress. Again, I refer to China. It is far from perfect, but the direction that country has taken in the last number of decades, the improvement in the rights people and the improvement in economic opportunities, has been extraordinary.

It is that progress and improvement that I hope all our colleagues can focus on rather than what has happened in the past in Colombia. We need to look at the significant improvements in that country, not only in terms of economics, but also in terms of democracy and the improvements in human rights and treatment of civilians in Colombia. Again, it is not perfect, but Canada has an opportunity, with this agreement, to participate in a significantly greater way with Colombia and Colombians. If we engage in more trade, if we engage in more investment, not only will we allow a greater opportunity for economic advancement and jobs, but we also allow an opportunity for more and more Colombians to see how the rest of the world operates, how Canada operates and how we stress the importance of human rights.

I firmly believe there is an opportunity for Canadians. When we engage more in trade and economic activity, it gives us that many more opportunities and occasions to engage in discussions and debate.

Not too long ago one of my colleagues suggested that if we put up those walls and said no to the windows, in a very short period of time Canada would end up focusing on something else, the European Union for example. That would be our focus in terms of trade negotiations.

Very quickly, nobody in this House will even be speaking of Colombia anymore. Colombia, as a country, will disappear from our radar and that would be a real shame. This is an opportunity for Canada and for Canadians to increase the level of discussion, to increase the level of engagement with Colombians through greater economic activity that can lead to greater exchanges and greater engagement on the educational front, the cultural front, and simply in terms of more people working and discussing with each other. This is a real opportunity.

I would like to talk about the improvements that could be made through stronger engagement. I will use China as an example. Some of my colleagues may find it a bit odd that I am using China as an example to talk about human rights. However, I am not talking about the current situation, but the difference between today's China and the China of 30 or 40 years ago.

I would like to tell a short story. My mother travelled to China 30 or 35 years ago. It was incredible; not only was it impossible to speak frankly and openly, she was not allowed to speak at all. There was someone with her at all times, controlling her entire visit. She could not speak or even have informal conversations with the locals on the ground.

I am using this example because I feel it is an example of engagement. The difference between the China of 30 or 40 years ago and today's China is incredible. We know that there are still issues with human rights, but things are evolving and progress has been made.

We now have the opportunity to ask what we can do. Do we want to build walls and do nothing because the situation in Colombia is not perfect? Even though there are issues, there has been significant progress in Colombia. We have the opportunity to support this progress. Canada, by engaging in more trade with Colombia, is improving that country's economy. And we have the opportunity to help with that progress. We can help Colombians contribute to this progress and ensure that the progress already realized in Colombia will continue.

That is a fundamental philosophical view that not all of my colleagues share.

There is a tremendous opportunity for Canada either to put up walls and wag our finger, and tell Colombia that we will not play with it until it does better, or we have an opportunity to engage because it has worked hard to improve, it has made progress even though it is not perfect, but we are there to engage as much as possible so that we can help the country to improve.

I will conclude with the fundamental view that it will not be Canadians who will ultimately change Colombia. It was not Canadians who changed China. In the case of Colombia, it will be Colombians. In the case of China, it was the Chinese.

Canada does have a role to play in engaging. I am proud of the role that Canada played with respect to China, in encouraging engagement, in encouraging the Chinese to demand greater opportunities for themselves within their own country. Canada has an opportunity to do the same thing with Colombia. We know it is not perfect. We know Colombia is making progress. We know that if we can engage even more with Colombia in terms of trade and economics, and in all of the other engagement that encourages, then we have an opportunity to help Colombians to help themselves economically and also with regard to human rights.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act June 11th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, could the minister speak to the participation of Liberal Party, in particular of my colleague from Kings—Hants, that resulted in an addition to this free trade agreement with respect to human rights, of which Liberals are very proud? I believe it was singularly important in being able to get our support for it.

Could the minister speak to Liberals' very constructive participation in the process?