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41st PARLIAMENT, 1st SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 143

CONTENTS

Tuesday, June 19, 2012




House of Commons Debates

VOLUME 146 
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NUMBER 143 
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1st SESSION 
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41st PARLIAMENT 

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Speaker: The Honourable Andrew Scheer

    The House met at 10 a.m.

Prayers



Routine Proceedings

[Routine Proceedings]

  (1005)  

[English]

Committees of the House

Environment and Sustainable Development 

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the third report of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development in relation to its study to provide recommendations regarding the development of a national conservation plan.
    Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests the government table a comprehensive response to this report.

Canada Genuine Progress Measurement Act

     She said: Mr. Speaker, I rise with great pleasure today to introduce a bill that had come before this House in previous incarnations by previous members of Parliament. I have updated it. It is looking to provide indicators of the measurements that really matter.
    There has been a lot of work done on the issue of genuine progress indicators in contradistinction to simply measuring the health of our society through the gross domestic product and other indicators which are simply measurements of the exchange of cash in transactions.
    I draw particular attention to the recent work that was performed by Professor Joseph Stiglitz, in conjunction with Professor Amartya Sen and Professor Fitoussi. It was done at the behest of the French government, but has now picked up general support through the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
    I would like not to use my own words, but to briefly quote the late Senator Robert Kennedy, who said just weeks before his death in 1968:
    Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross national product...counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armored cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts [the] rifle and [the] knife, and television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.
    Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry...the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning....
    In fact, Senator Kennedy concluded:
--it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Canada Shipping Act, 2001

     She said: Mr. Speaker. I am pleased to rise today to introduce an act to amend the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, which would exclude oil supertankers from the inland waters of Canada's Pacific north coast, known as Queen Charlotte Sound, Hecate Strait and Dixon Entrance.
    As this House well knows, Canada's quality of life is closely connected to the health of our oceans, which are integral to our environmental, social and economic services and capital.
    I join the majority of British Columbians who believe that transporting oil by supertankers in certain turbulent and hazardous inland coastal waters poses an unacceptable risk to the marine environment, to the communities and the businesses that depend upon that environment, and to all Canadians who share the common heritage of healthy oceans.
    I am therefore pleased to introduce this bill, which would legislate the long-term Liberal policy of prohibiting supertanker traffic from the waters around Haida Gwaii, in order to protect the Pacific north coast of Canada from oil spills.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act

Petitions

Asbestos  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to present a petition signed by literally tens of thousands of Canadians. They call upon the House of Commons to take note that asbestos is the greatest industrial killer the world has ever known and that more Canadians now die from asbestos than all other industrial causes combined. These petitioners also point out that Canada remains one of the largest producers and exporters of asbestos in the world, spending millions of dollars subsidizing the industry and blocking international efforts to curb its use.
     Therefore, the petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to ban asbestos in all its forms and to institute a just transition program for asbestos workers and the communities they live in, to end all government subsidies of asbestos both in Canada and abroad, and to stop blocking international health and safety conventions designed to protect workers from asbestos, such as the Rotterdam convention.

  (1010)  

Abortion  

    Mr. Speaker, I also have a petition that has been signed by tens of thousands of Canadians.
    It points out that Canada is the only nation in the western world, and is in the company of China and North Korea, without any laws restricting abortion, and that Canada's Supreme Court has said it is Parliament's responsibility to enact abortion legislation. They therefore call upon the House of Commons to speedily enact legislation that restricts abortion to the greatest extent possible.

Pensions  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present a number of petitions from Canadians from coast to coast to coast, who object to the government's decision to raise the age of eligibility for OAS from 65 to 67. The extent to which Canadians are disappointed and upset about this decision can be measured by the number of protests we have received in my office in the constituency and in Ottawa. The most vulnerable Canadians would be impacted by this decision, which is why Canadians are speaking out. Single parents, women in particular, will be impacted by this. The petitioners are asking that the government reconsider its decision, recognizing how difficult it would make life for those who would be impacted.
    Mr. Speaker, I have three petitions to present.
    The first petition asks the government to change the payment dates for old age security. It asks the Government of Canada to enact regulatory changes to divide the OAS pension dates into two separate dates for each month. A payment set during the first week of the month shall be used for those OAS pensioners whose 65th birthday occurs during the first half of the previous month, and a payment date set for the last of the month shall be used for those OAS pensioners whose 65th birthday occurs during the second half of the previous month.

Labelling of Genetically Modified Foods  

    Mr. Speaker, my second petition is to do with amending the Food and Drugs Act.
    This petition tells the government that Canadians have a right to make informed choices about the food they eat by having adequate information provided on food labels. The petitioners call upon the House of Commons to support an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act with respect to mandatory labelling for genetically modified foods.

Genetically Modified Alfalfa  

    The final petition is also to do with genetically modified foods.
     This is calling for a moratorium on GM alfalfa. The petitioners point out that organic farming prohibits the use of genetic modification and that the organic sector in Canada depends on alfalfa as a high-protein feed for dairy cattle and other livestock, as well as an important soil builder. The petitioners call upon Parliament to impose a moratorium on the release of genetically modified alfalfa in order to allow a proper review of the impact on farmers in Canada.

The Environment  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present a petition about the Experimental Lakes Area.
     As many people know, this is an area in northern Ontario consisting of over 50 lakes, which is internationally renowned as an area where freshwater ecosystems and the effect of pollution on freshwater ecosystems are studied in their whole over a period of many years and decades. It is a unique laboratory for studying the freshwater ecosystems that we need here in Canada to live.
    The petitioners ask the federal government to not cut federal funding for the Experimental Lakes Area.
    Mr. Speaker, I have a petition signed by citizens of Canada who are concerned about the proposed megaquarry in Melancthon Township in Dufferin County, which would be the largest open-pit quarry in Canada at over 2,300 acres.
     The petitioners are concerned with a number of things. They are concerned that the proposed megaquarry would remove from production some of Ontario's best farmland. They are asking that the Government of Canada conduct an environmental assessment under the authority of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act on the proposed Highland Companies' megaquarry development.

Animal Welfare  

    Mr. Speaker, I am presenting a petition signed by residents of the riding of Kenora who are concerned that stray and wild animals are not sufficiently protected by animal cruelty laws under the property section of the Criminal Code. They are calling on the Government of Canada to recognize animals as beings that can feel pain, and to move animal cruelty crimes from the property section of the Criminal Code and to strengthen the language of federal animal cruelty law in order to close loopholes that allow abusers to escape penalty.

  (1015)  

Mercury  

    Mr. Speaker, mercury is one of the most toxic substances. Mercury used in dentistry may contaminate the environment by the disposal of solid waste products and contaminate air from dental clinics. Burial, cremation and human waste may also contribute mercury to the environment.
    The petitioners request that the government recognize that the World Health Organization recommends the phasing out of dental amalgam and recognize the work of the intergovernmental negotiating committee. The petitioners request the government assume global leadership in recommending the phase-out of dental mercury and the phase-in of non-mercury alternatives within Canada at the upcoming UNEP intergovernmental mercury treaty negotiations.

Health of Animals Act  

    Mr. Speaker, I have a petition signed mostly by people in the region of Sarnia, Ontario, who wish to call attention to the fact that Canadian horse meat products that are currently being sold for human consumption in domestic and international markets are likely to contain prohibited substances. They call upon the House to bring forward and adopt into legislation Bill C-322, An Act to amend the Health of Animals Act and the Meat Inspection Act (slaughter of horses for human consumption).

Fishing Industry  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise to present a petition on behalf of residents of Prince Edward Island who are concerned over the plans with respect to fleet separation and owner-operator policies. They point out that these policies have been the backbone of the Atlantic inshore fishery for many years, that the removal of these policies would directly affect over 30,000 jobs in the fishing industry, and that there has been an abject lack of consultation with fishers on the issue, in fact, an outright refusal to answer some questions. They point out the problems that have arisen with respect to the control of the fishery by corporate interests in other jurisdictions.
    They therefore call upon the Prime Minister to maintain and strengthen the fleet separation and owner-operator policies.

Health  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition from many residents of Thunder Bay, Toronto, Neebing, Dryden, Ear Falls, Murillo, and all over Canada, who are concerned that the closure of Canada's only dedicated blood plasma clinic in Thunder Bay could jeopardize the Canadian supply. U.S. plasma will be imported to make up the supply shortfall, but U.S. plasma is often from paid donors, which is against World Health Organization guidelines because it is risky. The petitioners are calling on the government as a regulator to take action.

The Environment  

    Mr. Speaker, the second petition is from many residents from across Canada, including Ontario, Quebec, and Ymir, B.C. They draw the attention of the House to the current moratorium on the oil tanker traffic along the rugged coast of British Columbia, which has so far kept that wilderness free of oil spills since 1972. They feel the federal government has a constitutional responsibility to protect the environment and the rights of first nations and are calling on the House to halt the partisan support for the northern gateway pipeline.

Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant  

    Mr. Speaker, I am presenting a petition from residents of metro Vancouver who are concerned that the collapse of the Fukushima Daiichi unit 4 reactor could lead to catastrophic radiologic consequences with grave and long-term health, environmental, and economic impacts worldwide. They call on Canada to acknowledge that risk. They specifically request that the Canadian government write to the UN Secretary General and the Japanese prime minister urging that a nuclear safety summit be organized to have a global ability to address this risk. They also ask that the UN establish an independent assessment team on the Fukushima Daiichi unit 4 reactor to coordinate international assistance, and that the Canadian government pledge to participate in both the summit and the independent assessment team.

Rights of the Unborn  

    Mr. Speaker, I too have a rather lengthy petition from constituents in my riding who call upon the government to enter debate on when human life becomes human life.

Pensions  

    Mr. Speaker, constituents of Winnipeg North want a message to be sent to the Prime Minister in regard to our old age pension programs.
    The petitioners believe that people should continue to have the option to retire at the age of 65, and that the government not in any way diminish the importance and value of Canada's three major senior programs: OAS, GIS and CPP.

  (1020)  

The Environment  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present two petitions.
    The first includes petitioners from coast to coast. It starts with a lot of residents of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, and areas around Charlottetown and extends all the way to the British Columbia coast, to my riding, to Saanich, to Sidney, as well as to Sechelt and Roberts Creek.
    These petitioners ask the Government of Canada, particularly the Privy Council, to stop supporting the Enbridge pipeline, the so-called northern gateway, to risky supertankers, and to ensure that the hearings are impartial.

Bill C-38  

    Mr. Speaker, my second petition, which I had hoped to present yesterday before the final vote on Bill C-38 in this place, is from over 1,560 petitioners. The petitioners are literally from coast to coast, from Halifax, Calgary, Point Alberni, Port Moody, Orillia, Vancouver, Sidney, Saanich, as well as Toronto and Ottawa.
    These petitioners all call on this House of Commons to reject the so-called budget omnibus bill which was neither a proper budget bill nor a proper omnibus bill, but which rammed through changes to 70 laws. The laws will be changed, repealed or amended in fundamental ways. Canadians will wake up to discover the damage once the bill clears the Senate.

Questions on the Order Paper

    Mr. Speaker, the following questions will be answered today: Nos. 647 and 652.

[Text]

Question No. 647--
Hon. Lawrence MacAulay:
     With regard to the Department of Fisheries and Ocean’s (DFO) fleet separation and owner-operator policies: (a) what are the exact dates these policies were put in place, and for what reasons were the policies implemented; (b) is the government conducting an analysis of the possibility of removing these policies; (c) does the government possess any analysis which indicates that economic, social, or cultural benefits would arise from the removal of these policies, and, if so, what are these benefits; (d) does the government possess any analysis which indicates that economic, social, or cultural damage would arise from the removal of these policies and, if so, what are these damages; (e) with regard to the removal of these policies, has the government been lobbied by any (i) companies, (ii) organizations, (iii) individuals; (f) if the government has been lobbied, as per (e), what are the details of each meeting that has taken place to discuss the matter with the Minster of Fisheries and Oceans, the Parliamentary Secretary for Fisheries and Oceans, or other senior Ministerial or departmental staff, specifying (i) the names of the people present at the meeting, (ii) the date the meeting occurred, (iii) the location of the meeting; (g) has the government studied how these policies are perceived internationally, and, if so, what are its conclusions concerning whether the policies are perceived as state subsidies or trade barriers on the international stage; (h) has the government, in the course of any free-trade deal or negotiation or for other reasons, documented international pressure of any kind from any group or country to remove these policies; (i) has the government had any meetings or discussions with any individual, as a result of that individual’s authorship of an editorial or column advocating the removal of these policies or the implementation of market-based fisheries reforms for Atlantic Canadian fisheries, and, if so, for each such meeting or discussion, (i) with whom, (ii) on what dates, (iii) at what locations; (j) if the government has not conducted any analysis as per (c) and (d), does it plan to do so before any change to the policies takes place; and (k) has the government conducted an analysis of any other jurisdictions as a model for implementing market-based fisheries reforms and, if so, which jurisdictions?
Hon. Keith Ashfield (Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway, CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, with regard to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, DFO, fleet separation and owner-operator polices, with respect to (a), the fleet separation policy was implemented in 1979 to separate the harvesting and processing sectors. It does not permit the issuance of licenses to corporations such as processing companies, in the inshore fisheries in Atlantic Canada and Quebec that are restricted to using vessels less than 65 feet in overall length. At the time, it was seen as a way to limit the processing sector’s influence on supply chains.
    The owner-operator policy was adopted in 1989 and requires inshore licence holders in Atlantic Canada and Quebec to fish their licences personally. Following the implementation of the fleet separation policy, processors were unable to obtain licences to fish as part of the inshore fleet, but independent harvesters were able to hold licences while not fishing their vessels and pursuing other activities, including working in the processing sector. The owner-operator policy was developed to address this issue.
    With regard to (b), (c) and (d), no, these policies have been the subject of previous fisheries management consultations, including the Atlantic fisheries policy review. The views expressed during this consultation can be found online at http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/afpr-rppa/home_e.htm.
    With regard to (e)(i), (e)(ii), (e)(iii) and (f)(i), (f)(ii) and (f)(iii), DFO recently conducted a national consultation seeking the views of all Canadians on how fisheries management could be improved. Though the owner-operator and fleet separation policies were not the focus of the consultation process, DFO received commentary from stakeholders outlining their views on these policies.
    During the consultation, the department has heard from many companies, organizations, and individuals on many fisheries management policies, including the owner-operator and fleet separation policies. No other meetings have been held at the senior level outside of these consultations to specifically discuss the owner-operator and fleet separation policies.
    With regard to (g), (h) and (i), no, the government has not documented anything, because the issue has not been raised in any free trade negotiation. The government has also not met with any individual following their authorship of an editorial or column advocating for the removal of the owner-operator and fleet separation policies.
    With regard to (j), no decisions have been made concerning how any fisheries management policies may change, including the owner-operator and fleet separation policies. The department’s work on policy research and analysis is ongoing, and the department will consider what further forms of analysis may be needed to support the development of fisheries management.
    With regard to (k), DFO routinely scans the literature and monitors best practice around the world, and within Canada, regarding fisheries management.
Question No. 652--
Mr. Marc Garneau:
     With regard to 444 Combat Support Squadron: (a) how many aircraft were in the squadron on April 10, 2012; (b) how many aircraft were in the squadron on April 12, 2012; (c) is the aircraft which the Minister of National Defence references in his press release of April 12, 2012, an aircraft allocation which was not previously present at the squadron, or is it the restoration of an aircraft allocation which was previously seconded to other duties; (d) if the aircraft referenced in (c) was previously seconded to other duties, what were the nature and duration of those duties; (e) what is the mandate of the squadron; (f) in what orders, instructions, or other documents is that mandate set out; (g) what is the date or what are the dates of those orders, instructions, or other documents; and (h) did the mandate of 444 Squadron change at any point during the present calendar year, and if so, what was the nature and date of any such change in the mandate?
Hon. Peter MacKay (Minister of National Defence, CPC):
    Mr. Speaker, with regard to (a), on April 10, 2012, 444 Squadron had two CH-146 Griffon aircraft on strength.
    With regard to (b), on April 12, 2012, 444 Squadron had three CH-146 Griffon aircraft on strength.
    With regard to (c), the aircraft that the Minister of National Defence references in his press release of April 12, 2012, has restored 444 Squadron to the full establishment of three helicopters for which it was originally created.
    With regard to (d), in October 2005, a CH-146 Griffon was transferred from 444 Combat Support Squadron to 424 Transport and Rescue Squadron, 8 Wing Trenton. The Griffon referenced in (c) was transferred to 424 Squadron to support the CH-149 Cormorant search and rescue fleet when it was recognized that the Cormorant fleet was not able to sustain primary search and rescue operations at four main operating bases alone. CH-146 Griffons continue to be stationed at 424 Squadron to support search and rescue. The aircraft that is now being used to provide a third CH-146 Griffon to 444 Combat Support Squadron was provided by 438 Tactical Aviation Squadron, Saint-Hubert.
    With regard to (e), (f) and (g), the mandate of 444 Combat Support Squadron is to provide support to air operations at 5 Wing Goose Bay. This role is set out in Canadian Forces Organization Order 7697, dated October 18, 2001, which superseded Canadian Forces Organization Order 2.2.5.2, dated May 15, 1993.
    The roles, tasks and responsibilities of a combat support squadron are further defined by the operational document 3010-7, A3 Tactical Aviation Readiness, Concept of Operations--Combat Support Capability, dated March 25, 2002. This document provides that combat support squadron roles are as follows: primary role, to provide rapid search and rescue response to air emergencies resulting from local military flying operations; secondary role, to provide administrative and utility airlift in support of Wing operations; and tertiary role, to provide national secondary search and rescue and civil assistance capabilities.
    In its tertiary role, a combat support squadron can be expected to respond within 12 hours of notification. However, within the context of the Canadian Forces search and rescue response, this does not imply a mandated response posture. Such secondary search and rescue resources are considered for assistance only when circumstances permit, and are not accountable to the search and rescue system for the provision of a dedicated resource.
    With regard to (h), the mandate of 444 Combat Support Squadron has remained to provide support to air operations at 5 Wing Goose Bay.

[English]

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns

    Mr. Speaker, if Questions Nos. 642, 644, 645, 646, 648, 649 and 651 could be made orders for returns, these returns would be tabled immediately.
    The Speaker: Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

[Text]

Question No. 642--
Hon. Judy Sgro:
    With regard to government expenditures for advertising and communications relating to changes to the Old Age Security system: (a) what is the total combined dollar amount of all public resources expended within the past 12 months; (b) what is the total combined dollar amount of all public resources that are currently budgeted for expenditure within the next 12 months; and (c) what is the total combined dollar amount of all public resources under consideration for expenditure within the next 12 months?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 644--
Mr. Frank Valeriote:
     With regard to the Voluntary Household Survey: (a) in the 2011 census process, how many Voluntary Household Surveys were mailed to Canadians; (b) how were recipients chosen; (c) what was the cost to implement the Voluntary Household Survey; (d) how many of the Voluntary Household Surveys were returned; (e) how many Voluntary Household Surveys were completed (i) correctly, (ii) incorrectly; (f) did Statistics Canada establish a target or targets for the 2011 Voluntary Household Survey response rate, and, if so, what were those targets; (g) what activities were undertaken by Statistics Canada or the government to encourage Canadians to complete the Voluntary Household Survey, and what was the cost of these activities; (h) what activities, if any, were undertaken by Statistics Canada or the government to follow up with Canadians who did not complete the Voluntary Household Survey; (i) what was the cost to carry out the mandatory long-form census in 2006 and in 2001; (j) how many mandatory long-form census forms were mailed in 2006 and in 2001; and (k) how many mandatory long-form census forms were returned in 2006 and in 2001?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 645--
Mr. Frank Valeriote:
     With regard to the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC): (a) what are all rehabilitation, motivational, reintegration and/or educational programs currently available in each federal institution managed by CSC; (b) what are all rehabilitation, motivational, reintegration and/or educational programs currently available in each Community-Based Residential Facility managed by CSC; (c) what is estimated to be the total CSC spending on all rehabilitation, motivational, reintegration and/or educational programming in fiscal year 2011-2012; (d) what is the detailed breakdown of the total CSC spending on all rehabilitation, motivational, reintegration and/ or educational programming in fiscal year 2011-2012; (e) what was the total CSC spending on all rehabilitation, motivational, reintegration and/or educational programming in each fiscal year since 2004-2005; (f) what was the detailed breakdown of the total CSC spending on all rehabilitation, motivational, reintegration and/or educational programming in each fiscal year since 2004-2005; (g) how much is spent per inmate and per former inmate on rehabilitation, motivational, reintegration and/or educational programs; and (h) does the per capita amount differ by institution, region or province, and, if so, what are the details of how those amounts differ?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 646--
Mr. Frank Valeriote:
     With regard to Strategic Reviews, what are all the particulars of the total savings identified for each of the following departments or agencies for each of the following Strategic Reviews and fiscal years, namely: (a) Canadian International Development Agency in Strategic Review 2007, (i) $52.2 million in total savings for 2008-2009, (ii) $107.6 million in total savings for 2009-2010, (iii) $136 million in total savings for 2010-2011; (b) Foreign Affairs and International Trade in Strategic Review 2007, (i) $73.1 million in total savings for 2008-2009, (ii) $92.8 million in total savings for 2009-2010, (iii) $105.1 million in total savings for 2010-2011; (c) Statistics Canada in Strategic Review 2007, (i) $11.5 million in total savings for 2008-2009, (ii) $17.9 million in total savings for 2009-2010, (iii) $21.5 million in total savings for 2010-2011; (d) Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Strategic Review 2008, (i) $130.227 million in total savings for 2009-2010, (ii) $143.172 million in total savings for 2010-2011, (iii) $143.605 million in total savings for 2011-2012; (e) Correctional Services Canada in Strategic Review 2008, (i) $42.048 million in total savings for 2009-2010, (ii) $46.323 million in total savings for 2010-2011, (iii) $43.3 million in total savings for 2011-2012; (f) Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Canada in Strategic Review 2008, (i) $13.27 million in total savings for 2009-2010, (ii) $27.07 million in total savings for 2010-2011, (iii) $40.42 million in total savings for 2011-2012; (g) Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council in Strategic Review 2008, (i) $2.57 million in total savings for 2009-2010, (ii) $7.04 million in total savings for 2010-2011, (iii) $10.5 million in total savings for 2011-2012; (h) Veterans Affairs Canada in Strategic Review 2008, (i) $3.866 million in total savings for 2009-2010, (ii) $7.253 million in total savings for 2010-2011, (iii) $24.037 million in total savings for 2011-2012; (i) Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation in Strategic Review 2009, (i) $97.02 million in total savings for 2010-2011, (ii) $99.93 million in total savings for 2011-2012, (iii) $102.2 million in total savings for 2012-2013; (j) Canadian Tourism Commission in Strategic Review 2009, (i) $896,000 in total savings for 2010-2011, (ii) $4.2 million in total savings for 2011-2012, (iii) $4.2 million in total savings for 2012-2013; (k) Environment Canada in Strategic Review 2009, (i) $13.669 million in total savings for 2010-2011, (ii) $19.714 million in total savings for 2011-2012, (iii) $19.72 million in total savings for 2012-2013; and (l) Public Safety Canada in Strategic Review 2009, (i) $7.518 million in total savings for 2010-2011, (ii) $13.402 million in total savings for 2011-2012, (iii) $14.924 million in total savings for 2012-2013?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 648--
Ms. Alexandrine Latendresse:
     With regard to each department, agency and Crown corporation’s expenses for engraved or embossed letterhead since 2007: (a) by vendor name, what is the (i) date, (ii) cost, (iii) content, (iv) occasion for the purchases; and (b) was each contract an open competition?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 649--
Ms. Alexandrine Latendresse:
     With regard to hydraulic fracturing or “fracking”: (a) what are all potential consequences of this technique with regard to (i) water safety or groundwater contamination, (ii) seismic activity, (iii) environmental contamination, (iv) effects on wildlife, (v) effects on flora, (vi) effects on humans, (vii) atmospheric emissions, (ix) greenhouse gas emissions; and (b) what are all reports authored on any of the subjects listed in (a)(i-ix) since the year 2000?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 651--
Hon. Mark Eyking:
     With respect to National Parks and Historic Sites, for each of the following locations, namely, Abbot Pass Refuge Cabin National Historic Site, Alberta; Athabasca Pass National Historic Site, Alberta; Banff National Park, Alberta; Banff Park Museum National Historic Site, Alberta; Bar U Ranch National Historic Site, Alberta; Cave and Basin National Historic Site, Alberta; Elk Island National Park, Alberta; First Oil Well in Western Canada National Historic Site, Alberta; Frog Lake National Historic Site, Alberta; Howse Pass National Historic Site, Alberta; Jasper National Park, Alberta; Jasper House National Historic Site, Alberta; Jasper Park Information Centre National Historic Site, Alberta; Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site, Alberta; Skoki Ski Lodge National Historic Site, Alberta; Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station National Historic Site, Alberta; Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta; Wood Buffalo National Park, Alberta; Yellowhead Pass National Historic Site, Alberta; Chilkoot Trail National Historic Site, British Columbia; Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Site, British Columbia; Fort Langley National Historic Site, British Columbia; Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site, British Columbia; Fort St. James National Historic Site, British Columbia; Gitwangak Battle Hill National Historic Site, British Columbia; Glacier National Park, British Columbia; Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, British Columbia; Gulf of Georgia Cannery National Historic Site, British Columbia; Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site, British Columbia; Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, British Columbia; Kicking Horse Pass National Historic Site, British Columbia; Kootenae House National Historic Site, British Columbia; Kootenay National Park, British Columbia; Mount Revelstoke National Park, British Columbia; Nan Sdins National Historic Site, British Columbia; Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, British Columbia; Rogers Pass National Historic Site, British Columbia; Stanley Park National Historic Site, British Columbia; Twin Falls Tea House National Historic Site, British Columbia; Yoho National Park, British Columbia; Forts Rouge, Garry and Gibraltar National Historic Site, Manitoba; Linear Mounds National Historic Site, Manitoba; Lower Fort Garry National Historic Site, Manitoba; Prince of Wales Fort National Historic Site, Manitoba; Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba; Riding Mountain Park East Gate Registration Complex National Historic Site, Manitoba; Riel House National Historic Site, Manitoba; St. Andrew's Rectory National Historic Site, Manitoba; The Forks National Historic Site, Manitoba; Wapusk National Park, Manitoba; York Factory National Historic Site, Manitoba; Beaubears Island Shipbuilding National Historic Site, New Brunswick; Boishébert National Historic Site, New Brunswick; Carleton Martello Tower National Historic Site, New Brunswick; Fort Beauséjour – Fort Cumberland National Historic Site, New Brunswick; Fort Gaspareaux National Historic Site, New Brunswick; Fundy National Park, New Brunswick; Kouchibouguac National Park, New Brunswick; La Coupe Dry Dock National Historic Site, New Brunswick; Monument-Lefebvre National Historic Site, New Brunswick; Saint Croix Island International Historic Site, New Brunswick; St. Andrews Blockhouse National Historic Site, New Brunswick; Cape Spear Lighthouse National Historic Site, Newfoundland and Labrador; Castle Hill National Historic Site, Newfoundland and Labrador; Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland and Labrador; Hawthorne Cottage National Historic Site, Newfoundland and Labrador; Hopedale Mission National Historic Site, Newfoundland and Labrador; L'Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site, Newfoundland and Labrador; Port au Choix National Historic Site, Newfoundland and Labrador; Red Bay National Historic Site, Newfoundland and Labrador; Ryan Premises National Historic Site, Newfoundland and Labrador; Signal Hill National Historic Site, Newfoundland and Labrador; Terra Nova National Park, Newfoundland and Labrador; Torngat Mountains National Park, Newfoundland and Labrador; Aulavik National Park, Northwest Territories; Nahanni National Park Reserve, Northwest Territories; Sahoyué-§ehdacho National Historic Site, Northwest Territories; Tuktut Nogait National Park, Northwest Territories; Wood Buffalo National Park, Northwest Territories; Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site, Nova Scotia; Beaubassin National Historic Site, Nova Scotia; Bloody Creek National Historic Site, Nova Scotia; Canso Islands National Historic Site, Nova Scotia; Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Nova Scotia; Charles Fort National Historic Site, Nova Scotia; D'Anville's Encampment National Historic Site, Nova Scotia; Fort Anne National Historic Site, Nova Scotia; Fort Edward National Historic Site, Nova Scotia; Fort Lawrence National Historic Site, Nova Scotia; Fort McNab National Historic Site, Nova Scotia; Fort Sainte Marie de Grace National Historic Site, Nova Scotia; Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site, Nova Scotia; Georges Island National Historic Site, Nova Scotia; Grand-Pré National Historic Site, Nova Scotia; Grassy Island Fort National Historic Site, Nova Scotia; Halifax Citadel National Historic Site, Nova Scotia; Kejimkujik National Historic Site, Nova Scotia; Kejimkujik National Park, Nova Scotia; Marconi National Historic Site, Nova Scotia; Melanson Settlement National Historic Site, Nova Scotia; Port-Royal National Historic Site, Nova Scotia; Prince of Wales Tower National Historic Site, Nova Scotia; Royal Battery National Historic Site, Nova Scotia; St. Peters National Historic Site, Nova Scotia; St. Peters Canal National Historic Site, Nova Scotia; The Bank Fishery - The Age of Sail Exhibit, Nova Scotia; Wolfe's Landing National Historic Site, Nova Scotia; York Redoubt National Historic Site, Nova Scotia; Auyuittuq National Park, Nunavut; Quttinirpaaq National Park, Nunavut; Sirmilik National Park, Nunavut; Ukkusiksalik National Park, Nunavut; Battle Hill National Historic Site, Ontario; Battle of Cook's Mills National Historic Site, Ontario; Battle of the Windmill National Historic Site, Ontario; Battlefield of Fort George National Historic Site, Ontario; Bellevue House National Historic Site, Ontario; Bethune Memorial House National Historic Site, Ontario; Bois Blanc Island Lighthouse and Blockhouse National Historic Site, Ontario; Bruce Peninsula National Park, Ontario; Butler's Barracks National Historic Site, Ontario; Carrying Place of the Bay of Quinte National Historic Site, Ontario; Fathom Five National Marine Park of Canada, Ontario; Fort George National Historic Site, Ontario; Fort Henry National Historic Site, Ontario; Fort Malden National Historic Site, Ontario; Fort Mississauga National Historic Site, Ontario; Fort St. Joseph National Historic Site, Ontario; Fort Wellington National Historic Site, Ontario; Georgian Bay Islands National Park, Ontario; Glengarry Cairn National Historic Site, Ontario; HMCS Haida National Historic Site, Ontario; Inverarden House National Historic Site, Ontario; Kingston Fortifications National Historic Site, Ontario; Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area of Canada, Ontario; Laurier House National Historic Site, Ontario; Merrickville Blockhouse National Historic Site, Ontario; Mississauga Point Lighthouse National Historic Site, Ontario; Mnjikaning Fish Weirs National Historic Site, Ontario; Murney Tower National Historic Site, Ontario; Navy Island National Historic Site, Ontario; Peterborough Lift Lock National Historic Site, Ontario; Point Clark Lighthouse National Historic Site, Ontario; Point Pelee National Park, Ontario; Pukaskwa National Park, Ontario; Queenston Heights National Historic Site, Ontario; Rideau Canal National Historic Site, Ontario; Ridgeway Battlefield National Historic Site, Ontario; Saint-Louis Mission National Historic Site, Ontario; Sault Ste. Marie Canal National Historic Site, Ontario; Shoal Tower National Historic Site, Ontario; Sir John Johnson House National Historic Site, Ontario; Southwold Earthworks National Historic Site, Ontario; St. Lawrence Islands National Park, Ontario; Trent–Severn Waterway National Historic Site, Ontario; Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower National Historic Site, Ontario; Woodside National Historic Site, Ontario; Ardgowan National Historic Site, Prince Edward Island; Dalvay-by-the-Sea National Historic Site, Prince Edward Island; Green Gables Heritage Place, Prince Edward Island; L.M. Montgomery's Cavendish National Historic Site, Prince Edward Island; Port-la-Joye–Fort Amherst National Historic Site, Prince Edward Island; Prince Edward Island National Park, Prince Edward Island; Province House National Historic Site, Prince Edward Island; 57-63 St. Louis Street National Historic Site, Quebec; Battle of the Châteauguay National Historic Site, Quebec; Battle of the Restigouche National Historic Site, Quebec; Carillon Barracks National Historic Site, Quebec; Carillon Canal National Historic Site, Quebec; Cartier-Brébeuf National Historic Site, Quebec; Chambly Canal National Historic Site, Quebec; Coteau-du-Lac National Historic Site, Quebec; Forges du Saint-Maurice National Historic Site, Quebec; Forillon National Park, Quebec; Fort Chambly National Historic Site, Quebec; Fort Lennox National Historic Site, Quebec; Fort Ste. Thérèse National Historic Site, Quebec; Fort Témiscamingue National Historic Site, Quebec; Fortifications of Québec National Historic Site, Quebec; Grande-Grave, Quebec; Grosse Île and the Irish Memorial National Historic Site, Quebec; La Mauricie National Park, Quebec; Lachine Canal National Historic Site, Quebec; Lévis Forts National Historic Site, Quebec; Louis S. St. Laurent National Historic Site, Quebec; Louis-Joseph Papineau National Historic Site, Quebec; Maillou House National Historic Site, Quebec; Manoir Papineau National Historic Site, Quebec; Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve, Quebec; Montmorency Park National Historic Site, Quebec; Pointe-au-Père Lighthouse National Historic Site, Quebec; Québec Garrison Club National Historic Site, Quebec; Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park, Quebec; Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue Canal National Historic Site, Quebec; Saint-Louis Forts and Châteaux National Historic Site, Quebec; Saint-Ours Canal National Historic Site, Quebec; Sir George-Étienne Cartier National Historic Site, Quebec; Sir Wilfrid Laurier National Historic Site, Quebec; The Fur Trade at Lachine National Historic Site, Quebec; Batoche National Historic Site, Saskatchewan; Battle of Tourond's Coulee / Fish Creek National Historic Site, Saskatchewan; Cypress Hills Massacre National Historic Site, SKFort Battleford National Historic Site, Saskatchewan; Fort Espérance National Historic Site, Saskatchewan; Fort Livingstone National Historic Site, Saskatchewan; Fort Pelly National Historic Site, Saskatchewan; Fort Walsh National Historic Site, Saskatchewan; Frenchman Butte National Historic Site, Saskatchewan; Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan; Motherwell Homestead National Historic Site, Saskatchewan; Prince Albert National Park, Saskatchewan; Dawson Historical Complex National Historic Site, Yukon; Dredge No. 4 National Historic Site, Yukon; Former Territorial Court House National Historic Site, Yukon; Ivvavik National Park, Yukon; Kluane National Park and Reserve, Yukon; S.S. Keno National Historic Site, Yukon; S.S. Klondike National Historic Site, Yukon; and Vuntut National Park, Yukon: (a) during the 2011 operating season, what was the total employment, broken down by (i) full-time, (ii) part-time, (iii) seasonal employees, (b) what are the total number of employees who have been issued affected notices, broken down by (i) full-time, (ii) part-time, (iii) seasonal employees; and (c) what are the total number of positions which have been eliminated, broken down by (i) full-time, (ii) part-time, (iii) seasonal positions?
    (Return tabled)

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.
    The Speaker: Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

Points of Order

Questions on the Order Paper--Speaker's Ruling  

[Speaker's Ruling]
    I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on June 7 by the member for Mount Royal concerning the government's response to written Question No. 588.

[Translation]

    I would like to thank the hon. member for having raised this matter and the hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons for his intervention.
    The hon. member for Mount Royal claimed that the response provided to Q-588 was so insufficient and incomplete as to constitute a non-answer. He took care to differentiate this case to a similar one on which I delivered a ruling on April 3, 2012, by noting that the government had given him no indication of an intent to provide further information.
    The lack of correlation between the question and the response caused the hon. member to ask the Speaker to refer this failure to respond to the Standing Committee on Finance, as per the Standing Orders.

[English]

    The government House leader pointed out that given the difficulties in providing the information requested, the information, although using general terminology, was actually quite accurate.
     As members know, objections about the quality of the responses to written questions have been raised numerous times in the past. My predecessors have invariably pointed out to the House that it is not the role of the Chair to judge the quality of the responses provided by the government.
    The member for Mount Royal himself acknowledged this in referring to my ruling of April 3, which can be found at pages 6856 to 6858 of Debates in which I quoted a ruling on February 8, 2005.
    Any dispute regarding the accuracy or appropriateness of this response is a matter of debate. It is not something upon which the Speaker is permitted to pass judgment.

[Translation]

    Furthermore, there is a passage in House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, which has been quoted by previous speakers when addressing similar concerns about written questions, and which bears repeating. At pages 522 and 523 it states:
    There are no provisions in the rules for the Speaker to review Government responses to questions.... The Speaker has ruled that it is not the role of the Chair to determine whether or not the contents of documents tabled in the House are accurate...”

[English]

    With regard to the member's written question, he indicated when he placed it on notice that he was requesting a response within 45 days pursuant to Standing Order 39(5)(a). Under the provisions of paragraph (b) of the Standing Order, if a question remains unanswered, that is if no response has been tabled, at the expiry of the requested 45-day period, then:
....the matter of the failure of the Ministry to respond shall be deemed referred to the appropriate Standing Committee
    Under the terms of the Standing Order, the failure of the minister to respond to a question applies only if the government fails to provide any reply at all within the stipulated deadline.
    Although the member for Mount Royal may feel that the content of the government's answer to Question No. 588 constitutes a failure to respond, the government did in fact table a response on June 4, within the requested 45 days and thus complied with the basic requirements of the Standing Order.
    Therefore the remedy he is seeking is not applicable in this instance, and the Chair cannot unilaterally refer this matter to committee.

  (1025)  

[Translation]

    I thank all members for their attention on this matter.

GOVERNMENT ORDERS

[Government Orders]

[English]

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACT

    The House resumed from June 7 consideration of the motion that Bill C-24, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Panama, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Panama and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Panama, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the motion that this question be now put.
    Resuming debate, the hon. member for London West has six minutes left to conclude his remarks.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to resume my comments with respect to the Canada-Panama free trade deal, which we hope will have the same success as Jordan did this past week. I want to acknowledge the members of the opposition who came together to help us move the arrangements for the trade deal with Jordan along. I hope that vision and support that they showed in the last free trade deal carries on this time. I would say to our friends in the loyal opposition, let us not do this for the sake of the opposition members being able to say that they have passed the deal so they as a party can never be told that they do not support free trade deals. I do not believe that is the case. Therefore, as my Cape Breton mother would say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. I would like to encourage members opposite to share that same vision as we look towards Panama.
    When I consider why Canada is doing any trade deals, let alone this free trade deal with Panama, it is really clear from my four years on the international trade committee that with the deals that we have signed, a very aggressive agenda with respect to free trade deals, we do it because it is in Canada's interest. We also acknowledge that it is in the interests of the countries that we trade with as well. What we tried to do is raise the level of quality of life of individuals. Without the ability to work or without solid employment, they do not have those same opportunities.
    We trade with every country in the world. That is absolutely clear. Therefore, what we are looking for with Panama, as with the other trade deals that we have negotiated, is a rules-based system that will assist us when there are disputes and will make sure that we eliminate tariffs going from Canada to Panama and from Panama to Canada. That makes a dramatic difference for our country and certainly for theirs. However, there are a few advantages. If it were not in the interests of Canada, why would we consider doing this at all? It would be helpful for members of this House to have a strong sense of what it does mean for all of us to be able to put this deal together.
    Clearly, the free trade agreement would require Panama to provide Canada with improved market access in a variety of areas. For those members of Parliament who have agriculture in their ridings, access to Panama in terms of imports of beef, cattle and pork matters. That is done through a combination of tariff cuts and transitional tariff rate quotas. That is very dramatic.
    It is rather interesting that in August 2009, Canadian ministers announced that Panama had approved Canada's meat inspector system and lifted its BSE ban on Canadian beef. Those were progressive steps that were being taken with the long-term intent of putting the free trade deal in place.
    In June 2010, our ministers announced that Panama had lifted its ban on Canadian cattle. As a result now, federally registered beef and pork meat establishments are able to export to Panama, as are Canadian exporters of cattle.
    In addition to that, we put in what has now become a Canadian standard. We put in a labour co-operation agreement and an agreement on the environment. We look to standards for countries that are not as developed as Canada. We ask them to raise their standards as we deal with them. We think that is very important for the quality of life for Panamanians. In some sense it justifies the involvement that we have with them well. We think it is important and necessary for Panama to proceed on that basis.
    All provinces would benefit in terms of the improvements of the framework that governs this free trade deal. Quebec, for example, would benefit from the elimination of Panamanian tariffs on exports relating to agriculture. I mentioned pork and in addition to that industrial and construction machinery, pharmaceutical and aerospace products. To my province of Ontario and my city of London, some key export areas are industrial and construction machinery, electrical and electronic equipment, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and furniture. The western provinces benefit. The Atlantic provinces benefit. There is not one part of Canada that does not benefit as a result of this free trade deal.
    Therefore, I would encourage members opposite, as I know that members on this side will when we look to complete Panama, to give their full support, because it is clear that we almost had this done in the last Parliament. Then an election was put upon the Canadian people and as a result of that election the free trade deal with Panama died on the order paper. That can happen.

  (1030)  

    We have had debate upon debate about this. Frankly, I do not believe, as members from both sides may choose to ask some questions today, that there is any question that has not already been asked and answered, both in committee and in the House. That is to be fair to those members who were more recently elected because we covered this at length in our last Parliament.
    For any questions members have, we will be candid and clear. I would ask for the sake of Canadian businesses to please help us pass the Panama free trade agreement.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for basically asking us what we do not like about this deal with Panama. Quite clearly, Panama is a country that encourages tax evasion and money laundering. Its structure is one where there are literally hundreds and hundreds of paper corporations established in that country to take advantage of its lax rules. Does the hon. member have an understanding of what it is costing the Canadian economy for these types of activities: tax evasion, money laundering and the kinds of things the Panamanian government has refused consistently to fall into line on with international standards? Does the member have an answer to that?
    Madam Speaker, as I indicated in my earlier comments, there is not a question that has not been asked at least once. The question my colleague, the member for Western Arctic, has asked has been answered very candidly several times in the House, both in the last Parliament and this one.
    To assure the member I do have some understanding, I would like to think that with my 30-plus years of business before I got into politics I have some understanding of business. I also have some understanding of business relationships, contractual and legal.
    I would like to share something with him and the House. I do not know if we can put this to bed forever. Regardless of the answer, it will continue to come back up. However, let me be clear about one thing. Canada committed to implement the OECD standard for the exchange of tax information to combat international tax evasion in 2002. Let me update that now. In 2011, the OECD formally placed Panama on its list of jurisdictions that have substantially implemented international standards for exchange of information.
    Madam Speaker, I look forward to a candid answer. In principle, we in the Liberal Party have supported the Panama free trade agreement. Having said that, while the government has been so focused on a couple of free trade type of agreements, it has been very negligent in other areas. The United States entered into an agreement with Korea which is going to have a huge negative impact on Canada, in particular within the pork industry in provinces like Manitoba.
    What is the government doing for the Prairie farmers, particularly the pork farmers in Manitoba, to ensure they will be able to secure those critically important markets in Korea for Manitoba's pork?
    Madam Speaker, when it is time to speak to Korea, I would be happy to have that discussion. The issue has come before my international trade committee from time to time. Today the debate is about Panama and I do not want us to lose focus on today's debate. Frankly, the divide and conquer approach confuses issues. We want to be extremely clear that today we are talking about Panama.
    Let us talk about Manitoba and western provinces. The Liberal Party in the past has been supportive of our various trade agreements and I hope it will again. When it looks at Panama, Canada will have a unique advantage over other countries because of the arrangement that we made with some $123 billion of business both ways today between Panama and Canada. The western provinces will benefit from Panamanian tariffs on key support interests that include processed food products, cereal, precious stones, fats, oils, paper and paperboard. The western provinces, including Manitoba, will benefit very well by this free trade deal.

  (1035)  

    Madam Speaker, it is nice to get back to work again and stay focused on additional issues after we unfortunately passed Bill C-38, the budget bill, last night. Today we have to move on to a variety of other issues, whether we like it or not, and I am happy to add a few comments on the Canada-Panama free trade agreement.
    The Liberal Party has been in support of this agreement for some time and, in spite of some concerns, which I will outline, we will continue to be in support of free and fair trade.
    One of the key concerns with respect to expanding our trading relationship with Panama has been evident with respect to the government's free trade agenda. We must not put aside our domestic practices within the countries with which we are seeking new trade agreements.
    As we negotiate free trade agreements, there are some very important issues that we need to keep in mind. Whether they are issues of money laundering, tax evasion, human trafficking or issues of human rights, areas in which we could use our leverage on the agreement to make some improvements in the quality of life for people in those countries with which we are making agreements, but also to have some clear benefits over and above just the dollars and cents factor for Canada.
    An additional point that should be kept in mind and one that the government would do well to carefully consider was raised by Jim Stanford of the Canadian Auto Workers, someone we see often on the Hill when we are dealing with issues in the auto industry, who recently spoke at the international trade committee. Part of his presentation outlined the following with respect to the lack of apparent benefits, as far as he was concerned, that was being derived by the free trade agreement.
    Mr. Stanford pointed out a variety of things and the five longest-standing trade agreements were some of the things he talked about. He referred to the trade agreement with the United States, Mexico, Israel, Chile and Costa Rica. Canada's exports to them grew more slowly than our exports to our non-free trade partners, while our imports surged must faster than with the rest of the world.
    Mr. Stanford went on to say that if the policy goal was to boost exports and strengthen the trade balance, then signing free trade deals would be exactly the wrong thing to do in his opinion.
    With Colombia there are outstanding issues related to labour and human rights issues that I referred to earlier. The same concerns apply to Jordan as they do to Panama.
    With respect to Panama, one of the outstanding concerns has been the issue of tax havens and issues relating to money laundering, which has been talked about a lot in this House over the several years that we have been discussing and debating this particular agreement, as with other agreements.
    I will put this concern into context. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade, in response to issues relating to the Canada-Jordan FTA, in violation of human and labour rights and Canada's response, told this House:
...what both hon. members fail to realize is the entire issue of extraterritoriality. There are certain things we can do when negotiating with another country and certain things we cannot do because they are beyond our sphere of influence.
    Even if it is beyond our sphere of influence, we should always push right to the wall to get clear benefits for Canada. Whether we are talking about human rights, money laundering or other issues pertaining to that, if we can use our leverage, we should be doing it far more forcefully.
    Clearly there are benefits on both sides but there are far more benefits in my mind to Panama. Therefore, we should be using that opportunity with these agreements to get everything possible we can get out of it, not only for our country but also for the people who live in the other areas of the world that are affected by many of these agreements.
    The question that must be raised is that where there are concerns and issues that would not be acceptable to Canada, we need to know what mechanisms within the agreement should be in place with countries where issues of concern are found to exist and persist. It is a question of signing an agreement and then raising it every once in a while, issues, again, about human rights or money laundering, but being able to do absolutely nothing about it and having them ignore the concerns we are raising.

  (1040)  

    What kind of strength do we have with these agreements? How many years would we allow all of this to go on before deciding to cancel an agreement because of clear violations of the rules?
    Canada is earmarked out there when it comes to doing things right, or at least it used to be. We were well respected in the world because we would follow the agreement, we would ensure the agreements were fair on all sides and we would be respectful of the countries that were trying to grow, better themselves and make a better life for their people. Often we do not use enough of our country's strength to insist that there should be some improvements to areas that we have concerns about.
    An example would be the Panamanian situation. When federal government officials testified before the international trade committee earlier last fall, they could not adequately address the money laundering and tax haven issues relating to Panama.
    In December 2010, Panama signed a tax information exchange agreement with the United States, not with Canada. In testimony before the U.S. house ways and means subcommittee on trade on March 30, 2011, the research director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch also raised concerns with respect to the money laundering issue in the wake of the agreement between the U.S. and Panama. He said:
    
    Panama promised for eight years to sign a Tax Information Exchange Agreement.... Yet when it finally signed a TIEA with the Obama administration in November 2010, the agreement did not require Panama to automatically exchange information with U.S. authorities about tax dodgers, money launderers and drug traffickers.
    Those areas have weaknesses and, because of everybody's interest in signing these agreements, they often take one particular part of the puzzle and accept it and continue to work on the tax information issue or whatever other avenue to ensure that we stop money laundering and drug trafficking. We need to be stronger on these issues and use them as leverage.
    In the previous Parliament, concerns were raised with respect to Panama being a tax haven in which instances of tax evasion and money laundering were found. Concerns were raised as to whether a free trade agreement should be proceeded with prior to a clear tax information exchange between Canada and Panama being in place.
    We would be far better off to keep going slowly with this process until we have what we want, which is both of those agreements when it comes to sharing the tax. We would then be eliminating opportunities for money laundering, tax havens and other issues rather than signing the agreement and going forward in good faith, which is clearly what the government wants to do and what our party has decided to do as well. As of yet there is still no tax treaty or tax information exchange agreement signed between Canada and Panama nor an intention that it will be done.
    The history, as we understand it, is as follows. Panama has asked that Canada enter into a more comprehensive double taxation treaty. Canada refused, asking instead for a more limited TIEA. Panama, which at that time had only entered into double taxation treaties, insisted on a double taxation treaty. Canada has not yet responded to this second request.
    I will go back to who is in charge. I think the benefits to Panama are far better than the benefits to Canada so why would we turn around and continue to water down our leverage?
    Members should note that all of the DTA's include tax information and exchange obligations between signatory countries based on article 26 of the OECD model convention. As of November 2010, Canada was party to DTA's with 87 countries, with 8 more signed but not yet in effect. As of November 5, 2010, Canada had signed 9 TIEA's, none of which are in effect.
    In testimony before the international trade committee on September 29, reference was made to correspondence between Canada and Panama in which the latter was asked whether Panama had responded to the concerns expressed by Canada on the tax haven issue. According to DFAIT officials, no such response had been received.
    There are a variety of concerns as we move forward. I know the government is anxious to move this forward but I hope we put in what is best for Canada first and Panama second, not Panama first and Canada second.

  (1045)  

    Madam Speaker, I was shocked to learn in my research on the subject that there are almost 400,000 corporations registered in Panama, which is four times the number of corporations that we have in Canada. It makes one think that this is not just another developing nation but quite a unique developing nation.
     I listened to the member's remarks regarding her fears about money laundering, the tax haven situation and the lack of tax treaties. Would she not agree that Panama itself, through a deliberate strategy, has become a magnate for these corporations that are trying to hide behind the lack of reporting requirements and the lack of transparency? Transparency International has spoken out about countries like Panama.
    Did the hon. member watch the national news on TV last night? It had an exposé on Canadian mining companies and what they were doing in Panama. Does she make any kind of connection between Bill C-300 in the last Parliament, which was sponsored by her colleague, about corporate social responsibility and the egregious, outrageous behaviour of Canadian mining companies--
    Order, please. I must give the hon. member time to respond.
    Madam Speaker, my colleague got all his points in order and just about took up the whole five minutes for a response.
     I am very concerned with some of those issues and I think I had made those remarks. Signing free trade agreements are good and I believe in free in trade but I also believe in using the leverage that Canada should have to ensure we are doing our job of protecting Canadians and our companies, eliminating opportunities for money laundering and the drug trade, and all the rest.
    My colleague for Scarborough—Guildwood had introduced his bill on what goes on in mining. All kinds of exploitation happen around the country and these agreements need to be clear. We need to know the check marks to get out of these deals. Where are our markers on these things when it comes to issue of human rights and so on? Where are the lines where we cancel these agreements, or are we just leaving ourselves wide open to 10 years of complaining and doing nothing if things do not go in the direction we want them to?
    Madam Speaker, I agree with the member. Basically I am in favour of free trade, especially if it is fair trade, if it benefits all parties and if it does not harm the environment or workers.
    I am particularly interested in the issue of signing a free trade agreement with a country that is so well-known for money laundering and will not sign international conventions to prevent it. I would like to hear a little more about how the member feels about that.
    Madam Speaker, I suppose that goes back to Canada being the one to sign the agreement when it meets a level of standard that we can say, “It is great that we got this agreement signed”. I would like to ensure that we have everything we need in there to protect Canada's interests and also protect the world's interests.
    We should not just be looking at the ultimate dollars and cents that would be transacted. We need to look at what is good for the world. It is not a question of living in isolation and thinking only about Canada. We need to have the safeguards in place to ensure the world will be better off, not just Canada or Panama, within the agreement?
     With a variety of things that continue to move forward, I would like to see more safeguards put on this issue. I think it would be very beneficial for the government to ensure there are some safeguards where, if within 12 months of an issue not being dealt with, the government would be able to cancel the agreement. I would much rather see that kind of clause in this agreement.

  (1050)  

    Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House of Commons today to speak on what I think is an important matter for our country and its standing in the world, and that is the Canada-Panama free trade agreement. Specifically, I would like to address one important element of the Canada-Panama free trade agreement that has not received a lot of attention, and that is the provisions on government purchasing.
    Our government has been at the forefront of efforts to expand and secure access to foreign government procurement markets. Why? According to OECD statistics, government purchasing plays a significant role in the economy of most countries. It accounts for approximately 10% to 15% of a country's GDP, amounting to hundreds of billions of dollars annually around the globe.
    These markets present significant opportunities for Canadian suppliers. Through the negotiation of international trade obligations in this area, our government is working hard to enable Canadians to take advantage of these market opportunities. These obligations also support our own domestic interests in obtaining best value for Canadian taxpayers in government procurement. Increasing access, competition and fairness in government procurement serves this overall policy objective.
    Lastly, our government actions help to promote an international framework for procurement, a framework that strengthens good governance through efficiency and effective management of public resources and through reducing corruption and conflict of interest in government purchasing around the globe. More accountability, more transparency and more value for taxpayers' dollars all help suppliers, governments and taxpayers to benefit from these efforts.
    We seek to accomplish these goals by negotiating agreements such as the World Trade Organization Agreement on Government Procurement and specific chapters in Canada's comprehensive free trade agreements. I am happy to report that our government recently welcomed the successful conclusion of negotiations to modernize the WTO Agreement on Government Procurement. This agreement was recently tabled before Parliament. As the tabling period ended on June 12, the government will now proceed to implement the agreement. However, our efforts to secure and expand opportunities for Canadian suppliers go well beyond the WTO.
    Most of Canada's bilateral free trade agreements, from the North American Free Trade Agreement itself, NAFTA, to those with Chile, Peru and Colombia, have obligations on government purchasing, as they should. These obligations are based on a core set of principles: non-discrimination between domestic and foreign suppliers, transparency and fair process. These principles provide greater public access to information on government purchasing and a fair opportunity for suppliers to compete. The Canada-Panama free trade agreement being debated here today is another step in our efforts to fulfill these objectives and create jobs and economic prosperity for hard-working Canadians and to reach out to partners who we believe are making progress.
    As many would know, Panama has a dynamic and rapidly growing economy, as has been referenced in the House many times, and Canada's businesses have long been interested in gaining or expanding access to this emerging market. Despite the global economic downturn since 2008, Panama's economy continues to show strong signs of growth and improvement in many areas, including some of the expressed concerns we have heard about tax laws. In fact, it is of interest to note that its political stability and progressive business environment have helped Panama achieve consistent average growth of 6% to 7% over the past several years.
    Panama is also an ideal location for Canadian businesses seeking to expand and build long-term business ventures in the region. Often the most difficult contract to secure is the first one, so this agreement would make it easier for Canadian businesses to establish a credible presence in the region.
    Panama's government and its markets, particularly in the areas of infrastructure, transportation and services, represent a significant opportunity for Canadian suppliers, particularly those in the engineering and construction industries and environmental technology. Perhaps the greatest example is the ambitious $5.3 billion project to expand the Panama Canal, which would be at the top of the list. Here was an opportunity for Canadian engineers and construction companies to bid on contracts, on what is, of course, a significant gateway for the shipping industry here in North America. The Panama Canal, as we know, serves as a key transportation hub between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. It is a significant driver of Panama's economy and many economies, including the Canadian economy.

  (1055)  

    Its expansion will lead to increased container traffic, some of which will access Canadian ports to supply the North American market. We know that post-Panamax vessels and super-post-Panamax vessels are now coming into ports around our country. This is a significant driver for the Canadian economy.
    That said, the project for this canal's expansion is already well under way, so there is a timeliness aspect to moving forward on this free trade agreement. We must act quickly to ensure that Canadian companies will be given a fair opportunity to compete for a broad range of opportunities overseen by the Panama Canal Authority.
    The opportunities exist well beyond this canal. In 2010, the Panamanian government announced an infrastructure plan valued at $13.6 billion over five years. This enormous infrastructure project has many projects that are well under way and progressing to build and improve roads and hospitals, social housing, bridges and airports. Among these projects is the Panamanian government's plan to construct a metro system, estimated at $1.5 billion.
    These projects underscore the ambition of Panama's infrastructure plans and present, as I mentioned earlier, opportunities for Canadian companies and workers. These are just a few of the innovations that are happening in the region, where Canadian firms can position themselves and take advantage of this opportunity, should we enter into this free trade agreement in the region.
    SNC-Lavalin is an obvious Canadian leader when it comes to these types of contracts. It was recently awarded a contract to help design and build the project infrastructure for the world-class copper mine in Panama. This award represents a tremendous opportunity, covering project infrastructure valued at $3.2 billion. The project is scheduled to be operational in 2016, and the mine is expected to have a life of about 30 years.
    The Royal Canadian Mint has also been active through its production of the commemorative Balboa coins. B.C.-based Helitech supplies helicopter avionics technology to the Panamanian police. Kubik, a leading museum and gallery space creator from Mississauga, Ontario, has been awarded the design, development, installation and commissioning of Panama's biodiversity museum.
    Canadian companies clearly have the expertise to meet Panama's development plans. These are competitive companies that are world leaders in many of these areas, particularly in engineering and design and construction.
    The Canada-Panama free trade agreement would guarantee access for Canadian suppliers to these types of procurement opportunities, reducing the risk of doing business in the region. Moreover, the free trade agreement would ensure that Canadian suppliers can compete and win on the same basis as their main competitors, mainly in the United States of America.
    It is our job, as parliamentarians, as members of the government, to ensure that Canadian companies have secure access to opportunities of this nature.
    This is very much in keeping with the plans and vision this government has for our country: to increase opportunities, to see our companies thrive in the international marketplace and continue to expand into areas like Panama and the region of the Americas.
    They do this so that they can create opportunities, so they can create jobs, meaningful employment for Canadians, and prosperity for the shareholders in many of these companies, the employees and the communities.
    I would now ask for the support of all members for the Canada-Panama free trade agreement. I believe this would be good for Canada. It would be good for our relationship in the region and continued opportunities that will open.
    Madam Speaker, the minister is looking for the support of the New Democratic Party, obviously, for this free trade deal. We have said over and over again that free trade must be based on consistent ethical behaviour on the part of those countries in the development of these relationships.
    Quite clearly Panama, with its reputation for money laundering and its worldwide reputation for tax evasion, is one of those counties that is under question. We have heard some evidence that it has made some improvements in tax evasion, but at the same time, how are we guaranteed that this relationship will not actually lead to Canadian companies having more opportunities to move into areas of ethical behaviour that are really not appropriate?
    If we are going into a free trade arrangement with a country that has a lower moral and ethical business environment, and we are bringing our companies in there on the basis of increased free trade, how is that going to improve the standing of Canadian companies in the world in a way we can respect as Canadians?

  (1100)  

    Madam Speaker, it is a legitimate question. The short answer is engagement. I would suggest to my colleague that the answer is through engagement, through encouraging countries like Panama to live up to those standards, the standards we expect of companies here in Canada.
    We do know and he did reference the fact that Panama has come a long way. In fact, information that I have been provided, and that has been referenced by my colleague from London West earlier, indicates that in July the OECD formally placed Panama on a list of jurisdictions that have substantially implemented international standards for exchange of information.
    We know it is a signatory to the labour organization. We know it has, in 1998 in fact, under the declaration of fundamental principles of rights to work, come forward with greater attempts at fairness and transparency, all of those things that we encourage here in Canada. So, there are strong signals that are being sent that Panama is improving.
     I would suggest that giving Canadians opportunities, the ability to compete, to set a standard and to lead by example would improve Panama's overall quality of life and its standards, and it would look to Canada for example.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I listened carefully to the two speakers from the Conservative Party, and I am wondering about a few things. One of the issues the last speaker talked about was development opportunities for Quebec and Canadian companies, including engineering companies like SNC-Lavalin.
    I am wondering about the comments the previous speaker made about the hog industry in Quebec. He said that Quebeckers would potentially deprive themselves of exports in that sector. I checked my information and I noticed that we do not have any trade with Panama in pork. We trade with the United States, Canada, Japan, Russia, North Korea, and the list goes on, yet we have nothing with Panama.
    I have a question that I would like to ask the hon. member: what are the chances that Panama would export more pork to Canada, rather than the other way around?
    Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her question. It is obviously important to have opportunities in agriculture and other industries.

[English]

    What I can tell my hon. friend is that the elimination of tariffs is what the free trade agreement would accomplish. That certainly has implications for the Quebec hog industry, for the forest industry in my own region of Atlantic Canada and, in fact, across the country.
    I am told that the pharmaceutical industry, the aerospace industry and all of these are just a few examples of industries that would benefit from the reduction or the elimination of tariffs.
    We also, as I mentioned in my remarks, would see companies like SNC-Lavalin and engineering firms have the ability to compete on a more level playing field for construction and projects such as the Panama Canal.
    I would encourage my colleague and all my colleagues opposite to support the free trade agreement. There has been significant debate in this Parliament and the last Parliament. Time is of the essence and time is wasting.
    For our economy, this is important. We need to move forward productively.

  (1105)  

    Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to this bill today.
    This bill started life as Bill C-46 in the last Parliament. The bill came to an end when the election was called. It was introduced in November of this past year and is now called Bill C-24.
    I point that out because nothing has changed. There was an opportunity for the government to listen to all the debate, in committee and in this House, on the old bill and to make some adjustments and changes so the rest of the House could find it acceptable, and it did not. As a result, New Democrats continue to oppose this bill, for that reason and a number of others.
    In the last Parliament, compelling testimony was heard from witnesses regarding the tax haven situation in the Republic of Panama, as well as the poor record of labour rights in the country. Motions and amendments that would address the glaring issues in the agreement were introduced by our member for Burnaby—New Westminster, but were opposed and defeated by both the Conservatives and the Liberals. The new legislation, despite a new and inspirational short title, does nothing to address the fundamental flaws of its previous manifestation, most importantly the tax disclosure issues that have yet to be meaningfully addressed, despite protestations to the contrary from the Panamanian government, and undoubtedly from the Conservative government, as we raise this issue.
    Just before the clause-by-clause review of the old Bill C-46, our member for Burnaby—New Westminster proposed to the Standing Committee on Internation Trade a motion that would stop the implementation of the Canada–Panama trade agreement until Panama agreed to sign a tax information exchange agreement. The member's motion was defeated by both the Conservatives and the Liberals, who argued that the double taxation agreement Panama had agreed to sign was satisfactory.
    Unfortunately, the double taxation agreement only tracks legal income, while a tax information exchange agreement would track all income, including that made through illegal means. Considering Panama's history and reputation on such matters, it should be clear why such an agreement is necessary before signing a free trade deal.
    Another issue is human rights in Panama and the complete failure of this trade agreement to ensure that these rights would not be denied to Panamanian workers as they have been in the past. Two amendments put forth in committee would have protected trade union workers in Panama by offering the right of collective bargaining as well as requiring the Minister of International Trade, as the principal representative of Canada on the joint Panama–Canada commission, to consult on a regular basis with representatives of Canadian labour and trade unions.
    Like all other amendments, these were defeated by the Conservatives and Liberals. Unfortunately, this would create a free trade zone that belittles the rights of labour, a serious problem already prevalent in Panama.
    In addition, two amendments regarding definitions were proposed. The first was regarding the definition of sustainable development. The amendment would define sustainable development as:
development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, as set out in the Brundtland Report published by the World Commission on Environment and Development.
     The second amendment was regarding the definition of sustainable investment. The amendment would define sustainable investment as:
investment that seeks to maximize social good as well as financial return, specifically in the areas of environment, social justice and corporate governance, in accordance with the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment.
    The NDP prefers a multilateral approach, based on a fair and sustainable trade model. In fact, bilateral trade deals amount to protectionist trade deals, since they give preferential treatment to a few partners and exclude the rest. This puts weaker countries in a position of inferiority vis-à-vis the larger partners. A multilateral fair trade model would avoid these issues while protecting human rights and the environment.
    New Democrats reaffirm our vision for a fair trade policy that puts the pursuit of social justice, strong public sector social programs and the elimination of poverty at the heart of an effective trade strategy.

  (1110)  

    Canada's trade policy should be based on the principles of fair, sustainable and equitable trade that builds trading partnerships with other countries that support the principles of social justice and human rights, while also expanding business opportunity.
    The federal government should stop exclusively pursuing the NAFTA model at the expense of all other alternatives, and then it should invest in other avenues of trade growth, including, above all, a vigorous trade promotion strategy that builds the Canadian brand abroad, along the lines of the Australian experience.
    For example, it is shocking to see that the European Union spends in excess of 500 times more than Canada in promoting one single industry—in this case, its wine industry.
    Fair trade should be the overarching principle, not just an afterthought of trade negotiations. The NDP strongly believes in an alternative and a better form of trading relationship that can be established with Panama and any other country, one that includes within an overall fair trade strategy the points that follow.
    The first is to provide a comprehensive common sense impact assessment on all international agreements that demonstrates that trade deals Canada negotiates are beneficial to Canadian families, workers and industry. The government does not sign any trade agreement that would lead to a net job loss.
    Second is ensuring that the trade agreements Canada negotiates support Canada's sovereignty and freedom to chart its own policy, support our ability to be a competitive force on the world stage and support the principles of a multilateral fair trade system.
    Third is the fundamental principle that all trade agreements must promote and protect human rights by prohibiting the import, export or sale in Canada of any product that is deemed to have been created under sweatshop conditions, forced labour or other conditions that are not in accordance with fundamental international labour standards and human rights.
    The fourth is the fundamental principle that all trade agreements should respect sustainable development and the integrity of all ecosystems.
    The fifth is that any time the Government of Canada signs a free trade agreement, the decision to proceed with enabling legislation must be subject to a binding vote on whether or not to accept the terms of the agreement. The current system, which consists of tabling FTAs in the House for a period of 21 sitting days prior to ratification, is not mandatory and does not bind the government to a decision in the House.
    In the last Parliament during the study of the bill, the committee heard testimony from Todd Tucker of the Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch. Mr. Tucker made a compelling case that Panama is one of the world's worst tax havens and that the Panamanian government has intentionally allowed the nation to become a tax haven. The tax haven situation in Panama is not improving under the current government and conditions in Panama. In addition, a trade agreement with Canada would only worsen the problem and could cause harm to both Panama and to Canada.
    Teresa Healy of the Canadian Labour Congress spoke to the committee regarding the agreement on labour co-operation. She testified that while the International Labour Organization's core labour standards are invoked, the agreement is still weaker than it should be. As well, the current Panamanian government has been increasingly harsh on labour unions and workers in recent years.
    It is interesting to note that when my colleague from London West spoke, he indicated that there is some agreement on another trade deal, the Canada-Jordan trade deal.
    While New Democrats are not against free trade, we believe it is important that it should always be fair trade. Unfortunately, in this situation it does not happen.

  (1115)  

    To be fair to the Conservatives, they have moved a little toward the centre. There was a time not so long ago when they would not have even talked about the environment or human rights.
     I see my time is up. I look forward to any questions the House may have.
    Madam Speaker, as usual, the hon. member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River has done a very thoughtful analysis of this bill. He talked a lot about what others have talked about here, such as money laundering and the lack of democracy and workers' rights, but I would like to raise a point to see if he finds it a concern also.
     Panama's environment has a wealth of biodiversity. It is one of the countries with the most biodiversity in the world. The agreement does not deal with that at all, or with any protections for the environment. Panama has a lot of serious problems, including water pollution from agricultural runoff, threats to the fishery resource, endangerment of wildlife habitats and biodiversity, deforestation on a massive scale, land degradation and loss of wetlands.
     I wonder if the hon. member is also concerned about that and wants to add anything.
    Madam Speaker, I thank my friend for Thunder Bay—Superior North for that question. It allows me an opportunity to continue with the line of thought that I had a moment ago, that is, talking about the environment and human rights.
    The government has moved on these areas. Before, it did not talk about it; now it has some side deals on it.
    To answer my friend's question, the problem with the side deal on the environment is that it does not have any teeth. There is no enforcement. My question to the government with this and all of the other trade deals is this: if the government has started talking about human rights and the environment, why leave them as side deals? Why not put them into the body of the agreement so that there is some enforcement capability, so that the environment and human rights become part of the whole trade agreement and there is some enforcement? I think government members would be very happy to see that.
    Madam Speaker, I want to build on what my colleague was saying a minute ago. We know that even with NAFTA there is a framework for oversight on the environment and on labour, and that there is a panel to which citizens have recourse if they have a concern around what is happening with respect to the environment. It can be from Mexico, the United States or Canada.
    That is not in this deal.
    The notion that we cannot have binding and enforceable mechanisms in trade deals does not seem to make any sense. The government has said that is the best it can do, but we want responsible trade on this side, and the government wants to just simply sign off on whatever.
    What does the member think about the mechanisms we have in existing trade deals, such as the ones I mentioned, and the ability to put those into future trade deals so that we actually have responsible trade?
    My friend from Ottawa is absolutely right. Responsible trade is the goal. Unfortunately, the Conservatives see having any kind of mechanism to protect the environment or to protect human rights built into the body of an agreement as frivolous. They see it as an opportunity for people to voice their concerns, but they are not interested in their concerns.
    Those mechanisms can be built. They can be built in to work for all of the parties. It is distressing to see that the government does not seem to be interested in trade deals or in any other matter in which there is some questioning of its decisions. I do not think that is good for democracy and I do not think it is good for free trade agreements.
    There are models, and it would be very easy to build these into free trade agreements so that there is a possibility for discussion and for enforcement and so that the world would see Canada as a leader in fair and responsible trade.

  (1120)  

    Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to speak today about the Canada-Panama economic growth and prosperity act. At a time when Canadian businesses are faced with tough economic challenges, the benefits that the Canada-Panama free trade agreement will provide are tremendously important to our economy.
    This government clearly demonstrates that our top priority continues to be jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity, growth and prosperity that will benefit Canadian businesses, workers and their families. That is why the implementation of the Canada-Panama free trade agreement is a priority for this government.
    The economic benefits of the agreement are clear. A free trade agreement with Panama will give Canadian exporters, investors and service providers preferential access to one of the fastest-growing markets in the Americas.
     Panama has a dynamic and rapidly expanding economy, with real GDP growth, estimated at 10.6% in 2011. Such remarkable growth produces tremendous economic opportunities. Once implemented, the Canada-Panama free trade agreement will help facilitate access to these opportunities for Canadian companies. The Canada-Panama free trade agreement will provide Canadian businesses with improved market access for goods and services, as well as a stable and predictable environment for investments in Panama.
    Upon implementation of this agreement, Panama will immediately eliminate tariffs, representing approximately 90% of recent imports from Canada. Let me explain what these benefits actually mean for the various sectors of our economy.
     First, for our agricultural sector, which in 2011 exported $23.6 million worth of agriculture and agrifood to Panama, the free trade agreement will immediately eliminate tariffs on 89% of Canada's current agricultural exports. This is important considering the current tariffs on Canada's main agricultural exports to Panama range from zero to as high as 70%. Products that will receive immediate duty-free access include beef, pork, frozen potato products, pulses, malt, oil seeds, maple syrup and Christmas trees, a cornucopia of Canadiana.
    The free trade agreement will also benefit exports in non-agricultural sectors through the elimination of Panamanian tariffs, including pharmaceuticals, wood, pulp and paper products, electrical and industrial machinery, vehicles and auto parts, information and communications technology, the aerospace sector, plastic products, fish and seafood, as well as iron and steel products.
    For the pharmaceutical sector, the elimination of Panamanian tariffs, ranging from 5% to 11%, will benefit Canadian exporters of many of these goods. For the pulp and paper sector, which exported to Panama $5.3 million worth of goods in 2011, the elimination of Panamanian tariffs, ranging from 5% to 15% on certain paper products, will benefit Canadian exporters of goods, such as books, wallpaper, packing materials, boxes and corrugated cardboard.
    Tariff elimination of aerospace products will also enable Canadian exports to be more competitive in Panama. In 2011 Canada exported to Panama $8.1 million of aerospace products, including various ground flying trainers, turbo propellers and airplane and helicopter parts. The immediate elimination of Panama's 3% to 15% tariffs on aerospace products will promote the competitiveness of Canadian exporters of these products.

  (1125)  

    The information and communication technology sector, a sector of particular importance in my riding of Kitchener--Waterloo, will also benefit from this agreement. Canada exports a variety of information and communication technology products to Panama, representing about $4 million in 2011, and these include examples such as radar systems and machines for the reception and conversion of voice images or other data. The elimination of Panama's 3% to 15% tariffs on information and communication technology products will help Canadian exporters expand their presence in the Panamanian market.
    While Panama is a signatory to the WTO information technology agreement, or the ITA, which eliminates duties on certain information technology products, the majority of Canada's information and technology exports to Panama are not covered by the WTO ITA and will therefore benefit from the elimination of Panama's tariffs through this free trade agreement.
    However, there is more. This agreement is also expected to have a positive impact on the Canadian manufacturing sector, which as we all know has experienced some challenges in recent times.
    In 2011 Canada exported $18.6 million of a variety of electrical and industrial machinery to Panama, including machinery for working rubber and plastics, machine tools for forging and stamping, as well as electrical switch boards and panels. A variety of Canadian machinery exports are currently subject to Panamanian tariffs, ranging from 3% to 15%. Tariffs on these products would also be eliminated.
    As an additional case in point, I should also highlight the vehicles and auto parts sector. The elimination of Panamanian tariffs on vehicles and parts, which range from 3% to an astonishing 20%, will help Canadian businesses exporting these products.
    As we can see, numerous sectors of the Canadian economy will benefit from this free trade agreement. By opening up foreign markets, we create opportunities for Canadian businesses in a wide range of sectors, which is crucial in our export-driven economy.
    Certain members of Parliament continue to criticize the Canada-Panama free trade agreement, claiming that Panama is a “tax haven”. I would like to kindly remind those members that, in July 2011, the OECD formally placed Panama on its list of jurisdictions that had substantially implemented international standards for the exchange of tax information, commonly known as the white list. This important achievement demonstrates Panama's commitment to combat international tax evasion, and I trust it will appease the concerns regarding taxation.
    Panama is committed to the implementation of this free trade agreement and has already completed its domestic ratification process. Canada cannot stand by while other countries forge closer economic ties with this strategic partner. Panama's FTA negotiations with the European Union were concluded in May 2010 and this agreement could possibly enter into force before the end of this year.
    Even more important to Canada, however, our main competitor in the Panamanian market, the United States, has completed an FTA with Panama that the United States Congress has already approved. The United States-Panama trade promotion agreement could very well enter into force this fall.
     Both the United States and the European Union will soon benefit from their trade agreements with Panama. If Canada does not quickly implement its free trade agreement with Panama, Canadian companies will be at a competitive disadvantage as competitors benefit from preferential access to the Panamanian market.
    For all of these reasons, I ask all hon. members to support the swift implementation of the Canada-Panama free trade agreement.

  (1130)  

[Translation]

[English]

    In spite of what Conservatives accuse, New Democrats do believe in trade. We do want to expand Canadian business and we do want to generate economic growth. However, the bill overlooks distressing concerns when it comes to Panama's record on environmental issues and workers' rights. New Democrats believe that we can do trade without it being ultimately harmful to the citizens of those countries and to the environment.

[Translation]

    The NDP believes in free trade that is fair, viable and realistic, a fair trade policy that, as part of an effective trading strategy, prioritizes social justice, strong public sector social programs, poverty elimination, and a trade policy based on sustainable fair trade. These should be the guiding principles for trade negotiations, not afterthoughts.
    The NDP is calling on the federal government to stop focusing exclusively on the NAFTA-based model and consider other alternatives. It should explore other ways to increase trade. There is another, better model of trade relations that could be established with Panama or any other country, a model that would include the following elements within a comprehensive fair trade strategy.
    First, it includes a comprehensive and rational impact analysis for all international agreements to determine whether the trade agreements being negotiated by Canada are good for Canadian families, Canadian workers and Canadian industries. The government should not sign any trade agreement that is likely to lead to a net loss of jobs.
    Second, this model includes a guarantee that trade agreements negotiated by Canada will strengthen Canada's sovereignty and its freedom to establish its own policy, that they will help make us a force to be reckoned with on the world stage and that they will support the principles of a fair multilateral trade system.
    Third, this model follows the fundamental principle whereby all trade agreements must protect and promote human rights by prohibiting the import, export or sale in Canada of any products considered to have been manufactured in sweatshops, by forced labour, or under any other conditions that do not meet basic international standards for labour or human rights.
    Fourth, this model includes the fundamental principle whereby all trade agreements should respect the notion of sustainable development, as well as the integrity of all ecosystems.
    Fifth, under this model, every time the Government of Canada signs a free trade agreement, the decision to adopt the enabling legislation must be submitted to a mandatory vote on whether or not the terms of the agreement are acceptable. The current system, which consists of tabling a free trade agreement in the House for a period of 21 sitting days prior to ratification, is not mandatory and does not bind the government to accept a decision of the House.

[English]

    Canada's trade policy should be based on the principles of fairness, sustainability and equity. This is how we can and should pursue real and sustainable economic growth, because sustainability will result in long-term economic health and prosperity for our country and the countries with which we do trade.

[Translation]

    The NDP opposes this bill on free trade between Canada and Panama for one specific reason: we are worried about the rights of workers in Panama and we suspect that this trade agreement contains no provisions to ensure that the rights of Panamanian workers are not violated, as they have been in the past.

  (1135)  

[English]

    The New Democrats want the kind of growth that is mutually beneficial for our trading partners and their citizenry, not only because it is ethically right to do so but also because it is a safer long-term investment that will yield better growth over time.
    Canada and Panama are not equals in trade, but the types of agreements and trade policies in the bill are meant to be between equal industrialized nations. One size does not fit all. We cannot be using this kind of trade agreement when we are talking about a country that is developing.
    The reality is that our negotiations with Panama are exploitative. One-third of its population lives in extreme poverty. We want its resources but it will not act in good faith with its citizens to sell them to us. Canada must not take advantage of the needy in developing countries for us to grow economically.
    We need to be more flexible in our trade policies so that they are suitable to the countries that we are brokering our deals with.
    It should be clear by now that the NDP can only support trade deals when Canada can ensure that the foreign workers who labour to put money in our pockets and in the pockets of Canadian corporations and shareholders are entitled to the same human rights that Canadian workers enjoy. To strive for anything else would be pure hypocrisy.
    If we sign a deal with Panama, it should offer Panamanians the right to collective bargaining, just like Canadians enjoy.

[Translation]

    Panama has a bad human rights record. The House of Commons committee that studied this agreement heard some very compelling testimony about the fact that the Republic of Panama is a tax haven.
    A tax haven is not exactly the type of country with which we should be negotiating this type of agreement. We should be negotiating with industrialized countries. This is a sign of problems to come for Canada.
    Panama has refused to sign a tax information exchange agreement, which is a red flag. It is very troubling, given the high volume of money laundering activities in Panama, including laundering of money from drug trafficking.

[English]

    This is extremely worrying. Panama refusing to sign a tax exchange information agreement is hugely problematic because such an agreement tracks illegal income, as well as legal income. There is an utter lack of transparency around Panama's tax system because, as the OECD has recognized, it is a tax haven for illegal activities, such as harbouring drug cartel money from Mexico and Guatemala. These drug cartels are wreaking havoc on the populations of countries like Mexico and Guatemala.
    A few weeks ago, I was in Chile at the ParlAmericas delegation meeting about the summit for women parliamentarians of the Americas. We were talking about the violence against women in these countries, which is often linked to drug money, to illegal trafficking and to very well-coordinated problems that happen in South America, in Central America specifically. We should not be negotiating trade agreements with countries like Panama that do not allow us to see where this money is going when there is a problem that, collectively as the Americas, we are trying to solve. Canada cannot turn a blind eye to this extremely destructive source of illegal drug trade and the systems that facilitate that trade, such as Panama's tax havens.

[Translation]

    The NDP cannot support this bill. We have tried to propose amendments to it. For example, my colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster proposed amendments on sustainable development and responsible investment. Since the amendments were rejected by both the Conservatives and the Liberals, it is clear that there is no hope left of working together to conclude a good agreement.

  (1140)  

    That is why the New Democrats will not be supporting Bill C-24.
    Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel for her excellent speech. I would like to reiterate a few things she said. For one, the NDP are not against free trade agreements. However, we want good agreements that are well thought out. Unfortunately, there are shortcomings in this agreement, as my colleague pointed out.
    Moreover, at the end of her speech, she mentioned amendments moved by our colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster concerning workers' rights. He proposed an amendment that would define sustainable development as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, as set out in the Brundtland Report published by the World Commission on Environment and Development. Unfortunately, the amendment was rejected, to the detriment of workers in Panama.
    I would like my colleague to comment on that.
    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Alfred-Pellan for her question and the points she has made.
    Our colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster moved amendments that would give workers the right to collective bargaining and would require the Minister of International Trade, Canada's main representative, to regularly consult with workers' representatives and unions. He also moved an amendment to define sustainable development as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
    I do not understand why there would not be support for such amendments. We are talking about social justice, the environment and long-term investments in people, our environment and our earth. Development must be sustainable in the long term for future generations.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I need to understand why the hon. member and the NDP believe in protectionism as an effective economic strategy for Canada. Why does she not see the value in Canada engaging with countries like Panama to negotiate free trade agreements, separate agreements on the environment and important labour standards and principles? Why would that not help bring countries like Panama into the community of nations and advance the important principles that we are so fortunate to adhere to here in Canada?
    Madam Speaker, one important point is that Panama is not a major trading partner of Canada. The two-way merchandise trade between the two countries only reached $149 million in 2008, which is less than 1%.
    According to the U.S. department of justice, Panama is a major financial conduit for Mexican and Colombian drug traffickers' money laundering activities.
     The NDP believes that NAFTA agreements were initially designed for trade between highly industrialized developed countries. However, Panama is a developing nation, as I mentioned in my speech. This trade deal will not help Panama grow sustainably or increase the standard of living for its citizens.
     The amendments proposed by my colleague for Burnaby—New Westminster would have helped this agreement but, unfortunately, the other parties voted them down. Instead, this trade deal will increase the role and incentive for exploitation by multinational corporations and inequality will grow at a far greater pace and scale than was the case before because this is a developing nation.
    That is why we are opposing this trade agreement. However, that does not mean that we oppose all trade. We want a fair trade agreement that is environmentally sustainable and fair for workers. That is what we want to see in these trade agreements and I do not think it is too much to ask.

  (1145)  

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak about the Canada-Panama free trade agreement. I would like to spend a few minutes explaining how this agreement fits into Canada's larger economic plan.
    The government understands the importance of trade and the benefits it brings. As an export-driven economy, Canada must open its borders. One in five Canadian jobs is dependent on international trade. Thus, bilateral and regional trade agreements are key to ensuring Canadians' continued prosperity. That is why expanding Canada's trade relations to rapidly growing foreign markets, such as Panama, is an important part of our government's pro-trade plan to create jobs, growth and long-term prosperity.

[English]

    With the challenges in concluding the World Trade Organization Doha round, regional and bilateral trade agreements have taken on increased significance. The government also recognizes that there are a growing number of countries where Canadian companies are at a competitive disadvantage because their competitors have preferential market access under some form of preferential trade agreement.
    Canada cannot afford to sit on the sidelines while other countries vigorously pursue trade deals to secure better market access for their products and services for their country. That is why our government is in the midst of the most ambitious pursuit of new and expanded trade and investment agreements in Canadian history.
    The Canada-Panama free trade agreement is yet another step this government is taking to help Canadians compete and succeed in the global market. It supports the global commerce strategy which will ensure that Canada maintains its current economic strength and prosperity in an increasingly complex and competitive global economy.
    With 60% of our GDP dependent on trade, it is completely clear that jobs and communities across Canada depend on the business we do with other countries. Our Conservative government's pro-trade plan is an essential contributor to Canada's prosperity, productivity and growth.
    By improving access to foreign markets for Canadian businesses, we are supporting domestic economic growth and creating new opportunities for Canadian workers. Canada's exporters, investors and service providers are calling for these opportunities. Business owners and entrepreneurs want access to global markets.
    This government is committed to expanding the various opportunities created by free trade agreements. Our track record speaks for itself.

[Translation]

    Since 2006, Canada has established new free trade agreements with nine countries: Colombia; Jordan; Peru; the European Free Trade Association countries of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland; and more recently Honduras and Panama.
    We are also negotiating with many other countries, including the European Union. A free trade agreement with the European Union would be the most significant Canadian trade initiative since the North American Free Trade Agreement and could increase trade with this important partner by 20%. Such an agreement would also give a $12 billion boost to the Canadian economy, which is equivalent to a $1,000 increase in the average national family income or the creation of 80,000 new jobs in Canada.
    Canadian businesses recognize the many benefits a trade agreement between Canada and the European Union would have for workers and businesses.

[English]

    We are also intensifying our focus on Asia. During the Prime Minister's visit to China in February 2012, leaders announced that Canada and China will proceed to exploratory discussions on deepening trade and economic relations on the completion of a bilateral economic study.
    Also, this past March, the Prime Minister announced the launch of negotiations toward a free trade agreement with Japan and the start of exploratory discussions with Thailand.
    Canada also continues to explore the possibility of participating in the trans-Pacific partnership, the TPP negotiations.

  (1150)  

    The potential benefits of these initiatives are enormous. However, that is not all. Canada is also committed to advancing our ongoing free trade negotiations with other partners, including India, Ukraine, Morocco, the Caribbean community and Korea. In addition, Canada is working to modernize its existing bilateral free trade agreements with Chile, Costa Rica and Israel, as encouraged in the exploratory discussions with Mercosur, the largest trading bloc in Latin America, made up of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.
    All of these initiatives are critical for the economic future of our country. With the global economic recovery remaining fragile, it is important that Canada continue to deepen its trade and investment ties with strategic partners. Expanding Canada's trade and investment ties around the world will help protect and create new jobs and prosperity for our hard-working neighbours and for all Canadians.
     The Canada-Panama free trade agreement is be yet another step in the right direction. This agreement represents an opportunity for Canadian businesses to grow and expand their operations in the growing and dynamic Panamanian economy.
     The agreement would also reduce tariffs for Canadian producers who want to export to Panama. Upon implementation of the free trade agreement, Panama will immediately lift tariffs on 89% of all non-agricultural imports from Canada, with the remaining tariffs to be phased out in five to fifteen years. Tariffs will also be lifted on 89% of Canada's agricultural exports to Panama. This reduction in trade barriers will benefit a wide range of sectors across the Canadian economy, including fish and seafood products, paper products, vehicles and parts in the greater Toronto area, construction materials and equipment, industrial and electrical machinery and many more. This agreement will provide Canadian service providers with a secure, predictable, transparent and rules-based environment, which will facilitate access to Panama's $20 billion services market.
    Panama is an established destination for Canadian direct investment abroad, particularly in the banking and financial services and construction and mining sectors. This proposed agreement will provide greater stability, transparency and protection for Canadian investments in Panama.
     The free trade agreement will also better enable Canadian companies to participate in large projects, such as the $5.3 billion expansion of the Panama Canal, by providing non-discriminatory access to a broad range of government procurement opportunities in Panama to Canadian suppliers. This is an enormous opportunity for Canadian companies to compete.

[Translation]

    For all these reasons, the free trade agreement between Canada and Panama is a good thing. It will support more Canadian jobs by improving our ability to export more products and services to this market. That is why implementing free trade agreements is a priority for our government.
    I ask all hon. members to support Bill C-24, which aims to implement the free trade agreement between Canada and Panama, as well as the side agreements on labour co-operation and the environment.
    Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member opposite for her speech, and especially for how well she addressed the House in French. It was most pleasant to listen to.
    I have a fairly simple question for my colleague about Bill C-24. We know that a tax information exchange agreement has not been signed with Panama. The only thing that has been signed is a double taxation treaty. However, that is not necessarily enough because it concerns only legitimate revenues. So any revenues or means that are considered illegal are not included. Illegal revenues could be included in a tax information exchange agreement.
    I would like to know why we have not signed this tax information exchange agreement, since Panama has already signed them with major partners, including the United States.

  (1155)  

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from the other side for her very kind words. In fact, as we enter into free trade negotiations with a number of countries, we are looking at providing greater stability and transparency for our companies. The ability to go out and trade freely and to compete on the global stage is something for which all Canadians are clamouring.
     We will continue to negotiate with countries to ensure they have the most reliable regulatory framework possible. It is our intention to ensure that the rule of law prevails. That is exactly why countries engage in free trade negotiations, so their companies can compete and have some confidence that if they need to avail themselves of legal recourse, the laws will apply to them as foreign nationals.
    Madam Speaker, the Canada-Panama agreement is a bilateral agreement between two countries. When we look at the resources and trading power that Canada has compared to Panama at this stage, does she not feel that is an unbalanced relationship, that it actually opens the door for transnational corporations to exploit the people of Panama and does not lead to sustainable development, which is what Panama needs?
    In fact, Madam Speaker, what we have found historically is that when countries engage in free trade and residents prosper, people do better. They want opportunities and would like to compete. As I mentioned during my comments, a massive $5 billion construction project is about to get under way in Panama. We would like to provide our Canadian companies the opportunity to go there to compete and ensure that they are not at some sort of disadvantage because other countries have negotiated preferential agreements.
    Panama is also a very critical hub to Central America and will allow an important foothold for our companies to go there, establish their beachheads and compete and create wealth for Canadians and foreign nationals.
    Madam Speaker, my question for the hon. member is this. Is she aware that the United States has resisted, based on advice in a 2009 report from its state department, signing any free trade agreements with Panama because of the serious problems in money laundering, banking, civil rights abuses, et cetera? If she is aware of that, why would Canada go where the U.S. fears to tread?
    Madam Speaker, I want to reassure the House that in fact Canada wants to send a very strong signal to ensure that the rule of law will always prevail. Panama has committed to implementing the OECD's regulations on the exchange of tax information. I would like to reassure the hon. member that we are actively considering this matter.
    Madam Speaker, in my riding of Simcoe—Grey many of the local businesses are very pleased with new free trade agreement. What type of impact is that having on the local businesses in my colleague's area.
    Madam Speaker, whether it is folks involved in the manufacturing of electronics, or auto parts or in the services industry, many of my neighbours and residents are chomping at the bit to compete on the world stage. They have great products and expertise and they do awfully well when they compete on the world stage. It means additional wealth for my neighbours.

  (1200)  

    Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to talk about the Canada-Panama free trade agreement.
    I think all hon. members will agree that this agreement opens up a wide range of exciting new commercial opportunities for Canadian businesses as well as investors.
    In these difficult economic times, Canadians depend on governments to work together to pursue new opportunities in markets around the world. Opening new markets and promoting trade is a key part of this government's plan to create new jobs and improve the well-being of Canadians over the long term.
    This government is committed to broadening Canada's trade relationships with regional partners like Panama. We will continue to fight to open markets for Canadian businesses to ensure they are well placed to compete in these difficult economic times.
    The Canada-Panama free trade agreement is about more than just trade and investment. This government is committed to protecting the environment. Indeed, the government believes that trade liberalization and environmental protection can be mutually supportive goals. That is why, as part of the comprehensive free trade agreement, Canada and Panama are committed to strive for good environmental governance in order to protect the environment, while reaping the benefits of increased economic activity flowing from liberalized trade.
    In addition, when Canada and Panama signed this free trade agreement, we also signed a parallel environmental agreement. The parallel environmental agreement commits both countries to pursue high levels of environmental protection and to continue to develop and improve their environmental laws and policies.
    Recognizing the importance of environmental conservation and protection, as well as the promotion of sustainable development, the environmental agreement will require Canada and Panama to enforce their domestic environmental laws effectively and to ensure that they do not relax or weaken those laws to encourage trade or investment.
    The agreement also includes important commitments to encourage voluntary best practices of corporate social responsibility by enterprises and to ensure that appropriate environmental assessment procedures are maintained in each country. In addition, the agreement reaffirms both countries' commitment under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity to strengthen the protection of biological diversity and respect, preserve and maintain traditional knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities.
    Furthermore, the agreement contains commitments to promote public participation and transparency. It includes the mechanism for residents of Canada and Panama to ask questions of either party about the obligations or co-operation under the agreement.
    In addition to these commitments and obligations I have mentioned, the agreement also establishes a framework between Canada and Panama for undertaking co-operative activities. Most specifically, Canada and Panama have agreed to work together to develop a co-operative work program to support the environmental objectives and obligations of the agreement, address environmental issues of mutual concern and enhance overall environmental management capacity.
    Themes for co-operation would include topics ranging from conservation of biodiversity and migratory species to parks and protected areas management to cleaner production technologies and best practices for sustainable development.
    In order to oversee the implementation of the agreement, it provides for a committee on the environment to be established. This committee would be made up of government representatives from Canada and Panama.
    Finally, the agreement contains mechanisms to manage differences that may arise under the agreement. We recognize that in some cases non-compliance with the environmental agreement may be more a question of limited environmental capacity than a lack of commitment to the obligations. Therefore, our approach focuses on collaboration in order to seek constructive solutions and build an environmental management capacity rather than impose additional burdens.
    Beyond the environmental agreement itself, the Canada-Panama free trade agreement includes a principles-based environmental chapter as well as environmental-related provisions in other parts of the FTA, highlighting the importance of environmental protection and conservation and the promotion of sustainable development.
    For example, in the exceptions chapter of the agreement, Canada negotiated important environmental-related provisions stipulating that Canada and Panama could take environmental measures that were necessary to protect human, animal or plant life or health, provided that they were not applied in a discriminatory manner or represented a disguised restriction on international trade or investment.

  (1205)  

    In addition, Canada negotiated provisions that allow certain multilateral environmental agreements with trade-related provisions to prevail over the free trade agreement in the event of an inconsistency. As we can see, the parallel environmental agreement and the environmental-related provisions in the Canada-Panama free trade agreement are an important part of this initiative that would ensure increased trade does not come at the expense of the environment.
    Through these agreements, Canada and Panama have demonstrated our commitment to protecting the environment. The agreement is yet another clear example of the government's approach to mutually supporting trade liberalization and environmental protection.
    As the government continues to open doors for Canadian businesses abroad, we want to ensure that our presence is positive and that our activities are sustainable. We believe that free trade can play a positive role around the world. The environmental agreement with Panama is an example of just this. The Canada-Panama free trade agreement, complemented by its parallel environmental agreement, would create new commercial opportunities for Canadian businesses while ensuring the protection of our planet for future generations.
    For these reasons, I ask all members of the House to support the Canada-Panama free trade agreement.
    Mr. Speaker, it is interesting that the bulk of the member's speech focused on the environment. The agreement says that neither party will do any damage to their domestic environmental laws. Could the member comment on what she feels Bill C-38 would mean in terms of Canada's environmental laws in the context of this free trade agreement? Does she see that many of us feel that Bill C-38 actually reduces Canada's environmental protection and what does she think it means in this context?
    Mr. Speaker, quite simply, Bill C-38 enhances environmental protection and creates an opportunity for sustainable environmental development.
    I would just like to stay focused on what we are contemplating today. From the standpoint of provisions with respect to the environment and the Canada-Panama free trade agreement, as I mentioned in my speech, the agreement on the environment commits both countries to pursue a very high level of environmental protection, to improve and enforce environmental laws effectively and maintain appropriate environmental assessments. We are making sure that we have sustainable development while still having protected environmental programs in place, whether through this trade agreement or others that we will do in the future.
    Mr. Speaker, we worked on this issue with Panama in previous Parliaments, as was mentioned by others. Why is it important for Canada to be moving forward with free trade agreements around the world, including this one with Panama? What will that do for the Canadian economy, and why is it important at this time, based on the world economic situation?
    Mr. Speaker, the member for Burlington has done such great work in the House.
    The bilateral agreements between Canada and Panama have totalled, just in 2011 alone, over $235 million. The member asked what the benefits are. My riding of Simcoe—Grey is here in the province of Ontario and the benefits are substantive, whether that be the elimination of tariffs on key exports in this province, focused mainly on construction machinery, electronics, chemicals, or pharmaceuticals like Baxter, in Alliston, or making sure that they have the opportunity to expand their markets, thereby expanding what they are exporting, and create jobs. That is what this is all about. It is about creating jobs in the long run for Canadians so they can have a better quality of life.

  (1210)  

    Mr. Speaker, I just want to drill down a bit more on this agreement. Last night on CBC we saw a documentary on mining in Panama and the effects that it is having on the population and the environment, killing fish and lakes. Could the member tell me exactly where the binding framework is for Panama and Canada when it comes to the environment under this agreement?
    We can have a side agreement, but if we do not have a binding framework agreement where citizens can come forward and raise concerns, like we do in NAFTA, it is only worth the paper it is written on, which is not a lot.
    Can the member point out what section of this agreement would allow for a binding framework agreement when it comes to the environment?
    Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned in my speech, there is a separate agreement on the environment that would commit both countries to pursue a high level of environmental protection. The agreement on the environment includes provisions for encouraging the use of best practices in corporate social responsibility, and a commitment to promote public awareness so that members of the public may step forward and express their concerns with respect to environmental laws.
    The agreement reaffirms the country's international commitments under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity to promote conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, as well as to respect, preserve and maintain the traditional knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous peoples.
    We are moving forward substantially on this. As I mentioned before, we want to be focused on sustainable development while we are still focused on environmental protection. That is exactly what this free trade agreement is doing.
    Mr. Speaker, I am no longer a member of international trade committee, but I enjoyed my time there immensely. Over a year ago, prior to the previous election, we were working on this same agreement then. Checking with one of the people in the lobby, we worked out that there were over 50 hours of debate on this minor treaty alone. To those who are wondering about whether the House sufficiently debates issues, the answer most clearly is yes. I do not blame the people of Panama or the government for being a bit frustrated with Canada that we have yet to implement this treaty.
    I am pleased to rise today to talk about Bill C-24 and the Canada-Panama free trade agreement. This agreement would provide benefits to Canadians in numerous sectors, and hopefully I will have time to get through most of them. In particular, I wish to speak about the services sector.
    As many hon. members I am sure are aware, the Panamanian economy is built on the service sector. Panama is not known as a manufacturing hub. It is perhaps best known for its canal and for the strategic position it provides to the world in the transportation of goods.
    Panama offers opportunities for Canadian service providers in a broad range of commercial services, financial services and temporary entry for business persons. This free trade agreement would expand opportunities in these key areas and others.
    In 2009, which according to my notes is the latest possible data, Canadian commercial services exports to Panama amounted to $48 million. During the negotiations with Panama, our government's approach was to develop substantive provisions to govern cross-border trade in services as well as to provide a level of market access similar to that afforded under NAFTA. Canada sought similar treatment as afforded to the U.S. under its free trade agreement with Panama. This is important because we are going to be competing with American businesses as we try to sell to Panama.
    When it comes to free trade, a lot of the benefits are derived from buying and importing from countries so that we acquire lower-cost goods, but we are also interested in selling to Panama and obtaining the same treatment so that we are on level ground with the United States, one of our major competitors. This is yet another example of how our government is committed to achieving a level playing field for Canadian businesses around the world.
    Free trade is a cornerstone of our economic success as a nation. Our ambitious pro-trade plan is helping to open doors for our businesses around the world, including in Panama.
    The free trade agreement contains strong provisions to provide access on a competitive basis. The agreement provides market access beyond Panama's obligations under the WTO and GATT, particularly in areas of Canadian expertise and export interests, which include mining and energy-related services, professional services, which involve engineering and architectural services, environmental services, distribution and information technology.
    The services and services-related provisions of the agreement would benefit Canadian exporters, particularly small to medium-sized enterprises, through the implementation of principles and conditions of regulatory stability as well as fair and equitable treatment. Regulatory stability is important not just as has been demonstrated in our current budget, but in our agreements around the world.
    Canadian services exporters would also benefit from provisions designed to increase transparency of regulations, including increased transparency on access for temporary entry for a broad range of service providers.
    The agreement also provides a framework for the negotiation of mutual recognition agreements respecting professional licensing and qualification requirements and procedures.
    Consistent with past practice, Canada has taken reservations in this free trade agreement to maintain full policy flexibility in areas of domestic sensitivity, including social services, health and public education. There is no concern or fear-mongering necessary in those areas.
    Another area of service that is of particular interest in dealing with Panama is financial services. In this area the agreement establishes NAFTA equivalent access for all financial services in respect of right of establishment, full national and most favoured nation treatment, certain cross-border commitments and various other carve-outs.

  (1215)  

    In terms of provincial government measures, the openness of the provincial financial sector framework was bound at existing levels. As members probably know, Canadian firms are among the top financial providers in the world, and we are proud of their success.
    This free trade agreement would enable them to succeed in the dynamic and growing Panamanian market. In terms of sector-specific market access commitments, the levels of access Panama offered to Canada achieved parity with what was offered to the U.S. through the trade promotion agreement.
    The portfolio management commitment, however, would only take effect at the time the U.S. trade promotion agreement comes into force. Importantly, Canada has achieved the same treatment as the U.S. in respect of ownership of insurance brokerages, pension fund management and securities dealers' requirements.
    Canadian financial institutions expressed significant interest in expanding relations with Panama through a free trade agreement. If members have ever been to Latin America, they will have seen that Scotiabank very much plants the Canadian flag all over the continent of South America and Latin America. Scotiabank, for example, currently operates 12 branches in Panama City that offer a wide variety of banking services. These include corporate and commercial lending facilities, project and trade financing, cash management services and personal retail banking services.
    These institutions supported a free trade agreement to better position Canadian business vis-à-vis competitors in this market, particularly those that already benefit from preferential trading agreements with Panama, and to institutionalize investments and dispute settlement protection for existing investments.
    I will wrap up with just a few brief words about the temporary entry for business purposes, again, something that helps to expand the delivery of services to Panama and increases our service sector in Canada with its export.
    The service provisions of this trade agreement address the important question of temporary entry for business people. The temporary entry chapter takes important steps to address barriers that business persons might face at the border, such as limits on the categories or numbers of workers who can enter the country to work or provide services.
    Temporary entry provisions are important because they facilitate entry for covered business persons by eliminating the need to obtain a work permit for business visitors and by eliminating the need to obtain a labour market test and/or economic test for other categories. They also would exempt certain occupations from numerical restrictions, such as domestic/foreign proportionality requirements and quotas with respect to the hiring of foreign nationals at a single enterprise.
    This free trade agreement would ensure the secure, predictable and equitable treatment of service providers from both Panama and Canada. It would give Canadian companies enhanced access to the Panamanian market, which offers numerous opportunities including the ongoing multi-billion dollar expansion of the Panama Canal. This is a free trade agreement that would benefit service providers and all Canadians.
    Let me also add that one of the things we must always recognize with all free trade agreements is that all parties can benefit. Trade is not a zero-sum game; it is something that expands the possibilities for both consumers and exporters on both sides of the equation. This has been recognized by economists for hundreds of years. In fact there are many people who will look at trade as one of the best ways to alleviate poverty in countries that have not achieved the economic success of Canada, including in areas of income inequality, an area about which I am sure opposition members will be most interested in asking questions.
    I encourage all hon. members to vote for this agreement, an agreement that would bring Canada and Panama closer together and increase the wealth of all Canadians.

  (1220)  

    Mr. Speaker, I mentioned earlier that there was quite an interesting documentary on CBC last night, The New Conquistadors. It was focused on Panama, specifically mining in Panama. It talked about the toxic tailings ponds that are killing fish in lakes and water and the fact that indigenous people are being pushed off the land. Canadian mining companies are the ones that are involved here. We have indigenous people protesting in front of Canadian embassies. As a result, sadly, of the protest two people have been killed recently.
    I say that because one of the issues around this trade deal is: Where is the binding framework agreement when it comes to environmental standards? I asked the member's colleague earlier if he could point out where it is in this agreement. He basically said that it was a side agreement and would promote the ideas of sustainability, et cetera, but there is no binding framework agreement that is actually going to be solid, like we have in NAFTA.
    If I am missing something here, maybe the member could enlighten me. If not, why do we not have a solid binding framework agreement that is going to be something we could actually show people, to demonstrate we are being responsible when it comes to the environment?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question, but there is a presupposition there that I do not necessarily buy into, which is that the democratic government of the country of Panama cannot protect its own citizens.
    I did not see the documentary last night, but I am aware of documentaries that have said similar things about Canadian mining projects in Canada. Possibly sometimes those are true. Does that mean Canada has had poor environmental practices? Does that mean that the Panamanian democratically elected representatives cannot implement their own environmental laws?
    We should not stereotype countries that are less economically developed than Canada that they do not have their own democratic institutions to defend and decide their own responses to environmental, labour and other issues. That there are protesters and discussion about it means there is a good democratic and robust discussion in Panama that the Panamanian people will resolve.
     It is positive that we have an environmental agreement, but do we absolutely need a binding agreement with them? Not necessarily.
    Mr. Speaker, my question relates to concerns expressed in this and previous Parliaments with respect to Panama being a locale for money laundering and a tax haven.
     My concern specifically relates to the protracted negotiations that went over some eight years before the United States was finally able to sign a tax information exchange agreement with Panama. Even within that tax information exchange agreement, the level of disclosure was not ideal. It was certainly less than ideal. In other words, the Panamanians were quite reluctant to provide the level of disclosure the Americans wanted. What concerns me is that after all that, Canada does not yet have a tax information exchange agreement with Panama, and here we are passing legislation with respect to free trade.
    Does my colleague opposite share my concern with respect to a tax information exchange and entering into a closer business relationship with a country where these concerns with respect to money laundering and a tax haven have been expressed?

  (1225)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question and I am glad to note that he did not make the mistake that some other members have made in this House when they referred to old data that Panama was on the OECD's watch list. In fact, Panama has made enough agreements with enough countries that it has been pulled off the black list or grey list, and now that situation has changed.
    With respect to dealing with the United States, I would remind the hon. member, and I am not familiar with all the details, that Canada right now is having a little problem with the overreaching elements of the American Internal Revenue Service with its demand for financial institution on Canadians and Canadian institutions that have dealings with Americans or are American born. We all have constituents who were born slightly south of the line who are now being hassled or have the fear of being hassled. Therefore, I would not necessarily share that concern, because the United States can be extraordinarily aggressive in reaching out to the world.
    The final point I would make to the hon. member is the fact that Canadian financial institutions, which are deeply tied into Canada on an economic basis, are going to be expanding there, and I mentioned Scotiabank in my speech. I think they would provide some reassurance that the standard business practices in Panama going forward would be increasingly aligned with countries like Canada. Scotiabank has a vested interest there to make sure their reputation is spotless in actions, words and deeds.
    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak on Bill C-24. The Liberal Party has long been in support of opening new markets on the basis of fair trade. We will be supporting this particular legislation. We do have some concerns, given the obvious bipartisan support, that this is yet another instance where time allocation has been imposed, but nonetheless, the Liberal Party stands in support of the content of the legislation.
    One of the key concerns with respect to our trading relationship with Panama, and this has been evident with respect to the government's free trade agenda, is about the domestic practices within some of the countries where we are seeking to have new trade arrangements. An additional point to be kept in mind, and one the government would do well to carefully consider, was raised by Jim Stanford of the Canadian Auto Workers, who appeared recently at the international trade committee.
    Part of his presentation outlined the following, with respect to the lack of apparent benefits derived from free trade agreements. Mr. Stanford, before the committee, reviewed the five longest-standing trade agreements. He said:
...with the United States, Mexico, Israel, Chile and Costa Rica. Canada's exports to them grew more slowly than our exports to non-free-trade partners, while our imports surged much faster than with the rest of the world.
    Mr. Stanford went on to say:
    If the policy goal (sensibly) is to boot exports and strengthen the trade balance, then signing free-trade deals is exactly the wrong thing to do.
    Looking back on some of the previous free trade agreements, with Colombia there were outstanding issues with respect to labour and human rights, and the same concern applied in Jordan. With respect to Panama, one of the outstanding concerns, as I raised in my question just a few moments ago, is the issue of tax havens and issues related to money laundering.
    Just to put this in context, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade , in response to issues on the Canada-Jordan free trade agreement and violations of human and labour rights and Canada's response, told the House
...what...members fail to realize is the entire issue of extraterritoriality. There are certain things we can do when negotiating with another country and certain things we cannot do because they are beyond our sphere of influence.
    The question that must be raised, of course, is: What mechanisms within any agreement should be in place with countries where issues of concern are found to exist and persist?
    For example, with respect to the Panamanian situation, when federal government officials were testifying before the international trade committee last fall, they could not address adequately the matters of money laundering and the tax haven issues related to Panama.
    Again, as I indicated earlier in my question to the hon. member for Saskatoon—Humboldt, in December 2010, Panama signed a tax information exchange agreement with the United States. In testimony before the United States' House ways and means subcommittee back in March of last year, Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch research director raised concerns with respect to the money laundering issue in the wake of the agreement signed between the U.S. and Panama. He said:
    Panama promised for eight years to sign a Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA). Yet when it finally signed a TIEA with the Obama administration in November of 2010, the agreement did not require Panama to automatically exchange information with U.S. authorities about tax dodgers, money launderers and drug traffickers.
    In the previous Parliament, concerns were raised with respect to Panama as a tax haven in which instances of both tax evasion and money laundering were found. Concerns were raised as to whether a free trade agreement should be proceeded with, without a clear tax information exchange between Canada and Panama in place.

  (1230)  

    There is as yet no tax treaty or tax information exchange agreement between Panama and Canada.
    The history, as we understand it, is this: Panama asked that we enter into a double taxation treaty, which is more comprehensive than a tax information exchange agreement; Canada refused and asked for a more limited, less all-encompassing agreement; Panama, which at the time had only entered into double taxation treaties, insisted on a double taxation treaty; Canada has not yet responded to this second request.
    All double taxation treaties include information exchange obligations between signatory countries. That is because of the model convention of the OECD. As of November 2010, Canada was party to double taxation agreements with 87 countries, with eight more signed but not yet in effect. As of November 2010, Canada had signed nine tax information exchange agreements, the less robust agreements, and they were yet to come into effect.
    In testimony this past fall before the international trade committee, reference was made to the correspondence between Canada and Panama, in which the latter was asked whether Panama had responded to the concerns expressed by Canada on the tax haven issue. According to Department of Foreign Affairs officials, no such response had been received.
    This past December, during debate on Bill C-24, the parliamentary secretary went to considerable lengths to express his confidence in the commitment by Panama to improve its exchange of tax information and went to great lengths to reference the OECD statement acknowledging the progress of Panama in that regard. However, the issue of tax havens and money laundering is and should be of concern to the government.
    It is unfortunate that the parliamentary secretary apparently did not read the statement issued last July by the OECD, which states that the OECD's Global Forum:
...must still evaluate whether Panama's domestic laws will allow for effective availability, access to and exchange of information.... The government has introduced domestic changes so that the agreements can be effective. The Global Forum will follow up to make sure they work as intended. It is important that Panama continues to work to fully implement the standards.
    Article 6 of the agreement between the United States and Panama on the issue of tax co-operation and information, entitled “Possibility of declining a request”, states that the “The competent authority of the requested Party may decline to assist”.
    To conclude, the Liberal Party will be supporting this agreement. We feel, in the circumstances, that the discussions and negotiations between the two countries with respect to the exchange of tax information should be at a more advanced stage before we as parliamentarians consider this legislation and we raise that as a concern, but it will not be a significant enough concern to prevent us from supporting the agreement.
    We would encourage the government to proceed as rapidly as possible to ensure that the issues with respect to tax havens and money laundering with our trade partners in Panama are properly and adequately addressed.

  (1235)  

    Mr. Speaker, I heard the member say that he will be supporting this agreement. Obviously there has been great consideration given as to how important this agreement is to Canada. I would like my colleague to explain to the House why he feels it is good to support this agreement. I am really glad to hear that he is going to. Perhaps he could give the rest of us some insight as to why he feels this measure is worthy of being supported.
    Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party is and always has been supportive of free trade and of anything that serves to break down barriers between countries, as long as concerns with respect to environmental matters, taxation and human rights are addressed.
    It is important to break down barriers to encourage business between countries. It is a help to our exporters and importers to remove tariff barriers or other potential impediments to trade. It is all about providing greater opportunity to Canadian exporters and importers, as is the nature of any free trade agreement. The key is balance, and that is what I attempted to address in my remarks.
    Mr. Speaker, in the member's opening comments he mentioned there was time allocation on this bill. Once again we have a bill with some important repercussions, yet debate is going to be finished in a mere few hours on this particular section of the legislation.
    Could the member comment specifically on the time allocation? Members opposite have said this bill has been back a number of times. However, clearly there are still some gaps in it, and the member identified some of that. I wonder what he feels about continuing to shut down the process so that parliamentarians do not have the opportunity to fully engage in debate, call appropriate witnesses and so on.
    Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question. It almost seems as though it is a reflex in this Parliament to introduce legislation and then limit debate. It somehow has become automatic, and that is most unfortunate.
    In the course of my remarks I indicated my concern over the lack of any solid agreement with respect to the exchange of tax information. That aspect could and should be addressed before this bill goes forward. Tactics such as time allocation prevent that from happening. It is unfortunate, but it seems to be ingrained in the government and in this Parliament.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member from the Liberal Party talked about the problems that free trade with some countries might pose.
    I would like to know if he agrees with us. The Conservatives are giving us the impression that they are putting the blinders on and closing their eyes as soon as we talk about free trade. That way, they cannot see the possibility of tax evasion and violations of human and workers' rights.
    Does the hon. member agree with us that we have to make sure not to sign free trade agreements at any cost, and that we have to look at what is happening in foreign countries?

  (1240)  

    Mr. Speaker, I do not fully agree with the hon. member.
    It is very important to protect human rights and workers' rights, but it is also important to have a good trade environment. Both are important. We have to take both these interests into consideration.

[English]

    This is all about balance. All too often my colleague's party, the NDP, errs on the side opposite commerce, and it would be very bad for the country if it were the will of Parliament to constantly err away from the side of economics. There does have to be balance, and I do appreciate that.
     Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to rise in the House to talk about the Canada-Panama free trade agreement.
    The House has spent considerable time debating the key elements of this trade agreement. We are aware that Panama is already a significant trade partner for Canada, with two-way trade totalling over $235 million in 2011. Panama is an established market for Canadian exports and holds significant potential for Canadian businesses.
    We have also heard about the tremendous opportunities that exist in Panama with respect to government procurement. In addition to the ongoing USD $5.3 billion Panama Canal expansion project, the Government of Panama has numerous infrastructure projects either under consideration or already in progress to build or improve ports, roads, hospitals, social housing projects, bridges and airports. These projects are part of the Panamanian government's USD $13.6 billion strategic investment plan for 2010-2014. A country like Canada, with so much expertise, can take advantage of these significant opportunities in Panama.
    Panama is also a strategic destination for Canadian investment, with the stock of Canadian investment in Panama reaching over $121 million in 2010.
    However, looking beyond this investment, government procurement and market access for goods, this agreement is a comprehensive free trade agreement with obligations that extend well beyond these subjects to include other areas of importance to Canadian businesses.
    The free trade agreement provides comprehensive obligations in areas such as financial services, temporary entry of business persons, electronic commerce and telecommunications, and competition, monopolies and state enterprises.
    Canadian banking is consistently recognized as among the best in the world. In fact, the World Economic Forum has ranked Canada's banking system as the soundest in the world for four years in a row. This is an area where Canada is truly excelling.
    The Canadian financial services sector is a leader in providing high-quality and reliable financial services. Across the Americas, Canadian banks are helping foster economic growth through access to credit and other financial services. In Panama specifically, Canadian financial institutions such as Scotiabank have an active presence and offer a wide variety of banking services. This agreement will help those Canadian financial institutions take advantage of opportunities in Panama.
    On financial services, this agreement provides market access parity with what Panama offered to the U.S. through the trade promotion agreement and contains a robust prudential carve-out. This agreement includes comprehensive obligations for the financial services sector, including banking, insurance and securities.
    These market access commitments are complemented by key obligations that ensure non-discrimination, provide a right of establishment for financial institutions, and promote regulatory transparency in the financial sector. These are key elements that the Canadian financial services sector is seeking in order to ensure that it is able to compete in an increasingly competitive global market. This government is responding to this demand.
    Another important area included in this trade agreement to ensure that businesses are able to fully maximize the opportunities in Panama is temporary entry for business persons. This is an important issue for Canadian businesses to ensure that their employees are able to work in Panama and is a natural complement to market access for goods, services and investment.

  (1245)  

    In recognition of a significant number of Canadian companies operating in the region, the agreement removes unnecessary barriers impairing the ability of companies to bring in the skilled workers they need. These would include impediments such as the requirement for labour certification, tests, quotas, proportionality requirements or any other prior approval procedure.
    The agreement extends to an extensive list of professions, including various technicians and provisions for spousal employment.
    The strength of this free trade agreement does not stop there. It also extends into the areas of electronic commerce and telecommunication. Electronic commerce is an important addition to previous free trade agreements in light of the importance of ensuring that no digital economy issues, such as the protection of personal information, consumer protection and paperless trade, are overlooked. These are issues that are increasingly important for businesses in the 21st century and Canada and Panama have recognized this fact.
    In the free trade agreement with Canada, Panama has agreed to a permanent moratorium on customs duties for products delivered electronically. This includes items such as electronic software, music purchased online and digital books. This moratorium is important, not only for businesses but for consumers as well.
    In addition to electronic commerce, telecommunications provisions were also included to support the competitive development of the telecommunications sector. Through this free trade agreement, Canadian telecommunication service providers will be able to better compete with their American counterparts in the Panamanian market.
    Clearly there are many benefits to this free trade agreement with Panama that go beyond trade in goods and investment.
    The final area that I will touch on is the obligation in the free trade agreement related to competition, monopolies and state enterprises. This agreement meets Canada's objective of ensuring that anti-competitive business practices and the actions of monopolies or state enterprises do not undermine the benefits of trade and investment.
    Canada and Panama will co-operate on issues relating to competition policy through their respective authorities. The obligations ensure that Canadian companies doing business in Panama are treated fairly. There are many other areas of agreement that will offer real commercial benefits to Canadian companies.
    Overall, this is a high quality and comprehensive trade agreement. It will allow Canadian businesses to compete and excel in the Panamanian market. This is a market where many key exporters are seeing enormous potential.
     According to a recent report published by the Global Centre for Aviation, Panama has the fastest growing economy in all of Latin America and is expected to have the fastest growing economy in Latin America for the next five years. Panama's real gross domestic product growth for 2011 is estimated at 10.6%. That is a faster growth than many other rapidly emerging economies and clearly illustrates that the commercial potential in Panama is very significant.
    It is important that Canadian firms establish an early presence in this emerging market and build solid relationships that will provide them with a competitive edge.
    Panama holds a unique and influential position in the global trading system, thanks to the Panama Canal. Panama represents an entry point to the broader region, thereby enabling access to neighbouring markets. This growth, driven by the expansion of the Panama Canal and other major infrastructure projects, represents tremendous opportunities for Canadian businesses. This country's sound macroeconomic policy and improved security have resulted in favourable economic conditions and stronger demand for imported products. This represents new opportunities for Canadian exporters.
    This free trade agreement has the support of key exporters and investors across Canada and its passage through this House will ensure that Canadian businesses are able to take advantage of opportunities in this important market.

  (1250)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I commend the hon. member on her speech.
    We know that a free trade agreement between Panama and Canada was signed on May 14, 2010. In that agreement, the Minister of Labour and the Minister of International Trade—the same two we have today—stressed that Canada and Panama would respect the fundamental labour rules and standards set out by the International Labour Organization.
    Could the hon. member tell us if compliance with those standards will be required in the new agreement?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I want to assure the member opposite that our government will only be signing agreements that are in the best interests of Canadians. I am quite certain that she will find her question falls into that rank.
    Global trade is vital to our economic prosperity. A country like Canada, with so much expertise, can now take advantage of these significant opportunities in Panama. This will help ensure Canada's growth, prosperity and strength.
    I ask members to share in our vision and support this agreement.

[Translation]

     Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague opposite for her speech.
    I would like to ask about the lack of an agreement on exchanging tax information in this free trade accord. Usually, the answer we get is that Panama has agreed to sign a double taxation convention with Canada. But that type of convention only deals with legitimate income. However, we know that a lot of income in Panama is obtained illegally. Exchanging information through a tax information exchange agreement makes it possible to track all types of income, including illegal ones.
    Why did Canada not want to put more pressure on Panama so that we would have an agreement of that kind, given that the United States signed such an agreement with Panama in 2010?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I guarantee and assure the member that our government will be looking for factors and concerns like this and will only sign the agreement once it is sure the best interests of all Canadians have been taken care of.
    This free trade agreement has the support of key exporters and investors across our country. Its passage through the House will ensure that Canadian businesses are able to take advantage of many opportunities in this important market. This will ensure Canada's growth, strength and prosperity. It is part of our global trade and part of our economic prosperity. Canadians elected us to do what is best for them.

  (1255)  

    Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the member would be so kind as to expand on the importance of free trade agreements and the importance of growing Canada's economy, along with world economies, with free trade agreements. Our government has put a lot of new free trade agreements together which has helped to keep our economy in good stead.
    Mr. Speaker, it is well-known that Canada works to produce a trade industry across our country. This agreement will not only help one province but all the provinces will benefit from it.
    It is important that Canadian firms establish an early presence in this emerging market and build a solid relationship that will provide them with a competitive edge.
    Trade has always been a powerful engine for Canada's economy and so it is with this Panama trade agreement as well.
    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-24,, an act to implement the Canada-Panama free trade agreement. It will be of no surprise to those in this House that I will be speaking against this agreement because of my strong concerns about the impact of free trade agreements that lack adequate environmental, labour and human rights safeguards.
    While this package does include side agreements on labour co-operation and environment, both of these are extremely weak. The Conservatives and the Liberals joined together to defeat amendments proposed by the member for Burnaby—New Westminster which would have strengthened those agreements by providing both dispute resolution mechanisms and enforcement mechanisms. Without those safeguards, I cannot support this free trade agreement.
    In debate today, some members on the other side of the House have asked the New Democrats, as the official opposition, why, if we supported the free trade agreement with Jordan, we were not supporting the agreement with Panama. Part of that answer lies in the differences in the agreements that I just mentioned. The side agreements in the Jordan free trade agreement were far stronger, had enforcement mechanisms and had dispute resolution mechanisms included in them. There is a difference in the agreements themselves.
    The other part of that is the feeling I have that we ought to choose our partners very carefully when entering into closer economic associations. There are large differences between Jordan and Panama. For instance, Jordan is not a tax haven while Panama continues to refuse to implement a tax information exchange agreement with Canada. That lack of transparency means that Panama remains a major centre for money laundering, especially from the drug trade.
    When I hear members on the other side talk about the provisions in this agreement for closer relations in financial institutions, this raises a big red flag for me about why we would want closer relations with a country that lacks that transparency and is a major transfer point and money laundering point for the drug trade in the Americas.
    Again, on the question of why Jordan and not Panama, one only needs to look at the human rights and labour standards of these two countries. Here again, Jordan has made great progress and Panama has not. Jordan has made progress in raising labour standards and enforcing those standards, including several recent raises to the minimum wage and activities to try to enforce basic safety in the workplace conditions.
    Panama has made no such progress. In fact, in Panama, the existence of sweat shops and other exploitive labour practices remain a real problem. Labour organizers working on these issues also come under very severe pressure, both from the government authorities and under threats from unidentified forces who we can only imagine are perhaps associated with those other illegal activities in Panama.
    Not only do labour organizations face human rights threats in Panama, so do journalists attempting to cover labour and justice issues in Panama. Professional organizations of journalists have reported that over half the working journalists in Panama now face or have faced criminal defamation proceedings brought against them by the governments or businesses. These defamation suits carry penalties of up to one year in prison and very hefty fines.
    This places an extreme chill on journalism and the freedom of expression in Panama, a problem that does not exist in Jordan. This has become so extreme that, in 2011, two Spanish nationals who had permanent resident status in Panama, Francisco Gómez Nadal and Maria Pilar Chato Carral were detained while covering a demonstration by the Ngäbe-Buglé indigenous people in Panama City. They were detained for 48 hours before being permanently expelled from Panama. This, again, placed a very severe chill on the activities of all journalists operating in Panama, because Mr. Francisco Gómez Nadal and Ms. Chato Carral were extremely prominent journalists, working both for the daily newspapers in Panama City and also filing stories for newspapers in Spain.
    We on this side have been very consistent in calling for trade agreements that have labour standards, human rights standards and sustainability built into those agreements. When we talk about sustainability, we are talking about sustainability that is both economic and social, as well as environmental.
    In Panama in the past few years, there have been very severe conflicts over development, in particular between mining companies and hydroelectric projects and local communities, and especially indigenous peoples in Panama. Indeed, this was the subject of a CBC documentary this week which attracted the attention of international human rights organizations.
    According to Amnesty International, one protestor died and more than 40 were wounded during clashes at a blockade of the Pan-American Highway by the Ngäbe Buglé indigenous people who I mentioned earlier. They are asserting their rights to be consulted and to give informed consent before any development project on their lands proceeds in the province of Chiriqui. Similar protests by local community organizations occurred earlier this year over the reopening of the Cerro Cama open-pit gold and copper mine by a Canadian mining company.

  (1300)  

    These conflicts over development also involve a lack of enforcement in environmental standards. At the Santa Rosa mine, which operated throughout the 1990s and was operated by a subsidiary of the Canadian mining company, Greenstone Resources, the mine finally closed in 1999, leaving three large tailing ponds, which are now very strongly suspected of having contaminated local water supplies. Local protests have broken out again very recently from the local community as this mine is now being reactivated without there ever being any attempt by the government to address these environmental concerns.
    When members on the other side say that we are opposed to trade, they get it wrong. What we are opposed to is entering into these agreements which will provide advantages to multinational corporations, some of them Canadian, to impose working conditions that are dangerous, to develop projects that have severe environmental consequences and to undertake development in a country where freedom of expression comes under very severe threat.
     Therefore, when we talk about trade on this side, we prefer to see multilateral agreements that have some basic principles inserted within them. However, if not, and obviously the government will not pursue the multilateral agreements, then we would like to see the same kinds of principles in these bilateral agreements, the principles I have just talked about: environmental sustainability, social sustainability and economic sustainability.
    Of course, in a country like Panama with a large indigenous population and a large poor population, this means working with poor communities and working with indigenous communities for development that would help them build their communities and build their lives in a sustainable manner. We see nothing of the kind going on in Panama at this time.
    We also want to see agreements that have very strong benefits to both parties. Therefore, we have called upon the government, before implementing free trade agreements, to have some kind of independent assessment of what the effects of the trade will be. We have not seen anything of this kind coming down the pipe from the government.
    When we talk about competition on the international stage, we on this side support free trade based on efficiency and innovation. If a company can be more efficient than another company, and Canadian companies are often very good at this, then it should have access to markets and it should succeed. If a company is more innovative than other companies, it comes up with new ideas that would help advance the quality of products or develop new products that would fill a niche in the market, then it ought to be able to succeed in that trade.
     What we do not want to see is companies that succeed in international trade by offloading their environmental costs on to future generations. What we do not want to see is companies that succeed in international trade on the basis of paying the lowest wages in the most dangerous working conditions. Therefore, if we are to build closer economic relations with new trade partners, we need to ensure it is on the basis of shared values of democracy, human rights and sustainability.
    When my colleagues on the other side asked why we supported the trade agreement with Jordan, we said that it was not because it was a perfect agreement, but that it is a good agreement. Jordan shares those same values with us and has shown demonstrable progress in the areas of democracy, human rights and labour standards. When it comes to the Panama agreement, we see exactly the opposite.
     Therefore, I would question why we would want to enter into this agreement with a partner that has shown a disrespect for human rights, that has some of the lowest labour standards in Central America and where Canadian companies are involved in projects that often have quite severe environmental consequences.
    I would ask the government that when it thinks about new partners, that it go back to those basic values. Yes, we want to see trade, but we want to see trade based on efficiency and innovation. We do not want to see trade on the basis of offloading environmental costs, paying low wages, dangerous working conditions and those which threaten the rights of free expression in order to proceed with those dangerous economic conditions. When we do that, I think we will find many good partners around the world to trade with and that trade will advance the interests of both nations.
    Therefore, for the reasons I have outlined, I will be voting against the free trade agreement with Panama and I will be urging all members of the House to do so.

  (1305)  

    Mr. Speaker, I fundamentally disagree with the premise of my colleague's discussion.
     In our view, we agree that there needs to be a set of values, standards and regulations that all abide by, and that is exactly what free trade agreements do. They allow two countries, two parties, to come together and have an agreement to move the yardstick further in terms of human rights, values and corporate environment in which companies should work.
    I find it interesting that the NDP members take credit for supporting one agreement with Jordan, even though they say it is not perfect. Then in the same sentence, they say that they would agree with having multilateral agreements with countries.
    I would like the member to name the countries that the NDP would support Canada having multilateral free trade agreements with so it can be on the record. I would like to know what countries they would like us to pursue.
    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member misses the point when we talk about multilateral. When we talk about multilateral agreements, the point is to involve as many nations as possible to remove artificial barriers to trade. Multilateral by its very nature means that we would attempt to work through organizations like the World Trade Organization to remove those legitimate trade barriers.
    It is very interesting when the member says that he does not share the premise of our discussion. However, he points to Panama and says that we have some kind of provision in that agreement to encourage Panama to have higher labour and environmental standards and greater respect for human rights. Those amendments were put forward by the member for Burnaby—New Westminster and the members of the Liberal Party and Conservative Party voted against them. If we had those kinds of guarantees in an agreement, we might be able to support it, but we certainly cannot in this case.
    Mr. Speaker, there is a consistency problem within the New Democratic Party. On the one hand, its members want desperately to try to show that they are in favour of some form of free trade, but we just do not know exactly what. They are consistent on the fact that they do not like Panama. I have detected that in the comments as expressed by numerous members.
    There were NDP members on the Jordan file who said yes to Jordan, while other members had said no to Jordan. They never did request a formal vote so we really do not know where they stand on the Jordan file. I think there is a lot of controversy within their own caucus on that issue. However, it is valid to point out that on Panama we know clearly where the NDP stands.
    Does the member believe that there is a united NDP caucus in dealing with freer trade with other countries? As the previous member asked, is he prepared to share with the House other examples, one or two other countries, that NDP members might have a consensus within their caucus to support freer trade?

  (1310)  

    Mr. Speaker, again, the Liberals as well as the Conservatives miss the point of multilateral agreements. Multilateral agreements tend to invite all parties in to try improve them.
    However, if the member is asking me to name one country that I personally think we should look at expanding trade with it would be Brazil. It is a great example of a country that has made huge progress on democracy, labour standards and human rights standards.
    Another interesting question we could ask is this. Why is the government pursuing a free trade agreement with Panama? It was in talks with the government of El Salvador, but when it elected a progressive president, the government abruptly cut off those talks and went on to work other partners like Honduras and Panama, which have a much worse human rights record.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca for talking about sustainable development. We had a bill in the House on corporate social responsibility for Canadian companies working overseas and it was defeated.
    Could the member comment on the need to have that kind of corporate social responsibility for Canadian companies that operate in countries like Panama?
    Mr. Speaker, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster was doing very good work in trying to introduce a private member's bill to guarantee that Canadian companies would respect the same standards abroad that we would expect them to respect at home. Unfortunately, the examples I gave on Panama today largely involved Canadian companies operating in Panama in conflict with indigenous people and in some projects that had some very severe environmental consequences.
    I look forward to a time when we in the House can impose the same standards on Canadian companies abroad that we expect them to meet at home.
    Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to have this opportunity to talk about the benefits for Canadian investors. My speech today will be about the investment aspects of the Canada-Panama free trade agreement.
    Foreign investment is a crucial component of today's modern economy. Foreign investment not only brings with it jobs, but increases the transfer of know-how, efficiencies and economies of scale to a host of economic opportunities. These markers of success, in addition to the people ties fostered, help strengthen Canada's global competitiveness at home and pave the way for new opportunities for Canadian companies overseas. These opportunities help Canadian companies remain globally competitive by ensuring their integration into the world economy.
    At the end of 2011, Canadian direct investment abroad reached an all-time high of $684 billion. The value of the stock of foreign direct investment within Canada is also impressive. By the end of 2011, Canada had attracted more than $607 billion in foreign direct investment.
     I will pause for a moment to remind my colleagues and to emphasize that the actual numbers from the end of 2011 show there is more investment from Canadian companies abroad than direct investment we get from foreign companies. This is important. We often hear in the House, on the street and in our ridings, that Canada is hollowing out, that Canadian companies are being sold and we are losing our control. In actual fact, that is not the case. Canadian companies are more aggressive and progressive in investing in foreign lands than the money that comes into our country.
    As the past few years have demonstrated, the Canadian economy has proven to be a safe harbour as the global economy faces severe challenges. Canada is home to 27 of the Financial Times “Global 500” companies. More top global companies have headquarters in Canada than in Germany, India, Brazil, Russia or Italy.
     Canada has also outpaced its G7 partners with its economic growth, the fastest it has been in the last 10 years, as a result of having lower corporate taxes, prudent fiscal management and financial regulation, a business climate that rewards innovation and entrepreneurship and an open economy that welcomes foreign direct investment.
    Canada must remain diligent to ensure that our economic credentials remain strong at home and that Canadian businesses continue to have access to an increasing number of investment opportunities abroad. This is why it is important for us to leverage our investment relationships that we have around the world and with countries like Panama.
     While data is unavailable for the end of 2011, the stock of Canadian direct investment in Panama was estimated by Statistics Canada to have reached $121 million at the end of 2010. Canadian investment in Panama, primarily found in the financial services and the mining sector, also has strong potential for growth.
    There are many Canadian investment success stories around the world and Panama is no different. Scotia Bank has been in Panama since 1973 and has expanded to become the country's fifth largest commercial bank. SNC-Lavalin moved its Central American regional office to Panama in 2006. Inmet Mining Corporation continues to develop its copper mine in Panama, which is now over 13,000 hectares.
     Opportunities for Canadian investors in Panama are also poised to grow in the future. We have heard about the tremendous opportunities that exist in Panama with respect to large numbers of infrastructure projects.
     In addition to the ongoing $5.3 billion U.S. Panama Canal expansion project, the government of Panama has numerous projects either under construction or already in progress. These projects include the building or improvement of ports, roads, hospitals, social housing projects, bridges and airports, which are part of the U.S. $13.6 billion Panamanian government strategic investment plan for 2010 to 2014.

  (1315)  

    Under this plan, a large number of infrastructure projects would create new opportunities for Canadian businesses. A country like Canada, with so much expertise to take advantage of these significant opportunities in Panama, must act now. The current and future opportunities for Canadian investors show how important it is to enhance our investment relationship with countries like Panama.
    This agreement would do just that by building upon a Canada-Panama Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement signed in 1998. By enhancing the investment provisions under this agreement, a free trade agreement with Panama would provide investors from both countries with the benefits that come with enhanced investment obligations. These provisions, which would promote the two-way flow of investments between Panama and Canada, would provide a range of obligations that would benefit investors from both countries.
    They are designed to protect investment abroad, through legally binding rights and obligations. The investment obligations of this agreement incorporate several key principles. They include: treatment that is non-discriminatory and meets a minimum standard; protection against expropriation without compensation, meaning we cannot take land or property without compensation; and the free transfer of funds without penalty.
    In short, Canadian investors would be treated in a non-discriminatory manner. This dynamic would help foster an investment relationship between our two countries and pave the way for an increased flow of investment for the years ahead.
    Through this agreement, investors would also have access to transparent, impartial and binding dispute settlement systems.
    While this agreement would ensure that investors and their investments are protected, it would not prevent either Canada or Panama from regulating in their public interest, with respect to health, to safety and to the environment.
    The investment provisions also include an article on corporate social responsibility. This provision recognizes that Canada expects and encourages Canadian companies operating abroad to observe internationally recognized standards of responsible business conduct. This provision would also help level the playing field for Canadian investors when they invest abroad by encouraging CSR principles among all investors.
    Overall, this agreement would send a positive signal to our partners around the world about the openness of Canada to foreign investment. This agreement would enhance investment opportunities abroad for all Canadians.
    Foreign investment links Canadian companies to global value chains and to new economic opportunities. This enhances our competitiveness and increases the flow of goods and services between Canada and our trading partners.
    To date, Canadian companies have shown a significant interest in investing in the Panamanian economy. However, as time passes, opportunities for Canadian investors are at risk. That is why it is critical that Canadian companies have the ability to strike while the iron is hot. I encourage members not to delay the approval of this agreement.
    Our government has been very clear that trade and investment are vital to the economic growth and long-term prosperity of Canadians. That is why our government continues to move forward with an ambitious free trade agreement agenda that focuses on creating partnerships with key nations around the world. To take advantage of commercial opportunities around the world, we must do everything we can to open doors for Canadian businesses.
    That is why I ask all hon. members to show their support for the Canada-Panama free trade agreement.

  (1320)  

    Mr. Speaker, I find the member opposite to be a kind, caring and sensible man. However, this agreement and others have side agreements for the environment and human rights. One of the problems with side agreements is that they do not have any teeth. They are not enforceable.
    A very simple way to get MPs in this House on board with trade deals is to move those two things, the environment and human rights agreements, into the body of the agreement so that there are some teeth, so that there is an opportunity for people to voice their concerns and to have them heard.
    Does my normally very sensible friend across the way not think that is a good idea?
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the kinds words of the member opposite.
    It is a bit of a red herring. It is in the agreement. We have side agreements on particular issues. Negotiation on free trade agreements is a two-way street. The member and his colleagues in the NDP believe that it is the Canada way or no way. We do not believe that. We believe this is an opportunity. When we sign these free trade agreements, there are issues that we need to deal with, whether they are with labour or the environment. We have discussions and put it in writing in, as he defines it, as a side agreement. It is progress. It is the way to move forward on creating jobs for Canadians.
    The NDP way is to take the ball and go home. Nothing gets accomplished, no jobs for Canadians and no future for Canadian businesses abroad. That is not the way to go.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his very fine speech. But I cannot totally agree with what he said in his remarks.
    Once more, I will ask the question I have already asked several of his colleagues today. But this time, I would appreciate a semblance of an answer.
    We have signed a double taxation agreement with Panama. That can give us access to all legal and fiscal tools. I do not know why there has been no agreement to exchange tax information between Canada and Panama. That would have given us access to all types of income, whether earned by legal or illegal means.
    Why was that not put in place? Canada has signed tax information exchange agreements with several countries and Panama also has signed them with several countries. In the light of what went on in Panama a few years ago, and of what is still going on, why do we not have this tax security measure in this bill?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I know the member has heard the answer before. What we were dealing with on the free trade agreement had to do with tariffs and investment. There is an issue with the tax treatment of companies that are doing business in Panama. We have many tax exchange agreements, as the member said, with other countries. The United States has a tax agreement with Panama, which is relatively new. I can say that we are working on the tax issue. It was not ready in time to be included in this, but it is an issue we know we need to deal with as a government.
    Denying Canadian companies an opportunity to do business in Panama and reducing the barriers to trade with Panama is not the right approach, in our view, in terms of moving the yardstick further along to accomplish those goals, including a tax agreement.

  (1325)  

    Mr. Speaker, I noted my colleague's comments about not taking Canadian standards to other countries. After the budget implementation bill that was just passed and the environmental standards in it, we have brought different environmental standards to this country, which are really not appropriate.
    When the hon. member talks about the need to be magnanimous toward other countries in terms of their ability to move forward on the environment, and social and economic issues surrounding tax issues, he is really missing the boat. What is happening in this country with this budget implementation bill is driving down our standards, whereas we should be putting standards forward for other countries which are more appropriate.
    Mr. Speaker, I am sorry that the member opposite misunderstood the statement. The statement was that through free trade agreements, we are promoting Canadian values and standards. If we told countries that they have to be like Canada or we would not speak to them, as the NDP wants us to do, we would talk to no one and Canadian companies would suffer, Canadian jobs would not be created and innovation would not happen.
    We are looking for partners to do business with. Part of that process is that we promote our values in terms of the environment, the workplace and human rights. It is through those agreements that we are able to express what Canada stands for in the world. We are number one. I take exception to the member saying that Canada does not have a high level of standards. We are promoting those standards through free trade agreements.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-24, which has to do with a Canada-Panama free trade agreement.
    It is very important that we take a stand and take the time to read this free trade agreement, because Panama is an extremely important international partner. Panama is the largest economic power in Central America, partly because of the Panama Canal, which sees a large number of goods pass through. Right now, it is being expanded, which will allow for greater flow and traffic.
    Maritime traffic is rather important to Panama. Panama also is specializes in financial services, commerce and tourism. So it is important for us to examine this agreement and decide what this agreement with Panama will contain. We need to do things the right way.
    I have listened to my colleagues' comments today and will get back to them shortly. I think that the government is botching this job and is not taking the time to create a worthwhile agreement. The NDP is in favour of free trade agreements if they are responsible and sustainable. Right now, we have the momentum to show that Canada is a leader. Right now, Panama is an emerging country. Canada, as a proud economic partner and world leader, could show Panama the way in terms of proper environmental norms and a system of rights for workers and unions in Panama, and we could make this free trade agreement into an agreement that supports sustainable and viable long-term development.
    This could be the time for Canada to move things forward internationally. Canada could be an excellent partner. Unfortunately, the Conservative government is completely ignoring this extremely interesting opportunity that is right in front of it.
    The sad thing about this bill is that there has been a time allocation motion, which means that we will not be able to discuss it in greater detail. However, there are a number of interesting points I would like to make. When I read Bill C-24, I noticed a number of shortcomings. My NDP colleagues tried to make amendments to correct those defects, but unfortunately, all of the proposed amendments were rejected.
    In my view, the most significant flaw is probably the fact that there is no tax information exchange agreement in this bill. I will say more about that later. There is also a glaring lack of vision with respect to sustainable development. The agreement lacks meaningful protection for the rights of Panamanian workers. We know what happens when jobs and workers are not protected. When that happens in Canada, factories close their doors and move jobs elsewhere. It is important to ensure that Panamanian workers are protected. Another problem is the fact that this is a bilateral agreement, not a multilateral one.
    As for the tax information exchange agreement, it may sound very confusing to some, but actually, it is quite simple. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development gives a very good description of tax information exchange agreements on its website. Basically, any country can refer to that description in order to create its own tax information exchange agreement. All of the information is on the website. It was created in 2002, and since that time, many countries, including Canada and Panama, have used this model to clarify their tax information exchange agreements.
    So what is a tax information exchange agreement? The following description is from the OECD document:
    The purpose of this agreement is to promote international co-operation in tax matters through exchange of information...The agreement grew out of the work undertaken by the OECD to address harmful tax practices...The agreement represents the standard of effective exchange of information for the purposes of the OECD's initiative on harmful tax practices.
    As I just mentioned, many countries have followed this model to create their tax information exchange agreements. Canada has entered into several such agreements, for instance with the Cayman Islands, the Bahamas and Saint Lucia. In 2010, Panama signed a tax information exchange agreement with the United States, one of its biggest financial partners.
    I just asked the hon. member for Burlington a question. I asked him why Bill C-24 does not contain this kind of tax information exchange agreement with Panama based on the same model as the one presented by the United States.

  (1330)  

    I was told that it was not ready in time. That is not a reason. In fact, it is proof that this bill was completely botched. We need to take the time to do things. This is important; it is a free trade agreement. I was honestly shocked when I heard this. If it was not ready in time, why not take the time to do things the way they should be done before presenting them to the House? Why did they not accept the amendments presented by the opposition to resolve the problems with this bill? I wonder.
    It was not ready in time, and I find that very sad. This is clear evidence that we should go back, call a halt to this bill and secure an agreement. It is not as if things are pressing and we absolutely must have a free trade agreement with Panama by tomorrow. And it is not as if they are our most important partner. Panama is not Canada's largest trade partner. Bilateral trade in terms of goods between our two countries was worth only $149 million in 2008. We are not even talking about 1%. We have the time to do things right. I do not see why we are not, and it saddens me a little to hear this.
    I know that Panama was recently removed from the OECD grey list because it has implemented information exchange standards, but we do not even have these information exchanges with Panama. If that were the case, this bill would already be much better. We do not have a tax information exchange agreement, but the Conservatives, on the other side of the House, are trumpeting the double taxation convention that Panama has agreed to sign. They think that will do.
    Is it really enough? I do not think so. Double taxation tax treaties—the definition is on the Canada Revenue Agency website—are designed to avoid double taxation for people who would otherwise pay tax on the same income in two countries. That applies to legitimate income only. A tax information exchange agreement helps track down all income, legitimate or otherwise. It is a much sounder and more interesting way to protect ourselves in terms of taxation standards.
    Again, I am extremely disappointed not to find this exchange agreement in the bill, especially since we have already signed such agreements and so has Panama. So why not sign one together? It is a mystery. My colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster proposed some extremely interesting amendments, including some on sustainable development and responsible investment. That is what we want to see. That is the direction we should be taking. We are all responsible. We all live on the same planet and everyone has the right to fairness.
    We were also very disappointed that the benefits of sustainable development were not considered. I understand that it is a system of rules, but it has to be applied fairly and it is not included in this bill.
    This bill touched on several issues all at once. I will not have time to talk about protection for workers or the environment, which has been clearly bungled in this bill, as it was in Bill C-38. I would like to talk about what we want to see in a Canada-Panama agreement.
    We simply want a fair trade policy, one that gives a rightful place to social justice, and fair, sustainable, equitable trade. These are very simple things that should be the basis for a free trade agreement with another country. We should instead be negotiating multilateral agreements. However, if the decision is made to enter into a bilateral agreement such as this one, we have to do more and make a more responsible commitment with this kind of agreement.
     We are reaffirming our vision of a fair trade policy that puts the pursuit of social justice, strong public-sector social programs and the elimination of poverty at the heart of an effective trade strategy.

  (1335)  

    Let us protect the environment, protect workers and, at the same time, ensure that the tax measures included in this type of bill are appropriate.
    Mr. Speaker, no doubt it is difficult to pretend to be in favour of or open to a policy that one completely opposes.

[English]

    The reality is that this NDP member, just like her NDP colleague who spoke before her and other NDP members, plays this game of saying that she believes in multilateral trade agreements. The problem is that when the previous Liberal government was in office, it put forward for negotiation the multilateral agreement on investment, a multilateral approach that brought in all countries, and the NDP was opposed to that. NAFTA is a multilateral approach to trade that brings three countries together for the best interests of the continental economic regime. The NDP is opposed to that.
    It is the NDP and its members who are in the streets waving placards and chanting whenever there are meetings of the WTO or NAFTA or the G20 or the G8 in Canada or around the world.
    Now the member and the NDP say in the House, “We are against Panama. We might be in favour of Jordan, but we are not quite so sure; maybe Brazil, but we are not quite so sure.” They cannot name any country in the world they actually want to trade with. Then they put out this red herring and say, “We are in favour of multilateral agreements when it comes to foreign investment and international trade and commerce”, except that every single time that has come forward, they have been against it as well and were in the streets chanting and waving placards like a completely non-serious political party would.
    One has to wonder whether the NDP is in favour of bilateral trade agreements or of multilateral trade agreements. Could the hon. member please make up her mind?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his question.
    I find it sad because I think that, unfortunately, he did not bother to listen carefully to what I took the time to explain in the 10 minutes that I had. We spoke about multilateral agreements, but it is not just that. This type of bill has plenty of shortcomings.
    We are talking about environmental standards, labour standards and fiscal arrangements. I am surprised that the hon. member does not want to sign a tax information exchange agreement with Panama, since the members opposite are trying to make out that they are squeaky clean. There are many things that do not make any sense.
    This goes much further than a bilateral or multilateral agreement. We are talking about the very essence of a bill. In this case, there has been a blatant lack of study. Earlier, his colleague, the hon. member for Burlington, said that they were caught off guard and that they did not have time to establish an agreement.
     Therefore, I am not in favour of it.

  (1340)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party has been fairly clear in terms of expressing concerns regarding labour, environmental conditions and coming up with freer trade agreements, but that does not prevent us from being able to acknowledge the benefits, both to Canada and to other countries with which we would enter into these agreements, and we would always like to see agreements improved upon.
    The issue I have with the NDP members is that they do not seem necessarily to be consistent with their thoughts when it comes to international trade. For example, they will not sign any sort of free trade agreement with any country we know with which they might have some concerns with regard to human rights issues, for example.
    Let us use the country of China, where there is a great deal of concern regarding human rights issues. Would that mean that the NDP would take some sort of trade sanctions or anything of that nature in order to take a stand on that particular issue, or would they be open to an agreement between Canada and China?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member from the Liberal Party for his question.
    What I find interesting in the preamble to his question is that the Liberal Party apparently also agrees that the bill has to be improved in terms of the environment, human rights and even sustainable development.
    I would like to remind the hon. member that the member for Burnaby—New Westminster introduced amendments to improve this bill in terms of the environment, sustainable development and human rights. But both the Conservatives and the Liberals voted against those amendments. So he is in no position to lecture us about what should be improved because they did not support our proposals.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege and a pleasure for me to stand and speak to this important piece of legislation.
    I just came from chairing the international trade committee. It is a pleasure for me to serve in that capacity. When it comes to trade, it is absolutely imperative that I explain to Canadians just how important trade is to Canada.
    One out of every five jobs is created because of trade. Sixty-three per cent of our GDP is represented by trade, and we have accomplished that because of trade agreements.
    The trade file started with NAFTA. NAFTA has been in existence for almost 17 years. What has happened in that time period? Jobs have gone up by 23%, meaning there are 40 million net new jobs in North America because of NAFTA. Trade has tripled, and has quadrupled with one of our partners.
    Opposition members argue against free trade agreements. It really puzzles me that they let the Jordan free trade agreement go through on a voice vote; it was as if their union people were not watching. It is absolutely amazing to me that they could agree with the Jordan free trade agreement and then stand in the House and give some of the arguments that I have heard recently against the Panama free trade agreement. I will talk about that in a few minutes.
    I want to give one quick example about NAFTA. We heard arguments that when NAFTA came in, the wine industry in Canada would be absolutely destroyed. It would cease to exist. All those arguments were presented on the floor of the House, and they were argued vigorously.
    Can members guess what happened? Canada's wine exports amounted to $1.8 billion. From all the various countries—Argentina, Australia, France, Italy, Spain—we imported $800 million in wine, so our exports doubled our imports. What a great success story, and all because of international trade. That is something my hon. colleagues should keep in mind.
    What have we been doing as a country? We have signed nine different free trade agreements: Colombia, Honduras, Jordan, Peru, the European Free Trade Association members, and Panama, the one we are dealing with today.
    What are we pursuing? We are pursuing an economic free trade agreement with Europe. We just heard testimony less than an hour ago in committee from our chief negotiator, who indicated how well that is going. We expect to have the final draft by the end of the year.
    Why is that important? It is important because it is the most comprehensive free trade agreement between any two nations anywhere in the world. It will supposedly be at end of text by the end of the year. It is exciting to see how well that is going, and I compliment the negotiators on that free trade agreement.
    What does that agreement mean to Canada? It means $1,000 per family per year. That is a fair amount. That is $12 billion coming into Canada every year because of the economic free trade agreement with Europe.
    We are also working aggressively on another free trade agreement, in this case with Japan. The benefits to Canada would be $9 billion. As well, there is India, Brazil, Thailand.
    Just a few minutes ago we heard that we are in the TPP, which, as of yesterday, is a group of 10 countries on the Pacific rim that will work on a comprehensive free trade agreement in that group.
    What about China? Last year we imported $44.5 billion from China. It imported $13.2 billion from us. To equalize the trade benefit from China and to balance the trade would be a $30 billion benefit. It could be just an act of goodwill by China.
    We are very excited about accelerating trade and about our opportunities with these growing countries that are in need of the products we produce and the resources, industries and intelligence we have here in Canada to offer them.
    What are the elements of the Canada-Panama agreement? We trade cross-border services, telecommunications, investment, financial services, government procurement and so on.
    It is important to sign this agreement and get on with it. The bill reached third reading in the last Parliament. It is important because the United States, Chile, Taiwan and Singapore already have an agreement with Panama.
    What would bilateral trade with Panama mean? In 2011, trade was $235 million. We imported about $144 million in products such as metals, gold, fruit, machinery, fish and seafood products. We exported about $111 million in products such as machinery, meat, aerospace products, vegetables and so. Signing this kind of agreement would provide a great opportunity for our corporations and our country.

  (1345)  

    It is very important to understand the opportunities that lay themselves before us under this agreement on the procurement side. In Panama it is projected there will be $28.9 billion U.S. worth of infrastructure projects over the coming years. One of the largest is the Panama Canal, which is a $5.3 billion expansion and a great opportunity for Canadian corporations with regard to not only that but also ports, roads, bridges and airports, with respect to procurement.
    It is important to understand that the tariffs on our agricultural products are rather intense. They go from 13.4% right up to 260% for some of our agricultural products. Imagine what the elimination of those could do with respect to exporting frozen potatoes, pulses, pork, malt barley and other products such as beef, hogs and so on. When it comes to the non-agricultural goods, the tariffs are anywhere from 6.2% right up to 81% on many of those, such as materials, equipment, industrial and electrical machinery, paper products, vehicles and so on. We can see that the potential for this is great.
    The resistance I hear from the opposition members is rather interesting because they have talked about labour problems, human rights problems and environmental concerns. There is a corporate social responsibility that has been agreed to by Canadian corporations when we get into this piece of legislation. It very much encompasses environmental protection, human rights, labour relations, corporate governance, transparency, community relations, peace and security, and anti-corruption measures. Therefore, the opposition members are really blowing smoke when they say that the legislation does not include any of this. It is very important that it is there and that we sign this agreement so that Canadian companies would be able to capitalize on these kinds of opportunities.
    The corporate social responsibility part of this agreement is very important. It is something that has not been talked about an awful lot here but is something that is very important. With respect to the side agreements on labour and the environment, I have heard opposition members ask why they are not encompassed within the body of the agreement. It is no different than with Jordan, for which they had no problem with standing in this House. Well, actually they did not stand; they just sat there on a voice vote and let it go unanimously at third reading. It is off to the Senate and will be passed very soon we hope. There is no difference here with respect to that, so I do not know how, in their own thinking, they can support one and not the other.
    In testimony at committee we heard the most outrageous circumstances on human rights happening in some of the factories in Jordan. The members of the opposition who are on the committee heard the same testimony. There are two approaches that can be taken when we look at a free trade agreement. We can either say that unless that country comes up to Canadian standards we will disengage or just check out because there is no point, which will send a message that we would not do business with anyone who does not come up to our standards. The other approach is to engage that country as much as possible, improve its standard of living and give Canadian businesses as well as the corporations in those other countries opportunities that would help them along, so that we both win. That is the approach this government is using.
    The most hypocritical position I have ever seen in this House on the trade file is the opposition members supporting Jordan but not supporting Panama, Colombia and others. It is really beyond anything I have seen. Clearly, it is something that has to be addressed when we challenge the opposition members to come on side and sign the agreement. If they say they are pro-trade then they should do it. The excuses I have heard are absolutely not excuses but rather blind ideology that hurts Canadian businesses and Canada as a country.
    Canada is a wonderful country. It is the greatest country in the world, according to the IMF, the OECD and Forbes magazine. We have created 760,000 net new jobs since the bottom of the recession. We have done that by lowering taxes and giving Canadian corporations the opportunity to actually develop and move their goods and services into international trade opportunities around the world. As a government, we will continue to do that. Why? That is what Canadians expect us to do.
    The NDP would like to raise taxes to get out of this recession. We believe we should grow our country. That is the way to win, and we will continue to do that.

  (1350)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his comments. One concept came up twice in the hon. member's speech: that simply engaging with those people and those emerging countries will suddenly and magically improve workers' fundamental rights, environmental conditions and so on.
    If the hon. member is so convinced that that has to happen, how is it that the agreement includes parallel agreements that bring up environmental concepts that are not in the body of the text? How is it that there is no vigorous mechanism to resolve environmental disputes? If he thinks that this really is part of the main thrust of trading with emerging countries, why is that not clearly indicated in the body of the agreement?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I addressed that question in my deliberations, but nonetheless I would like to repeat it.
    It is absolutely no different from the agreement with Jordan that the opposition sat in this House and agreed with 100%. The most horrendous testimony we have heard in our committee came from the factories in Jordan, of the misuse of human rights, yet the side agreements on human rights and on the environment are the very same.
    I am saying to my hon. colleague that it is ridiculous to say that the side agreements on human rights and environment say we are going to go soft on it. We are going to go as hard as we possibly can and make sure we do what we can, in this agreement and other agreements, to be able to respect human rights wherever we can. We understand very well that in Jordan and in Panama there may be problems.
    I would say the opportunity to have more intense problems, when it comes to human rights, is in Jordan rather than in Panama.

  (1355)  

    Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party has been fairly clear on the issue in regard to this particular bill. In principle, we support it. We do have concerns regarding the environment, as I alluded to earlier, and labour and so forth. At the end of the day, this is a bill we be supporting.
    Having said that, I think Canadians need to be concerned about the growing trade deficit that the Conservative government has created. The government tends to focus on this particular agreement and the Jordan agreement.
    What does this particular member believe the Government of Canada is going to have to do to try to turn things around and bring back the days, with Liberal administrations, when we had a trading surplus? At the end of the day, that is going to create the hundreds and thousands of jobs here in Canada. We have to achieve that surplus.
    When does the member believe we are going to be able to address that particular issue?
    Mr. Speaker, that is an interesting comment. Maybe the member is rather new here, but when the Liberals were in power for 13 long years, they signed zero agreements.
    We signed nine and are heading to ten free trade agreements. It is very important that we not allow other countries to eat our lunch when it comes to trade. That is exactly what I said: when it comes to Panama, we have the United States, Singapore and other countries ahead of us with free trade agreements. The first one in usually has an opportunity ahead of the others. That is why we are pursuing, aggressively, free trade agreements with Japan and others. There is an advantage to making sure we do that.
    It is very interesting, coming from the Liberal Party that agrees with free trade, because they did absolutely nothing. We have seen that as a trend by the Liberal Party for many years, so we are not really surprised.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to tell the hon. member that the NDP does not oppose free trade, but it does oppose time restrictions on debate. The NDP also opposes everything that is hidden in legislation and everything the Conservatives forget to mention. The NDP is in favour of a healthy economy and wants workers to be protected and to have their own rights. The NDP also wants to put an end to tax havens.
    Can the hon. member confirm that there is nothing hidden in this bill?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the member is not opposed to trade; she is opposed to time allocation. This bill got to third reading with the last government. How much more debate does the member want on this thing?
    Now we have started from scratch. This government has brought it up through committee and into the House, into third reading. That is a fairly extensive look at it. If the opposition has not made up its mind by now, it is never going to.
    When it comes to tax havens, this is something that has been brought up before. In 2002 Panama committed to implementing the OECD's standards when it comes to exchange of tax information. In 2011, the OECD took another look at it and formally listed Panama as having substantial implementation and as having achieved international standards on exchange of information.
    I believe Panama has come a long way. This is the right thing to do, and I encourage all members to consider that and vote for this piece of legislation.

STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS

[Statements by Members]

[Translation]

Correctional Service Canada

    Mr. Speaker, inmates in Correctional Service of Canada penitentiaries regularly use their blood, vomit, feces, urine, semen or saliva as a weapon against correctional officers. The rate of hepatitis C among inmates is 20 to 50 times higher than in the general population, and the HIV infection rate is 5 to 40 times higher.
    Every incident that occurs leaves correctional officers and their families in limbo, since inmates can refuse to have their blood analyzed to determine their state of health. These men and women who serve the public deserve our respect and our protection. They are not asking that every prisoner be required to give a blood sample, only those who, by their actions, have threatened the most fundamental right of correctional officers—the right to life.
    What is the Minister of Public Safety waiting for to respond to this appeal and pass appropriate legislation?

[English]

Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal

    Mr. Speaker, every member of Parliament has been given the privilege of selecting 30 recipients for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal. For several months I wondered how I would select just 30 people from the 120,000 in my riding. Obviously there are hundreds of worthy candidates. Upon further reflection, I began to think about the Queen herself and about what she values and stands for. Words such as duty, honour and service quickly came to mind.
    I think all Canadians are aware of the high regard the Queen has for our armed forces and how often she pays them respect. That is why I decided to select Diamond Jubilee recipients by honouring those who serve members of our armed forces. For example, there are unsung heroes in Royal Canadian Legions across the country who serve our veterans on a daily basis. In recent years, many Canadians have paid respect to our troops in Afghanistan. In my riding, one woman has sent scores of packages in the mail to soldiers she has not even met. There are also many cadet commanders across Canada who give their time to prepare the future leaders of our armed forces.
    It is these people who will receive Diamond Jubilee Medals in my riding. I think my choices are most appropriate and I believe the Queen herself would agree with my decisions.

  (1400)  

[Translation]

Blood Donation

    Mr. Speaker, last week was very important, because Canadians were encouraged to generously donate blood. I made my first donation when I was 18, but the cruel and discriminatory rules set by Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec against gay and bisexual men prohibited me from continuing to donate.
    In 2012, because of biomedical technological advances to detect HIV in blood, there is no need for this discrimination. In fact, a team of researchers with the Canadian Medical Association Journal recommended that gay couples who have been in a stable, monogamous relationship for one year be able to donate blood.
    These researchers suggested that, with such a measure, the risk of receiving HIV-infected blood would be only 1 in 11,000,000. Since we do not have a stable supply of blood from year to year, we are not in a position to refuse the generous donations from these gay couples, whose sexual practices are just as safe as those of heterosexual couples.
    I am calling on the Minister of Health today to put an end to this discrimination against gay men. It is an insult to assume that our blood is not clean enough for you.

[English]

Children's Health

    Mr. Speaker, I stand in the House this afternoon to highlight the need for a pan-Canadian network for child and youth nutrition.
    Studies have shown that good nutrition for our children and youth has a direct impact on their educational success. These educational outcomes lead to their success in getting better jobs and to better long-term health. This has a direct impact on our economy in reducing health care costs and in creating a more educated workforce to meet the needs of Canada's future workers.
    I call on all members of the House to support the Motion No. 319 on children's health, which will engage in a consultative process regarding the promotion and maintenance of healthy weights for children and youth.

Birthday Congratulations

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to a remarkable lady living in Stephenville Crossing in the riding of Random—Burin—St. George's. On May 29, Mrs. Frances Peddle celebrated her 106th birthday.
    On a recent visit with Mrs. Peddle, who lives with her daughter, Margaret, I had the pleasure of chatting with her and enjoyed her stories and sense of humour. At the age of 15, Mrs. Peddle moved from her childhood home in Green's Harbour, Trinity Bay, to St. John's, where she worked until age 17, when she moved to Montreal. This meant moving to a foreign country, as Newfoundland was not then a part of Canada.
    At the age of 23, Mrs. Peddle returned to Newfoundland, where she worked and raised her family of six children. After her husband passed away, Mrs. Peddle married again to a gentleman with six children. Today she has 57 grandchildren, 90 great-grandchildren, 30 great-great grandchildren and one great-great-great grandchild.
    I ask all members to join me in recognizing Mrs. Frances Peddle and this tremendous milestone in her life.

Canada-Wide Science Fair

    Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to recognize two constituents of mine who have the remarkable achievement of attending the Canada-Wide Science Fair and competing.
    Tristen Sasakamoose and Mario Ahenakew of the Ahtahkakoop School, with their project on ancient laws and legends pertaining to buoyancy, attended the Canada-Wide Science Fair this year in Charlottetown. On behalf of our Conservative government, I congratulate them both on being the first first nations team to attend the Canada-Wide Science Fair.
    The Canada-Wide Science Fair is a national championship where finalists from different regional science fairs across the country meet and compete. It is the largest extracurricular youth activity related to science and technology in Canada.
    It is an honour to rise today and recognize these two students who achieved such a remarkable feat. The Canada-Wide Science Fair accepts only the best students and projects and has a long history dating back to the 1960s.
     I know the community of Ahtahkakoop and first nations across Canada are incredibly proud of what Tristen and Mario accomplished.

  (1405)  

Democracy

    Mr. Speaker, I often visit high school classes in my riding because I believe a healthy democracy needs all voices at the table, including youth. Students I have met recently at Victoria High are not apathetic. They are aware and engaged. In the civics class, every student is involved in a volunteer project. I promised I would bring some of their concerns to Ottawa.
    The Vic High media and politics class wants to see a greater concern for truth and less spin by politicians. They deplore how some issues are depicted as black and white or good versus evil, but one overriding concern in several classes was that governments were not doing enough to protect our environment.
     It is not apathy that stands in the way of youth engagement but an open and responsive government that respectfully listens to their concerns for a healthy environment is a goal that all youth would embrace.

Fiesta Week

    Mr. Speaker, this week, in my home riding of Oshawa, we are celebrating the 38th annual Fiesta Week.
    Fiesta Week is one of the most popular summer events in Oshawa. The annual week-long multicultural festival is a wonderful celebration of the cultural diversity of Durham region, especially in the city of Oshawa, for which I am truly proud to represent in the House of Commons.
    Over the last 38 years, Fiesta Week has provided an opportunity for residents of Oshawa and Durham region to experience European, Asian and Caribbean cultures and cuisines, all without having to leave their community. There are numerous fun and exciting events throughout the week for people of all ages. This past Sunday I was proud to be part of the kickoff to Fiesta Week and attended the parade and concert.
    Fiesta Week truly has something for everyone. Fiesta Week continues to be an inspiring celebration of the cultural diversity of Oshawa. I encourage everyone to participate in the festivities. A special thanks goes out to all the volunteers in the Oshawa Folk Arts Council. These individuals deserve our utmost respect and appreciation for all they do.

The Prime Minister

    Mr. Speaker, there is a growing lack of respect for basic common decency by certain members of the House.
    Last Thursday, two members gestured toward the Prime Minister in a questionable manner. I know I was not alone in my disgust in hearing of this action. Regrettably, it seems that this questionable action from the third party is not isolated to the House. Merely hours later, the member for Papineau tweeted that the Prime Minister does not believe in Tikkun Olam, a Jewish tenet that means healing the world.
    On this side of the House, under the leadership of this Prime Minister, this government acts every day to uphold the Canadian values of freedom, human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Furthermore, considering the many awards and accolades that the Prime Minister has received from the Jewish community and other humanitarian organizations, I find the statement outrageous.
    Given the strong humanitarian record of the Prime Minister, I urge all members to stand in recognition of the great works that have been accomplished in the spirit of Tikkun Olam by our government under the leadership of our principled Prime Minister.

Diesel Exhaust

    Mr. Speaker, last week, the World Health Organization moved diesel exhaust to a new ranking, making it a carcinogen as powerful as asbestos, arsenic or mustard gas. This means that exposure to diesel exhaust can kill people just as surely as smoking cigarettes can.
    Residents of the west end of Toronto have been saying to this to governments for years. With federal help, Ontario plans to run 464 diesel commuter trains each day within a few feet of homes, schools, day care centres and hospitals. It will be the busiest diesel corridor on the planet and, given the new evidence, 300,000 local residents will be subjected to carcinogenic exhaust.
    The federal and Ontario governments need to get their act together and begin electrifying this corridor, starting with the air-rail link. Electric trains are clean, quiet, more economic to run and maintain, last longer and, best of all, do not cause cancer.
    I urge the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities to take immediate action to protect the residents of Toronto.

[Translation]

Christiane Blanchet

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to salute the contribution of an extraordinary volunteer in my riding.
    I am pleased to announce that on June 12, Christiane Blanchet received the off-road vehicles volunteer recognition award of excellence from Quebec's transport minister, Norman MacMillan.
    Now in its third year, this award honours people who have made a major contribution to their community through their involvement and activity.
    As an intrepid, energetic and vital member of the Club motoneige des Plaines in Lotbinière, Ms. Blanchet has helped keep the club going for many years.
    On behalf of all members of Lotbinière snowmobile clubs, I am very pleased to congratulate Christiane Blanchet on receiving this award of excellence.

  (1410)  

Pyrrhotite

    Mr. Speaker, many families in Mauricie have had their lives shattered by the pyrrhotite crisis—a crisis that could have been avoided.
    At a press conference today, the NDP called on the federal government to take immediate action to help those families.
    In 2011, the Government of Quebec announced $15 million in assistance, hoping that the federal government would do the same. However, federal assistance has not been forthcoming.
    We have three clear requests for the government. First of all, we ask that the federal government match the funding allocated by the Quebec government. The NDP is also calling on the government to create a loans program for the victims. Lastly, we would like the government to change the standard regarding the quality of the aggregates used in concrete.
    If this standard had been changed sooner, the pyrrhotite crisis would not be what it is today. The government now has an opportunity to help the affected families.
    We must not leave these families to deal with this problem on their own.

[English]

Free Trade Agreements

    Mr. Speaker, our government understands the importance of trade to Canada's economy. That is why we are currently undertaking the most ambitious trade expansion plan in our country's history.
    Since forming government, we have signed nine free trade agreements and are working on more. With increasing growth through trade, it comes as no surprise that more than 60% of our economy and one in five Canadian jobs are generated by trade.
    Sadly, the anti-trade NDP has opposed our pro-trade plan at every turn. It even sent two of its members on an anti-trade mission to Washington. The NDP's ill-informed, out-of-touch anti-trade position is out of step with global economic realities.

Polio

    Mr. Speaker, while India has been successful at stopping polio, there are still 75 cases reported yearly in the world. The World Health Assembly is still declaring that high urgency is needed for polio eradication.
    Canada has long been a leader in this historic effort for global eradication of polio and should support this call for urgent action. In continuing to fight against polio, Canada should close the funding gap for 2012 and 2013 and call on other donor countries to join this effort.
    Organizations such as Rotary International, RESULTS Canada and The End of Polio campaign are increasing community and political engagement on polio across Canada this summer.
    Former prime minister and polio survivor Paul Martin has also joined The End of Polio campaign.
    I would encourage all members to get involved so Canada may continue to be a world leader in helping the world's most vulnerable.

Free Trade Agreements

    Mr. Speaker, as leaders from all political stripes from all around the world are coming together to expand free trade and create jobs, the NDP members continue to stubbornly hold out.
    We have worked with governments as diverse as Colombia, Panama, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland to expand free trade and create jobs.
    A lesson for the NDP: when everyone around it says it is wrong, it is wrong. If the NDP ever wants to be taken seriously at home or abroad, it is time for it to leave its outdated, isolationist ideology in the Stone Age where it belongs and join with us in creating jobs, growth and prosperity for Canadians and millions of others around the world.
    Until then, the NDP and its radical anti-trade agenda will continue to dwell on the fringes of the political spectrum.

Canadian Coast Guard

    Mr. Speaker, the member for Nanaimo—Alberni keeps wanting to have things both ways. When he is in B.C., he is against major Coast Guard cuts in the budget. When he is in Ottawa, he votes for them.
     Do not get me wrong. The member is right to be concerned about these cuts. These proposals would leave only two centres to monitor over 27,000 kilometres of coastline.
     However, just like when every Conservative voted to impose the HST on British Columbians, Conservative members from B.C. are again acting like the Prime Minister's personal rubber stamp. The member for Nanaimo—Alberni could have voted with new Democrats to protect the Coast Guard last week, but he chose not to.
    The Coast Guard cuts are risky for the west coast and this budget is bad for B.C. British Columbians know it, New Democrats know it and even some Conservatives know it. I only wish my Conservative colleagues had the courage to stand up for British Columbians and vote against these risky cuts to B.C.'s Coast Guard.

  (1415)  

International Trade

    Mr. Speaker, since 2006, our Conservative government has focused on creating jobs, growing our economy and ensuring the long-term prosperity of all Canadians. One of the most important steps we have taken is expanding our trade relations with countries around the world. Since 2006, we have signed agreements with nine countries: Panama, Colombia, Honduras, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Peru and Jordan.
     Over two million Canadian jobs are dependent on Canada-U.S. trade alone, trade that some parties in the House actually oppose.
     With one in five Canadian jobs and over 60% of Canada's GDP dependent on trade, our government's efforts are unlocking economic opportunities and ensuring a brighter future for all Canadians. One thing that is certain is that this side will always stand up for jobs and economic growth, and we will continue to focus like a laser on all those things that Canadians think are important, even if the opposition members oppose them all.

ORAL QUESTIONS

[Oral Questions]

[Translation]

Government Legislation

    Mr. Speaker, Canadians were right to hope that after yesterday's vote on the omnibus bill, the Conservatives would give it a rest.
    Unfortunately, the Minister of Finance admits that he is plotting another omnibus bill for the fall. The Conservatives should learn their lesson.
    Will the Conservatives confirm that they are gearing up to make the same mistake again? Will they at least think twice before they start showing contempt for our democratic institutions again?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, this government's number one priority is job creation, economic growth and long-term prosperity.
    Every year, as long as I have been in this place and in the legislature of Ontario, the Minister of Finance presents a budget in the winter and the spring, then presents a budget bill in the spring and another budget bill in the fall. That will be no different this year.
    Our focus and all of our energies are on getting Canadians back to work. We are very pleased with the 750,000 net new jobs the economy has created, but we are inspired to continue to do more so more people can have the dignity of a job and the pride of being independent.
    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives' plan this spring was to ram their Trojan Horse budget bill through Parliament without anyone noticing what was actually in it. They hid their proposals, but even Conservative MPs can tell us Canadians are taking notice.
     Bringing in another omnibus bill--another ominous bill--to change Canada in ways they never talked about during the election is simply wrong.
    Why will the Conservatives not allow MPs to study their proposals properly? Canadians are calling for it, we are certainly calling for it and even Conservative MPs are calling for it. Why will they not show some respect for Parliament? What else will they try to hide this time?
    Mr. Speaker, this government is very proud of its economic agenda. We are very proud of budget 2012 and the clear map it sets out for long-term economic prosperity. It contains measures on short-term economic growth to provide a real shot in the arm for the Canadian economy and provides measures in the medium and long term that will make our economy even more sustainable and create even more jobs and long-term prosperity.
    We had a significant amount of debate on Bill C-38, probably more than any other bill since I have been a member of this place. That debate is now concluded. Now we will refocus and do even more to create jobs, more to create more opportunity, so that every Canadian who is looking for a job can have a job.

[Translation]

Government Accountability

    Mr. Speaker, the culture of secrecy is contaminating the entire government. It uses a budget bill to hide social and environmental changes that have nothing to do with implementing a budget. The Access to Information Act is repeatedly ignored. The Federal Accountability Act guarantees members of the House free and timely access to any financial or economic data in the government's possession, but the Conservatives are refusing to provide that information, despite the legal opinion received by the Parliamentary Budget Officer.
    What do they have against transparency? What do they have against accountability?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the minister and this government made accountability our number one priority. We introduced and passed the toughest anti-corruption bill in Canadian history before Parliament as a matter of our first priority.
    The minister introduced the Federal Accountability Act. With great respect, I believe that from time to time and on occasion the Parliamentary Budget Office has overstepped its mandate.
    Let me commit to this: this government will continue to report to Parliament through the estimates, the supplementary estimates, quarterly reports and the public accounts, all in the fiscal information Parliament needs to do its job.

  (1420)  

Ethics

    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism has made disparaging comments about the deputy premier of Alberta, Mr. Thomas Lukaszuk, remarks so offensive the rules of the House prevent me from repeating them.
    When the Leader of the Opposition and I met with Mr. Lukaszuk at the end of May, he was a complete gentleman.
    Given that his reprehensible comments are now public, will the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism take this opportunity to apologize to Mr. Lukaszuk?
    Mr. Speaker, I and this government have a phenomenal, positive working relationship with the Government of Alberta. Just yesterday I spent 30 minutes meeting with the provincial finance minister. I have met in the last month with several ministers. We have a very strong relationship.
    Will the member for Edmonton—Strathcona take the opportunity to apologize to Albertans for wanting to shut down the engine of economic growth and job creation in the province of Alberta that would kill hundreds of thousands of jobs for Albertans.

Federal-Provincial Relations

    Mr. Speaker, the House knows that we are not—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order, please. The hon. member for Edmonton—Strathcona has the floor.
    Mr. Speaker, as it is well known, neither I nor my party have opposed the development of the oil sands—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order, please. The hon. member for Edmonton—Strathcona has the floor.
    Mr. Speaker, it is a question of respect. Conservatives have exhibited a hostile attitude toward the provinces on a host of issues: dismissing the concerns of premiers about employment insurance, ignoring the impact of the European trade deal on rising health costs, downloading the costs of the prisons agenda.
    They are either attacking the provinces or ignoring them altogether. Why are the Conservatives showing such disdain for the provinces and territories?
    Mr. Speaker, nothing could be further from the truth. Provincial governments are receiving larger transfers from the federal government than ever in our history. With respect to immigration, Alberta has seen immigration levels more than double since this government took office.
    Let me be clear. The leader of the NDP says that the resource industries that are fuelling economic growth and job creation in Alberta and western Canada are a disease that should be excised from the Canadian economy. He is dividing our federation unlike any leader of the opposition since Lucien Bouchard was in his position. He should be ashamed of himself.

Ethics

    Mr. Speaker, the difficult reality is that the minister, in what has now become a public document, has said something extremely pejorative and extremely negative about the deputy premier of Alberta.
     Every guideline that has been put out by the Prime Minister asks ministers to act with respect and dignity with respect to their office and with respect to others.
    The simple question for the minister is this: why will the he not stand up and simply say, “I'm sorry”? Why is that so hard?
    Mr. Speaker, this government has a tremendously close working relationship with that of the Government of Alberta. We have had a lot done for Albertans: infrastructure investments, tax cuts, phenomenal economic growth and an increase in immigration levels. Finally we have a federal government that has given freedom to wheat farmers in Alberta and that stands by our resource development.
    It would be nice to have opposition parties that would finally understand that western Canadians deserve to be respected and supported in their economic aspirations.

  (1425)  

    Mr. Speaker, referring to the deputy premier of Alberta in the most pejorative and negative of terms is not exactly showing respect to western Canadians. If the minister wants to show respect to western Canadians, all he has to do is say two simple words, “I'm sorry”. That is all he has to say.
    Why does the minister have such a difficult time coming to grips with the fact that when he replies all to an email, it then becomes a public document? Why will you not stand up and say that you are sorry?
    I would remind the hon. member for Toronto Centre to address his comments through the Chair and not directly at his colleagues. I would ask all members for a little order. There is a lot of yelling and heckling both when the question is being put and when the answer is being put.
    The hon. minister now has the floor.
    Mr. Speaker, last year I was honoured to receive a mandate from 76% of the voters in Calgary Southeast to work hard for Albertans. I and every minister and every member of Parliament in this Conservative caucus are working very productively with our provincial governments from coast to coast, including the Government of Alberta.
     We are standing up to the opposition of the Liberal Party that wants to force Alberta wheat farmers into the Wheat Board, that wants to bring back the gun registry and that wants to shut down our energy industry. We will stand up against those who oppose the legitimate aspirations of Albertans and westerners.
    Mr. Speaker, one can only imagine what the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism would have called the deputy premier of Alberta if he had received 80% of the votes from Calgary Southeast. I can imagine how much further he would have gone.
    However, there is a minor point of principle, which I will refer to the minister through you, Mr. Speaker. I would ask the minister if he would agree with Preston Manning, who once said, “When you're deep in a hole, the best thing you can do is stop digging”. Why does he not stop digging and say “I'm sorry”?
    Mr. Speaker, once again, we have a very strong working relationship with the Government of Alberta. We are getting things done for Albertans.
     We are moving forward with the strongest economy in the history of the province. We are respecting Prairie grain farmers. We are standing up for the resource sector. Albertans support that. We will continue to deliver for Albertans.

[Translation]

The Economy

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has been busy lecturing G20 countries under the Mexican sun, but he and his Minister of Finance refuse to come clean on the impact of their Trojan Horse. Seniors, the unemployed, fishers and all Canadians will feel the effects of this bill for years to come.
    Do they realize that preaching responsibility abroad while acting irresponsibly at home is pure and simple hypocrisy?
    Mr. Speaker, I would say that voting against Canadians is hypocrisy.
    The NDP voted against health measures such as increases in Canadian health transfers. The NDP voted against the environmental measures in our bill, which will better protect fish habitats and increase economic opportunities. They voted against jobs. That is hypocrisy.
    We will move forward with our plan, create jobs and ensure our prosperity. Our Prime Minister is doing the same thing in Europe.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, there they go again, lecturing and blaming others but refusing to face their own failures.
     While the Prime Minister spends his time at the G20 wagging his finger at others, the Conservatives are ramming through their budget cuts that will hurt Canadians.
    Will the Conservatives stop making phony accusations against the official opposition, the Parliamentary Budget Officer and the EU, stop muzzling their own MPs and level with Canadians about cuts to services that will hurt Canadian families?
    Mr. Speaker, I stand very proud with my united caucus, the Conservative Government of Canada, which has put forward a budget that will help to create jobs, will sustain our prosperity and will focus like a laser on economic growth here in our country.
    With regard to the NDP and the opposition, it is very disappointing for all Canadians to see that they are focused on tearing down this country, and are not focusing enough on raising our profile, which is what our Prime Minister is presently doing at the G20.

  (1430)  

International Trade

    Mr. Speaker, it is a basic principle of negotiation that one does not communicate desperation to adversaries, and yet that is exactly what the Prime Minister has done in the trans-Pacific partnership.
     In their panic, what exactly have the Conservatives given away? Did we agree to have no voice on past decisions and no real power in future negotiations? Did we agree to big pharma's demands that will raise health care costs or changes that sell out dairy, poultry and egg farmers?
    Since I cannot ask Nigel Wright, maybe I will ask the minister. Canadians deserve to know, what is the price Canada paid for entry to the TPP?
    Order, order. We will just wait until the parliamentary secretary finishes the answer and then we can applaud. The hon. parliamentary secretary.
    Mr. Speaker, I have never had that ability to make a pig's ear out of a silk purse, but the hon. member obviously does.
    The reality is that we did not give away anything to get to the table.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, clearly, fair international trade is important for our country's prosperity. The NDP has always recognized this fact.
    However, we need agreements that will benefit Canadians, not agreements that will compromise their rights and interests. We cannot trust the Conservatives on this. From the buy American act to the softwood lumber agreement, the Conservatives have failed miserably every time they have had the opportunity to stand up for Canadians' rights and interests.
    Will the Conservatives commit to bringing this new agreement before Parliament?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, NDP members do not support trade. They did not support the free trade agreement with the United States. They did not support NAFTA. They did not support Chile. They did not support Peru. They did not support Puerto Rico. They have not supported Panama and have yet to support Jordan. They never supported the European free trade agreement and have not supported CETA with the European Union.
    The NDP's position on trade is very clear. Our side's position on trade is extremely clear. We are pro-trade. We engage in trade in the best interests of all Canadians.

National Defence

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday the chair of the Military Police Complaints Commission wrote the Minister of National Defence asking him to take a “common sense approach” to the investigation into the death of Corporal Stuart Langridge. He agreed with our understanding of the law of solicitor-client privilege and asked the minister to waive the privilege in the interests of justice. DND lawyers at the commission pointed out that only the minister can grant access to these documents.
    Will the minister co-operate with the commission and allow a full and comprehensive inquiry to take place?
    Mr. Speaker, as I have indicated a number of times, we continue to support this arm's-length process. We have given additional funding.
    Parliament has been unequivocal in expressing its intent that the Military Police Complaints Commission can and should accomplish its stated mandate without access to privileged communication between lawyers and their clients. This was restated in the second independent review of the military justice system recently tabled in the House by myself where Mr. Justice Patrick LeSage said, “The jurisprudence on solicitor-client privilege is clear and established. I see no reason to recommend change.”
    There is much precedent from the Supreme Court on this issue. The member is a lawyer. He knows full--
    The hon. member for St. John's East.
    Mr. Speaker, I guess we can take that to mean that the minister does not want to co-operate and will not help this family get to the truth.
    These are very simple matters. The commission chair has asked the minister to release information on first, the legal reasoning why a suicide watch was not given to Corporal Langridge; second, who decided to deny next of kin status to Langridge's family and why; third, the rationale behind DND's flawed investigation.
    Why is this too much to ask? Why will the minister not allow this civilian oversight to take place? Why will he not let justice be done?

  (1435)  

    We have supported the process, Mr. Speaker. We have given additional funding to see that the process is arm's-length and remains transparent and functional. The pettifogger opposite knows that full well.
    Mr. Justice Binnie in the Supreme Court also spoke of this issue, as did Madam Justice Arbour in the case of Lavallee, where she said, “Indeed, solicitor-client privilege must remain as close to absolute as possible if it is to retain relevance.”
    There is much precedent on this issue. This issue is currently being heard by an arm's-length hearing. The member opposite wants to interfere with that and bring the matter before the courts.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of National Defence refuses to co-operate, but that is not surprising; it is becoming a habit for him.
    The Conservative mismanagement of the F-35s is matched only by the many problems with this aircraft. The Conservatives should have set up an independent team to review the program. Unfortunately, they decided to reappoint those that the Auditor General found to be responsible for this mismanagement.
    Why do the Conservatives insist on mismanaging the F-35s?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the secretariat is made up of four deputy ministers; a committee of assistant deputy ministers; senior officials from Finance, Privy Council, Treasury Board; the National Security Advisor for Canada, a respected academic, and also independent advice from a former auditor general.
    They have put their terms of reference on a website. They are undertaking a work plan right now which they will also share transparently on a website. Let us let them do their job. We look forward to their conclusions.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives do not have even an iota of rigour or accountability.
    The seven-point plan had not even been released before the Conservatives stopped following it.
    The F-35 secretariat, which became the national fighter procurement secretariat, is not a committee of independent experts.
    Data on the costs exist. Real independent experts are available. The Conservatives have no more excuses. What are they waiting for to publish the real costs associated with the F-35s?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the member knows the information as to why the secretariat is going outside for expert advice to independently validate the cost estimates that the Department of National Defence will put forward. We agree with that. We think it should do this job thoroughly and comprehensively. It has latitude within its terms of reference to bring in experts to help it.
    In addition, all of those members who I have listed on the secretariat are accountable to this process, so they must be involved.
    Mr. Speaker, what are we talking about here? The Minister of National Defence has the costing figures. They come out of the joint strike fighter program office and make their way to DND through a very rigorous process. He has had them for years and he gets new updated ones annually.
    Now we learn that the secretariat itself is being denied these costing figures. Welcome to the team, jackets forthcoming.
    The only thing transparent about the F-35 secretariat is that it is another effort to subvert accountability. Why are the Conservatives refusing to hand over these costing figures and finally show some accountability?
    Mr. Speaker, it is true that the costing figures are available from the joint strike fighter program in the United States, but what we have said is that we want those figures, that would be cost estimates from the Department of National Defence, to be independently validated. The secretariat has asked for more time to do that. It wants to do this comprehensively. It is also looking at independently validating the cost assumptions that the Department of National Defence is using and meeting the recommendation of the Auditor General.
    There is a lot of work to go through. We support it on this and we know that we have an excellent group of people around the table, including independent advice from a former--
    The hon. member for Avalon.

Ethics

    Mr. Speaker, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister is facing serious allegations that he broke Elections Canada laws. He says he has the documents that will explain everything and they are forthcoming, but he not produced them yet. His mouthpiece keeps saying they have provided all information and documents to Elections Canada.
    My questions are simple. Do these documents include a $21,000 cheque made out to a polling firm, the changed invoices, the affidavit from employees who swear they gave money after being offered a bonus from his cousin? Are those documents in or out?

  (1440)  

    Mr. Speaker, that is an interesting question, given that the member will only make his allegations when he is in the House of Commons. He is still afraid to step out of the House of Commons and repeat them, as he promised to do with great braggadocio last Friday. Four days have gone by and he has not done it.
    They have no leader and no policy. All they can do is try to tear people down.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, there are other questions that we could ask about the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister. As I see it, he is no longer worthy of that position and he should resign.
    Now someone else has a problem with dignity and credibility. It is the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism. I find it completely unacceptable that he is not able to do the honourable thing and simply apologize. He called the deputy premier of Alberta a posterior orifice. That is unacceptable. I am asking him to do the honourable thing. He can stop telling me how big his winning margin was. I have been elected six times myself. That is not the issue. Why does he not just say he is sorry?
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the advice from the candidate for the Montreal mayor's office, but I have to say that, as an Alberta member of Parliament and as a minister, I have very close relationships with our counterparts in Alberta. I spent 30 minutes with the province's finance minister yesterday. Because of those relationships, we are doing great things for the province. But Albertans remember only too well the Liberal Party's record vis-à-vis the province's concerns, and the hon. member's record too.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the Deputy Premier from Alberta is coming to Ottawa and he wants to meet with the Minister of Immigration and other Alberta members of Parliament. The minister's response to the suggestion is, and I quote, “He is a complete and utter asshole”.
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order, please. The member knows that he is not supposed to do indirectly what he is not allowed to do directly.
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    The Speaker: Order, please.
    I appreciate all the advice and assistance. The hon. member for Winnipeg North knows he is not allowed to do indirectly what he is not allowed to do directly, so I will urge him not to use that word as he is putting his question. He has a few seconds left to finalize it.
    Mr. Speaker, like a man I recognize that I made a mistake. I am apologizing and I am asking for the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism to do likewise and apologize for saying inappropriate words to the Deputy Premier of Alberta.
    Mr. Speaker, now we see why they are the third party.

[Translation]

Canada Revenue Agency

    Mr. Speaker, the scandals keep on coming at the Canada Revenue Agency. Former senior managers in the Montreal office went to meet with business owners to propose an exchange: for $1 million, they would erase tax bills. Business owner Jacky Schryver is an honest man; he refused.
    But who knows how many of these kinds of offers were accepted? How much money did this government lose? What are the Conservatives doing to try to recover this lost money?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we take this issue very seriously. We cannot tolerate this kind of misconduct within our tax system. The integrity of our tax system is important to all Canadians, and we will take any steps necessary to protect it.
    An RCMP investigation into these matters is ongoing. These matters are before the courts, so we cannot comment any further.
    Mr. Speaker, at some point the Conservatives need to realize that there are serious ethical problems at the Canadian Revenue Agency. Hard-working Canadians play by the rules and pay their taxes, only to hear of corrupt officials running around trying to fill their pockets by helping corporations defraud the government. This is unacceptable. We need a government that will stand up and ensure our tax process runs fairly.
    How long do we have to wait before the Conservatives accept responsibility and address these problems?

  (1445)  

    Mr. Speaker, that is why the RCMP is involved and why we have doubled the number of internal investigators we have: it is because any misconduct is unacceptable. We will not stand for any abuse of our tax system.

Ethics

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has established a reputation for being willing to win at any cost, but the costs to Canadians have been widespread unethical electoral abuse. We have the robofraud investigation. We have allegations of widespread voter intimidation in the now-invalidated Etobicoke Centre campaign, and of course we have the issue of fraud, forgery and now kickbacks in Peterborough.
    Either the Prime Minister cares when one of his members steps over the line or he does not. Is this why he has refused to ask his parliamentary secretary to step down?
    Mr. Speaker, it is quite the contrary. The hon. parliamentary secretary submitted his audited and verified filings to the elections agency almost four years ago. It accepted them and has not since raised any issue with them.
    By contrast, the NDP members have confessed to having accepted what we now know to be illegal contributions from powerful union bosses. They have been forced to pay some of that money back. However, now they refuse to tell Canadians how much illegal money they accepted and how much they paid back. I invite the hon. member to rise and do so now.
    Mr. Speaker, with the political white noise to help me, I forgot to add in the four convictions for electoral fraud having to pay the highest fines.
    What did the Prime Minister do? He took those rule breakers and he promoted them to the Senate. Even Brian Mulroney knew when to bench the bad apples. It is probably not surprising that we see the Prime Minister turning a blind eye to serious allegations of fraud, forgery and kickbacks, which are now in the court documents.
    Is the Prime Minister not aware of these court documents, or this just the price of doing business for that government?
    Mr. Speaker, once again, the hon. member submitted his documents to Elections Canada almost four years ago. He had them audited. They were verified and approved, and he has not heard any contact from Elections Canada. Presumably if it has questions for him, it will ask.
    By contrast, the NDP has been forced to plead guilty to breaking the law and accepting illegal union donations. The NDP had to give some of that money back. We do not know how much because the NDP will not tell us.

Canadian Wheat Board

    Mr. Speaker, despite the dirty tricks pulled by the opposition, our government passed the Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act. This legislation provides western Canadian grain farmers the freedom to escape from under the thumb of the Canadian Wheat Board and sell their commodities to whomever they choose. Unfortunately, some individuals were determined to keep farmers from marketing their own grain and launched a reckless and baseless legal attack.
    Could the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food please inform this House of the outcome of these court proceedings?
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Prince Albert. Like me, he has a farm background and is happy to see that the Campbell declaration has been unanimously overturned.
    The court stated that section 47.1 of the CWB Act “preserves to the greatest extent possible the ability of elected members of the House of Commons...to change that legislation as best they see fit”.
    We delivered freedom for western Canadian farmers. What does the opposition do? It pledges to bring back the single desk. It is no wonder its polling numbers are tanking in the Prairies.

[Translation]

Royal Canadian Mounted Police

    Mr. Speaker, according to documents obtained by Radio-Canada, the head of the RCMP detail responsible for protecting the Prime Minister appears to impose a climate of terror within his own team. There is talk of harassment, intimidation and discrimination.
    The internal review clearly states that the Prime Minister's safety is compromised by this unhealthy climate. Allowing this sort of thing to happen right under their noses amounts to a complete failure for the Conservatives.
    What does the Minister of Public Safety plan on doing to fix this situation?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I cannot comment on a specific case. However, we expect all RCMP members to conduct themselves professionally and appropriately.
    I might add that the Prime Minister is grateful to the men and women of the Prime Minister's protective detail for their outstanding and highly professional service.

  (1450)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is clear the RCMP detail assigned to the Prime Minister is struggling with serious problems of harassment, intimidation and discrimination.
    In a recently leaked internal report on the Prime Minister's 117-person security detail, the problems identified were so severe that the security of the Prime Minister could be at risk.
    This is the latest in a series of harassment problems at the RCMP. What is the minister doing specifically to make sure these latest disturbing allegations are dealt with promptly?
    Mr. Speaker, as I have indicated, the Prime Minister is grateful to the men and women of the protective detail for their outstanding and highly professional service.
    With respect to the specific question that the member has raised, I have been working very closely with the commissioner. I am very pleased to see the commissioner's very proactive approach to the issue of ensuring that all members maintain that high disciplinary and professional standard.

Privacy

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Minister of Public Safety said he saw no problem in eavesdropping on Canadian travellers. The minister claimed that “the privacy rights of law-abiding Canadians are respected at all times”, and he compared Canadian travellers worried about privacy to the Air India bombers.
    A day after letting his rhetoric get away from him again, the minister is now flip-flopping. Now he is agreeing with the NDP that a privacy assessment is necessary.
    Will the minister now acknowledge that he was mistaken about airport privacy rights and apologize for his insensitive Air India comparison?
    Mr. Speaker, the record speaks for itself when I mentioned the Air India inquiry and the very important recommendations.
    What I can say is that I share the concerns of Canadians regarding the privacy impact of audio recordings, even when it occurs in a restricted area in an airport. Even though CBSA does respect privacy rights in all of its operations, I have made it clear to CBSA that no audio monitoring is to occur until a privacy impact assessment is submitted and recommendations from the privacy commissioner can be reviewed by the government.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I cannot believe how quickly they can make concessions sometimes.
    The minister is flip-flopping for the simple reason that the initiative was flawed and implemented too hastily. There is a lesson in that for the Conservatives, who shun all forms of consultation. They did absolutely nothing to ensure that the proposed electronic eavesdropping program respected people's privacy. The minister has now acknowledged that, and about time too.
    Will he now tell us how many conversations were recorded unbeknownst to travellers, and for how long those recordings will be kept?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I am unaware of any private conversations having been recorded by this measure. What I can say is that it is important for agencies tasked with protecting Canadians to have the right tools to catch smugglers and keep Canadians safe. It is equally important that these tools not infringe on individuals' privacy in a way that is unnecessary to ensure security.
    Again I would stress that even if these audio recordings were to occur in a restricted area of an airport, I would still want an assessment by the Privacy Commissioner.

Employment Insurance

    Mr. Speaker, among the many casualties of Bill C-38 are small business owners and seasonal industries. In communities large and small across Canada, EI eligibility changes will force workers in tourism, fishery, forestry and farming to leave their industries or their region to find other work.
    Where does that leave the tens of thousands of small businesses that count on their seasonal workers' experience and productivity? On top of the many other difficulties that small businesses face, some will not even make it.
    Why did the government not even consult seasonal businesses? Why did it just hurt them?
    Mr. Speaker, what small businesses and seasonal businesses do not need is Chicken Little running around saying that the sky is falling when it is not.
    Let me be very clear. Our job is to help people who have lost jobs, whether seasonal or full time, to find work, work that would make them better off and make their families better off.
    By the way, in many cases, work is available. We have employers of seasonal businesses and in small towns who are asking for help in finding employees

  (1455)  

    Mr. Speaker, people on P.E.I. are very concerned about Bill C-38. Fishermen on wharves are now saying that anyone who applies to buy a new fishing licence would automatically be disqualified from EI.
    I would like the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development to confirm to this House and to all Canadians that new entrants to the fishery would not be disqualified from employment insurance.
    Mr. Speaker, it is Chicken Little, part two.
    This is pure fiction. The roles for fishers are the same as they have been.
    What we are trying to do is let people who are on EI know what their traditional responsibilities have been and continue to be, which is to respect EI as a temporary income support while they are looking for another job. We will help them find that job because we want them and their families to be better off and we know that there is a demand for their skills.

[Translation]

Mining Industry

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday a CBC report revealed disturbing details about Canadian mining companies' practices in Panama. The Conservatives say they have a corporate social responsibility counsellor, but she is not doing anything. The process is completely voluntary, and companies can withdraw whenever they want.
    Why do the Conservatives care so little about corporate social responsibility? Why are Canadian mining companies treating Panama's indigenous peoples so dismissively?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I question where the member is getting her source of information, but the overwhelming majority of Canadian mining companies are world leaders in responsible mining practices. They employ hundreds of thousands of Canadian workers who support countless families. The corporate social responsibility counsellor's review process is a common sense approach that enjoys broad support within the mining community, and the CSR counsellor helps Canadian companies uphold their social and environmental responsibilities by operating abroad. The system works.

Ethics

    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism has now had seven opportunities in this place to do the right thing.
    We know the Conservatives were very disappointed that their Wildrose cousins were unsuccessful in the last election, but it does not give them the right to insult the government that did win that election.
     Let us give him one more opportunity to do the honourable thing, the right thing, and stand in his place and say, “I'm sorry”.
    Mr. Speaker, we have such a close working relationship that, in fact, one of the ministers of the provincial government has been the president of my electoral district association. We have a very close working relationship.
    What I can tell members is that Albertans do not respect the NDP or the Leader of the Opposition referring to the engine of growth in that province as a disease.
    If an apology is deserved here, it is from the Leader of the Opposition to Albertans for attacking their livelihood.

Health

    Mr. Speaker, smoking is at an all-time low in Canada, thanks to our government's actions. Over the years, we have passed new laws to ban flavoured little cigars that targeted children. We have also shown leadership on health warning labels, and we are the first country in the world to have them on cigarette packages.
    Continuing our government's of efforts, the Minister of Health made a very important announcement this morning.
    Would she please inform the House of Commons of its significance?
    Mr. Speaker, Health Canada introduced new warning labels on cigarette packages and, as health minister, I was proud to announce today that tough, new and bigger labels must be on all packages. Our government is proud of this work and is refocusing our anti-smoking efforts toward populations with higher smoking rates, while continuing to invest in initiatives that have seen great success over the years. We have also passed new laws to ban flavoured little cigars, which were clearly targeted toward our children. These initiatives will continue.

The Budget

    Mr. Speaker, on page 221 of the budget, the government stated, “The regional distribution of employment in the federal public service will be largely unaffected by the implementation of the departmental spending reductions”. Federal jobs, it said, would be reduced by 4.8%. It is not true, not on Prince Edward Island. Federal job cuts will be more than double that amount. Hammering our seasonal economy through the EI changes apparently was not enough.
    Why has my province been singled out in this manner? Is there nobody over there who cares about Prince Edward Island?
    Mr. Speaker, indeed, I can assure the hon. member that any job reductions were analyzed to make sure that there was regional fairness, fairness inside Ottawa and fairness outside of Ottawa, and that no particular region or province bore the brunt of those reductions to a greater extent than other provinces or regions.

  (1500)  

[Translation]

Fisheries and Oceans

    Mr. Speaker, Canada is trying to create obstacles for anyone who wants to move forward at the Rio+20 summit on sustainable development. After opposing the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies, now the Conservatives are blocking efforts to protect marine biodiversity in extraterritorial waters. Just because the Conservatives have decided to destroy Canada's marine biodiversity with Bill C-38 does not mean they have to attack that of the rest of the world.
    Why are the Conservatives determined to obstruct a project that could protect the oceans for future generations?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, Canada is committed to the sustainable development of the oceans. We maintain a strong regulatory regime that governs responsible resource use and development that ensures high standards of environmental protection. We will continue to collect the scientific information necessary and provide advice to support informed decision making regarding the issues of greatest concern in Canada's oceans.

The Economy

    Mr. Speaker, while the NDP constantly bashes the Canadian economy with its non-stop negativity, our Conservative government is growing Canada's economy and creating jobs. Canadians know our low-tax pro-growth plan is working. The IMF forecasts Canada's economic growth will be among the strongest in the industrialized world. Forbes ranks Canada as the best country in the world to do business, and since 2006, Canada has created nearly 1.3 million net new jobs.
    Can the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance please inform the House what the NDP would do to Canada's economy?
    Mr. Speaker, what a great question. The NDP's anti-trade, big-government, high-tax and anti-development agenda is an absolute recipe for economic disaster in Canada. The NDP does not understand the economy. That is why it votes against everything we do to protect it and would rather play silly procedural games. Canadians have had enough.
    Indeed, here is what a Toronto Sun editorial had to say,
    [The NDP leader] couldn't care less about having a budget in place that has been built to protect Canada from the upcoming ravages of an imploding Europe.
    He cares, instead, about face time on television.

[Translation]

Citizenship and Immigration

    Mr. Speaker, it is sad to see the extent to which the Conservatives continue to attack the regions of Quebec.
    Until recently, the people of my riding who come from other countries could go to the immigration office in Sherbrooke, but that office has fallen victim to the Conservatives' irresponsible cuts. The people of my riding will once again have to turn to the larger cities to get service.
    My question is simple: why do the Conservatives keep cutting regional services?
    Mr. Speaker, obviously, we have a responsibility to reduce spending in an effective manner in order to balance the budget.
    We must avoid ending up like Europe and having huge deficits. That is why every department has had to find savings. We did the same thing at Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, by offering better online service, for example.
    We do not need to run up huge administrative expenses with all sorts of offices, when we have more and more online services available to our clients.

[English]

Natural Resources

    Mr. Speaker, there are winners and losers in a Canada with no energy policy. Eastern Canadians are the losers. Easterners are captive to expensive, insecure, imported oil. Easterners pay a lot for gasoline and home heating oil.
    Canada does need a new pipeline to eastern Canada. It would bring a safer route to salt water, more jobs, energy security for Canada and European market access.
    I ask our Minister of Natural Resources: Why not export western oil to eastern Canada instead of to China?
    Mr. Speaker, as I have said many times, Canada is immensely fortunate to have huge natural resources, including oil and gas.
    We are talking about moving oil south. We are talking about possibly moving it west and north as well as east.
    It is a market-driven economy. When the economics support it, we would be absolutely delighted to see pipelines moving east as well as west, north and south to bring jobs and economic growth to this country.

  (1505)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I ask for the unanimous consent of the House for the following motion: “That the House recognize the right of the duly elected National Assembly of Quebec to pass legislation such as Bill 78 within its jurisdiction, in accordance with Canada's and Quebec's Charters of Rights and Freedoms.”

[English]

    Does the hon. minister have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?
    Some hon. members: No.
    The Speaker: There is no unanimous consent.

Points of Order

Oral Questions  

[Points of Order]
    Mr. Speaker, in my answer in question period, I listed the free trade agreements. In my excitement, I mentioned Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is under NAFTA, not under a free trade agreement. I just wanted to correct that.
    We do have one with Costa Rica, however, and I forgot Israel.
    The Chair has notice of a question of privilege being raised by the hon. Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada.

Privilege

Alleged Usurpation of Title  

[Privilege]
    Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today on a question of privilege. I believe my ability to carry out my duties as a member of Parliament has been impeded.
    Specifically, it has been brought to my attention that the individual who preceded me as the member for Labrador, Todd Russell is publicly maintaining that he is the current MP for Labrador. Currently on Mr. Russell's website, www.toddrussell.ca, there are numerous offending pages.
     Although I provided printouts of the offending pages with my letter notifying you, Mr. Speaker, of this question of privilege, I would be prepared to table the links and a complete package of those pages, but Mr. Russell's website is not in both official languages.
    I have contacted Mr. Russell on this matter and requested that he remove the inappropriate use of the website title. He has not removed these references.
    This action impedes my ability to fulfill my parliamentary duties and responsibilities as the actual member of Parliament for Labrador. As such, I believe it should be considered a prima facie breach of privilege.
    O'Brien and Bosc, page 111, notes “the usurpation of the title of Member of Parliament” as being among the matters found to be prima facie cases of privilege.
    On page 113 of O'Brien and Bosc, we learn about two previous cases when Mr. Speaker Bosley and Mr. Speaker Milliken found the usurpation of the title of MP to be a matter of privilege. I will read those passages into the record:
    The misrepresentation of someone who is not a sitting Member as a Member of Parliament has been found to constitute a prima facie case of privilege on two occasions. On May 6, 1985, Speaker Bosley ruled that there was a prima facie question of privilege in a case where a newspaper advertisement identified another person as a Member of Parliament rather than the sitting Member. He stated:
    It should go without saying that a Member of Parliament needs to perform his functions effectively and that anything tending to cause confusion as to a Member's identity creates the possibility of an impediment to the fulfilment of that Member's functions. Any action which impedes or tends to impede a Member in the discharge of his duties is a breach of privilege.
    In 2004, a similar question of privilege was raised concerning a booklet published in connection with a fundraising event and which contained an advertisement identifying a former Member of Parliament as the sitting Member for the riding. The matter was found to be a prima facie breach of the privileges of the House and referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.
    Although the two previous cases related to print advertisements, a misleading Internet presence should be treated in the same manner.
    Mr. Russell's misleading website, including contact information for his parliamentary office and three constituency offices, could cause confusion among the constituents of Labrador and, therefore, impede me in my ability to represent them.
    I would ask for Mr. Russell to update his website immediately.
    The leader of the Liberal Party needs to explain why he has allowed one of his party's former MPs to deliberately confuse my constituents, saying that he is their MP when the voters of Labrador have rejected him and his party.
    I believe that the evidence shows this is a prima facie case of privilege. If the Chair so finds, I am prepared to move the appropriate motion.

  (1510)  

    Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to my colleague's point of privilege. There have been many cases in the past where it has been found to be a breach of a member's privilege when someone suggests that he or she is the member of Parliament when he or she is not, regardless of whether it is a former member of Parliament, some other constituent or a Canadian.
    I would remind the Conservative Party that it did the same thing in my riding when the member for Cariboo—Prince George assigned a go-to person and implied that the people in my particular riding should not go to their member of Parliament because they had chosen wrong in the last election. I am using his words, not mine.
    We need to be consistent in our application of this rule from all sides and that when a member of Parliament is elected he or she must be allowed to do his or her work with no cloud presented as to who the representative is.
    This practice has been done previously by the government, but it has stopped doing it, partly because of the public outcry. However, in this case, if what my friend from Labrador is saying is true, then we would seek those documents as well.
    I think, Mr. Speaker, you will be urged to find a prima facie case of privilege because it prevents the member from doing his elected duties for the people there.
    I thank both hon. members for their interventions. I will look into the matter and get back to the House in due course.

Government Orders

[Government Orders]

[Translation]

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act

    The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-24, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Panama, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Panama and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Panama, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the motion that this question be now put.
    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in this House to discuss Bill C-24 to implement the free trade agreement between Canada and Panama.
    First, I would like to point out that, once more, this motion is subject to time allocation. This is the 25th time this year that we have had to put up with a motion of that kind.
    I am going to make a somewhat lengthy comment about the level of absurdity that this Parliament has reached by being constantly constrained by the party in power. This week—actually for two weeks—we have watched the heights of contempt for this Parliament being scaled with Bill C-38. The Conservatives refused to split up a budget bill of more than 400 pages that has impacts on all kinds of departments: Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, Natural Resources, Agriculture and Agri-Food, not to mention Human Resources and Skills Development because of the employment insurance issue that affects fisheries and tourism and that got a very poor reception from most Canadians. The provincial governments are angry. Another concern, and not the least of them, is the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.
    All of this is in a huge bill on which we were muzzled. The hon. members opposite are constantly throwing numbers at Canadians: 50 hours, 70 hours. Those numbers cannot really be weighed by someone who is not in the House. They do not accurately reflect the time that members would normally have required to share information and hear from witnesses in committee on such dense bills, had the work of Parliament been respected by the current government in this House.
    Another aspect of Bill C-38 is completely mind-boggling. Just thinking that we were muzzled on it is astounding. There were decisions to eliminate organizations. Division 33 of part 4 repeals the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development Act and allows the government to take the necessary measures to do away with the centre. We are gagged on fundamental issues dealing with the elimination of organizations that have been very important to the development of Canadian policies.
    On the Experimental Lakes Area, Mr. Del Giorgio, a professor of biology, said:
    This is a disaster of proportions...that are hard to describe. It is not just the Canadian scientific community that is completely outraged; people from all over the world are sending petitions.
    The government is shutting down the Experimental Lakes Area, not just slashing its budget.
    For two weeks, we were simply gagged on that as well.
    Here we are with Bill C-24 before us, a free trade agreement. This is not some minor information that can just slip through. This is a potential free trade agreement with a country in the Americas. That is important. Has this bill received unanimous support? If the bill had unanimous support, we could perhaps better understand why a gag order was imposed again, but no, we have before us a bill that does not have unanimous support.
    Todd Tucker, from Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, has conclusively demonstrated that Panama is one of the worst tax havens in the world and that the Panamanian government has deliberately allowed the country to become a tax haven.
    Despite requests from the Canadian government, Panama refused to sign a tax information exchange agreement. This point is very important. At some point during the whole free trade agreement process with Panama, the Canadian government asked for a tax information exchange agreement. Why? First, Panama has some serious problems with illegal money and money laundering associated with illegal drugs.
    There is something I do not get at all. There are members here who brag about being tough on crime. They are in the middle of negotiating with a small Latin American country that has a serious money laundering problem associated with drugs and, suddenly, it is no big deal.

  (1515)  

    The Conservatives want to be tough on crime with a 16-year-old kid who makes the mistake of growing a few pot plans in his basement, but they do not have the courage to apply their own tough on crime logic, in an international agreement, to a problem as serious as money laundering associated with drugs. That makes no sense at all.
    My NDP colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster moved a motion to stop the implementation of a trade agreement between Canada and Panama until Panama agrees to sign a tax information exchange agreement. This motion was rejected by the Liberals and the Conservatives. But in light of this situation, it made sense to resolve this issue first. Other countries, including the United States, that came to agreements with Panama signed similar agreements.
    I will repeat, because this is a very important point. Why did a so-called tough on crime government disregard the very idea of a tax information exchange agreement that could have covered all types of trade agreements? This could have perhaps covered the problems related to money laundering. How could this have been excluded from the negotiations and not remain central to the agreement? I do not understand it.
    This is not a unanimous bill, and so it is not a bill that should be muzzled. Teresa Healy of the Canadian Labour Congress testified that although the minimum labour standards of the International Labour Organization are cited, the agreement is still weaker than it should be. Moreover, as Ms. Healy pointed out, the current Panamanian government has become increasingly tough on unions and workers in recent years.
    Some things having to do with workers' rights and fundamental human rights have not yet been resolved.
    Muzzling debate about Bill C-24 amounts to muzzling debate on tax evasion and workers' rights. This is not trivial; it is really not trivial.
    Panama is not Norway. You need to show a good dose of bad faith to throw the name Panama in the middle of existing agreements with northern European countries. That is what I heard two or three times from colleagues on the opposite side of the House. You cannot put Panama on the same list as Norway and Switzerland without showing bad faith.
    A fair trade policy can be realistic. For instance, from the beginning of our discussions with emerging countries, we should demand standards regarding human rights and tax ethics that are in line with Canadian standards. It would be simple. We would not have any surprises or any appendices to add at the end, but rather just the fundamental principle whereby all trade agreements must protect and promote human rights. We should be talking about this from the beginning, imposing it, and prohibiting the import, export or sale in Canada of any products considered to have been manufactured in deplorable conditions that do not meet international standards. This notion should be imposed at every stage of the negotiation process. Ensuring that all trade agreements respect sustainable development is a notion that this government cannot seem to grasp or assimilate.
    The agreement includes side agreements on labour co-operation and the environment. These side agreements are not in the main body of the text. Someone probably suddenly realized that a bare minimum should be done in order for this to be acceptable. Why is it not simply in the main body of the text?
    More than one-third of Panamanians live in dire poverty. Free trade agreements should guarantee that better living conditions and working conditions will result from the agreements, rather than the potential exploitation of the poverty there. Although the agreement appears to protect the environment on the surface, it does not include any really strong measures or any mechanisms to resolve disputes.
    According to the U.S. Department of Justice, which someone mentioned earlier, Panama is a major financial conduit for drug trafficking and money laundering activities. Under those conditions, there is no way anyone can guarantee a better way of life for the people of Panama.
    Trade between Canada and Panama is currently worth $150 million. Why the urgency, especially since we already do $150 million worth of trade with this trading partner? How can the Conservatives justify ramming another free trade agreement down our throats as quickly as possible, using another closure motion, when the agreement does not even ensure that Panamanian tax laws will not encourage tax evasion?

  (1520)  

    I congratulate the government on one thing: in this agreement, Canada has kept over-quota tariffs on supply managed goods such as dairy, poultry and egg products. That is very good.
    What is deplorable about this bill is the failure to address human rights and tax evasion. I have been talking about this from the beginning. Every time we fail to address such fundamental issues in our international agreements, we somewhat deride the work of our most courageous predecessors in Canada. They struggled to move the country forward, while constantly working to improve our fundamental rights. We must never lose sight of that.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to stand in the House today and talk about the Canada-Panama labour co-operation part of the agreement in Bill C-24, which is a very positive initiative. It started many years ago, but even in January of this year our Minister of Labour visited Panama to talk about labour co-operation and discuss labour related issues. She met with government officials and people in business. She took the trip to support the free trade agreement but specifically to discuss labour related provisions. As we all know, our Minister of Labour is very much a supporter of having good labour relations and ensuring those conditions are in place so people can continue to work.
    Our government is proud of its journey of bringing into place a number of free trade agreements. We are a free trade country. We have products that we need to export to other countries and we do that by partnering with other countries. However, we also need to ensure that we coordinate our labour issues with those countries. If we do that and work with our partners on a trade agreement, then obviously it becomes a potential benefit for Canadians.
    As free trade agreements are signed and brought forward, they will bring forward many preferential investment opportunities. Many of those, through trade, will reach out into many aspects of the commodities that we have in Canada. However, we also want to ensure we protect the environment and those investments in it, along with labour. As we know, economic advancements cannot be made at the cost of labour rights.
    It will be in interesting when the free trade agreement comes into force because Panama's trade tariffs sit at over 90% for Canadian exports going to that country. We hope that many of those tariffs will be eliminated. That is good news for all Canadian companies that export into that market.
    For service providers to gain access, we need to help expand Panama's communications, technology and financial services markets. There is also a chapter that ensures there are rules that will govern Canadian investments to give greater protection and predictability to Canadian investors who are looking to invest into Panama, which will encourage companies to invest and help strengthen Panama's economy.
    The free trade agreement also gives Canadian exporters of goods and services greater market access. That access goes into Panama's government procurement opportunities, one of the few that are available to it. One example that we know of is the Panama Canal expansion process that is happening or about to happen. It is one of the U.S. $5.3 billion worth of investment projects that will widen and make export and trade more accessible. It gives Canadian companies a procurement opportunity for products, whether it is Canadian goods and services, that they will be able to bid on.
    When we talk about trade and economic growth, the goal is rationale, which we talk about within our economic action plan. We believe it is a part of free trade. It is more than just a philosophy. It is a key element of our economic policy and our relationships with other countries.

  (1525)  

    Quite honestly, this recession was the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930s and many countries around the world are still struggling through it wishing they had the same economic stability and governance that Canada does. It has intensified our negotiations with other countries so that we will be able to partner with them to help them and ourselves become stronger in our economy and labour rights. We are doing that particularly in the discussion today around Panama.
    How do those opportunities for Canadian exporters actually happen?
    Panama is a strategic hub logistically. It is a platform on which Canada can build on. It will allow commercial activity to grow through Central America, the Caribbean and the Andean region of South America. It brings in a great global perspective for trade. However, free trade is also about having a level playing field where Canadian businesses can compete in the Panamanian market.
    In these challenging economic times, it is important than ever to build solid trade relationships with countries around the world to secure our future prosperity. Canada is committed to pursuing initiatives that will help Canadians compete in global markets, and Panama is one of those markets.
    I will now talk about the importance of labour rights. As Canadians, we naturally want to see our country prosper and continue to prosper, but not at any price. We are eager to advance our trade agenda but we must also ensure that labour rights and obligations are respected. Prosperity cannot come at the expense of labour rights. This is a concession that we are simply not willing to make. We will not accept this free trade agreement nor any other accord without the proper concessions in place. As I said, we will ensure a level playing field and that means that everybody must play by the same rules.
    There is also a labour co-operation agreement, which is why the free trade agreement with Panama is paralleled with a labour co-operation agreement. This agreement includes the enforcement of labour rights and a transparent complaints and dispute resolution mechanism.
    Under the terms of the labour co-operation agreement, Canada and Panama have committed to ensuring that their laws respect and embody the International Labour Organization's 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. The declaration covers 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 in the workplace.
    It sounds a lot like the same labour standards that we uphold in this great country of Canada. However, it also demonstrates the government's belief that prosperity cannot come at the expense of workers' rights.
    In the Canada-Panama labour co-operation agreement, both countries have committed to protect workers' health and safety on the job, as well as to provide compensation in cases of work -related injuries or illnesses. Both countries have also committed to establishing and maintaining minimum employment standards.
    The fact that the Government of Canada is helping Panama address these issues speaks well of Canada. We are recognized as a country that is compassionate. We do what we say we will do and we trade with honest intent.
    Businesses that treat their workers decently are more likely to attract skilled and productive employees, just like businesses that treat their customers well are likely to have better sales.
    We have a reputation for honesty, integrity and reliability. We keep our promises and we play by the rules. We want to help build a Canada-Panama relationship to that same extent.
     , I would encourage the members opposite to support Bill C-24, not only for Canada but also to help build a strong partnership with our colleagues in Panama. We want to strengthen Canada's economy, a foundation for future trade and opportunities to promote and ensure fair, productive and safe workplaces that will benefit both countries.

  (1530)  

    Madam Speaker, I thank the member for pointing out at least some effort to address labour and environmental issues in this proposed trade agreement with Panama.
    What is so regrettable is that supposedly this agreement is premised on what was learned from our negotiations and implementation of the NAFTA. I want to share with members a provision in NAFTA that says, “it is inappropriate to encourage investment by relaxing domestic health, safety and environmental measures”.
    What kind of measures are we suggesting to Panama about how seriously we treat our trade agreements formed with other nations? We already violated that agreement in this House yesterday by downgrading Canadian environmental laws for an economic advantage.
    Therefore, can the member give assurances to this House that this time around, in this agreement, we will provide the language and we will live up to our obligations and commitments in the trade agreement to protect the environment?
    Madam Speaker, we all need to understand how important the environment is, not only to Canada but also to the people in Panama. When we have businesses going there, they must not only follow the labour agreements that both countries have signed but they must also help to raise the bar to ensure, in the environmental aspects of what they are doing, whether it is in mining or in agriculture initiatives, that they become better environmentalists and hopefully reach the high standards that we have in Canada. I do not believe those agreements will be violated, not when they have been signed and agreed to by both Panama and Canada.

  (1535)  

    Madam Speaker, I listened with interest to my colleague's speech on this proposed agreement with Panama and I was encouraged to hear him talk about the importance of labour laws and the importance of respecting those laws in other countries.
     There has been a considerable amount of criticism that for the labour unions in other countries these laws are not respected. Could the member just elaborate and tell this House the importance of that to this government and why we will continue to move in that direction?
    Madam Speaker, part of why the whole Canada–Panama labour co-operation agreement has been signed between both countries is that we recognized that, while there will likely continue to be some issues around corruption and around the labour issues, the intent of any agreement is to help build a country's economic strength, its rule of law and its respect for workers so we do not have child labour and workers have the right of association to form unions. We agree with that. It has been found that when we come alongside those countries and give them open opportunity in those areas where they are weak, they then become better stewards of those areas.
    Madam Speaker, if it is the case that there are some data that trade agreements do have the effect of raising labour and environmental standards, why did the member's government refuse to put in those kinds of evaluation efforts in agreements like the recent Jordan agreement? Could the member share with this House the data he has seen that show that trade agreements do have that positive effect? I think all members would agree that is a good objective but I am not so sure that the data are clear to support him.
    Madam Speaker, my colleague and I sit on the international trade committee, and I have great respect for him.
    Even in Canada, if we have people in dire straits in poverty, if we give them the opportunity for a job, to raise their social status or to provide better for their family, then those relationships become stronger. I do not think that relationship with families is any different than when we deal with other countries on trade agreements.
    Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to highlight the benefits of the free trade agreement with Panama.
    With one in five Canadian jobs generated through international trade, our government's pro-trade plan is essential to bringing continued prosperity to Canadians. At the same time, when Canadian businesses are faced with tough global economic challenges, the benefits that the Canada-Panama free trade agreement will provide are tremendously important for our economy.
    Our government is consistently demonstrating that its top priorities are jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. That is why we embarked upon the most ambitious trade plan in Canadian history.
     To this end, since 2006, Canada has concluded new free trade agreements with nine countries: Colombia, Jordan, Peru, the European Free Trade Association member states of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, most recently with Honduras and Panama. We are negotiating with many more, including the European Union.
    Our government understands, as do Canadians, that expanding our trade and investment ties around the world will help create new jobs and opportunities for hard-working Canadians from every region of our country.
    Today I would like to focus on how Panama fits within our Americas strategy as part of discussions on the Canada-Panama free trade agreement.
     Panama is already a significant trading partner for Canada, with two-way trade totalling over $235 million in 2011. In addition, it is an established market for our country's exporters and presents significant opportunities for Canadian businesses. Canada's exporters, investors and service providers are calling for these kinds of opportunities. Entrepreneurs want access to global markets and Canada's businesses can compete and win against the very best in the world.
    Let me now turn to how this agreement fits within our government's Americas strategy, which was announced as a government priority in 2007 and was renewed in March, 2012.
    The renewal seeks to maximize Canada's engagement by aligning priorities and leveraging Canadian strengths in areas where Canada can have the highest impact. The three goals of the renewed strategy are: first, increase Canadian and hemispheric economic opportunity; second, address security issues and advance freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law through capacity building; and third, build a stable foundation for Canada's engagement and increased influence in the hemisphere.
    As a member of the international trade committee, it is clear to me that stronger economic ties are becoming increasingly important with the uncertainty in the global economy. Expanding Canada's trade and investment in the Americas will help protect existing jobs and create new jobs and increased prosperity for Canadians. Canada's efforts to increase economic opportunities centre on deepening commercial ties by advancing our trade agreements.
    The Americas is the most successful region for recent Canadian bilateral trade initiatives, with 7 of Canada's 10 concluded free trade agreements being with countries in the Americas. To maximize the benefits flowing from these agreements, the Americas strategy recognizes the need to make Canadian companies aware of the advantages and opportunities that they create. Increased engagement through trade and commercial economic ties is one of the best ways to support positive change and growth in the Americas. Advancing freer trade in the Americas opens new doors of opportunity for Canadian companies, increasing economic benefits for Canadians, including increased jobs and prosperity.
    Canada's strategic push to liberalize trade with the Americas is working. We are removing barriers and facilitating two-way commerce. The Americas offer great potential. Total trade growth between countries in the Americas and Canada has increased by 39.5%, from 2005 to 2010. In order to continue to increase economic opportunity, the renewed Americas strategy will focus on intensifying trade promotion and relationship building efforts to ensure that the Canadian private sector is taking full advantage of the trade and economic agreements that are and continue to be put in place.
    As part of increasing economic opportunity with Panama, Canada is committed to a strong economic partnership that will contribute to enhanced prosperity in both our countries.

  (1540)  

    Tools, such as this free trade agreement and its parallel labour and environment agreements, will promote commercial exchange, while building a winning advantage for our companies, especially in natural resource management.
    I want to take a moment to pay special tribute to His Excellency Francisco Carlo Escobar Pedreschi, the former Panamanian ambassador to Canada, for all of his efforts and his strong support of this renewed and expanded free trade agreement.
    To enable and protect Canadian trade and commercial investments, the security situation in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean must be taken into consideration and has rightly been made a core focus in the renewed Americas strategy.
    In recognizing its security challenges, Panama has significantly increased spending on public security and has committed to the reform of security institutions. Panama continues to foster strong security co-operation with the United States and has demonstrated a willingness to co-operate with Central American neighbours under the Central American integration system regional security strategy.
    Canada is pleased with the significant efforts that Panama is making to meet the challenges posed by organized crime and its efforts to exercise leadership in confronting the public security threats facing Central America.
     In a region where relationships are fundamental to success, long-term and multi-faceted engagement is a vital part of Canada's Americas strategy. Competition for market share is on the rise and Canada must demonstrate that it is a serious and committed partner.
    The engagement of the Prime Minister, our ministers and seniors officials has been central to this effort. While sustaining high level engagement will be essential, Canada will benefit from building relationships more broadly across the private sector, government, academia, civil society and people to people.
    All countries in the region have a vested interest in prosperity, security and stability. That is why it is so important for us to build and sustain relationships with our like-minded hemisphere neighbours.
    Through our strong bilateral relationships and the increasing people-to-people networks generated through educational exchanges, increased tourism and business links, our ties with Panama are growing stronger every day and we are seeing an increase in the opportunities for Canadian companies.