Interventions in the House of Commons
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View Daniel Blaikie Profile
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2017-06-12 12:31 [p.12459]
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Edmonton Strathcona.
I am pleased to help outline some of the NDP's thoughts and objections to the motion before us, which has all the thematic unity of a recipe for leftovers soup.
As is the case with leftovers soup, even if people find the totality of it distasteful, it does not always mean they do not like particular ingredients that were thrown into it. There are some good ingredients to this motion, but when taken together, unfortunately we feel we need to oppose it.
The aspect of the motion dealing with softwood lumber is an ingredient we think is a good one. It is right to draw attention to the fact that the government has simply failed to come up with a reasonable solution to the crisis in softwood lumber.
As one of my colleagues in the NDP has just pointed out, it is a little challenging in some ways to hear that criticism come from the Conservatives. They were in government when the agreement expired. They had 10 years. They could have come to another agreement on it, but they did not. They left it to the Liberals, who then made a big deal of their great relationship with the Obama administration and what this would mean for Canadian softwood lumber producers. The Liberals would be able to go ahead and get not just any deal but the best possible deal for producers. That agreement still has not materialized.
A compensation package has been announced, presumably which is a bad omen for Canadian producers who hoped to get a deal that would allow them, through their work, to provide for them and their families, and not have to do that through a government compensation package. I suppose if the Liberals are not going to get it together to get a deal, then that is the next best thing. We would hope, however, to have a government that fights to get that agreement so softwood lumber producers can get back on their feet.
Even the agreement that was in place before was not a great agreement. It was signed by the Harper government. Today Conservatives members want to draw the attention of people to that fact. The leverage the prime minister at the time had was that successive challenges by the United States to the Canadian softwood lumber regime at the WTO and NAFTA had failed. The WTO and NAFTA had supported the Canadian softwood lumber system. In fact, we were on the cusp of getting another decision by the WTO that experts thought would affirm the Canadian position.
Instead of getting to hear that ruling and the benefit that would accrue to Canadian producers by having that ruling on the books, the Harper government went off and cut a side deal. That deal left a billion dollars of the $5.4 billion, which were taken out of the pockets of Canadian producers, in the hands of the U.S. It had taken that money, and not rightfully. That is not just the NDP position; that is the opinion of NAFTA and WTO tribunals.
These are under agreements that we, frankly, do not always like. They were coming to the conclusion that Canada had been wronged by the United States, yet the rug was pulled out from under the feet of Canadian producers who wanted to get the money, which had been taken from them in unfair duties, back. The Harper government did not allow for that. It left a billion dollars of that money on the table.
The Harper government did it with another element of that story, which no one else seems to talk about today. It did it with a Liberal turned Conservative trade minister, David Emerson. Perhaps other parties in the House also want to explore that theme today. No only are the Liberals and Conservatives so close together on this issue, in their common failure to provide a lasting solution to softwood, even under the rubric of the WTO and NAFTA of which they were great supporters, but they felt comfortable using the same guy to negotiate for them on this file in the lead-up to and following the 2006 election.
With respect to this ingredient, we do need a lasting solution for Canadian softwood lumber producers, and it is incumbent on the government to deliver that. It has given us a lot of words, but not a lot of action. However, to hear that criticism coming from the Conservative Party, when it is pretty hard to distinguish the two on this file, is a little rich, too rich to soup me, that is for sure.
Grain is another aspect of this motion. It is quite different from softwood lumber, but nevertheless, here they are together. The issue there, as we started to discuss in questions and comments, is that the big crisis in grain transportation for western Canadian grain farmers occurred after the Canadian Wheat Board was abolished. Partly what we see here is Conservatives criticizing Liberals for failing to find a solution to a problem created by the Conservatives. They found a Band-Aid solution with legislation that is expiring soon, and the problem with the Liberal approach is that while they do suggest some solutions in Bill C-49, the House has yet to pronounce on the adequacy of those provisions. The problem is that it is unlikely those provisions are going to be passed before the expiration of the interim or Band-Aid solution offered by the Conservative Party.
I will remain neutral on whether or not what the Liberals are proposing would provide a lasting solution, but what is clear is that there is going to be a gap between the Liberals' proposed solution and the Conservatives' Band-Aid solution. That puts grain farmers, particularly western Canadian farmers, in a tight spot that they ought not to be in, because we could see this problem coming from a long way off. The Liberals had extended the Conservative Band-Aid solution once before, so they knew when the deadline was coming. The fact that they have not been able to put in place a more lasting solution in time for what is essentially their own deadline is sad. Canadian grain farmers deserve better.
The last bit of the soup has to do with carbon pricing, and this is the ingredient that the NDP finds most objectionable. It is not about criticizing the Liberals' approach to carbon pricing, but it tries to say that any form of carbon pricing, the very principle of carbon pricing, cannot work with a functional, growing economy. That is a claim that we simply reject.
I watched as all but one Conservative member voted last week in favour of a motion for this Parliament to support the Paris climate agreement. The idea that we could go on with our current policies, as the Conservatives advocate, in further development of the Alberta oil sands and pipelines and not put any price on carbon is just not feasible. This aspect of the motion stands in contradiction to the position that they took only last week with respect to the Paris accord. Something has to change in terms of Canada's environmental policy if we are going to make good on our commitments under the Paris climate agreement. That much is clear.
When we get into the details, it does not take long before a lot of controversy is sparked, and there is certainly a lot of fair criticism that one can level at the government for its lack of concrete action.
For instance, if we are going to meet our Paris accord commitments, clearly we would need targets to get us there, but we do not have targets. We have the inadequate targets of the previous Stephen Harper government that the Liberals ran against, but the Liberals have not provided newer, more ambitious targets, so there is a clear problem in how we are going to get there.
In my view, part of the problem with the Liberals' carbon pricing plan is that they have given all the responsibility for implementation to the provinces, which means it may be implemented differently in different parts of the country. This situation raises the issue of equity between provinces, and Canadians living in some provinces may live under a different carbon pricing regime from Canadians living in other provinces. That is a real issue, and it is not one that the Liberals have managed to adequately address.
There is an equity issue as well in terms of people on low or fixed incomes being disproportionately affected by a carbon tax. Other governments, such as the NDP government in Alberta, have sought to address this issue by bringing in a rebate program for low-income people that operates along the same principles as our GST rebate. It is not an insurmountable problem and it is one we could address, except that the Liberal government's approach has been to divest itself of all responsibility for implementation and put it onto the provinces. Once again, whether people will be disproportionately affected by this tax will depend on whether they live under the NDP in Alberta or live under governments in other parts of the country.
There is a lot to talk about and there is a lot to criticize. It is very disappointing to read in international papers this weekend, for instance, about Angela Merkel looking for support within the G20, thinking she could count on our current Prime Minister to stand up to Donald Trump on climate, and finding that she cannot.
It flies in the face of the motion that the Liberals themselves presented in the House last week to affirm our commitment to the Paris accord, a motion that we all supported nearly unanimously. Now we see that the Liberals' actions do not meet their words. It is Kyoto all over again.
We need to do better, but I do not think this motion is about a good-faith attempt to solve that problem.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2017-02-06 16:10 [p.8517]
Madam Speaker, what is sometimes frustrating when we have debates on trade in the House is trying to work our way through the barrage of suffocating platitudes about free trade to talk about particular agreements. It seems to me, having listened to the member's speech, that she does not believe it matters, when we are on the cusp of signing a major multilateral treaty with a number of major partners, that one of the major partners is pulling out of the deal.
Let us say that one was planning one's family's financial future. Assuming that one partner had a job with a certain income and the other one had a job with another income, the two decide what they can afford in purchasing a home and are keen to sign the mortgage. In the meantime, both lose their jobs and their financial situation totally changes. The current government would walk right in there and sign the mortgage anyway.
We are living in a turbulent time. The conditions surrounding CETA have changed dramatically. Canada's trade position with respect to the United States is in the process of potentially changing. There is a lot of uncertainty. It seems like a bad time to jump into a trade deal that we do not even know Europe is going to agree to.
Why is it that the government and the member feel it is so urgent to sign this deal when we do not even know the context in which we are signing it?
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2016-12-13 16:43 [p.8054]
Mr. Speaker, I want to start by indicating that I will be sharing my time with the member for Regina—Lewvan.
I am pleased to rise on second reading of Bill C-31 to express support for the Canada-Ukraine free trade agreement.
I come from a part of the country, Elmwood—Transcona that, like many parts of the country, has a very strong Ukrainian community, of which I am a part. My mother's father's parents originally came to Canada and settled around Gilbert Plains. They were farmers there. When my grandfather left the farm, he served in the Second World War and ultimately landed in Transcona working for the Canadian National Railway, as many Ukrainians did. Ukrainians came to be an important part of Transcona, and an important part of the railway there, which is my heritage. My grandpa worked decades for CN in the shops, and like many with a good employer, good benefits, and a good pension, was able to make a life for his family, retire, and live out his retirement comfortably in Transcona.
I am proud to be a member of the Ukrainian Canadian community. I am proud to represent a riding where that community is strong and active. I am, therefore, also proud to support this agreement.
There are many issues that I had expressed yesterday about the comprehensive economic and trade agreement with Europe that do not present themselves in the case of the bill before us, starting with the government following its own process: tabling the implementing legislation 21 days after tabling the agreement; and actually submitting the assessment that it is required to submit, including an environmental assessment. Therefore, in terms of process, I would say that the government has done a really bad job of CETA, but has succeeded in following its own rules with respect to CUFTA, which I think helps in terms of engendering a sense of trust and confidence in the process. This is thing number one.
Thing number two that is different is that we do not have the same contentious investor-state dispute settlement clauses in CUFTA that we have in the Canada-Europe trade agreement. This also goes a long way to alleviate some of the concern on this side of the House about the nature of this deal. It allows us to look at what it really is as a trade deal. It is a deal to lower tariffs on Canadian goods going into Ukraine and lower Canadian tariffs on goods coming out of Ukraine into Canada. On balance, when we look at that, there is already an existing trade relationship. There was a lot of business done already with Ukraine, and this is an opportunity to expand that level of trade. Therefore, overall, it is a good thing.
Members on this side have said, and I will say again, that we think it is important that there be a tougher human rights monitoring provision alongside this agreement to make sure that our trade is not being used to further the interests of an oligopoly in Ukraine. However, we are nevertheless supportive, and we would like to see it ultimately come to fruition. We believe this is something that should be part of the process going forward, but not a reason to stop the process here.
Another difference with this agreement over CETA is that there is an important political point, economics aside, to this particular agreement, because of the rich history between Canada and Ukraine, and because Ukraine is in a very difficult position with a belligerent neighbour that has already annexed part of its territory and has made it clear that it intends to and wants to dominate Ukraine. I think this agreement sends an important political message that Canada stands behind Ukraine, because economic muscle is a real tool that belligerent neighbours use against those they want to control. We are willing to help people in Ukraine who want markets to be able to sell their goods and continue doing business. Canada is open to being a good friend and ally to them, and not force them into trying to trade with a belligerent neighbour.
We want to provide Ukraine with positive options that allow it to continue to have a market for its goods through trying times. That is an important political statement to be made about the Canada-Ukraine free trade agreement, especially important to make at this time.
Those are my general thoughts on the Canada-Ukraine free trade agreement. A nice thing we could do, because Global Affairs Canada has actually issued some information about the agreement and what the government believes the impact on trade would be, is talk about some of the details. We do not have a comparable document, unfortunately, for the Canada-European Union free trade agreement.
I know some hon. members have gotten into those details. I will spare the House from going over them once again, but I want to highlight the fact that we can actually dig down into those details, because the government has endeavoured to make some of them available. That should be standard practice and it is shocking to me that it is willing to do that for a smaller bilateral agreement but when we talk about larger multilateral agreements that, it is fair to say, have a much larger potential impact for the economy, it is ridiculous that we do not have better information. If we want to make sound economic decisions, we have to do it on the basis of numbers. We have them for this agreement, but we do not have them for some larger potential agreements.
Before I sit down, I want to draw the House's attention to that and implore members on the government side to do a far better job when it comes to the larger agreements. There is a template for it with the Canada-Ukraine free trade agreement and it is one that they ought to apply to other larger deals.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2016-12-13 16:51 [p.8055]
Mr. Speaker, I am afraid I will have to admit that I am not familiar with the details of that particular act, but in the context of trade with Ukraine and, in particular, in light of its situation, we need some kind of strong oversight mechanism. It is a dynamic situation and we certainly do not want to be doing things that would strengthen the hands of Russian actors within that country. If we are going to say that we are committed to human rights and not having the proceeds of Canadian trade perversely fund the oppression of Ukraine, then we need to also be committed to bringing about a realistic process that could give us the right information about what is actually happening on the ground and then assign some meaningful consequences.
I am not familiar with the particular details of the act that the member mentioned, but that is where we need to go. To the extent that we may or may not be going there, then those are the criteria that I would use to assess that particular proposal.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2016-12-13 16:53 [p.8055]
Mr. Speaker, I note that the member, too, represents a riding with a very strong Ukrainian community and heritage. The Ukrainian Labour Temple is in his riding, among other important Ukrainian institutions in Winnipeg, and he is very fortunate to have that community in his riding.
As I mentioned before, going forward, the NDP's focus, in terms of improvement of the bill, would be to ensure that there is a fulsome and adequate process for monitoring the human rights situation in Ukraine and ensuring that if the information coming back is that there are significant abuses or that the proceeds of Canadian trade end up going to help Russian aggression within the region, we are able to take meaningful action in order to quell that outcome and get things back on track.
From the NDP point of view, that is the main focus of improvement with this act.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2016-12-13 16:54 [p.8055]
I wish I did, Mr. Speaker, but I cannot say that I do. It makes sense that as the size of the agreement increases, the importance of following that process increases as well. When the government tables a trade bill as large as what is called the comprehensive economic trade agreement with Europe, and then asks members to debate it in the House in very short order, without the period the government's own policy suggests MPs need to get up to speed on it, it makes no sense at all.
I do not know why the Liberals chose to do it that way. They felt a false sense of urgency about this all along. Perhaps the member for Regina—Lewvan can take up this theme in his remarks.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2016-12-12 16:12 [p.7970]
Mr. Speaker, many European countries had reservations about signing this agreement, and many have now signed but with the proviso that they have not yet ratified. The debate within Europe, especially about the investor-state dispute settlement clauses, is far from over.
There are other aspects of the agreement that could be positive, and there are some negative ones too.
I am wondering who the member thinks is putting on all this pressure. If the investor-state dispute settlement clauses are what risks having the deal fall through in Europe, who is pushing for them? If it is the Canadian government, why would the Canadian government be willing to risk the rest of the deal for the sake of keeping these provisions? Certainly not many of the governments in Europe are pushing for these. In fact, that is where they are getting the push-back from their own population on this deal. Who is defending these, and why is it so important to keep them in there if it jeopardizes everything else the Liberals and Conservatives say is good about the deal?
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2016-12-12 16:15 [p.7970]
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise again to speak to CETA in the House, because there is a lot to talk about and I do not think we have done a good enough job yet of discussing what is in this deal. We have heard a lot of platitudes by those who support the deal and, I would say, not a lot of information. The government has certainly not provided any detailed study of the anticipated economic impact of this deal. Canadians are supposed to just take it on faith that somehow it is going to be good for them, their jobs, and their communities.
It is reasonable for Canadians to expect at any time, and particularly from a government that has promised to bring back evidence-based decision-making and a scientific approach to government, to be provided with information and analysis on the particular ways that the government thinks this deal would be beneficial. However, we have not received that at all. Instead, we get an ideological repetition of the idea that these deals must obviously be good.
The NDP, instead, has been trying to offer an example of how to look at an agreement's details, to evaluate the various clauses, and to come to a conclusion about whether, overall, it is a good agreement for the country. I do not think it is any secret that the conclusion New Democrats have come to on this particular deal is that it is not, on balance, good for Canada. I will get to why.
There is one thing we need to recognize, first and foremost, which may sound silly to say. When considering the positions and arguments advanced by other parties, it bears repeating that trade deals are an important part of public policy. It is not as if trade, on the one hand, is separate and divorced from all the other public policies of government, on the other hand. Trade deals have important implications for governments, particularly these kinds of comprehensive trade agreements. They set the economic framework and a number of other important rules under which government can or cannot apply other levers of public policy.
Consider, for instance, a previous trade agreement that Canada once had with the United States called the Auto Pact. It was an agreement on the trade of a particular good, in this case automobiles, across the border. The people who negotiated and concluded that agreement recognized that trade deals were public policy. Therefore, the public policy goals of that agreement were not just to create more wealth for transnational corporations. They said that if they were going to sign a trade deal, they needed to enunciate what their public policy goals were. An important public policy goal was to ensure that jobs were created within Canada and that the goods being sold in Canada actually meant that Canadians got a slice of the production of that good and received wages for the goods sold in Canada.
When we talk about trade deals of different kinds and the values that can be represented in them, here is an example of a trade deal that we should not need to approve just because it concerns trade. Let us face it, multinational corporations have negotiated with themselves, because they are advising all of the various governments involved in these negotiations. These are not negotiations including union leaders and people representing the interests of the environment and ordinary Canadians. They are largely negotiations with government representatives and representatives of multinational corporations meeting behind closed doors and coming up with rules. Then, when they come out of that negotiating room, we are told that either we agree with trade or we do not, and that this particular set of rules that has been negotiated behind closed doors represents the best possible scenario for ordinary Canadians. That is a laughable claim. They never provide any evidence to back up that claim and we are supposed to just take it on faith. When we look at agreements like this, it is not clear what the public policy goal is.
Consider CETA, for instance. This agreement, we know, because it has been confirmed by a number of independent studies, will raise the cost of pharmaceutical drugs in a country that already has among the highest such costs. We need to go from where we are right now with respect to the costs of drugs and to find ways to bring those down, and we know that CETA would move us in the wrong direction. What gain would we be making that would offset that loss, unless the public policy goal, perversely, of the government is to fatten the wallets of international pharma?
I do not think that is a defensible public policy goal. However, if that is the goal of the government, let it say so; and if it is not, let it tell us what we are getting out of this deal that counteracts that effect on Canadians. If everyday Canadians are made to pay more for their pharmaceutical drugs, that is a tangible cost, and what tangible benefit can they expect to see in return?
There are lots of other ways we could pursue other public policy goals within the context of these kinds of trade agreements. For instance, we could say that because we want green public transportation in Canada and with our trading partners, whether they be in Europe, the United States of America, or wherever else, we want a firm commitment, with timelines and penalties if these goals are not met, to work toward a common charger for electric vehicles. That would be a legitimate thing to do. Certainly, if a trade deal like CETA can pronounce on the minuscule details of municipal procurement, we could certainly reach a deal that would bring its member parties together to pursue a common charging standard that would allow that industry to reach economies of scale, increase production, whether in Canada or the other member countries, and begin greening public transportation in those various areas.
However, we never hear about that because we do not actually get into a debate about what the public policy goals of a trade deal are. Rather, we are just told that this will create massive wealth, that it will be great for everyone, and that everyone is going to get a job after we pass this.
The evidence does not support that at all if we look at the historical record of what has happened in the Canadian manufacturing sector since the late 1980s and early 1990s when we began signing these kinds of agreements. No further evidence has been provided. When we look at the historical track record, I would argue it is not particularly good, and we are not given any contrary evidence.
We might also say that when it comes to labour mobility, for instance, these agreements tend to have lots of provisions on how companies can bring in their own workers from wherever to perform work here in Canada that ought to be performed first and foremost by Canadians who are looking for this kind of work. That is not the right way to go about this in these provisions, but we do know that there are labour mobility challenges. For instance, trade unions who have hiring halls have people here who are out of work and there are places with labour demand in the United States, and those people cannot get that work because in order to be authorized to do the work, they first need an employer and a visa. However, because there is an agreement in which the employers go to the hiring hall to fill their labour demands, the workers need to be cleared to work at the hall first, but until they are cleared at the hall they do not have an employer so they cannot apply for the visa and cannot be cleared at the hall until they have a visa. That is a legitimate labour mobility issue.
We could be working to address labour mobility issues in that way rather than encouraging the import of temporary foreign workers who then work only for that company and who are thus, frankly, under the dictatorship of that company, because if the company decides for whatever reason that those workers are complaining too much about their working conditions or if the company does not pay them what they were promised when they came over, the workers can be sent back by the company. That is not a fair arrangement for those workers. It is not a fair arrangement for Canadians who are expected to then compete against them. There are other ways to do that, but these do not come up when we are talking about these deals.
What the NDP is trying to do in this debate is to say that there are other ways of doing this and there are other important public policy goals that ought to be taken into consideration when we pursue trade agreements. However, successive Liberal and Conservative governments have failed to do this. That is the problem. That is what we are trying to zero in on. We are trying to show that, yes, trade deals and trade is important, but there is more than one way to do it. There are an infinite number of ways. This particular way, in which we take away the ability of democratically elected governments in Canada and elsewhere to make decisions about health, the environment, and working conditions within their own jurisdiction and to put them at the mercy of trade tribunals that are more concerned about whether transnational corporations are losing money than about the substance of those issues, is the wrong way to do it. That is not to say there is not a way to do it, but it means that we have to ask more of our governments here in Canada when it comes to negotiating a trade deal.
Conservatives and Liberals alike have shown that they are not up to the task. Although we have seen a change in government, we have yet to see a change in approach. We saw the same when David Emerson switched from being the Liberal international trade minister to being the Harper international trade minister, and we saw it when the current Minister of International Trade hugged the former international trade minister on the floor of the House of Commons the day CETA was signed. There is no difference between the two.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2016-12-12 16:26 [p.7972]
Mr. Speaker, I would agree with the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands that there is something fundamentally broken at the conceptual level with the investor-state dispute settlement clauses. There absolutely is. Giving foreign companies the ability to intervene in areas of domestic policy-making, which we elect democratically governments to do, is just completely backward.
The idea that somehow in order for those companies to get fair treatment in Canada we need these investor-state provisions, when we have a whole body of common law and other international agreements that give reasonable assurances to those companies they will not be treated unfairly, is also wrong. Added to that is a mechanism by which these transnational corporations can use the threat of serious financial punishment of a government in order to direct its policy behaviour. That is what is wrong about this. It is not about fair treatment. That already exists under the law before we sign these agreements. This is about whether we are going to give these companies the hammer and the threat of it use to direct government policy. That obviously is wrong and should not be a component of deals going forward.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2016-12-12 16:29 [p.7972]
Mr. Speaker, I think that is exactly what is required. I cannot imagine a large company embarking on a new contract with a new supplier or new partner without doing some serious due diligence. I cannot imagine that they sit down in corporate boardrooms and say they have the opportunity to have a partnership with a major new supplier or a competitor who wants to join with them and that they are going to approve the merger simply because bigger is better and mergers are good. I cannot imagine their saying they do not need to take the time to study it, they do not need any numbers, because they believe that bigger is better is a good economic principle and therefore that they just need to go ahead. I cannot imagine their saying that all of the questions are just slowing them down and that the board needs to stop asking questions about the money and the jobs and about their obligations under a new contract and just plow ahead because it is a great principle, that they run the company based on principles, not on spreadsheets or numbers.
There is not a company that would last a day in the market if it ran itself that way, and Canadians should expect better from their government.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2016-11-23 16:29 [p.7141]
Madam Speaker, the member just mentioned Brian Mulroney fighting an election over NAFTA, but of course it was not NAFTA. It was the free trade agreement. NAFTA was actually brought in by the Liberals. To be sure, it was negotiated by Brian Mulroney and the Conservatives, but it was actually the Liberals who ran on a promise to change it and who gave Canadians the impression they were not very committed to it, then went ahead and brought it in.
I cannot help but notice the similarity of that to the position we are now in. For instance, in the election, the Liberals said they were not really in support of the TPP. Since coming into government, they have launched consultations within the country, but internationally, the Prime Minister has been out promoting the deal. They took CETA and picked up right where the Conservatives left off. They have been moving that project ahead despite the fact they have not presented any real evidence about how it will be good for the country, and they have not done anything to mitigate some of the real costs of the agreement.
I wonder if the member has noticed the same approach to trade by the Liberals, to give Canadians who have legitimate concerns about free trade the impression that they are on board with those concerns when they were in opposition, and then steamroll ahead when they are in government.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2016-11-23 16:34 [p.7142]
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today and provide a bit of an antidote to the Conservative-Liberal love-in that has been taking place in the House of Commons today over CETA, which we cannot deny has been pretty cozy. When we have the international trade minister and the international trade critic of the Liberals and Conservatives, respectively, hugging in the House of Commons over a deal, I think it is fair to say if there was anything we could call a love-in within Parliament, that is it. That happened on the day they signed the deal and has continued throughout this debate.
Therefore, I am pleased to rise and provide a different perspective, one that frankly is shared by many Canadians and many people across North America who are fed up. That energy needs to be channelled in the right way, with having this kind of condescending claptrap from parties and politicians who have big business as their allies, and who, every time we criticize the fact that in some cases these deals have meant good jobs leaving the country, tell us that we just do not understand trade or that we are against trade.
The NDP is for trade. We understand well the importance of trade for our local economy and for workers. However, I also think insurance is a good idea. We could pontificate on the history of insurance and that it came to be because some things were not the way they should be and families ended up in dire straits. Therefore, insurance is a great product and we should have insurance. However, we would not take any insurance policy and sign it without reading it, so it is not about whether we are for or against insurance that we decline a particular policy or not, and it is not that the NDP is against trade that we say that there are problems with this deal. On balance, we think the problems are not worth the proposed benefits.
What we have heard members say is that they are in favour of the possible benefit of the potential market. What we have not seen from the government is a province-by-province analysis of what this will mean for jobs. We have not seen a sector-by-sector analysis to say who the winners and the losers will be. In some cases, we do have a sense of who the losers will be. We know that they are in the agricultural sector. We know that the former government negotiated a settlement with some of those producers to the tune of over $4 billion. Nothing has changed in the agreement, and presumably nothing has changed in terms of the consequences for those producers, but the current government has arbitrarily lowered that compensation package. However, what we have not heard, and what the Liberals have not said, is why we are hurting those producers and why it is worth spending taxpayer money to compensate those producers, even though they are not doing it to the extent that the Conservatives saw fit, because these people over here will win, and these are the jobs that will be created, and these are the businesses that are just waiting with an export development plan to move their business into Europe and to capture that market, instead of just talking about the paper access that we are buying, and not inexpensively, as we go through some of the other items in this deal.
I was talking to a farmer in Manitoba just last week who was saying that it is true that for certain agriculture products there are quotas on what can be exported from Canada into Europe. It is true that CETA raises those quotas. That is great. It would be even better if those agricultural producers were actually meeting the existing quotas. However, they are not. Therefore, we will sign up for certain investor-state dispute settlement clauses, we will sign up for an agreement that will interfere with the ability of local governments to use buy local provisions in their procurements, and we will sign on to a higher cost for drugs. Why? To expand a quota that is already not being met.
When we talk about trade-offs, it seems to me that the kind of theoretical benefit of an expanded quota that producers are already not meeting is not worth the very concrete costs that are represented in higher drug costs, for example. That is an argument the Liberals should understand as it is comparable to an argument they made about the tax-free savings account when they reduced that threshold. They asked why the threshold should be increased from $5,000 to $10,000 when most people are not already availing themselves of the $5,000 limit. It is the very same argument. Therefore, why would we incur higher drug costs, which is a very real cost for Canadians, in exchange for higher quotas on certain agricultural products, when those quotas are already not being met?
I think we need to come down to earth a bit and stop making this a debate about whether we are for or against trade. The member for Calgary Rocky Ridge said in his speech that he wanted to talk about what was in the agreement and whether on balance certain things were better or not. Then he launched into a diatribe against the NDP just for saying that we think there are some problems with the agreement. I did not hear him once mention something that he thought was problematic in the agreement.
I do not know how we could conceptualize a debate on the content of an agreement and the nature of the trade-offs without actually mentioning any of the trade-offs, but just launching into a platitudinous speech about how wonderful this is without concrete examples.
I already mentioned that part of the problem here, if we want to get real and assess an agreement, is that there is not enough information to do that. We do not actually have anything approaching a comprehensive study by the government, released to Canadians, talking about what the impact on jobs and industry in Canada is going to be.
We do not know what the relative impact, from province to province, is going to be. We do not know how the various sectors are going to be affected. We do not know, frankly, and we could not know, the economic impact of everything that is being given up in this agreement without a blink. This agreement covers everything except for what is carved out.
There are certain carve-outs, for instance, on the buy local provisions. Some provincial governments have advocated to say that this sector should not be touched or that sector should not be touched, when what that gives up is everything we have not already thought of.
If members in this House think that they are so smart, and everyone in provincial legislatures is so smart, as to have thought of every technological and economic development that is going to happen over the lifetime of this agreement, which incidentally is not a temporary agreement, then so be it. I am a little more modest. I think we ought to be more modest.
There are a lot of things that can change. We live in a world that changes very quickly. It is imprudent at best to sign on to agreements that essentially give up everything that we have not already thought of. We do not know what the impact of that is going to be.
No one has said why it is a good idea to sign that kind of an agreement that essentially covers everything we have not already thought of versus an agreement that just covers the things we are talking about, in the sectors that we know about today and some of those particular trade-offs. On the face of it, that seems like a better approach.
We also do not know, recently having had a referendum to leave the European Union, what the impact or consequence of that is going to be. We do know that it is going to take years for European parliaments to ratify this agreement. I simply do not understand why we are in such a rush here in Canada. I have not heard a good answer.
We heard one member say that he does not see a need to put on the brakes on a good deal. How do we know if it is a good deal when we do not even know who is in it yet? Is the member saying it is immaterial to the benefit of the agreement to Canada, whether Britain is covered by the agreement or not? That is a ridiculous thing to try to maintain.
If we do not do that, if we take the sensible approach and say that it actually does matter whether the United Kingdom is covered under CETA or not, and that that has an impact on what the potential benefits are for Canada, then the right thing to do would be to put the brakes on and take a little bit of a wait-and-see approach.
The agreement is not going anywhere. I think it would be far more prudent to come back to it when we actually have a better sense of what the lay of the land is. It is a time of a lot of change and uncertainty. To me, that says it is the wrong time to jump in with both feet into a major economic treaty.
With this agreement, there is a recurring problem, in my view, with a lot of the trade agreements that we have signed since 1993, which is the investor-state dispute settlement clauses. In my mind, those have very little to do with trade. Foreign investors who have an issue and who do not feel they have been treated fairly can go to Canadian courts and can seek fairness in Canadian courts. They can do that without tying the hands of government in terms of its ability to regulate for the benefit of the environment, for the benefit of workplace health and safety, for health benefits. That is a reasonable approach. There is nothing wrong with that.
The Canadian court system has certain principles of openness and transparency that I think we would all agree are important. No one is advocating we get rid of those principles. When we take that decision-making power out of the hands of the Canadian court system and transfer it to the international trade tribunals, for which we do not have the rules or the guidelines according to which arbitrators are going to be selected, we are doing serious damage to the ability of Canadians to make their own decisions.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2016-11-23 16:46 [p.7144]
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.
If we compare the CETA consultation process to the electoral reform consultation process, what emerges is enough to make anyone cynical.
On CETA, the Liberals do not even want to let Canadians send in written submissions. The Liberals do not want to hear what Canadians have to say even though this is a major agreement that will have long-lasting repercussions.
On electoral reform, MPs, ministers, a special committee, and a website were all mustered for consultations. Now they even want to reach out to people by mail.
Apparently, when they do not want to do something, they hold all kinds of consultations, they talk a lot, and they never do anything. In contrast, when they want to do something, they go ahead and do it without holding consultations.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2016-11-23 16:49 [p.7144]
Madam Speaker, the Belgium issue gave a lot of people a surprise, Liberals and Conservatives especially, because they were not paying attention.
People have been criticizing the investor-state dispute settlement clauses in these types of agreements for a long time, and so it was not a surprise to New Democrats when we found out that people in Europe were looking at those same issues and saying that they had a problem with them. It is not a surprise if we look at the model of the European Union, which is very integrated, but it does not have the same kind of investor-state dispute settlement clauses that are governed by the corporate elite. Therefore, if we have been watching and paying attention to the way these deals have been playing out, it was not a big surprise.
The best way to try and head off further surprises is to take our time, that is not rush it through Parliament here; to start listening instead of dismissing these concerns as being unreasonable; and then to change the agreement to get rid of those problematic provisions. We could then get people onside in Europe.
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