Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise on this bill, this additional ribbon-cutting opportunity for the government and for the .
I would like to state right at the outset, as my colleague from stated in the House on Monday, the NDP is voting no on this agreement. I will summarize my comments before I go into the context around why this is a bad bill, not in the interest of Canada at all and certainly not in the interest of Canadian workers or ordinary Peruvians.
To get into the context, I will first mention some of the most egregious aspects of the bill. This bill does not provide for any real opportunity and growth in Canadian jobs. I will come back to the sad history of this, both from the Conservative government and the former Liberal government, in a moment.
Second, this bill replicates the chapter 11 provisions that have been so difficult for municipalities and provinces in cases where they are putting any type of legislation or action in place to improve the quality of life of their people. Whether we are talking about cities or provinces, in all cases chapter 11 has had a push-back effect, most recently with Dow Chemical challenging the pesticide ban in Quebec and threatening to the challenge the pesticide ban in Ontario that was announced today. That is an example of why chapter 11 is very bad.
I will come back to that in a moment or two, but this is what the Conservative government has chosen to replicate in the Peruvian agreement. There is no job gain. The chapter 11 provisions will hurt people in both countries who are trying to improve their quality of life. Multinationals and chief executives basically have the opportunity to override or to get compensation in the event that anything impugns upon the profit of those companies.
Just to summarize arguments before I go into more detail, there is a clause in this agreement that is essentially a carbon copy of the “kill a trade unionist, pay a fine” provisions of the Canada-Colombia trade deal. Let us imagine this for a moment. The Conservative government, despite the fact that it has completely muffed the possibility of putting more police officers on the ground in Canada and has treated police officers, quite frankly, with profound disrespect in refusing to implement the public safety officer compensation fund that was passed by Parliament, has systematically refused everything that police officers asked them to do, pretends to want to do something about crime, but what we have is a trade agreement that essentially legitimizes the killing of human rights activists and trade unionists.
That is less of a problem in Peru than it is in Colombia, but the provisions are outrageous just the same. If there are continued killings of trade unionists, essentially the governments either of Colombia or of Peru would pay a fine to themselves. Let us think about this for a moment. Does this correspond in any way with Canadian values?
If the got up in the House and said he was going to do away with criminal sentences and if people killed somebody they would have to pay a fine, he would be laughed out of the House. Canadians would not accept that. Yet the government is proposing to do exactly that to deal with the ongoing abuse of labour rights, especially in Colombia, but to a certain extent as well, because there have been concerns raised about the context of Peruvian trade union law, it also impacts on Peru.
For those three reasons, the NDP quite legitimately is saying no to this bill.
Let us look at the broader context. We have a government that has followed along the lines of the old failed Liberal approach on economic policy. In a very real sense, Liberals and Conservatives are co-dependent. They keep doing something that is bad and inappropriate and they just cannot stop themselves.
So what we have had over the past 20 years is a complete absence of any sort of industrial strategy to create value-added products and a complete absence of an export strategy, which I will come back to in a moment. Instead, there has been a heavy reliance on ribbon-cutting ceremonies and signature of trade agreements, even when they undermine our own domestic industries and jobs.
Most recently with the government we saw it with the softwood sellout, which to date has cost 20,000 jobs. Not only that, not only is there the job loss that it has caused across the country because of the self-imposed penalties that any Canadian softwood exporter faces at the border, but in addition, these Conservative members are asking taxpayers to pick up the tab for their failure to put in place an agreement that was actually to Canada's advantage.
We had an arbitration two weeks ago. Now it is going to cost Canadian taxpayers, and each and every Conservative member is supporting this idea, $58 million, going south, because the anti-circumvention clause of the softwood sellout is so vast that the American lumber lobby can take us to court on anything. So we lost $58 million. The Canadian taxpayer is now having to pick up the tab.
But wait, we have two more arbitrations coming forward. One will be for a similar amount, probably around $60 million that these Conservative members are going to ask Canadian taxpayers to pick up for their own incompetence. And wait for it, the biggest arbitration could potentially be in the order of $400 million. That is for British Columbia and Alberta softwood producers. Either the entire industry shuts down or all the softwood workers have to take second and third jobs flipping burgers to get that paid off, or the Canadian taxpayers pick it up.
There is not a single Conservative MP, whether from northern Ontario or from British Columbia, who has stood up and said that the Conservatives made a huge mistake, that this arbitration provision and the handcuffs that are the anti-circumvention clause are a horribly bad idea because it costs jobs in Canada and it costs the Canadian taxpayers literally tens of millions of dollars, and potentially, in the coming weeks, hundreds of millions of dollars. Not a single Conservative MP has said, “We made a mistake”, not a single one.
So the softwood sellout very clearly has ignited real opposition right across the country, and I think the Conservatives will be paying the price in the next election.
It was not just that. They went from the softwood sellout to the shipbuilding sellout and brought forward an EFTA agreement that, to all intents and purposes, shuts down our shipbuilding industry. That is not me speaking, that is the actual representatives of the shipbuilding industry, from both coasts, from Atlantic Canada and from Pacific Canada, when they came and testified before the committee. They asked, “Why are you doing this? Why are you bringing in a bill that essentially forces the collapse of our shipbuilding industry, without taking any other measures?”
In this House, the NDP read letter after letter from shipyard workers from British Columbia and from Nova Scotia. We had opposition from Quebec and from Newfoundland shipyard workers. In fact, there was not a single representative either of business or of labour in the shipbuilding industry who supported that agreement.
Again, the Conservatives pushed it through with the support of their co-dependents in the Liberal Party. We had a second sellout, essentially a sellout of our shipbuilding jobs.
One might think, okay, we are selling out these industries but maybe we are gaining overall. Unfortunately, and this is the tragedy, we do not have a single Conservative member who is willing to do his or her homework and actually look at what the economic ramifications have been for the kinds of policies the government has put in place.
To be fair to the Conservatives, the Liberals largely put many of these into place and the whole approach on trade, and now we have the Conservatives following up on the same approach. We would think that, at some point, some member, whether from the Liberal Party or the Conservative Party, would actually have done his or her homework and looked at the economic results.
The NDP did. StatsCan tells us that over the last 20 years, with these ill-disguised attempts at ideology rather than an attempt at building a real economic policy that is export driven, most Canadian families are actually earning less. Some Conservatives will laugh at this because they have not actually looked at the figures, but if we ask most Canadians, they will tell us that they are earning less now than they were 5 or 10 years ago, and that they are working harder and harder.
Productivity has skyrocketed for ordinary Canadian working families. We know that Canadians work very hard and are dedicated. They love their country and are willing to contribute to their communities and their country but they have had a government that has simply pushed them aside. During this time, the poorest of Canadians have lost the equivalent of about a month and a half of income for each and every year over the last 20 years. In other words, it is like they are working on 52-week years but only getting paid for 46 weeks. A month and a half of income has simply evaporated, which is why we now have hundreds of thousands of homeless people across this country sleeping in parks and on main streets. We have seen a complete erosion of income for the poorest of Canadians.
That has continued for the middle class as well. Any middle class family could tell us that in the second and third income categories, which are the lower and upper middle classes, they have seen a loss as well of a week to two weeks of income on average. Their real income is much lower now than it was 20 years ago.
We have an overall problem when 80% of Canadian families are earning less now than they were 20 years ago. One would think that some Conservatives would realize that maybe they were making a mistake with all the sellouts. Maybe they think that if a corporate CEO is doing well, somehow that money will trickle down to the small businesses that actually pay the salaries of the Conservative members. One would think that one of them would have done his or her homework but none of them have, which is why communities are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet. During this same time, the top 20% of Canadian income earners, the corporate lawyers and the corporate CEOs, have seen their incomes skyrocket. Now they take over half of all income in Canada.
When there is a complete lack of policies and the Conservatives put in place free trade agreements that essentially hand over more power to a very few at the expense of the many, what is wrong with this picture?
Most Canadian families are earning less, even though they are working harder than ever. Overtime in the same period has gone up by over a third. The average Canadian is working longer and longer weeks and often needs to work two or three part time jobs because the family sustaining jobs have been given away by the Conservatives, as they were by the Liberals before them.
The small businesses also suffer from this. When the Conservatives hand over money to the banking sector, it goes down to the Caribbean, and when they hand over money, as we know, to corporate executives in the energy sector, that money goes down to Houston, Texas, which does not benefit ordinary Canadians.The fundamental problem is that the government lacks any sort of industrial strategy.
We also have the sellouts, whether it is the softwood sellout or the shipbuilding sellout. Canadians are getting poorer and poorer under the Conservative government, as they were under the previous Liberal government. They are codependent with the same failed approach.
What does the government do? It signs these agreements. What happens with these bilateral trade agreements? In virtually every case, our exports actually went down. One would think that somebody in the Conservative or Liberal caucus would look at that and see that as a worrisome trend. When we sign bilateral Canada-Costa Rica and Canada-Chile agreements and our exports actually go down, someone must realize there is a fundamental problem and that maybe our approach is not working.
Not a single Conservative or Liberal MP actually bothered to look at the export figures. After we signed these failed agreements and gave away these things, not one member actually checked to see whether or not exports went up. Exports declined. We already talked about the fall of real income. When we are signing bilateral agreements, we are actually talking about falling exports. It is not rocket science. If our exports fall and real income falls, maybe our approach or our strategy is not working.
The NDP will continue to do its work in the House, which is why we keep growing and are now overflowing to two sides of the House. The reason we keep growing is because of the type of arrogance we see from the Conservative government.
What are other countries doing that works? One very good example is the amount of money that other countries are putting in to promote their product exports. Australia spends $500 million in product promotion support for Australian value added products. We have a situation where the Australian economy is export oriented but valued added export oriented. It is not exporting the raw logs that the Conservatives love to ship across the border with Canadian logs to create American jobs. Australia is actually promoting value added products and it is doing it with real muscle and real support.
I have another example. As we on the international trade committee know, the European Union, on its wine sector exports alone, spends $125 million in product promotion support. We have Australia on the one hand and the European Union on the other hand. We also have the United States putting real muscle behind its export industry.
What is Canada doing? What are the Conservatives doing? We found out just a couple of weeks ago how much they invest for the entire United States market, which is where over 80% of our exports go. It takes the lion's share of the support for exports that the government puts into place. Was it $500 million for Canada, a larger economy than Australia, for 80% of our exports? No, it was not. Was it $400 million, which would be certainly less but certainly in keeping with the idea of a strong approach? No, it was not. Not one Conservative would be able to answer that question even though, hopefully, some of them at the trade committee were actually listening. It was not $300 million, nor was it $200 million or $125 million like the European Union puts into product promotion support just for one industry. It was not even $100 million.
People listening to CPAC and the deliberations in the House of Commons because they have lost their jobs because of the foolishness and irresponsibility of the Conservative government would wonder whether it was $90 million. No, it was not. It was not even $80 million, $75 million, $60 million or $50 million. How low can we go? Was it $40 million, $30 million, $20 million, $10 million, $5 million or even $4 million? No, it was not. Incredibly, the Conservative government, which says that it wants to reinforce our export industries for the entire American market where over 80% of our exports go, spends $3.4 million in product promotion support.
What is wrong with this picture? We have falling incomes, falling exports and the largest trade deficit in well over 30 years, and the Conservative government hands out billions of dollars to the banks without even blinking. it just shovels money off the back of a truck. Any time a banker asks for a handout, the Conservatives just hand out money to the banks. The banks can set interest rates as high as they want on credit cards because it does not matter to the Conservatives.
For the entire American market, we spent $3.4 million. This is the absurdity of it. When we look at Canada-Peru, this is the absurdity of the approach of the government. It is interested in the ribbon-cutting and in signing an agreement that would, under chapter 11 provisions, handcuff local and regional governments from making good environmental decisions. There is no protection for labour and no export plan.
For all those reasons, that is why we in the NDP are saying that this is a completely failed approach. Canadians are becoming more and more aware of just how the government has failed.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate on the .
I would like to begin by saying that the Bloc Québécois will oppose this implementation act because it fails to meet a number of objectives or reflect lessons we learned from previous free trade agreements. It is important to point out that the Bloc Québécois is open to international trade, just as the Quebec nation is. Like Canada, we too are a trading nation. Because of the limited size of the Quebec market, like that of the Canadian market, we promote open markets, but obviously not with just any conditions. This is especially true when Quebeckers' quality of life is at stake or when a free trade agreement between a developed country like Canada and a developing country like Peru could give rise to exploitation.
In the interests of national solidarity in the case of Quebec, Canadian solidarity in the case of Canada and also international solidarity, we have a responsibility to condemn agreements that violate workers' rights, environmental rights, future rights and the sovereignty of our respective countries. As you know, our goal is for Quebec to become a sovereign country and carve out a place for itself on the international scene. Every time the Bloc Québécois takes part in debates such as this one, we try to determine what Quebec's interests would be as a nation, as a country. That is what we are doing in the current debate here in the House of Commons.
It is very clear to us that, unlike other agreements, this one does not meet our objectives. It is dangerous as an international trade strategy, but also in terms of the ability of states to maintain their sovereignty, the rights of workers and the environment. That is particularly true in Peru, but it is probably also true in Quebec and Canada. Given the greater vulnerability of Peru's economy, that country is the one more likely to suffer from the absence of a number of agreements in the accord, or from the presence of certain provisions.
First, we do not support this strategy as a whole, which seeks to ensure that Canada has bilateral agreements with developing countries such as Peru. That is also true for Colombia. However, in the case of Colombia, the reasons are even more obvious. There are blatant violations of human rights and union rights in that country. If Canada were to sign such an agreement, and if the House were to pass the implementation act, we would be nothing less than accomplices in a situation involving the violation of fundamental rights. Therefore, in the case of Colombia, things are very clear.
In the case of Peru, the rights situation is obviously not quite the same, but there are some serious problems, particularly in the mining sector. A number of Canadian and foreign companies are often accused, sometimes wrongly perhaps but often rightly, of displaying an extremely authoritative attitude towards the communities in which they settle, and towards the workers that they hire. In that sense, we feel that this agreement does not at all serve the best interests of the two sides and would not have been in the best interests of a sovereign Quebec.
We should focus more on a multilateral approach. In fact, that is what we have always advocated, and that is what Canada has done for a while. After World War II, the GATT agreement was put in place, and it later became the WTO-GATT.
A number of trade initiatives were taken in the best interests of all the parties to the GATT agreement, which became the GATT-WTO in 1994. That is evidenced by the fact that the number of signatories to the agreement has always increased, and by the fact that major progress was achieved in terms of opening markets. The rules were well known.
Overall, one can say that, despite the adjustments that opening up borders of necessity brings to local, regional or national economies, the bottom line is that, until 1994, all participants in the WTO-GATT agreement were able to benefit from this opening up of markets.
A number of agreements were concluded, including the North American Free Trade Agreement; that changed things completely. It is noteworthy, moreover, that in the case of the free trade agreement with the United States certain provisions were lacking, those concerning investments in particular. I imagine that the Canadian and American governments felt that it was a matter of dealing with states where the rule of law was recognized, and so there was no need for any particularly innovative provisions, on protecting investments for example. All trade agreements, bilateral and multilateral, have included provisions on protecting investments. This is all very normal, but those agreements included a dispute resolution mechanism involving the states as representatives of the companies involved, as is the case with the WTO.
To give an example: the trade dispute between Bombardier and Embraer. Bombardier is a Quebec company that is still being defended by the Canadian government for as long as we continue to be part of this political entity. Embraer has the Brazilian government behind it. Each of these states makes representations before the WTO arbitration tribunal. Rulings are made. However, there is no way that Bombardier or Embraer could bring one or the other of the countries before a WTO tribunal because it is displeased with the ruling or the policy adopted or with certain measures taken in the aerospace sector.
That was the rule. The Canada-U.S. Free Trade agreement used the same approach. When Mexico was added in around 1994—negotiations having started after 1989—we saw a chapter 11 provision on investments added, and this allowed private enterprises which felt they had been prejudiced by a state to bring proceedings directly against the state they deemed to be at fault, before specially constituted arbitration tribunals. We have seen proceedings by American companies against the Canadian government. We have seen this in connection with the environment. We have seen this in connection with public services. We have seen U.S. multinationals institute proceedings before the courts, sometimes even successfully. This was the case in Mexico with Metalclad's challenge of regional governments.
NAFTA broke new ground and completely changed the overall economy and how agreements worked. It has to be said that these provisions were introduced by the United States, but with Canada's cooperation, because it was felt that the rule of law in Mexico was not totally solid, totally present, we would say. A specific provision was created to make sure that any company that was nationalized in Mexico would receive compensation comparable to the company's actual value. In the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, there was a rather strong tendency to nationalize companies.
When the agreement was negotiated, we should have first made sure that the rule of law in Mexico had reached a point where it was respected not only in connection with foreign investment, but in Mexican society as a whole.
However a little loophole was created, one that shelters multinational corporations from the weakness of the rule of law in Mexico. Mexico has evolved considerably since 1994, but the provision concerning chapter 11 and the protection of foreign investment remains.
Worse still, in the early 1990s, around the same time that NAFTA was being negotiated, there were also talks about the Multilateral Agreement on Investment, or the MAI, at the OECD. It was an agreement to apply chapter 11 throughout the OECD. Clearly, it was a way for industrialized countries to impose this vision in the context of the WTO and GATT, in order to ensure the protection for foreign investments, similar to that in NAFTA, in the next phase of negotiations.
Unfortunately for that strategy, France foresaw the dangers involved in that approach to protecting foreign investments. The French government therefore refused to agree to that MAI. It saw the dangers involved in having the equivalent of NAFTA's chapter 11 within the OECD. So, for other European countries, as well as other countries, it was stonewalled.
The existing investment protection measures have been part of the OECD for some time. They even appear in the free trade agreement between Canada and the United States and in the agreement we discussed just a few weeks ago here in the House, the free trade agreement between Canada and the European Free Trade Association, which includes the Scandinavian countries and a few other countries from the European continent. Although it was not our preferred strategy, the Bloc Québécois believed that that agreement, which does not include chapter 11 provisions, could be beneficial for both parties, that is, good for Canada and Quebec on the one hand, and good for the European Free Trade Association on the other.
There is a special type of investment protection provisions for developed countries, where the rule of law is believed to be strong enough to ensure that disputes are settled equitably through procedures that comply with the rules of justice. But in countries like Peru, Colombia, Costa Rica, Korea or Chile, that is not so sure, hence the introduction of a special clause copied from chapter 11.
That is unacceptable. If the rule of law is good for foreign investors, it should also be good for the companies that receive these investments. We cannot accept this double standard, where multinational corporations not only enjoy privileges denied to the people who welcome them, but are also allowed to bring proceedings directly against the national government of these companies.
That is our second reason for rejecting this free trade agreement with Peru. The first one has to do with the bilateral approach in the Canada-Peru, Canada-Chile, Canada-Colombia, Canada-Costa Rica and Canada-Israel agreements. The agreement with Israel, in fact, was the second free trade agreement signed by Canada, which makes more sense politically than financially.
The point I am making is that a bilateral approach replaced the multilateral one when the Free Trade Area of the Americas initiative was stonewalled by several South American countries. That initiative was based on principles which are now described as neo- or ultra-liberal because they confer advantages on capital rather than on the receiving companies, states and people.
I clearly recall the debates held in this House at the time of the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City. At that time, the Liberals were in power, not the Conservatives. Anyway you cut it, it boils down to pretty much the same thing, and in either case, the result is unpalatable.
We have had debates in this House and the government has promoted a free trade zone with which we agreed in principle but which was also based on the principles of NAFTA and on what we had attempted to accomplish at the OECD with MAI.
I can certainly understand why Mercosur, the South American free trade zone, and a number of other countries refused the proposal put forward by North America—not just North America because Mexico is included—but basically that of the United States and Canada. Thus, it was a failure.
In view of this failure and that of the WTO, the United States and a number of industrialized countries—I am thinking of Australia, Great Britain and Canada, for example—attempted to impose this model. However, once again, there was opposition. At the Seattle summit, southern countries said they were in favour of a strategy to open up markets, but not on the basis proposed, that of ultraliberalism and neoliberalism, which has led to the financial crisis we are currently experiencing. It is a good thing that these people spoke out.
I have to acknowledge that they were not the only ones. In fact, in every industrialized society, a good part of the population also spoke out against this model for opening up markets, to the point that the term “free trade” now has a very negative connotation for many. The previous speaker provided us with an example of that. We no longer dare use this word even though, in the end, we all agree that, with a few exceptions, it is in the interest of nations to open their doors to mutual exchanges of trade and capital.
But because such a pall was cast over the concept from the early 1990s to the mid-2000s, the world has now retreated from it. Peoples throughout the world are resisting any opening up of markets. I no longer use the term “liberalization” because I am certain that it is proposed no longer part of the vocabulary acceptable to a good portion of the population.
I have one more example. The of Canada did not get it, but the President of the U.S. and a number of leaders of European states did. Now those countries are talking about reworking capitalism. At the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago, the Prime Minister acted as if nothing had changed and there had been no financial crisis. He proposed a free trade zone. I think he did not really understand where he stood and did not understand how Brazil has developed. He did not understand that Venezuela has one resource that is the same as Canada: oil. Whether or not one likes the direction of this development, these countries, with the support of India and China, now have a say in the bases of negotiation.
Canada has therefore closed in on itself as the U.S. did under President Bush. Not in resignation, but in order to try to multiply the number of bilateral agreements, taking a page from the book of Mao Zedong's strategy of using the villages to surround and take the cities.
Once a series of free trade agreements has been concluded with small, vulnerable countries, they will try to impose this method on the southern countries that are the target markets for the developing countries. We cannot sanction this, out of both international solidarity and national interest, and by national, I mean Quebec.
As I have said, in the agreement that would suit us best, investment protection would not give any more rights to multinationals than to regular citizens and national companies. The latter protect the right of countries to work for the good of their population. To satisfy us, an agreement would contain—and this is extremely important—true agreements on respect for union rights, labour rights and environmental rights. We do not want to see parallel agreements such as we find at the moment in the agreements with Peru, Chile or Costa Rica.
For all these reasons, this agreement is unfortunately not acceptable in the eyes of the Bloc Québécois. I believe it is unacceptable for the people of Quebec and of Canada, and even less acceptable for the people of Peru. Voting against this implementation act will be doing them a service.