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41st PARLIAMENT, 1st SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 235

CONTENTS

Thursday, April 18, 2013




House of Commons Debates

VOLUME 146 
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NUMBER 235 
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1st SESSION 
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41st PARLIAMENT 

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Speaker: The Honourable Andrew Scheer

    The House met at 10 a.m.

Prayers



ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

[Routine Proceedings]

  (1005)  

[English]

Public Sector Integrity Commissioner

    I have the honour, pursuant to section 38 of the Public Service Disclosure Protection Act, to lay upon the table the special report of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner concerning an investigation into a disclosure of wrongdoing.

[Translation]

    This report is deemed permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates.

[English]

Government Response to Petitions

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to five petitions.

Interparliamentary Delegations

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1) I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the following reports of the Canadian delegation of the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group respecting its participation at the following four meetings: the annual meeting with members of the U.S. Senate that was held in Washington, D.C., May 14 to 15, 2012; the fifth annual conference of the Southeastern United States-Canadian Provinces Alliance that was held in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, May 20 to 22, 2012; the National Governors Association annual meeting that was held in Williamsburg, Virginia, July 12 to 15, 2012; and the Canadian/American Border Trade Alliance Conference that was held in Washington, D.C., September 23 to 25, 2012.

Committees of the House

Justice and Human Rights 

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fifth report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in relation to Bill S-209, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (prize fights).

[Translation]

    The committee has considered the bill and has agreed to report the bill back to the House without amendment.

[English]

Transport, Infrastructure and Communities  

    Mr. Speaker, today I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the eighth report of the standing committee on Bill C-52, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act (administration, air and railway transportation and arbitration).

Criminal Code

    He said: Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to introduce the safe at home bill. Canadian children should feel safe in their homes, especially if they have been a victim of a sexual assault.
    In my riding of Langley, a sex offender was permitted to serve a house arrest right next door to his young victim. In another case, the sex offender served house arrest across the street from the young victim. In both cases, the poor victims lived in fear and were re-victimized every time they saw their attacker.
    One mother asked me, “Why should we have to move from our home when we are the victims?” That is a good question.
    This bill will amend the Criminal Code to require a bubble zone around the victim's home, and the sex offenders will not be able to knowingly be anywhere near the victim.
    I look forward to working with all members of the House to ensure the passage of this very important bill.

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

Petitions

Generic Medicines  

    Mr. Speaker, I am happy to present a petition on behalf of 38 Canadians from British Columbia calling upon the government to pass Bill C-398, without significant amendment, to facilitate the immediate flow of live-saving generic medicines to developing countries.

Canada Post  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise to present a petition on behalf of hundreds of Prince Edward Islanders concerned about changes being made by Canada Post to post offices across the country without adequate consultation, as is required under the Canada postal service charter.
    As an example, one of these changes requires that letters being sent from Charlottetown to Summerside go through Halifax. Therefore, the petitioners are urging the Government of Canada to instruct Canada Post to halt its plans to downgrade public post offices and to consult with the public and others to develop a better process in this regard.

  (1010)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, along the same lines, we have just one post office in Gatineau. Apparently, there are supposed to be consultations regarding the closure of the only post office in Gatineau.
    I rise here to present a petition signed by hundreds of people who strongly oppose the closure of the Racine Street post office.

[English]

Lyme Disease Strategy  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise to present four petitions, two each on the same topic.
    The first two are on the subject of my own private member's bill, Bill C-442, calling for a national Lyme disease strategy.
    The first set of petitioners are from Bedford and Stellarton in Nova Scotia; from Delta, Penticton, Victoria and Surrey in British Columbia; and from Burlington and Oakville in Ontario.
    The second set of petitioners are from Chilliwack, Surrey and Langley in British Columbia, as well as from Saskatoon.
    Across Canada, Lyme disease sufferers are hoping that all members of this House will come to agreement on a national Lyme disease strategy.

Foreign Investment   

    Mr. Speaker, the second petition deals with the matter of the opposition day motion today. We are looking at the Canada-China investment treaty.
    Petitioners from Vancouver, Abbotsford, Surrey, White Rock, Maple Ridge, Burnaby and Victoria call upon this House to reject the Canada-China investment treaty and call upon the government not to ratify it.

Sex Selection  

    Mr. Speaker, I have a petition that is signed by people from my riding of Lambton—Kent—Middlesex and by people across the country.
    It urges that the House condemn discrimination against females occurring through sex-selective pregnancy termination, and that Parliament needs to condemn this worst form of discrimination against females.
    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, on behalf of the people of my riding, a petition calling on the government not to allow inequality of women's and girls' rights by sex-selective abortions.
    The petition calls on the government to abhor this and to stop it at every opportunity in the future.

Genetically Modified Alfalfa  

    Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to rise as the member of Parliament for Kelowna—Lake Country to present a petition that was presented to me on April 12 in my constituency office by Heidi Osterman from True Food Foundation. She is a constituent of mine who has collected approximately 1,000 signatures from constituents and British Columbians calling on 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.

Impaired Driving  

    Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to present two petitions.
    In the first petition, petitioners are asking to see tougher laws in the implementation of a new mandatory minimum sentencing for persons convicted of impaired driving causing death. They want to see the Criminal Code of Canada changed to redefine the offence of impaired driving to vehicular manslaughter.

Sex Selection  

    Mr. Speaker, the second deals with gender selection. It highlights that the CBC investigation on gender selection revealed that it is happening in Canada. Ninety-two per cent of Canadians are vehemently opposed to this, and they are asking Parliament to condemn sex selection.

Questions on the Order Paper

    Mr. Speaker, the following question will be answered today: No. 1209.

[Text]

Question No. 1209--
Mr. Robert Chisholm:
    With regard to the changes made to the Fisheries Act in Bill C-38 and Bill C-45: (a) with which industry groups did the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) meet to consult on amendments to the Act; (b) what are the dates, locations, agendas of consultation sessions held with industry groups to discuss the amendments to the Act; (c) how much funding has DFO contributed to industry and civil society groups to engage on the amendments to the Act; and (d) how much funding has DFO allocated for engagement sessions in the 2012-2013 fiscal year?
Hon. Keith Ashfield (Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway, CPC):
     Mr. Speaker, with regard to (a), the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, DFO, has engaged various partners and stakeholders since summer 2012. DFO officials have met with representatives of various industries, such as oil and gas, e.g., Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, Canadian Association of Pipeline Producers; mining, e.g., Mining Association of Canada; forestry, e.g., Forest Products Association of Canada; hydroelectric, e.g., Canadian Electricity Association, Canadian Hydropower Association; and agriculture and agrifood, e.g., Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, Canadian Federation of Agriculture.
    The list includes the Canadian Gas Association, June 27 and July 9, 2012, teleconference, Ottawa; the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, June 27, July 17 and November 28, 2012 and January 30, 2013, teleconference, Ottawa, Calgary and Moncton; the Canadian Electricity Association, June 27, August 31 and November 13, 2012 and March 13, 2013, teleconference, Ottawa; the Canadian Hydropower Association, August 31 and November 13, 2012 and March 13, 2013, Ottawa; the Mining Association of Canada, June 27 and August 31, 2012, teleconference, Ottawa; the Forest Products Association of Canada, June 27, 2012, teleconference; the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, June 27, 2012 and January 31, 2013, teleconference, Calgary; the Canadian Nuclear Association, June 27 and December 14, 2012 and February 27, 2013, teleconference, Ottawa; Nalcor, July 25, 2012, St. John’s; Newfoundland Power, July 25, 2012, St. John’s; Rio Tinto, July 25 and October 4, 2012, St. John’s; Alderon Resources, July 25, 2012, St. John’s; Wabush Mines, July 25, 2012, St. John’s; Vale Inco, July 25, 2012, St. John’s; Kruger, July 25, 2012, St. John’s; British Columbia Hydro, June 27, 2012, teleconference; and Total E&P Canada, January 24, 2012, Ottawa.
    With regard to (b), engagement sessions with industry, as well as other partners and stakeholders--e.g., provinces and territories, non-governmental organizations and aboriginal groups--started in June 2012 and are currently ongoing. These sessions have occurred across the country as well as through teleconference. The agendas for these meetings have been approximately the same: ensure comprehensive understanding of the changes to the Fisheries Act, flesh out the key concepts and gather information to assist in developing policy and regulations, identify and develop partnership opportunities and inform partners and stakeholders of implementation plans.
    With regard to (c) and (d), DFO has spent approximately $100,000 in 2012-13 to undertake engagement sessions across the country. These costs are primarily associated with travel and translation. Included in this total is DFO financial support and participation in an NGO-organized workshop on October 30, 2012.

[English]

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns

    Mr. Speaker, if Questions Nos. 1207, 1208, 1210, 1211 and 1212 could be made orders for returns, these returns would be tabled immediately.
    Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

[Text]

Question No. 1207--
Mr. Mathieu Ravignat:
    With regard to the Department of the Environment: (a) over the past six years, how many transactions involving land or buildings, works and infrastructure have been completed, broken down by (i) land, (ii) buildings, (iii) works and infrastructure, (iv) vehicles; (b) what is the total amount for (a) and for (a)(i), (a)(ii), (a)(iii), (a)(iv); (c) what are the criteria used by the department to determine whether to dispose of these non-financial assets; and (d) what are the actual savings between sale versus the government’s cost of maintaining each of these non-financial assets?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 1208--
Mr. Mathieu Ravignat:
     With regard to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade: (a) over the past six years, how many transactions involving land or buildings, works and infrastructure have been carried out, broken down by (i) land, (ii) buildings, (iii) works and infrastructure, (iv) vehicles; (b) what is the total amount for (a) and for (a)(i), (a)(ii), (a)(iii), (a)(iv); (c) what are the criteria used by the department to determine whether to dispose of these non-financial assets; and (d) what are the actual savings between sale versus the government’s cost of maintaining each of these non-financial assets?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 1210--
Mr. Robert Chisholm:
     With regard to the changes made to the Fisheries Act in Bill C-38 and Bill C-45: (a) which First Nations, Aboriginal groups or organizations have attended or participated in engagement sessions to discuss the proposed amendments to the Act; (b) how much funding has the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) contributed to the capacity of First Nations to engage on the proposed amendments or on policy and regulation changes in the 2012-2013 fiscal year; (c) which First Nations or Aboriginal organizations have received funding for capacity to engage on proposed amendments or on policies or regulations in the 2012-2013 fiscal year; (d) which First Nations, Aboriginal groups or organizations has DFO worked with to hold or facilitate engagement sessions; (e) what are the dates and locations of meetings funded by DFO and hosted or facilitated by First Nations, Aboriginal groups or organizations to discuss changes to the Fisheries Act or new policies and regulations in the 2012-2013 fiscal year; and (f) how will DFO work with First Nations, Aboriginal groups or organizations to engage on proposed amendments, policies or regulations in the 2013-2014 fiscal year?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 1211--
Hon. John McCallum:
     With regard to government-purchased mobile data devices: (a) how many were in use by the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) prior to January 11, 2013, broken down by type of device and HRSDC department; (b) what is the total cost paid by the government for the devices identified in (a); (c) how many of the mobile data devices identified in (a), (i) have been recalled by the department since January 11, 2013, broken down by type of device and HRSDC department, (ii) have been destroyed since January 11, 2013, broken down by type of device and HRSDC department, (iii) will be destroyed, broken down by type of device and HRSDC department; (d) how many personal mobile data devices owned by HRSDC employees have been confiscated by the department, including by senior managers, since January 11, 2013, broken down by type of device and HRSDC department; (e) how many of the devices identified in (a), (i) have been destroyed since January 11, 2013, broken down by type of device and HRSDC department, (ii) will be destroyed, broken down by type of device and HRSDC department; (f) what is the total that (i) has been paid, (ii) will be paid by the government to compensate HRSDC employees for mobile data devices confiscated by the department; and (g) has the department (i) purchased, (ii) made plans to purchase new mobile data devices to replace those recalled and destroyed, and, if so, (iii) how many new devices will be purchased, and at what cost, broken down by type of device and HRSDC department?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 1212--
Mr. Denis Blanchette:
    With regard to the Department of National Defence: (a) over the past six years, how many transactions involving land or buildings, works and infrastructure and vehicles have been carried out, broken down by (i) land, (ii) buildings, (iii) works and infrastructure, (iv) vehicles; (b) what is the total amount for (a) and for (a)(i), (a)(ii), (a)(iii), (a)(iv); (c) what are the criteria used by the department to determine whether to dispose of these non-financial assets; and (d) what are the actual savings between sale versus the government’s cost of maintaining each of these non-financial assets?
    (Return tabled)

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.
    Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The Speaker: The Chair has notice of a question of privilege from then hon. member for Malpeque.
    Mr. Speaker, I gave the Clerk a letter saying I would hold it for another day, that I would not point that question of privilege today.

GOVERNMENT ORDERS

[Business of Supply]

  (1015)  

[English]

Business of Supply

Opposition Motion—Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement  

    That, in the opinion of this House, the government should inform the Government of the People's Republic of China, that it will not ratify the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement.
     He said: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to move a motion on behalf of the official opposition, the New Democrats, to direct the Government of Canada to inform the Government of the People's Republic of China that it will not ratify the Canada-China foreign investment promotion and protection agreement. In doing so, I rise proudly in the knowledge that we are discharging a profound responsibility to this chamber, to Canadians and to our country.
    This FIPA is critically flawed in a number of ways and, if allowed to proceed in its present form, will do serious damage to Canada. In fact, in view of the very serious concerns raised about this deal by international trade experts and others, it would be absolutely reckless for the government to proceed to ratify this treaty. Indeed, I believe that many members on the government side are aware of the dangers this deal presents to Canadian interests and are troubled by the agreement's violation of core Canadian values.
    I say this because even though the government has been in a position to implement the treaty for over five months now, it has declined to do so. While there may be several reasons for this delay, I believe that one of them is the distinct awareness that this deal is bad for Canada, fails our businesses, threatens our economic interests, violates our democratic processes and puts our taxpayers at risk.
    Before proceeding to outline these flaws and shortcomings in detail, I would like to set forth some general principles that the New Democrats hold when it comes to this issue.
    New Democrats believe in the importance of engaging with diverse economies and emerging markets. We support the development of clear rules that give confidence to investors, create level playing fields, preserve democratic policy-making and are transparent and accountable to Canadians. We believe in trade and investment policies that promote and protect Canada's interests.
    With respect to China, we believe that Canada should deepen and broaden our economic relations. China is the second-largest economy in the world, it is in ascendancy and there are many opportunities for mutual benefit and synergies between our two nations. Developing a rules-based framework that improves the investment and economic activities in both countries is desirable and necessary. With careful negotiation, it is also achievable.
    New Democrats know that an investment agreement done well has the potential to be of great benefit to both countries. However, a deal that is poorly negotiated risks doing great harm. Because the Conservatives have taken an extreme ideological approach to negotiating and ratifying trade and investment agreements, they have concluded a carelessly and poorly negotiated deal. Put bluntly, this FIPA will do harm to Canada's economic interests. Canadians deserve better.
    Let me start, then, with a summary of the problems with this FIPA.
    It ties the hands of Canadian governments at all levels—municipal, provincial, federal and first nations—and restricts them from taking legislative measures in the public interest. It exposes Canadian taxpayers to huge liabilities and multi-billion-dollar lawsuits by foreign corporations if they feel that public legislation affects their profit expectations. It is imbalanced and lacks reciprocity for Canadian investors. It does not help Canadian investors effectively break in to China's markets. It puts at risk Canada's vital natural resources, including those in strategic areas such as energy, and allows these assets to be controlled by foreign state interests, including state-owned enterprises that serve foreign state interests, not commercial ones. It contains an unaccountable dispute resolution mechanism that allows China or Canada to hear lawsuits involving taxpayers' money outside Canadian courts and in secret: no public access, no public disclosure, no media, no transparency and no accountability. It subordinates our environment to corporate interests and puts legislative efforts to protect our land, air and water at risk of being struck down by corporate lawsuits.
    It was passed by the Conservatives with no consultation with provinces, first nations, trade experts, business, labour or the public. Outside of this one day called for by the New Democrats, there has not been a single minute of democratic debate after 18 years of negotiation. Once ratified, this FIPA will lock Canada into these damaging terms for a minimum of 31 years.

  (1020)  

    This is a major economic initiative, and contrary to repeated Conservative misstatements, a deal that raises concerns unlike any other. It concerns billions of dollars of investment. It is the first time since NAFTA that Canada has signed an investor protection agreement with a country that is a major investor in Canada. Unlike virtually every other FIPA Canada has signed, China is a major capital exporting nation with massive foreign currency reserves.
     Let us look at the numbers. Chinese investment in Canada hardly registered in 2007. It was too small to record. In 2011, it was $11 billion. In 2012, it doubled to $22.5 billion. According to the Conference Board of Canada, China is projected to be Canada's number two foreign investor in Canada by 2020, exceeding $50 billion a year. That is in seven years.
    Before the $15 billion CNOOC-Nexen takeover, Chinese state-owned enterprises, such as PetroChina, Sinopec and CNOOC, had already invested over $10 billion in the Canadian oil and gas sector and controlled more than 7% of Canada's oil sands interests. Today, over $25 billion of Canada's oil sector is controlled by China's state-controlled firms.
    Let me quote an economist, Wendy Dobson. She said, “There is a tidal wave that is heading out of China in the next decade and I don't think we're ready for it”.
    She estimated that this tidal wave amounted to more than $1 trillion of investment worldwide to acquire access to resources and technology. Yet this deal, which will involve those sums of money, was rammed through this Parliament without any study, debate or vote.
    On October 23, as official opposition critic for international trade, I presented a motion to the Standing Committee on International Trade to conduct a study of the agreement and to call a varied list of Canadian stakeholders to committee to provide their views. Conservatives refused to even debate that motion in public. No study was agreed to.
    On October 31, the NDP member for Ottawa Centre rose to request an emergency debate on the FIPA. That request was denied by the government.
    On October 2, 18, 24, 25 and 31, members of the NDP rose in question period to request that the FIPA be properly studied by a parliamentary committee. Each time, the Conservatives refused even to address the merits of the question.
    Through Leadnow, some 80,000 Canadians have sent messages to the government voicing their concerns about this FIPA and requesting proper study and prudence. Just yesterday, in one day, I received over 17,000 emails after this motion calling for this debate was made public. That was in 24 hours. Despite all of this widespread concern and opposition, the Conservative government has refused to bring this FIPA forward for debate, study or vote.
    I want to turn to some of the details of why this FIPA is so dangerous and poorly negotiated. I will turn first to natural resources.
    This FIPA requires Canada to award national treatment to investments made by Chinese firms once established in Canada. This paves the way for a massive natural resources buyout and foreign-state expansion of ownership in our economy. For example, I have referenced CNOOC's recent purchase of Nexen, which was approved by the Conservatives. Under the FIPA, if CNOOC wants to expand by buying up other oil interests, it can, and it must be treated by this FIPA as if it were a Canadian company. Any attempt by any government to limit this expansion may be met by a lawsuit claiming damages for unequal treatment.
    There is a loophole in this FIPA: non-producing oil properties are not subject to Investment Canada Act review. This means that when oil reserves are present, but drilling has not yet commenced, those oil leases are not subject to any kind of review and therefore would qualify under this FIPA for national treatment.
    This FIPA will place Canada's strategic oil reserves, and in fact strategic sectors beyond oil, into the hands of foreign states and state-owned enterprises that do not operate as purely commercial businesses but rather would serve the interests of a foreign state. This locks us into a dangerous path of foreign ownership and resource extraction until at least 2044.
    Canadians are opposed to this. Canadians want a national conversation and a policy that makes responsible choices for the wisest long-term stewardship of our natural resources in Canada.

  (1025)  

    This deal is unbalanced. First, this deal allows both parties to maintain their current non-conforming measures. This means that both countries commit to not implementing any new discriminatory barriers to each other's investors in the future, but the agreement allows both to keep any existing non-conforming measures.
    Here is the problem. China has been and is a command economy. It has many non-conforming measures. These include requiring foreign investors in China to partner with local Chinese enterprises, to use local suppliers and to source local goods and services. Anyone who has done business in China is well aware of these requirements. However, Canada, which has been on a trade liberalization trajectory for the last 30 years, has largely eliminated such requirements. The result: Canadian investors are at a major disadvantage. This deal fails to secure reciprocal and equal access to China for Canadian investors.
    When I asked DFAIT officials at committee for a list of China's non-conforming measure, they first said that they did not have them, then they said that they were on the website, and then they said that they were not sure. The government has signed an agreement allowing China to keep non-conforming measures in place that bind Canadian investors, and it cannot even tell us what they are.
    In addition, this deal fails to include Canada's pre-establishment rights model, which grants protections to both existing investors and those seeking to invest. Instead, the Conservatives have acceded to the Chinese model, which provides very little protection to prospective investors compared to existing ones. The result: again, imbalance against Canadian investors. Why? It is because relatively speaking, Canadian investment in China is a relatively small $4.5 billion. In 2012, China had five times that amount invested in Canada, and it is growing exponentially.
    As Paul Wells wrote last September, when this deal was released, quoting an investment analysis: “It will be interesting to see if this is spun as an agreement that 'liberalizes' or opens markets for Canadians. If it is, that will not be true”.
    Canadian companies need and deserve an agreement that helps remove the barriers that are keeping them out of Chinese markets. The simple reality is that this FIPA fails to provide effective tools to challenge the protectionist barriers the Chinese government has at its disposal to block new foreign investment in the profitable sectors of its economy. For certain, access to sensitive areas of the Chinese economy by Canadian investors has been restricted, while Canada has thrown the doors wide open to firms from China.
    This deal will also expose Canadian taxpayers to expensive litigation and billions of dollars in damages. This FIPA provides a mechanism to Chinese companies to sue the federal government if they feel that Canada has passed regulations or policies that they feel amount to unfair treatment or that interfere with their expectations of profits or future expansion.
    Foreign corporations can sue Canadian governments and cost Canadian taxpayers billions of dollars. I would like to emphasize that this is not the Conservatives' money; this is Canadian taxpayers' money for enacting laws that protect our energy security, environment, jobs or public health.
    This is not a hypothetical concern. Chinese state-owned insurance company Ping An sued Belgium for $3 billion in damages after its profit expectations were not met after the European recession. Canada has been forced to pay damages exceeding $157 million to U.S. firm AbitibiBowater following the Newfoundland government's decision, after the company closed its pulp and paper mill, to reclaim the water and timber use rights it had provided. An investor state tribunal has now ruled against the Government of Canada in another case, because the Newfoundland government tried to get foreign oil companies to invest a certain amount in local research and development to create good jobs in that province. The amount of damages that have to be paid has not yet been released.
    Other lawsuits have been filed challenging Quebec's decision to place a moratorium on fracking, Ontario's offshore wind power policy and the Canadian court's invalidation of a drug patent.
    In short, this FIPA provides protectionist policies for foreign corporate profits and not for the well-being of Canadians, our economy or our environment.
    As the South African government put it, “Investor-state dispute resolution that opens the door for narrow commercial interests to...matters of vital national interest” is a direct challenge to “constitutional and democratic policy-making”.

  (1030)  

    Let us hear it from the horse's mouth. Here is what one of the international arbitrators himself had to say about the exact type of clause contained in this FIPA:
    When I wake up at night and think about arbitration, it never ceases to amaze me that sovereign states have agreed to investment arbitration at all. Three private individuals are entrusted with the power to review, without any restriction or appeal procedure, all actions of the government, all decisions of the courts, and all laws and regulations emanating from parliament.
    That was Juan Fernández-Armesto, an arbitrator from Spain.
    Canadians do not agree with this.
    All 50 U.S. states, every one of them, have passed resolutions opposing the application of investor state dispute resolution mechanisms in their jurisdictions. They did it last year again.
    Let us look at the investor state dispute mechanism in this particular FIPA. This deal changes Canada's long-standing policy of ensuring public access, public disclosure and transparency in arbitrations. For the first time in Canadian history, the Conservatives have agreed to a dispute resolution procedure that violates the Canadian tradition of open courts at the whim of three arbitrators who have no responsibility or accountability whatsoever to Canadians.
    I thought Conservatives did not like unelected judges overturning democratic decisions by elected officials. However, in this case, they cannot help but trample down the door and give over sovereignty to three unappointed, unaccountable, world legal arbitrators to overrule decisions made in this Parliament. That is undemocratic and indicative of Conservative principles.
    These panels lack the standards and safeguards that apply to judges in Canadian courts. There is no security of tenure for arbitrators, raising concerns about their ability to be impartial. There is no prohibition on arbitrators being paid for non-judicial activities, giving rise to apprehensions about bias and conflicts of interest. Worst of all, these hearings can be conducted in secret, and documents can be hidden from the public.
    I have heard a lot of dissembling from the government, so I am going to read for Canadians exactly what the FIPA says in article 28. It states: “Where a disputing Contracting Party”—that is the sued state—“determines that it is in the public interest to do so...all other documents submitted to, or issued by, the Tribunal shall also be publicly available”.
    Here is the next clause: “Where...a disputing Contracting Party”—that is the state being sued—“determines that it is in the public interest to do so...hearings held under this Part shall be open to the public”.
    If China determines that it is not in the public interest to do so, at its sole discretion, hearings are not open to the public and documents need not be disclosed. What a violation of Canada's tradition of open courts, where Canadians can see justice done when their money is on the line.
    Canadians can decide for themselves when Conservatives stand up and say that these hearings will be held in public. I read it right there in black and white.
    Interestingly, Canada has made 16 claims through NAFTA's ISDS mechanisms, mostly against the U.S., and we have never won a single case. Neither the U.S. nor China, on the other hand, have ever lost an arbitration brought against them by another country.
    I want to talk about the environment a bit. I want to read a section of the FIPA, as well. One would think that when Canada negotiates a deal on corporate interests, it would make sure that nothing in that agreement would inhibit the ability of Canadians governments to protect the environment. Here is what the clause says:
    Provided that such measures are not applied in an arbitrary or unjustifiable manner, or do not constitute a disguised restriction on international trade or investment, nothing in this Agreement shall be construed to prevent a Contracting Party from adopting or maintaining measures, including environmental measures: (a) necessary to ensure compliance with laws and regulations that are not inconsistent with the provisions of this Agreement
    What does that mean? Why do they not just say that nothing in the agreement would prevent any Canadian government from taking any measure to protect the environment, period. That is what the Conservatives could have said. They did not.
    The government failed to consult. Wise governments consult, especially when important issues involving Canada's economy, resources and policy-making freedom are at stake, and especially when we are talking about profoundly large deals that would bind Canada's interests for the next three decades.
    Canadians want us to be prudent, cautious, informed and intelligent, yet after 18 years of negotiation, the Conservatives have announced this FIPA as a fait accompli, take it or leave it, without conducting a minute of consultation. Predictably, the Conservatives have been taken to court by a first nations lawsuit that was filed on January 18 because of this lack of consultation.

  (1035)  

    In conclusion, no rational government that cares about Canada's economic interests, democratic policy-making, and citizens' interests could possibly stand beside such a flawed agreement. No prudent government that is sincerely concerned about Canada's future generations, resource security, and environment could possibly defend this FIPA in its current form. No responsible government could defend an agreement that has taken 18 years to negotiate, that would bind Canada for 31 years, and that would affect billions of dollars of investment without proper study and input from Canadians.
    Canadians want and deserve a well-negotiated agreement with our trading partners, including China. Let us take the time to ensure we secure such an agreement.
    I urge all members of this House to support this prudent, thoughtful, and wise motion.
    Mr. Speaker, I will try to be fairly brief in my question. I listened closely to the hon. member's speech. It is not just anti-investment, it is basically anti-trade.
    There are a couple of corrections to be made.
    I think one of the most important ones is the right to regulate in the public interest. The hon. member knows full well, even though he would not state it in his speech, that under this treaty, both Canada and China have the right to regulate in the public interest. Chinese investors in Canada must obey the laws and regulations of Canada, just as Canadian investors in China must obey the laws and regulations in China.
    Another point the hon. member made that is absolutely incorrect is that the government denied an emergency debate. The government does not denied emergency debates, Mr. Speaker. You deny emergency debates.
    There are a few small corrections.
    However, here is the issue. I do not understand the NDP's position on investment. Perhaps you can enlighten me. You do not want Chinese investment in Canada. You do not want Canadian investment in China--
    Order, please.
    The parliamentary secretary has now asked me three times what my position is and what the Chair's position is. It is not my role to answer that, so, I would ask the parliamentary secretary to direct his comments and questions to the Chair, not asking him to involve himself in the debate.
    Mr. Speaker, of course, through you, to the hon. member, the issue here is quite simple. The hon. member and the party do not want Chinese investment in Canada. They do not want Canadian investment in China. Then why are they asking every day to have the tariff on Chinese products coming into Canada reduced, which would put our manufacturers at a disadvantage?
    Mr. Speaker, I have said before that the Conservative government's trade policies are incoherent, and we just saw an example. Now, I think the hon. member is arguing for increasing tariffs on China, and 72 other countries. I would have thought that the Conservative government's trade policy would be to reduce tariffs. Instead, it wants to justify increasing them. I fail to understand that policy.
    For that matter, we saw thePrime Minister go to India not too long ago and announce with great fanfare the pursuit of a Canada-India trade agreement, the purpose of which is to reduce tariffs, and brought over $1 million worth armoured cars at the same time.
    And so, while we sat at a table in India, trying to negotiate reductions of tariffs, we come back in this House and the government increases tariffs in India. I will leave it to the Canadian public to understand the coherence of that.
    The bottom line is that the matter is not simple. The Conservatives always want to reduce this to some sort of simple and usually incorrect and false accusation.
    Of course, the New Democrats support investment from China. Of course, we support signing investment deals that would protect investors. I said that in my speech.
    The question here is whether or not this agreement would accomplish those goals. We have laid that out in detailed form, as have many Canadians, trade experts, academics, businesses, including people who are very much in favour of investment and trade agreements, who are concerned about this FIPA.
    I wish the government would listen and actually study the details of the agreement instead of relying on pure rhetoric and spin.

  (1040)  

    Mr. Speaker, I enjoy working with the trade critic for the NDP and expect my office received many of the same emails that he mentioned receiving overnight on this particular issue.
    I disagree with the NDP motion, by the way, to just throw this out. We need rules around investment, serious rules, but I understand why the motion was put. As the member said, there was a request for an emergency debate, which was denied by the Speaker as it was not seen as an emergency, and there were several attempts by myself and the NDP to have the committee look at this issue, but, of course, the Conservative members on the committee would not even allow that debate to happen in public and the motions were lost.
    My question to the member relates to the box that I think all parliamentarians are in. This motion is to reject the agreement. I believe the member would probably agree that if we had transparency around the discussion and hearings across the country and maybe other countries around the world to put in place the safeguards to make this investment treaty work for Canadians, then maybe we could come up with a better treaty. My question to the member is along those lines. Why can we not get that kind of transparent and open debate and would that not be a better procedure, so that there is investment protection for Canadian investors and we can improve our economic relationship?
    Mr. Speaker, I very much enjoy working with the hon. member for Malpeque on the trade committee as well. I must say I am disappointed to hear that the Liberal Party will not support the motion, though. All the motion says is that the Government of Canada should inform the Government of China that it will not ratify the FIPA. That is all it says. In its present form, this FIPA is seriously flawed. There is nothing in the motion that says we would not seek to amend or improve the agreement to put it in a form that would actually be acceptable to Canadians.
    I want to talk for a moment about the Conservatives' refusal to debate this. They often boast about the fact that, unlike the Liberals before them, they put trade agreements before the House for debate, but they do not do that with investment agreements and I do not understand the difference. When Canada signs a treaty that covers trading goods and services, that is considered appropriate to put before the House for scrutiny, but when Canada signs a treaty that covers investment, they do not consider that to be worthy of the same treatment. I do not understand that.
    If the Conservatives believe that this deal they have signed is justified, why do they not bring it forward and make arguments in front of the Canadian people? Parliamentarians have a prime responsibility, and that is to come here, debate legislation, and give it a thorough scrutiny before it is passed. The Conservatives have a majority and can ultimately pass what they want, but why are they afraid of detailed scrutiny? Why are they afraid of bringing in people from across this country, such as trade experts, academics, economists, business people, people who trade, the public, provinces, and first nations, and really taking a look at this agreement?
    Once again, it took 18 years to negotiate, it would be in force for 31 years. We can take a few weeks or months to make sure that Canada gets it right. New Democrats say we should. Why do the Conservatives not?
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway and his entire caucus for finally allowing this issue to come forward for debate. He will recall I raised it in the House before it was tabled for 21 days of non-debate but sitting before us, and I requested an emergency debate on the matter twice. Rather than detail the history of a lack of debate, let us get into this one.
    The hon. member mentioned corporate lawsuits and I want to hang on the word “corporate” for a moment. In investor state agreements we never have lawsuits, really, let us admit. There is, as the member described, a hotel room somewhere where three $1,000-an-hour global arbitrators make decisions that binds governments and cannot be appealed. In the interests of a Canada-China investment treaty, we are not actually talking about corporations. We are talking the People's Republic of China and state-owned enterprises. It means we will be sitting down, essentially, nation to nation and the People's Republic of China will be in a very different situation than U.S. corporations under chapter 11 of NAFTA. China can link its investments and, in private, use diplomatic pressure to tell Canada that if we do not change our laws, it could pull all of its investments. This is a different feature and I want to ask the member to comment on that.

  (1045)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for bringing up what I think is a very special consideration about this FIPA.
    She is quite right. What we are talking about here are not just normal corporations as we understand them in the western legal tradition. We are talking about are state-owned enterprises. State-owned enterprises are organizations that provide different considerations. State-owned enterprises in China do not exist solely to make decisions in the best interests of their commercial interests. State-owned enterprises are also there to advance the interests of the Chinese state.
    I am not saying that there is anything necessarily wrong with that, but what we must be careful about is allowing those kinds of state-owned enterprises to have key ownership of strategic resources in our country because they will not be acting in commercial interests, they will be acting to exploit those resources in the interests of a foreign state.
    That is not good for Canada. It is not good for our resources. It is not good for our environment. New Democrats will stand up to make sure we have a better deal than that.
    Mr. Speaker, this opportunity to debate the motion by the member for Vancouver Kingsway gives me a bit more time to expand on some of the ideas I have on his motion and on the lack of time in questioning. Let us be clear and let us try, in the interests of openness and honesty in this place, to lay out the parameters of what we are actually discussing.
    I have heard a lot of talk about the inability to debate this in the House. Of course, the hon. member would know that, prior to the Conservatives' coming to government in 2006, there was no ability to debate treaties, not just investment treaties but any treaty in the House. We debated free trade agreements because that is legislation, but there was no ability to debate treaties. We changed that law to allow treaties to be debated. Since coming to power, we have signed FIPAs with 11 countries: Iran, China, Czech Republic, Jordan, Peru, Kuwait, Latvia, Madagascar, Mali, Romania and Slovakia. Apparently, none of those were worthy of debate; they are basically all the same format.
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Mr. Gerald Keddy: I hear a lot of squealing from the opposition benches, but they are all the same format and basically all the same agreement. None of those were worthy of debate, but somehow this one is different.
    Now let us expand on the debate a little further. It was tabled in the House on September 26, 2012. This is the 17th opposition day, not the first or the second or the third, that the official opposition has had to debate this treaty. I will forgive the Liberals on this one because they said from the beginning that they are going to support the treaty, so they do not need to debate it in this House. However, there is an opportunity to debate this treaty in this House. This is the opportunity. It is the 17th item on the NDP list of priorities. That is what we are dealing with here, nothing more and nothing less.
    Let us just stop for a second, and look at how this treaty unfolds and how it would actually work for Canadian investors. The key message with this foreign investment promotion and protection agreement, and with all the rest of them, is that it is about rules. It is about rules-based investing, in the same way as we have rules for rules-based trading. Anytime we have rules, we know exactly what the parameters are, we know exactly what we are getting into when we make an investment and we can make that investment with some surety.
    We made a promise to Canadians when we formed government in 2006 that we would provide jobs, prosperity and opportunity. Of course, with the downturn in 2009 that became more difficult, but Canada is still in an enviable position with our economy compared to all the other economies in the world.
    To come back to this FIPA for a moment, what we are dealing with here is a foreign investment promotion and protection agreement with the second-largest economy in the world. Yes, it took 18 years to negotiate and that is no mean feat, and I give some of the credit to the former government that started it for the right reasons. However, our government finished it, and we put it into place because we need this investment agreement to deal on equal footing with the Chinese, for Canadian investors investing in China. They need this protection much more, I would argue, than Chinese investors investing in Canada. However, there is a little thing that the New Democrats obviously do not understand and that is called “reciprocity”. When we have a set of rules, we have to offer that same set of rules to the partner in the agreement.

  (1050)  

    This agreement was signed to protect Canadian investors in China through stable, predictable rules and protection against discriminatory and arbitrary practices. Opposition members can try to make it more complicated than that, but it is no more complicated than that. It allows predictability. It allows transparency, and there is transparency and public access to any arbitration. The idea that there is not is simply incorrect. All of the hearings, all of the paperwork, will be provided to Canadians upon request, and there will be transparent public access to the dispute settlement procedures.
    I am going to get off this topic and talk about trade a little bit, because it is all one and the same. What we have is a party that is anti-trade and now it is coming out to be anti-investment. For businesses looking to set up in China, the Chinese could not treat a Canadian company less favourably than they would any other foreign company looking to do the same thing. Once an investment is made, a Canadian business could not be treated less favourably than any other business, including Chinese businesses.
    I really cannot comprehend the opposition to this treaty. We are creating a secure, predictable environment for Canadian investors, and we are not doing any more than that. There is nothing hidden here. This is about opportunity for Canadian investors in China. This is about equal footing and reciprocity for Chinese investors in Canada. We are dealing here with the world's second-largest economy with arguably the largest reserves of foreign currency of any nation in the world, and we are hearing from the official opposition members that we do not want to trade with China, and I do not know where they expect this country to go.
    I started to articulate my opposition to their line of questioning on the favoured nation status for imports coming from China or exports from China to Canada. I think we have to draw them together. For the public listening to this, here is the dichotomy. On one side of the equation, the official opposition is against rules-based investing and rules-based trading apparently with China, and on the other side of the equation, the official opposition asks that China, the second-largest economy in the world, remain on the preferred nations list. That list of 72 nations was put together for emerging economies, nations and people living in poverty, to give them an opportunity to get out of that situation and to move from an emerging economy to a mature economy.
    Most people would argue that China has done that. So have India, Brazil and a number of other countries that were on the list. They no longer have a preferential tariff coming into Canada. They are now on equal footing with Canadian companies. They do not have that advantage. This is one and the same. We are talking about the same issue here. I find it bizarre that the anti-investment position the NDP takes is the same anti-trade position it takes. Since we formed government in 2006, we have been opening up trade. We have been trading with countries around the world.

  (1055)  

    We continue to get static from the official opposition and sometimes from the Liberals, though the Liberals tend to at least say they believe in free trade. We saw a number of trade agreements, and it is as if trade and investment do not account for anything in Canada. It accounts for one out of every five jobs and it accounts for 64% of Canadians' annual income. That may not be important to the opposition parties, but it is certainly important to us.
    The Liberals were in power for 13 years and they signed three trade agreements. One of them was an extension of NAFTA, which they were going to get rid of but could not, because it was too important. They saw the error of that and they changed their ways, which I appreciate, because governments are sometimes forced into positions they did not originally take.
    We are continuing to negotiate deals around the world. We are working on a free trade agreement with India, and we are working on a free trade agreement with Japan. At committee, we have been discussing the Pacific alliance, although again, the NDP and the Liberals do not want to discuss that agreement and its potential. Here is their logic and it is not unlike their logic with the FIPA with China: It is not important. It is not important to Canadians and it is not important enough for us to take our time to conduct even a precursory study or to take even a brief glance at it, to see if it is worth pursuing.
    When we look at the real numbers in that agreement—and it is no different from the position they are taking on the FIPA with India—we have Chile, Peru, Colombia and Mexico. We have already got bilateral agreements with those countries and we have already got a very good trading relationship with them, but those countries put together make up the ninth-largest trading bloc in the world. The answer we get from the opposition is that it does not want to study this. It does not want to look at it, it does not want to talk about it or think about it because it is not important.
    What is important? The opposition does not want a foreign investment promotion and protection agreement with China, because it is not important enough. The second-largest economy in the world and a growing and dynamic nation that we need to do greater business with, and we will continue to do greater business with, is not important enough. The opposition is not going to support the CETA, the comprehensive economic trade agreement with the European Union, because it is apparently not important enough. The NDP does know about that. There were 28 countries on July 1. The official opposition does realize the importance, I would hope, of this; the ability for Canada to expand with traditional trading partners and form potentially one of the most, if not the most, important trading bloc in the world.
    Canada, with 33 million people, would sit between the United States, with 330 million people and an affluent economy that is starting to rebound, and the European economy, which even though it is struggling has 500 million consumers and is one of the wealthiest economies in the world. Canada, with 33 million people and goods, services and talented workers to offer those economies, would be between those two huge economies in an enviable position to any nation on earth, and all we get from the opposition, in place of support, is condemnation.
    I cannot understand that for the life of me. Perhaps we are going to see some type of an epiphany on behalf of the official opposition. Perhaps it is going to change its ways. Perhaps it will begin to embrace investment and trade.

  (1100)  

    I have seen nothing to assure me that this will occur. First, we really have to look at our position on investment, which we have discussed. Second, we have to look at our position on trade and our rejuvenated global commerce strategy, which allows Canadian goods, services, talent and investments to be spread around the world. In our own hemisphere, we have to look at our Americas strategy and the importance of that Americas strategy to many of our provincial manufacturers that, by looking at the Americas, and not just the United States and Mexico but also looking at the Caribbean, Central America and South America, are able to invest in real time, in their own time zone, not talking to somebody 10 or 11 hours away, in the western hemisphere.
    We will continue that strategy. We will continue the Americas strategy. We will continue our strategy for the Caribbean. We will continue a global commerce strategy, because it is good for Canadians, for manufacturing and for workers.
    The NDP record deserves to be discussed because it has brought forward the motion. It is 17th in the NDP list of priorities. The NDP had 17 oppositions days to debate this, but chose not to do so. Now all of a sudden it is a priority.
    I believe it has become a priority for the NDP because it was hoping that by holding back there would be some kind of groundswell of support. That did not occur. The hon. member said that he had 17,000 emails, but I do not know if that 17,000 emails is 1,700 emails sent 10 times or if it is 170 emails sent 100 times. I certainly received some of those form emails. It was a matter that someone forwarded it to someone else, and then it could be forwarded to a member of Parliament. I had emails that had reasonable, responsible concerns that were easily addressed.
    Let us take a look at the NDP trade and investment record and at what the New Democratic Party is actually saying. Page 18 of the NDP policy book states, “New Democrats believe in renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement”. That is incredible. The trade critic, the member for Vancouver Kingsway, said that he would not support a free trade agreement because trade unions did not want it. Those are his words, not mine. I am just reading it back.
    The former NDP trade critic from Windsor West has said that he supports the efforts of big union bosses to stop any further trade negotiations with Korea, Japan and the European Union.
    Are we to become isolationists? Are we to withdraw? Are we to lose that slight advantage that we have over other countries in the G7, the G8 and the WTO?
    These are difficult times. The world is truly at a crossroads. The economy is struggling. We have never said anything else. However, we are better off because of prudent fiscal management than all of our neighbours.
    Let us look at some more quotes. I only have a minute left and I want to get these on the record.
     The former NDP trade critic from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour described the free trade agreements as “job destroying”.
    The member for British Columbia Southern Interior said that trade agreements threatened the very existence of our nation.
    The member for Welland said that the Conservative government told them that free trade was good for all of us, and he begged to differ.
    The former critic from Burnaby—New Westminster even said in the House that free trade had cost Canadians dearly.

  (1105)  

    I ask Canadians to use some common sense. There is nothing hidden here. There is nothing untoward. This is a straightforward investment agreement that would allow Canadians investing in China to do so with assurance and would offer the same rights to Chinese investors in Canada.
    Mr. Speaker, a government that does not consult is a poor government. A government that does not listen is an incompetent government. A government that misleads Canadians is a dangerous government. All three of those apply to the Conservative government.
    My hon. colleague talked about counting. People are counting. They are counting the trade deficit under the government. When the Conservatives came to power in 2006, we had a trade surplus of $17 billion. Today, after six and a half years of the Conservatives being in power, we have a trade deficit of $67 billion. That is the record of the present government. We have a record merchandise trade deficit approaching $100 billion. The percentage of our exports that are made of raw or barely processed items is going up and the percentage of our exports of refined or value-added is going down. The consequences of the Conservative trade policy are disastrous for our country, and my hon. friend can only respond by misleading and spin.
    My colleague keeps saying that we have open arbitration. I am going to read again from the FIPA under Public Access to Hearings and Documents. Article 28 states:
    Where...a disputing Contracting Party determines that it is in the public interest to do so...hearings held under this Part shall be open to the public
    Does my colleague not understand that if a contracting party decides it is not in the public interest to do so, it can decline to have hearings in public? If my friend thought this deal was so good, and this is a government agreement, why did the Conservatives not bring it forward for debate in this chamber, which we are doing here today, instead of attacking the opposition?
    Mr. Speaker, our job is to table the treaty in this place and it is the opposition's job to bring it forward for debate. I have been counting and it has been 17 days. This is 17th on the opposition's list of priorities.
    My colleague made a statement about the trade deficit. Everybody recognizes that there is a trade deficit. We have 72 countries on a preferential tariff list. We have decided to take away that preferential tariff list because those countries are no longer emerging economies; they are mature economies. The official opposition does not want to do that, and that would lead to a trade deficit.

  (1110)  

    Mr. Speaker, I have to laugh at some of the responses from the parliamentary secretary. He did say that these were difficult times. What he failed to add was that these times were all the more difficult as a result of the government's actions.
    The international trade critic for the NDP mentioned some trade facts and I would like to add to them. There was a surplus when the Conservatives came to power and now there is a serious trade deficit, the first trade deficit in 30 years. Canada has been in a trade deficit 10 months out of the last 12 months. The Conservatives like to talk about the number of agreements they have signed, but they never want to talk about results. Why? Because the results are absolutely terrible.
    The CETA agreement was supposed to be agreed upon and signed over a year ago. It has now been moved to the summer. We are playing second fiddle to the United States negotiations and that puts us in a lose-lose position. We are losing a billion dollar market on pork and hogs as a result of the government's FTA with South Korea. The U.S. secretary of agriculture is bragging to the U.S. beef industry about stealing the beef market from Canadians in South Korea. Those are the results we are seeing.
    Will the parliamentary secretary answer my question directly? Who is responsible for liabilities as a result of a provincial government decision under the FIPA that may affect a Chinese company investing in this country that feels it has been wronged and sues in court? Who accepts liability for that? I believe if the member answers honestly, he will say that federal taxpayers do.
    Mr. Speaker, I do not know why the hon. member asked the question if he wants to answer it himself.
    The first part of the member's diatribe was on the trade deficit. Let us just look at this for a moment.
    Canada's trade deficits over the past few years were the result of a relatively weak global economy. Maybe the hon. member is an isolationist and thinks that we exist without the rest of the world and that we do not build things and make products with other countries, but the reality is that we do.
     We have a weak global economy and a strong Canadian economy compared to all of our trading partners. The recession hit the United States, which is the main source of our trade surplus, and the rest of the world harder than Canada therefore weakening the demand for Canadian exports to the rest of the world but leaving Canadian demand for imports largely unaffected due to our strong domestic economy.
    I would ask the member the same question I asked the official opposition. Why does he support reducing tariffs for Chinese investors and Chinese companies on products coming into Canada, putting us at a disadvantage?
    Mr. Speaker, I have been listening to this debate, not just in the House but for the last number of months with a great deal of interest and puzzlement.
    Since 2006, 14 foreign promotion and protection agreements have been concluded or brought into force by this government. Between 1990 and 2006, some 10 foreign promotion and protection agreements were brought into force. In other words, since 1990, some 24 FIPA agreements have been concluded or brought into force. The Canada-China FIPA agreement is similar to those 24 other FIPA agreements negotiated since 1990. It contains the same or similar core standard obligations as in these 24 other agreements. It contains rights and obligations that apply equally to both Canada and China.
    In light of these facts, my question is this. Why is this FIPA such a concern? If this FIPA is similar to the other 24 FIPAs, what is motivating all the concern about this Canada-China foreign promotion and protection agreement? Is this a form of dog whistle politics that is going on here? What is motivating all the concern about this agreement in light of the fact that it is so similar to the other 24 agreements?

  (1115)  

    Mr. Speaker, I do not want to say it is as simple as politics. I do not want to say that it is opposition for the sake of opposition. However, I think the public can draw its own conclusions.
    The hon. member is absolutely right in that there have been a number of FIPAs signed since 1990 and 11 since we formed government in 2006. There have been 17 opportunities with opposition days by the official opposition alone, not including the Liberal Party, to debate this in the House. Therefore, it is 17th on the NDP's list of priorities but suddenly it is a priority today.
    These FIPAs are all very similar. They all offer the same basic end game, which is protection for Canadian investors in China and protection for Chinese investors in Canada. There is nothing untoward about that. There is no ability for the Chinese to take over the Canadian economy. There is no ability for them to destroy the environment. All of this really is fearmongering and goes back to the basic anti-trade roots of the official opposition.
    Mr. Speaker, I will start off by stating what the parliamentary secretary did not say in response to that question. Yes, the FIPA with China and Canada is similar, but it is certainly not the same.
    We are dealing with what is now or will be the biggest economy in the world, and we are also dealing with state-owned enterprises. There is a lot of difference in terms of the China agreement, and some other countries have recognized that and have put in specific safeguards in their own country's interests on SOEs. They have done it in a way to protect their own interests and still have a foreign investment protection agreement. That should be added to the parliamentary secretary's answer.
    I am pleased to speak to the motion, but I want to point out a few facts as I begin. What the motion really shows in this place is the extreme position of both the Conservative government and the NDP opposition on major issues that affect Canadians.
    On the one hand we have the Conservative government that will sign any deal just to get a deal, just to get the number. It will sign basically anything, regardless of the long-term consequences on Canadians.
    On the other hand, we have the NDP, which seems to oppose any trade or investment treaty, and leaves us with the impression that the NDP position is anti-trade in its approach to the economy. That kind of thinking belongs in the early 20th century, not today.
    We have the two extremes. What the Liberal Party wants to do is find the balance. That is why, as I said earlier in a question, we will not be voting for the NDP motion because we really think what we should be doing is holding the proper hearings. We cannot just throw out an investment treaty that has some flaws in it. We need to fix the flaws. That is really what we need to be doing.
    In order to do that, and the parliamentary secretary can say all he likes about the fact that there were seven opposition days and more—
    Mr. Gerald Keddy: Seventeen.
    Hon. Wayne Easter: —seventeen, but the government has a responsibility. All parliamentarians have a responsibility to come up with the best agreement for Canada that we can come up with.
    The problem with the government is that it either denies debate or limits debate, so that the proper hearings cannot be held across the country, and in this case globally, I would submit, to find the best solution for Canadians on an investment treaty with China, to fix those flaws.
    That is where we want to be. We want to ensure the facts are laid out, both the good points and the bad points, so that we can fix the flaws in this particular agreement to ensure that it is best for Canada.
    The facts are these: Foreign investment protection agreements are important for Canadians investing abroad, as well as businesses here at home. While the Canada-China FIPA contains several flaws that raise serious concerns, completely abandoning the treaty is not the answer to assist Canadians and Canadian businesses in dealing with investments and trade issues with China, which is a major player in the world.
    Second, a better opposition day motion would have toned down the anti-foreign investment and trade rhetoric by highlighting the areas that require improvement, and I hope I can do that through the course of my remarks.
    There is no question that the Canada-China foreign investment protection agreement needs to be improved, but not completely discarded.

  (1120)  

    The Liberal Party has raised concerns about provisions in the Canada-China investment agreement, particularly on issues of transparency during arbitration, termination of the agreement and the length of time the agreement is in force. Liberals have consistently called for a public debate on the issue, not on a motion such as this but a real debate where the treaty is actually laid out. I would submit that beyond that, we need to be bringing in witnesses, going to see businesses, some in favour and some opposed, to see the implications from their perspectives.
    Unfortunately, the government has failed to take responsibility for this treaty and has blocked discussion on it, creating a vacuum that has been filled with misinformation and fearmongering. That really concerns me because there are two major extremes, and that is causing a lot of dissension toward the agreement. Indeed, if the government had the will, the FIPA could be fixed.
    It is important to keep in mind that the only briefing ever provided to the Canadian public and Parliament came about as a result of a motion presented to the international trade committee, at which government officials were permitted to speak for a single hour. The minister never went before committee on this issue. By way of a motion that the government members were too embarrassed to defeat, officials were before the committee for one single hour. Does anyone think that on an investment treaty this broad that is enough time to debate the issues and get some answers? I certainly think not.
    From what we know, the key issues surrounding the Canada-China FIPA are these: one, transparency in terms of public awareness of disputes; two, federal liabilities for provincial decisions based on the Constitution; three, restrictions on investment and joint ventures in China, restrictions on what industries Canadians can invest in in China vis-à-vis what China investment companies and state-owned enterprises are allowed to invest in in this country; four, security concerns raised by both CSIS and United States security agencies; five, energy investments such as CNOOC and national treatment on further investments. Those are the five key areas about which there are concerns. To a great extent, if the government had the will to allow itself to debate the issue, many of those key issues could be solved and we could have an investment treaty that in fact works. Let us not just throw it out, but let us also not just do as the government does and sign it because it is under a bit of pressure.
    Let me come back to each of the issues. On the transparency issue, in terms of disputes to be resolved through arbitration, officials told the committee the following:
...it is Canada's long-standing policy to permit public access to such proceedings. Canada's FIPA with China...will allow Canada to make all documents submitted to an arbitral tribunal available...subject to the protection of confidential business information.

  (1125)  

    Later in the same testimony, we found out Canada has little to do with it. In response to the question that stated that FIPA means that “China...does not have to have public hearings and does not have to disclose documents if they don't want to”, the response from officials was, yes, that was correct.
    On the transparency issue, I am saying that officials, in that single hour of testimony we had from them in questions, admitted that there is an entirely different situation related to transparency on disputes that has to occur in this country versus the transparency that has to occur for Canadian investors having a dispute on the China side of the equation.
    When asked if the government has done an economic impact assessment of the agreement, something that has been done for all the FTAs, which has been used as the basis of defending them, officials confirmed that no such analysis was undertaken or apparently attempted. That is a serious issue, when we have the Government of Canada undertaking a major international agreement, which any of us who have read the document and the timeframes know is basically locked in for 31 years, and the government has not done a cost-benefit analysis. That is just about unbelievable, but in fact it is true.
    The second major concern that I raise was a termination clause. In other FIPAs, there is usually an easy mechanism to end the agreement early if the agreement does not end up providing Canadians the protection it is supposed to. This agreement remains in force indefinitely, and the exit mechanisms generally consist of a six-month or one-year notice and then the exiting investments remain in force for a period of a certain number of years that would be spelled out.
    For example, under NAFTA, which is a major agreement, a party may withdraw six months after it provides written notice of withdrawal to the other parties. If a party withdraws, the agreement shall remain in force for the remaining parties. In our agreement with Lebanon, there is a one-year notice for termination, and then existing investments remain in force for some 20 years. In Jordan, it is the same thing; there is a one-year notice of termination, but the existing investments would remain in force for 15 years. In Argentina, it is much the same.
    However, and this is the point I raised earlier, the parliamentary secretary said that this FIPA with China is the same, but it is not the same in many respects. It is similar, but with many different qualifiers around it. With China, this agreement is not indefinite until termination notice. In other words, we are locked in for an initial period of 15 years, which is unprecedented in terms of these agreements. Then it can be terminated on one year's notice and existing investments remain in force for another period of 15 years. Hence, that is where we get the 31-year agreement point that many people keep citing. This is a departure and locks us into the agreement, regardless of whether it ends up providing Canadians the protection it is supposed to.
    The third point of concern is federal liability for provincial decisions and the constitutional impact. At the international trade committee on October 18, 2012, in response to the direct question, “Would this FIPA subject provinces to claims for damages as a result of this legislation if a Chinese investor believed that provincial actions had violated this deal?” officials responded, “No, it doesn't subject provinces to any claims. The federal government is responsible. The federal government would be accepting all obligations”.

  (1130)  

    That is something we seriously have to consider. If a province makes a decision, and a Chinese business is upset because it believes that it has future lost profits as a result, and it wins the case, the federal government is responsible for all those obligations. The federal taxpayer could end up having to pay for those obligations.
    That is key. That is not different from some of the other trade agreements. I recognize that. However, we should go in with eyes wide open and look at whether there is any way of limiting that liability to the federal taxpayer as a result of provincial decisions, for whatever reason they are made.
    The fourth area is restrictions on investment in China and on joint ventures.
    During the briefing by officials at the international trade committee, the following was stated:
    Some sectors are completely off limits to foreign investment, such as mining of certain minerals. In other sectors, foreign investments are restricted or “encouraged”, meaning that they are subject to foreign equity caps or requirements for Chinese control or joint venture arrangements.
    The official went on to state that this agreement:
will support Canadian businesses' efforts to explore the growing investment opportunities in the world's second-largest economy across a range of key sectors, including financial services, natural resources, transportation, biotech, education, information technology, and manufacturing.
    Further to this point concerning restrictions with China, and to the point the Prime Minister raised in the House on October 23, 2012, regarding reciprocity, the following should be noted from the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission report of 2012, which states:
    The Chinese government identifies “oil and petrochemicals” as one of seven strategic industries for which the state must maintain “absolute control through dominant state-owned enterprises.”
    As such, foreign companies are not permitted to participate in China's domestic strategic industries, except through joint ventures.
    There we have it. There are different rules for our investments in China versus its investments here. We need to be looking out for those pitfalls in terms of this particular agreement.
    The point is that state-owned enterprises in China are designed in such a way as to enhance total economic endeavours and the foreign, political and trade policies of China. We need to recognize that up front. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but we need to go in with eyes wide open and ensure that we protect ourselves from any problems that may occur as a result of that strategy.
    I would like to move that the motion be amended by replacing all the words after the words “China that” with the following: prior to any decision and the ratification of the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement, the said agreement should be referred to the Standing Committee on International Trade to conduct hearings across Canada and report back its findings and any recommendations to amend the agreement to the House.

  (1135)  

    Order. It is my duty to inform hon. members that an amendment to an opposition motion may be moved only with the consent of the sponsor of the motion. Therefore, I ask the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway if he consents to this amendment being moved.
    Mr. Speaker, while I appreciate the spirit behind my hon. colleague's amendment, we will not consent to that amendment. My hon. colleague knows that the New Democrats put forth a motion to have this matter brought before the Standing Committee on International Trade. It was rejected by the government, so we know already that it is not going to happen.
    We need to take action on this FIPA now, and we may as well get to the real action, which is that this FIPA in its present form should not be ratified. The New Democrats are going to press the government to make that responsible move.
    Obviously there is no consent. Therefore, pursuant to Standing Order 85, the amendment cannot be moved at this time.
    Questions and comments, the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway.
    Mr. Speaker, again, the hon. member for Malpeque and the New Democrats have been focusing on the government's disastrous trade record for the last six years. The parliamentary secretary was just attempting, very weakly, to defend what is an abysmal trade deficit. We went from a $17 billion surplus when the Conservatives came to office in 2006 to what is now a $67 billion deficit. He attempted to brush that off by saying that we've had a global recession, that commodity prices are low and that other countries have suffered.
    We did a study two weeks ago that compared Canada's current trade account record with 17 other countries around this world: the United States, Japan, Germany, Spain, Colombia, Chile, Peru. They are all countries that have been operating in the same global environment, have gone through the same global recession and have to deal with the same commodity prices and currency fluctuations. What did we find? Eight countries have been running trade surpluses at the same time that the Conservatives have been in power. Five of those countries have trade deficits, but they are improving, and five countries have trade deficits, and they are deteriorating. Guess who is in the 18th position, the last place out of 18 countries? It is Canada under the Conservative government. It is no excuse to say that this massive current account deficit is someone else's fault. It is the Conservatives' fault.
    I would like to ask my hon. colleague if he would like to comment on those numbers as opposed to the spin we hear from the government?
    Mr. Speaker, I will comment on those numbers, but I am disappointed that the NDP would not support the amendment to basically send this to the trade committee and do hearings across the country. Yes, it was rejected at the trade committee, clearly on direction from the government, but I thought that maybe in this place, where there are a number of backbenchers now starting to speak out and rally against the tight control by the Prime Minister's Office, that they might have the backbone to stand and say that we should do our jobs as parliamentarians and hold the proper hearings on issues such as this.
    Be it as it may, that is the decision taken by the NDP members, and I do not understand where they are coming from.
    On the numbers that the trade critic for the NDP talked about, he is absolutely right. We are in 18th position among those countries. For the first time in 30 years, we have an annual trade deficit. Merchandise trade is showing problems all the time. the Canadian government has failed to implement an FTA with South Korea. As a result, in that market now, we are losing a billion dollar market for beef and hogs. The United States is displacing us in that particular market. The CETA has been now moved back to summer. We are playing second fiddle to the United States there.
     Conservatives may talk numbers in terms of trade agreements, but the results of the government in terms of trade is 18th worst, and it seems to be getting worse all the time.

  (1140)  

    Mr. Speaker, the CBC recently lamented that our Conservative government is focused only on the economy, and for once, the state broadcaster had it right.
     Growing the economy means growing jobs. Canadian workers produce and provide more services than Canadian citizens can consume, so it is natural that we look to other markets. China has a high population and is ready to buy Canadian. In order to do so, we have to invest there. Some of that is investing in different companies and buying companies, but they need the protection we afford investors in Canada. They need to know that their assets are not going to be confiscated by the government.
    All we hear from the member opposite's leader is whining about his little red wagon. Why is it that the members opposite, including the other opposition, are more concerned about jobs in China than they are about jobs in Canada?
    Mr. Speaker, I think the questioner started off talking about the CBC, saying that the poor government was solely focused on the economy. My only hope would be that it does not focus on much else, because when it is has focused on the economy, it has become a disaster.
    The Minister of Finance has not hit a target yet. The government started off with a surplus, and it now has a deficit. We are finding out more and more about the budget. As our leader said the other day on the budget, the increasing of tariffs on something like 1300 items is going to cost middle-class Canadians more.
    Maybe the member who raised the question is not concerned about the families that buy those little red wagons for their children, but it is going to cost them more. Maybe the member is not concerned about the people who go out and buy bicycles that are going to cost them more.
    If the member would just admit it, she would stand up here and say that yes, the government has been misinforming Canadians all along. It is, in fact, raising taxes in a number of areas, and its policies are damaging the ability of middle-class people to make a decent living in this country.
    Mr. Speaker, as the critic for heritage, I would like to point out that the CBC is our public broadcaster. It is not our state broadcaster, as some people like to describe it.
    I would like to ask my colleague about the situation of this agreement and particularly the others. When it comes to CETA and agreements such as this, they are always looked upon in a population of 35 million. We are looking at, in many cases, bilateral agreements. In many of these markets or countries we have bilateral agreements with, such as the European Union, and in negotiations with China and certainly Mexico and the United States, they are always seen as stepping stones to bigger fish to fry, as it were, whether it be with the European Union or, eventually, the United States of America.
    My hon. colleague pointed out, quite rightly, that we are now playing second fiddle. In many cases, we are. However, we have to maintain that strong trade relationship so that we are not playing second fiddle.
    I wonder if the member could comment on that.

  (1145)  

    Mr. Speaker, my colleague is absolutely right. Countries initially negotiate with Canada rather than with the United States. If they get an agreement with Canada, they then move on to the U.S., which has an economy 10 times bigger than ours.
    At one point in time we heard that the Canada-Europe trade agreement was on the Prime Minister's desk for signature. We know that there are three problem areas, such as the procurement of pharmaceutical drug costs and issues related to supply management. However, the European Commissioner has basically now told Canada that unless it settles for less than what it wants, Europe will move on to the United States. In fact, the U.S. agreement is proceeding. That is why we are now playing second fiddle to the United States. The Europeans are now emphasizing that particular negotiation. I would suggest that all we will end up with in Canada right now is a bad agreement. That is the result of the government not doing its job aggressively enough when it had the opportunity.
    I might point out, as well, as I did not have enough time in my remarks, that the United States is very concerned about the Chinese agreement and how the Chinese government guides foreign direct investments to those sectors it sees as strategic. Canada has to recognize that concern and ensure that we protect those industries in Canada and ensure that they benefit Canadians rather than become subservient to Chinese needs.
    Mr. Speaker, in starting I would like to say that I was very disappointed, having been in this House now for nine years, to see the Liberal Party yet again siding with the Conservatives.
    I have been in Parliament nine years, and hundreds of times, when push comes to shove, when Canadians' interests are at stake, the so-called new Liberal Party seems to be exactly like the old Liberal Party, always siding with the Conservatives, always siding with the Prime Minister.
    I would just like to share my disappointment, because I know that this is an important debate. The member for Vancouver Kingsway, in his very eloquent speech, spoke of thousands of emails flooding in from across this country on this important debate. We have received tens of thousands of emails, letters, cards, and phone calls from Canadians who are very concerned about the Canada-China FIPA and its implications for Canada.
    I would like to say at the outset that on this side of the House we are resolute fair traders. The NDP has always stood for fair trade, that means a rules-based system that is balanced and well-negotiated and serves both parties.
    In the NDP caucus of 100 strong members, we have many members of Parliament who have actually worked as negotiators in the past. They have represented the interests of their side in negotiations. What we have seen before in the Liberal government and most certainly now under the Conservative government is governments that seem incapable of negotiating strongly for Canada's interests.
    I would just like to say on behalf of the NDP caucus that when we come to power in 2015, Canada's interests will finally be effectively protected. Canadians can know for sure that we will have tough Canadian negotiators who will always stand for Canada first and will always be capable of negotiating fair trade agreements.
    I just want to mention in starting off that I will be sharing my time with the very eloquent member for Nanaimo—Cowichan who has just reminded me of that point. I look forward to her speech. She will be speaking particularly to the consultation that was not done on the Canada-China FIPA, and will also be referencing the lawsuits that are starting to emerge because of this badly botched negotiation.
    Let us start with the Conservative approach to trade. Let us start with the record. The member for Vancouver Kingsway very eloquently set it out. We have the worst trade deficit in our nation's history, and this is after seven years of Conservative government. So badly have they botched negotiations, so badly have they been in terms of defending Canada's interests, that the Conservatives have taken Canada into the worst trade deficit in our history.
    This is something the Conservatives were trying to explain, badly, quite ineptly, just a few minutes ago, that somehow that was due to international conditions, that somehow it was somebody else's fault. It is the worst government in Canadian history for trade deficits, but it is “somebody else's fault”. We see this systematically. The Conservatives are always trying to point the finger at somebody else. The member for Vancouver Kingsway replied that out of 18 countries, in terms of the trade deficit, in terms of our chief industrial partners worldwide, Canada is 18th out of 18 among those countries. It is the worst trade deficit because of Conservative incompetence.
    We have seen this firsthand, time after time since the Conservatives came to power. We have seen half a million manufacturing and value-added jobs evaporate because of Conservative incompetence. We have the worst trade deficit in our history.
    If we look at the inability of the Conservatives to negotiate even one fair trade agreement, then every time we bring fair trade proposals forward, Conservatives and even the Liberals always vote against them. They have never supported a fair trade agreement or anything that has been brought forward that even smells of fair trade on the floor of the House of Commons, certainly since I have been here.
    When we look at the components of what the Conservatives have actually negotiated, we see how badly they have defended Canada's interests.

  (1150)  

    I will give one example, because it strikes home in my riding of Burnaby—New Westminster. It shows the impacts of these badly botched agreements the Conservatives throw onto the floor of the House of Commons and then try to cover up. Of course, there is never any debate because they are so reprehensible in how badly they negotiate these agreements that they never want them to be examined in committee. They never want them debated on the floor of the House of Commons because they are all so bad.
    I will give one example: the softwood lumber agreement. In my riding of Burnaby—New Westminster, in the weeks following the ramming through of that agreement on the floor of the House of Commons, Conservatives and Liberals concocted together, and another party that used to exist and that is not so present today, the Bloc Québécois, conspired, on behalf of Canadians, to push it through. In my riding of Burnaby—New Westminster, 2,000 families lost their breadwinner. Within a matter of weeks, we saw three softwood plants go down, one, two, three: Canfor, Interfor, Western Forest Products. Those workers were sold out by Conservatives and their partner, the Liberal Party, resulting in those workers losing their jobs and those families losing a breadwinner.
    We said at the time, on the floor of the House of Commons, that there would be dire consequences if we rammed this through. Most of the Conservatives did not even bother to read the agreement. They just voted blindly because the Prime Minister told them to. Many of the 60,000 jobs that were lost were lost in Conservative ridings. The Conservatives said, “We don't care about those workers. We don't care about those jobs. We don't care about those businesses.”
    Actions have consequences. That is why the member for Vancouver Kingsway is bringing forward the motion today. Having read the Canada-China FIPA and understanding the consequences, we are saying we need to take a halt on this, not ram it through, not ratify it, because the consequences to Canadian communities and the consequences to Canadians would be serious.
    We have a government that seems intent on a one-dimensional economy. It wants to ship raw logs, raw minerals, raw bitumen out of this country. That is all it wants to do. It seems to think that there would be some economic benefit to doing that. I think the figures prove the contrary. Half a million manufacturing and value-added jobs were lost. We have the largest trade deficit in our nation's history. We have the worst trade economic performance in our nation's history. Those facts basically speak for themselves. What, then, would happen if we compounded that by ratifying a Canada-China FIPA?
    Here is the situation. It was badly botched. The member for Vancouver Kingsway was very eloquent about that, going over step by step, section by section, how badly botched the negotiations were.
    It would permanently keep in place all of the discriminatory measures taken by the Chinese state government, but it would open up Canada and basically ensure that the measures that we might normally take to protect our environment, to ensure that there is economic development, even value-added economic development, could be contested and that Chinese state companies that then choose to move forward and seek compensation could seek compensation from Canadian taxpayers.
    Who would negotiate an agreement that would ensure that discriminatory measures could be taken by one party but not by another? And who would then say, “We're going to put this into place and ratify it for three decades”?
    We have our answer. It does not seem logical. It does not seem consistent with what the Conservative Party ran on. Yet it is the current Conservative government that wants to put into place this FIPA and ensure, for all time, that those discriminatory measures could be taken by the Chinese state government but that Canadian measures that we put in place to protect our environment, our health and safety, our economy, could not be taken.
    On this side of the House, we stand with the Canadians who are writing to us throughout this debate, the tens of thousands of Canadians who have expressed valid concerns about how badly this negotiation was botched.

  (1155)  

    The New Democratic Party caucus stands with Canadians on this issue. That is why we encourage the debate. We invite members who have actually read the agreement to vote with us to send a clear direction to the government that the agreement should not be ratified because it is not in Canada's interests.
    Mr. Speaker, I heard the member's usual fearmongering nonsense about anti-trade policies. The member says he has been here for eight years. Indeed, I have been here for 14 years. When he used to sit in the other chair over there, every time he spoke, and we can take it from Hansard, there was absolutely no question in our minds that he was anti-free trade.
    This nonsense that he is espousing about fair trade is nothing but a cover-up for the anti-trade stand he has taken year after year. There is nothing new in what he is talking about today, except now it is clear that he is directing his anger against China. China is the second-largest growing economy in the world. It would help Canadian businesses. Thousands and thousands of Canadian businesses are in China, so I hear.
    This is a very good agreement that would help Canadians find jobs. It would help the Canadian economy move forward.
    The member stood up and talked about 10,000 Canadians writing to him. Maybe we should tell him that 10,000 Canadians do not write to us, but they go to work. They are working. They are finding jobs.
    His party has taken socialism out of its constitution, but socialism exists in his heart and his brain and he is now talking all this socialist nonsense that is on his free trade agenda.

  (1200)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am not really sure what the member was talking about. It just seemed to be a diatribe. He did say fair trade is rubbish. A number of countries around the world, including European Union countries, Australia, and even the United States, that have already incorporated components of fair trade into their trade template would disagree with the member.
    The reality is, Canada actually has the most outdated trade template among all industrialized countries. Under the Conservative government, the “Flintstonian” approach to trade policy, which it carries so proudly, has the most outdated tools, trade negotiating, and trade template of any industrialized country.
    The member says fair trade is rubbish. Most Canadians actually believe in fair trade and most of the prosperous industrialized countries around the world are pushing a fair trade agenda.
    However, there is another issue I wanted to raise while I have the floor. The member is from Calgary. I have been to Calgary about half a dozen times over the past few months talking about the CNOOC takeover of Nexen. I talked to Calgary citizens. They are concerned about the impacts of simply rubber-stamping the CNOOC takeover of Nexen, as the Conservative government did. Nexen plays an important role in the Calgary economy, yet the member and the Conservative government did not stand up for Calgary's interest. It is a shame that Conservatives would not stand up for Calgary when they represent it in the House of Commons.
    Mr. Speaker, t is good to acknowledge there is a difference between the political entities here. We have the Liberal Party, which supports freer trade, where it is practical and where it creates jobs for Canadians.
    It is interesting when we contrast the China deal. The Prime Minister goes to China and brings back a couple of panda bears. Under the Chrétien regime, we had the prime minister come back with hundreds of millions in investment.
    It is indeed of great concern to Canadians that we have a huge trade deficit. It is not only going out and trying to write up these agreements, there is also an important responsibility for government to bring business to Canada. Would my New Democrat friend comment on the importance of that issue?
    The hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster, with a short answer, please.
    Mr. Speaker, it is difficult to have a short answer.
    That is a very good question from my colleague. We have been saying all along that we need to modernize the trade template and that we need a fair trade template. That is what the NDP has been promoting.
     We need much more effective negotiations. Conservatives are awful negotiators, the worst negotiators ever, and even worse than the Liberals, which is saying a lot.
    Most importantly, in terms of stimulating our export sales, particularly value-added exports, I have talked to Canadian trade commissioners across the world who do not even have the money to buy a cup of coffee for a potential client of Canadian goods and services. That is how this so-called “pro-trade” government has starved the resources that allow for that actual export breakthrough on value-added products.
     Conservatives are awful at trade. Case closed. That is our conclusion.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Burnaby—New Westminster for sharing his time with me.
    I am rising to speak on the NDP motion calling on the government not to ratify the Canada-China foreign investment promotion and protection agreement. I know the member for Vancouver Kingsway has very ably covered a number of areas of concern. I am going to focus on one particular area.
    One of the big challenges with this agreement is that it does not acknowledge the Crown's constitutional obligations to first nations. This is outlined in section 35 of the Constitution, which states that the government has a legal obligation to consult aboriginal peoples before undertaking measures that impact on their rights. Of course, this right has been reaffirmed in any number of court decisions.
    I only have 10 minutes, so I am going to try to focus on a couple of key arguments. The Assembly of First Nations has conducted a very preliminary analysis on the impacts of this agreement. It is a draft and much more work needs to be done, but part of its analysis includes the statement that the government has a duty to consult on FIPA and, to its knowledge, has not consulted with first nations. It went on to point out that the Hupacasath First Nation is currently challenging FIPA in court, mainly on this basis. I want to turn for a moment to this challenge.
    Hupacasath filed a notice of application against Canada in early January. One of the councillors, Brenda Sayers, stated, “This deal will pave the way for a massive natural resource buyout and allow foreign corporations to sue the Canadian government in secret tribunals, restricting Canadians from making democratic decisions about our economy, environment and energy.”
    Steven Tatoosh, the chief councillor, says, “We will argue that the Government of Canada breached its fiduciary duty to consult First Nations on our respective constitutionally enshrined and judicially recognized aboriginal title, rights and treaty rights.”
    There are many organizations that are supporting this initiative. I have a quote from Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, who said, “To recklessly disregard our title, rights and treaty rights is an outrage. Our inherent rights are our fundamental human rights. Canada repeatedly violates our human rights when our inherent rights are totally ignored in agreements such as the Canada-China FIPA.”
    Councillor Brenda Sayers went on to say that the court action is intended to put the brakes on the FIPA process until all Canadians have had a chance to study the far-reaching and potentially devastating implications of the agreement.
    One of the glaring threats in this agreement is around environmental protection. Sayers pointed out that under a FIPA, the foreign investor is subject to all the environmental regulations of the host country, but only as those regulations were in place at the effective date of the agreement.
    Ms. Sayers further stated, “This is not just a First Nations battle. This is a battle for the rights of aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians. Both of our constitutional rights are being violated. There are a lot of common threads behind our two communities: the protection of our water, the protection of natural resources and our environment, the protection of our future. Canadians need to realize this is a fight for Canadians as a whole.”
    Because I have limited time, I cannot read all of the letters I have received into the record. I have a letter from the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, a presentation from the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, a detailed brief from the First Nations Summit, a brief from The Council of Canadians with regard to how this agreement threatens indigenous rights, and a brief from the Coastal First Nations Great Bear initiative. There are many more. Those are the ones I was able to grab as I left my office.
    I want to return to the Assembly of First Nations' preliminary analysis. It has identified the following:
    Several modern treaties contain an express obligation to consult prior to the adoption of new International Legal Obligations (ILOs) which could affect rights under the treaties. We believe that the government is very likely under a duty to consult even those First Nations who do not hold modern treaties, based on the unilateral nature of the conduct of foreign relations and the potential for new [international legal obligations] to impact the exercise of existing or claimed [first nation] rights.
    There are numerous in this draft analysis, and I think it would be incumbent upon the government to take a look at the concerns being raised that impact not only first nations, both treaty, non-treaty and self-governing, but also non-indigenous Canadians.

  (1205)  

    Further on in the brief, it says:
    The potential for FN rights claims to be dealt with in investor state arbitrations is especially problematic for modern treaty holders. FNs would have, at best, intervenor status in such arbitrations. Past practice of international investor-state tribunals suggests that the ability to raise FN rights issues or human rights issues would be substantially impaired in such forums. The problem arises because some modern treaties contain language which suggests the exercise of some rights under the Agreements would need to be modified if those exercises conflicted with an ILO (hence, the reason for the consultation clauses). If an investor-state tribunal holds that a particular treaty right is effectively an expropriation, and hence contrary to the ILO of Canada in the FIPA to prevent such expropriations, then it means that future exercises of that right may need to be modified. This could arise with respect to self-government exercises of authority which are deemed expropriatory, and likely harvesting activities.
     Further on it cites a claim under NAFTA, and it says:
    To give you an idea of the kinds of cases which attract investor state claims, consider the Glamis case under NAFTA. There, a Canadian mining company was subjected to a mining reclamation regulation enacted, in part, to preserve a sacred site of the Quechan Nation. Glamis claimed this environmental regulation (enacted to preserve the Quechan Nation's connection and access to its sacred sites) was expropriatory.
    When we are dealing with first nations sacred sites, cultural sites or traditional sites, mechanisms need to be in place in order to protect them and in order to consult appropriately with first nations.
    Later on, the brief states:
    Quechan intervened, but was unable to participate meaningfully in the case. Indeed, it had to rely on the US DOJ to defend the measures (which, incidentally were promulgated by the state of California). This should concern FNs because unlike the US DOJ, which occasionally acts on behalf of tribal rights as part of its trust responsibility, DOJ Canada typically is adversarial to FN interests.
    We have seen that in any number of cases. We see the number of times that first nations have been forced to the courts to defend their rights, with the Department of Justice intervening on behalf of the government to prevent first nations from moving forward. It is very worrisome that we do not have these kinds of protections in Canada.
    I want to turn briefly to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, because this should be a fundamental underpinning for any kind of action that the government is going to take in the context of infringing on first nations rights. Article 19 indicates:
    States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.
    It is clear from the very brief overview I was able to present that there are grave concerns around the great potential this agreement has to infringe on inherent rights.
    One of the things that often comes up in the context of talking about consultation is not only the duty to consult but the duty to accommodate. There is certainly no mention in this agreement either around the duty to consult or the duty to accommodate, so it is important that the Conservative government pull back from this agreement and undertake its constitutional responsibilities under section 35 to conduct those consultations to ensure that first nations treaty rights and inherent rights will not be abrogated in this context.
    I am hopeful, given the very reasoned and rational presentations that are being made in the House of Commons, that the Conservatives will reconsider their position on this matter.
    I did not have time to talk about the hundreds of emails and letters I am getting in my own riding expressing grave concerns about this agreement. People are very concerned about how it is going to impact on the environment and on our waters. People really want an opportunity to have their say on this agreement.
    In the absence of the government undertaking any meaningful consultation with indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians, I encourage people to write directly to the Prime Minister to ask him to back down on this agreement.

  (1210)  

    Mr. Speaker, I was following the hon. member's debate, and the question I have is with respect to the FIPA and first nations being before the courts.
    The hon. member was speculating that levels of government somehow do not have the ability to regulate in their own right. The hon. member knows that is incorrect. There is nothing in this treaty that would negate treaty rights or aboriginal rights or municipal rights or provincial rights.
    I would like the member to rise in the House and admit that those rights are protected and that there is nothing in this treaty that would prevent them from regulating in their own interests.

  (1215)  

    Mr. Speaker, first nations are raising concerns about whether they are adequately protected under this agreement. Legal analysis indicates that there is cause for concern. I cited a particular case under NAFTA where the mining company was claiming that a first nation's attempt to protect a sacred site was deemed as expropriatory. There are sufficient concerns out there to warrant a serious look at whether there is a section 35 infringement under this agreement.
    A Department of Justice lawyer is currently before the court because he has indicated that the government has failed in its duty to review policy and legislation to determine if there is a section 35 infringement. The lawyer has indicated that sometimes, when the advice has been that there is an almost 95% certainty that there is an infringement, the department continues to move ahead.
    Given some legal concerns that have been raised, it is incumbent on the government to ensure that section 35 rights are not being infringed.
    Mr. Speaker, one of the characteristics of what is such a badly botched series of policy decisions by the government is that legal lawsuits ensue. The agreements that are put forward are badly negotiated and often have huge ramifications. There is no consultation with the public. The government even refuses, with an agreement with this kind of immense ramifications for the whole country and for communities, to bring it to committee.
    Does the member fear that we will be looking at even more potential lawsuits over the complete lack of consultation by the government yet again? Also, what are the ramifications for lawsuits if we put in these investor state conditions that allow for secret arbitration, where lawyers basically decide how much money the taxpayers cough up?
    Mr. Speaker, it is a sad comment when first nations are forced to the court as their only recourse to have their voices heard.
    In this case, Hupacasath has filed an injunction to stop ratification of the FIPA at the Federal Court level. This injunction is being supported by the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs and the Chiefs of Ontario and the Serpentine River First Nations in Ontario.
    In other omnibus legislation that was before the court, one of the first nations had filed an injunction to prevent the government from moving forward on the sections around navigable waters and some other changes that would directly impact on first nations.
    In the case I cited earlier, the U.S. Department of Justice worked with first nations from Canada around a mining company's claim, and here we have the federal government continuing to not fulfill the honour of the Crown, its fiduciary responsibility for first nations, forcing first nations into court to stop the moving forward of agreements that could potentially impact on section 35 rights.
    Mr. Speaker, what a pleasure it is to stand in the House and speak to international trade. My speech will be broken into two parts. The first part has to do with some of our trade accomplishments. Then the second part will be more specifically addressed to our FIPA with China.
    Our government's top priority is creating jobs, growth and long-term prosperity in every region of Canada. That is why we are working hard to open new markets to increase Canadian exports to the world's largest, most dynamic and fastest-growing economies. Since 2006, our government has consistently opposed protectionist measures around the world and has stood up for free and open trade, showing leadership on the world stage in what was, and continues to be, a challenging period for the global economy. Canada has proven resilient through these tough global economic times.
     Today, Canada is further ahead than any other G7 country when it comes to creating jobs and economic growth and further ahead than any other when it comes to our debt to GDP ratio. At the same time, Canada is just one of a handful of nations in the world with a Triple A credit rating. We proudly lay claim to having the safest banking system in the world for five years, according to the World Economic Forum. Overall, Canada boasts the best fiscal position of the G7 countries and the best fiscal prospects in the G20.
     It is not without good reasons that Forbes magazine has opined that Canada is the best country to do business in the G20, and the Economist Intelligence Unit has declared Canada to be the best place in the world to do business in over the next five years.
    Before I delve into our trade and investment relationship with China, I will take a few moments to recap some of our government's accomplishments in promoting the interests of hard-working Canadians internationally over this past year.
     Canada joined the Trans-Pacific Partnership and participated in the first full round of negotiations. The TPP is a significant opportunity to not only serve as the central pathway for economic integration in the Asia–Pacific region, but is designed to be expanded to include other countries. In fact, it is hoped that the TPP will act as the catalyst to reinvigorate the Doha round of the WTO. Once completed, the TPP will not only strengthen Canada's effort to broaden and deepen its trade relationships with dynamic and fast-growing Asia–Pacific markets, but it will also reaffirm and invigorate our traditional partnership in the Americas.
    We launched the first round of negotiations with Japan for an economic partnership agreement. Japan is the world's third largest economy and a key trade and investment partner for Canada.
     Furthermore, we announced exploratory discussions for a bilateral free trade agreement with Thailand and achieved observer status with the Pacific Alliance which is a group of four fast-growing Pacific countries in Latin America.
    We saw the entering into force of the Canada-Jordan free trade agreement and royal assent given to the Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act, which came into force on April 1. This builds on other free trade agreements our government has signed in the Americas, including with Peru, Honduras and Colombia, all agreements the New Democrats have opposed. In fact, the NDP trade critic, the member for Vancouver Kingsway, argued against a free trade agreement with Colombia because “the trade unions do not want it”.
    Our government has also placed an emphasis on the importance of promoting international education. An advisory panel of eminent Canadians provided recommendations to help guide Canada's international education strategy. International students contribute over $8 billion to the Canadian economy and $445 million to government tax revenues each year, supporting more than 86,000 jobs.
    We completed the fifth year of the five-year global commerce strategy, the launching of a cross-country consultation and the naming of an advisory panel to help shape the next phase of the strategy.
    We established a record number of trade missions to advance Canada's commercial interests abroad, including to India, China, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Thailand, Cambodia, the Philippines, Russia and Libya, and the Minister of International Trade conducted a historic trade mission to Burma just this past spring.
    In North America, we signed a two-year extension to the Canada-United States softwood lumber agreement that would secure access to the U.S. market for Canada's softwood lumber until 2015. This means continued predictability for Canadian softwood lumber exporters and the hard-working forestry workers who depend on the industry for their livelihoods.

  (1220)  

    We continue to make ongoing progress in implementing the Beyond the Border and Regulatory Cooperation Council action plans to improve the flow of people and goods between Canada and the United States and laying the foundation for more jobs and growth in both countries.
    While I am discussing our partnership with the United States, I would be remiss if I did not remark upon our celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Canada-U.S. free trade agreement. Since the coming into force of the agreement, Canada's annual GDP has risen by $1.1 trillion. Nearly 4.6 million jobs have been created in Canada and two-way trade in goods of services with the United States has more than tripled.
     Now we all know that the NDP opposed this agreement from day one. Even today, despite the NDP leader's attempt to whitewash his party's socialist history, page 18 of the NDP policy book states, “New Democrats believe in...Renegotiating North American Free Trade Agreement”.
     Any party that would threaten the economic well-being of Canadians with such a reckless proposal simply cannot be trusted. The fact is that last year our two-way trade in goods and services with the United States exceeded $742 billion. That is nearly $2 billion a day or almost $1.4 million every minute of the day. These numbers are not simply statistics. They represent some 2.4 million Canadian jobs that the NDP would simply throw away. Therefore, the NDP's anti-trade credentials are well established.
    Our government's leadership in resisting protectionist measures and continuing to create new opportunities for our exporters has been key to Canada's success. Thanks to our actions, Canada's workers, businesses and exporters, including small and medium-sized enterprises that form the backbone of our economy, now have preferred access to, and a real competitive edge in, more high-growth and emerging markets around the world than any other economy in our history.
     In less than six years, our government has concluded free trade agreements with nine countries: Colombia, Honduras, Jordan, Panama, Peru and the European Free Trade Association member states of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. As I mentioned, Canada is also engaged in negotiating with large, dynamic and fast-growing markets, including the European Union, India, Japan and the countries that comprise the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
    I will now focus on one aspect of our trade strategy, and that is our engagement with China, of which I speak with a little experience. I first started doing business in China in 1982. My business experience in China has been exporting mass-transit equipment, engineering services, agriculture and fisheries products to the Chinese businesses.
    The simple fact is that our government is providing Canadian businesses with the tools they need to invest with confidence in China. Conversely, China is rapidly expanding its middle class and consumer base. Its population of 1.4 billion offers an enormous market to Canada's exporters. It is soon to be the world's largest economy.
    Before I discuss the important part the foreign investment promotion and protection agreement plays in our trade and investment relationship with China, I would like to remark upon the importance of the people-to-people ties between our two countries, which is supported by more than 1.4 million Chinese Canadians residing in Canada. Our continued success in applying trade and investment as the twin engines of economic growth will rest upon these ties. Fundamentally, it is the strong people-to-people links that are helping us take our relationship to the next level.
    In my remarks so far, I have emphasized that our Conservative government is committed to creating the right conditions for Canadian businesses to compete globally. Canada's foreign investment promotion and protection agreement with China, the world's second-largest economy, will provide stronger protection for Canadians investing in China and create jobs and economic growth right here at home.
    At its core, the agreement establishes a clear set of rules under which investments are made and under which investment disputes are resolved. For Canadian businesses looking to set up in China, they cannot be treated less favourably than any other international company looking to do the same. Once an investment is made, a Canadian business cannot be treated less favourably than any other business.
    The agreement also ensures that all investment disputes are resolved under international arbitration. This is an important part of the agreement as it ensures that adjudications are independent and fair. Thanks to this FIPA, Canadian investors in China will no longer have to rely on the Chinese legal system to have their disputes resolved. I also have experience in resolving disputes in China.

  (1225)  

    It is also crucial to note that ours is the first bilateral investment agreement that China has signed that expressly includes language on transparency of dispute settlement proceedings. Our government has repeatedly made it clear that it is our long-standing policy that all dispute resolutions should be open to the public and that submissions made by the parties be available to the public.
    Let me clear. Under the agreement any decision emanating from the dispute resolution will be made public.
    It is unfortunate that for months the NDP and its anti-trade allies have continued to spread myths about this agreement. Let me clear up a few misconceptions. First, Canada retains the ability to regulate and legislate in areas such as the environment, culture, safety, health, and conservation. Furthermore, the agreement maintains Canada's ability to review foreign investments under the Investment Canada Act to ensure they provide a net benefit to Canadians and that our national security is not compromised. There is no doubt Chinese investors in Canada must obey all the laws and regulations of Canada just as any Canadian must.
    Nor, as the NDP likes to pretend, is the agreement somehow unusual. Canada-China foreign investment promotion and protection agreement is a reciprocal agreement similar to the 24 other investment treaties Canada has signed with key trade investment partners. Canada is one of several countries, along with such countries as New Zealand, Germany, and the Netherlands which have all signed investment treaties with China, often on terms less favourable than the terms that Canada has negotiated with China.
    This investment treaty will help protect the interests of Canadian investors. The primary purpose of the foreign investment promotion and protection agreement is to ensure that Canadian investors can invest in China with greater confidence, thereby spurring increased investment in China and creating jobs and economic growth right here at home. We have been very clear with the Chinese government that Canada wants to continue to expand its commercial relationship with China, but only in a way that produces clear benefits for both sides.
    We are seeing these clear benefits to Canadians. Not only is China the world's second-largest economy, but it has recently become Canada's number two export market, second only to the United States.
    In fact, Canadian goods exported to China rose 15% last year to over $19 billion. Not only that, but Canada's exports to China have nearly doubled under our Conservative government. All this being said, it is unfortunate that the NDP and professional anti-trade activists have continued to spread such misconceptions about the importance of trade to the livelihood of Canadians and about this agreement in particular.
    Thankfully, Canadian investors and exporters can count on our Conservative government to create conditions for them to compete, and win, in the global economy for decades to come.

  (1230)  

    Mr. Speaker, I want to draw my hon. colleague's attention to whether or not this agreement really does achieve reciprocity for Canadian investors. I am going to refer to article 8 of the FIPA, section 2, where it specifically exempts the Most Favoured Nation treatment for Canadian companies operating in China and allows China to retain any existing non-conforming measures maintained within its territory.
    I know the member has some experience and knowledge about China. Would he not agree with me that China has many more non-conforming measures, it being a command economy, and it not having followed a trade liberalization trajectory like Canada has for 25 years? Would he not agree with me that, by allowing China to maintain its current non-conforming measures in the future, that subjects Canadians to far more trade barriers operating in China than Chinese firms operating in Canada, where Canada does not have nearly the same number of non-conforming measures that impact on investment?
    Mr. Speaker, that is absolutely not true. In the eighties when I was first doing business in China, we often had problems dealing with non-tariff barriers, Chinese standards on certain things, and Chinese methods of payment, but in the past 30 years, China has understood and recognized that it has to do business internationally and has to conform to international standards.
    This trade agreement has, between nations, put in place the type of contract, the type of language of contract, the type of payment terms whether it is by letter of credit or by documenting its acceptance, the type of international quality control standards, and inspection standards that both parties have adhered to.
    At the same time, it allows for mutually agreed upon accounting standards whereby we can work out issues having to do with foreign exchange, accounting standards, and finally it has mechanisms for dispute arbitration whether it be ICC or ICU. It is in total conformity, bringing China into an international standard of doing business.

  (1235)  

    Mr. Speaker, I listened to the remarks of the member for Willowdale.
    I know he has done a fair bit of business at a personal level in China, so he certainly has firsthand experience. I think he would realize that there is an imbalance under the FIPA in terms of Canadian investors in China versus Chinese investors in Canada, and the fact that there are a lot of state-owned enterprises in China.
    I just cannot understand for the life of me how the member could support the government position that we not hold adequate hearings to find the trouble spots and to hear from businesses like his. Without those adequate hearings, we have one of two choices: to go forward with what is clearly a flawed agreement and has a lot of opposition across Canada, or to go with the NDP motion which would basically turf that agreement out and then we would have nothing. That is really no choice at all.
    I would ask the member, on the one hand, why he would not support holding hearings and encourage his own government to do that, and on the other hand, specifically what the implications would be if we went ahead and just tossed the agreement out.
    Mr. Speaker, let me address a few points raised by the hon. member for Malpeque.
    First, regarding the SOE, state-owned enterprises, I wish to clarify for you that when I first went to China to do business, and at that time I represented a crown corporation, the question that was asked of me was, “Mr. Leung, is your corporation owned by your province?”
    I thought about the implication of that and I decided to answer, “Yes, it was a crown corporation.” You know, the response was—
    I would just remind the hon. parliamentary secretary and other members to address their comments to the Chair rather than to their colleagues.
    Mr. Speaker, I will address my comments through you.
    The response from the Chinese government was, “I appreciate doing business with a state-owned enterprise because I know you will not run away from us.” That is the security that the Chinese are looking for. It is a different model of doing business.
    Second, what I wish to address with the member for Malpeque is whether it would be of interest to his constituency if I could expand a market in China where they can export billions of tons of oysters and clams instead of a very small market. Why would we not open a market internationally that would allow that export, thereby improving the standard of living for his constituents?
    Mr. Speaker, I am sure that the member for Malpeque would be more than interested in exporting more oysters, lobster, and seafood to China in particular.
    The hon. member, in his career before politics, did a lot of work in Asia, a lot of business in Asia and a lot of work particularly in China. In his earlier answer, he spoke a little about the need for a long-term vision, continuity, and the security of a regulatory regime. That is what the FIPA offers the Chinese.
    What is the potential that we can generate from that, not just for business today but for tomorrow and in the future?
    Mr. Speaker, I realize that the member is from the fine Atlantic province of Nova Scotia, from which I also had the pleasure of exporting lots of capelin and lobster to the Far East.

  (1240)  

    Not as good as P.E.I.'s, though.
    Mr. Speaker, these are national agreements between two states.
    If we look at Canada as being corporate Canada, the Conservatives are looking after the best interests of corporate Canada. We are ensuring that we want to do business for the long term to ensure that there is long-term prosperity for Canada as a nation. In order to do that we need to put in place the mechanism for us to resolve disputes, the mechanism for us to pay each other on time, and the mechanism for us to meet the same standards. These are the mechanisms we need to put in so that private businesses can get on with their own business.
    When I was working in China in the early 1980s, these mechanisms did not exist. Every deal had to be negotiated individually, including 200 to 300 pages of contracts. Unfortunately, at that time China did not have the mirror image of the legislation.
    What we are putting in place gets both countries to a level playing field.
    Mr. Speaker, let me get this right. My hon. friend has a problem with the opposition having its roots in democratic socialist and social democratic movements but has no problem with providing investor-safe protections for a communist government to come here and do business. I find that incredible.
    When we look at the history of that government and its treatment of the Tibetan people and its weaker minorities, there are serious questions to be asked as to how it will conduct business here.
    My question is more about the current government's treatment of its minorities, the first peoples of Canada, the first nations. In Canada we have a duty to consult under article 35 of the Constitution, which is protecting the honour of the Crown. The Supreme Court has ruled that the government must consult aboriginal peoples on actions that affect their rights. The FIPA will give Chinese companies operating on traditional first nations territories important new rights.
    Why did the government not fulfill its duty to consult the first nations?
    Mr. Speaker, any company that works on Canadian soil will have to adhere to Canadian rights, regardless of whether they are environmental, labour, tax legislation, or exploration. This is precisely the reason we need to have an agreement whereby we have an understanding of how to do business with each other.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Surrey North.
    As a member of the Standing Committee on International Trade, it is my duty to rise here today to debate an agreement that could have a significant impact on Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
    On several occasions—at meetings of the Standing Committee on International Trade, here in the House as well as outside the House—the NDP asked the Conservative government to be transparent and hold a public debate before signing the foreign investment promotion and protection agreement, or FIPA, between Canada and China.
    As per usual, however, the Conservative government preferred to do things in secret, under the radar, behind closed doors. The agreement itself has never been debated or examined by a committee. It has never even been voted on. China and Ottawa surreptitiously negotiated this FIPA, an agreement that gives Chinese state-owned enterprises unprecedented rights that are not even offered to Canadian enterprises, an agreement that undermines Canadian sovereignty and the constitutional authority of the provinces. To add insult to injury, the agreement will have a 31-year term and cannot be revoked.
    The Canada-China FIPA is the biggest trade agreement since NAFTA. It gives Chinese state-owned enterprises the right to sue Canada for damages when decisions are made at the municipal, provincial or federal level that harm their investments.
    Usually, Canada signs FIPAs with countries whose investors do not own major assets in Canada. However, that is not the case with China, and the growing weight of Chinese investments in Canada now has a political price. As a result of the Canada-China foreign investment promotion and protection agreement, Canadian taxpayers will now have to shoulder disproportionate obligations with regard to Chinese companies in exchange for protecting Canadian companies in China.
    According to Gus Van Harten, a law professor at York University, the rights that this treaty grants to Chinese state-owned enterprises will affect provincial authority over natural resources, taxation and property rights.
    By signing this treaty, Canada is abdicating part of its sovereignty to China and its enterprises, without really getting anything in return for Canadian companies in China. Why? The reason is that the treaty also consolidates the inequality that currently exists with regard to Canadian companies' ability to access the Chinese market. Under the Investment Canada Act, Canada is currently a relatively open and transparent market. However, the existing framework in China, particularly in strategic sectors, lacks transparency, is closed and is described in a very vague manner in the treaty. China will therefore benefit from a favourable environment for its investments in Canada, but the reverse is certainly not guaranteed. That is why we, on this side of the House, are concerned.
    The $15 billion takeover of the Canadian oil and gas company Nexen by Chinese energy giant CNOOC confirms the imbalance with regard to the two countries' respective investments. The consequences of the treaty go well beyond the oil sands. Chinese state-owned enterprises are also active in the mining sector, and they are looking at making investments in Quebec's Plan Nord. A Chinese company has already acquired a nickel mine in northern Quebec, and it will be protected by the treaty, as will all future investments.
    Like all Canadian provinces, Quebec's ability to control its natural resources would be limited from this point on; and, yet again, it would happen without consultations between the province and the Conservative government.
    We cannot accept the fact that a valid provincial policy—one that addresses a crucial environmental challenge and that is widely supported by the people—is being directly attacked with no real possibility of recourse.

  (1245)  

    The treaty does not prevent various levels of government from continuing to regulate environmental protection, health and public safety. However, if these regulations are detrimental to Chinese businesses, the companies can sue the governments and receive significant financial compensation—potentially in the billions of dollars.
    In that context, it is probable that the provinces, municipalities and the federal government will be more reluctant to pass new regulations because they will want to avoid exposing themselves to costly lawsuits. This treaty will make passing new regulations less palatable.
    For example, we do not see how Canada would be able to regulate greenhouse gas emissions or strengthen oil sand regulations without affecting Chinese investments and possibly subjecting the country to lawsuits.
    Setting aside the issue of jurisdiction for the moment, it would be completely fiscally irresponsible of the federal government to negotiate an agreement that requires it to take responsibility for measures taken by a provincial government.
    A number of countries have faced catastrophic fines because of these treaties. The amount of money at stake has reached tens of billions of dollars—hundreds of billions, even—to the point where certain countries, such as Australia, have decided to take another look at whether investment protection agreements, which is what this is, are a good idea.
    Finally, judging from the experience of other countries, the trade agreement between China and Canada may well undermine the development of Canada's clean energy technology sector.
    It is inconceivable for a treaty that could have such a devastating effect on Canadian sovereignty, provincial jurisdictions and public rights to be passed with absolutely no democratic debate in Parliament and across the country. That is why we must stand firm against it. Canadians have not given this government a mandate to sell our sovereignty to China or to the highest bidder.
    The NDP believes in the importance of our commitment to China and other emerging markets. We want clear rules that support investor confidence and that protect and promote Canada's interests. We want a trade policy that creates new business opportunities for Canadian companies and that promotes value-added industries, as well as high-quality jobs, while respecting labour law and environmental law.
    Unfortunately, on a number of occasions, this government signed agreements based on nothing more than a radical right-wing ideology and a hands-off approach that simply does not work.
    We in the NDP feel that Canada should have a robust trade policy, with good partners, in order to reflect Canada's commitment to responsible and environmentally sound economic development that respects all stakeholders.
    Let us be clear. We are in favour of trade, but trade that is fair, effective and beneficial for both sides. That is the key.
    This is not about signing free trade agreements with anyone, at any time, under any circumstances, time and time again, the way things are being done right now. No, this is about paying attention, taking these agreements very seriously and taking the time to listen to every voice across the country in order to have a clear vision, to think about all the things that could go wrong and to really be predictable. Now, that would be a responsible approach.
    To conclude, the Conservatives must be clear with the Government of China and with all Canadians by stating that they will not ratify the agreement being negotiated right now. Canada's trade and investment relationship with China is far too important to make mistakes.

  (1250)  

    Mr. Speaker, a few minutes ago I asked a government member a question about the first nations. I would like to ask my colleague that same question.
    Does the member think there are provisions in the FIPA to protect first nations' rights, and does she not find it disturbing that the rights of the first nations are not being protected?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question.
    As Canadians now know, the NDP clearly supports the first nations and understands that their rights must be protected. It is very regrettable that we are the only ones.
    We think it is clear that an agreement can only happen with the involvement of all levels of government and the first nations. Once again, with this agreement, the government has not listened to people and has not listened to the first nations. That is shameful.
    The Conservative government should be ashamed of its attitude. It makes no sense not to listen to anyone when negotiating free trade agreements.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I know the member for Quebec is a fairly hard-working member of the trade committee and does good research on the various issues we have to deal with at the trade committee. However, I have to ask her a question. It is part of the debate here and I have been saying this on pretty much every topic, that Parliament is not working. It is not working because members are not allowed to speak up and committees are not allowed to do their work. If a member moves a motion for a hearing, it is shoved to an in camera session by Conservative members. In other words, it is in secret. Then somehow the motion gets voted down—we cannot talk about what happens in secret—and no hearings are done.
    Maybe the member could relate to you, Mr. Speaker, her experience on the trade committee when both the NDP and Liberals have tried to have this issue discussed and witnesses brought in on the impact that this Canada-China FIPA might have on them. I wonder if she could relate her thoughts on that matter and how this place is working or not working?

  (1255)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I will respond quickly.
    I obviously agree with my colleague about the way things are done on the Standing Committee on International Trade. We are not listened to and we are not heard. All of the serious decisions are made in camera. I very much understand what my colleague just said.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I have a question on the public consultation, or utter lack of consultation, over such a fundamental trade relationship. It is an agreement that could have effects right across the Canadian economy and Canadian societies everywhere, among first nations and all across the board.
    How can a government that I remember running on the idea of accountability and transparency—after the problems the Liberal governments had with Gomery and what not—put forward such a significant trade deal that could impact Canadian resources, Canadian jobs and Canadian sovereignty, without any public meetings or public consultation whatsoever? How can it expect Canadians to simply blindly agree that this must be good because this particular prime minister says so?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, indeed, public consultation is key to democracy. The message the government is sending by not holding consultations is that once elected, it no longer has to listen to a word Canadians have to say or to what experts think even though they know a lot more than we do.
    Let us call a spade a spade. There are people in our country with a tremendous amount of expertise, and we are lucky to have them. The least we can do is listen to them when they have something to say, when they ask to be heard. They can contribute ideas about things we have not yet thought of or read about. They are ahead of the curve. They know precisely what the consequences of this will be in 10 or 50 years. They know where we will end up with this and the impact of including such and such a clause in a free trade agreement.
    When the government does not consult or listen to experts, it is putting Canadian democracy in jeopardy. I can understand why Canadians are concerned.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak to the Canada-China foreign investment promotion and protection agreement on behalf of my constituents in Surrey North.
    As the official opposition, the NDP was very concerned about this agreement, particularly about how it was formed, the silence surrounding the agreement and the potential destruction it could cause to Canadian businesses and Canadians. I support the motion presented in the House by my hon. colleague from Vancouver Kingsway. The government should not ratify the Canada-China FIPA, and it should properly inform the government of the People's Republic of China that it has no intention of doing so.
    FIPA is a bilateral agreement with China, a major investor in Canada. It is not a free trade agreement. It was signed on September 9, 2012; however, the deal was kept secret until September 26, when it was tabled in Parliament. The agreement was not debated by Parliament; it was not considered by the committee and the international trade committee, of which I am a member; nor was it voted on in any votes in the House. Although it has been available for ratification since November 1, 2012, the Conservative government has not yet officially committed to this treaty. If the government believes that the agreement is so strong, why is it taking so long to ratify it? Perhaps it is because the Conservative government also knows how damaging it could be for Canadians, Canadian business and the Canadian economy.
    As Canadians, we are proud of our country's rich supply of natural resources. The trade of these resources would benefit our economy enormously, and China is an ideal partner for those resources. China has an expanding economy due to its growing middle class. Consequently, it requires increased imports of oil, lumber, food, technology, agricultural goods and other basic necessities. Canada has the means to meet this demand; therefore Canada and China would be complementary trading partners and we would want to pursue a fair deal with China.
    However, the Canada-China FIPA deal, in its current state as signed by the government, has not given Canada a fair share. This is not unprecedented, because we are resource-rich and we are in a position to be a major exporting country, yet time and time again, we see trade deals signed by the government that set us up to be exploited.
    Foremost, the Canada-China foreign investment promotion and protection agreement is poorly named. It offers neither promotion nor protection of Canadian trade interests in China. It is biased toward China and Chinese companies. It does not present Canadian companies with the same privileges in the Chinese markets as Chinese companies have in China, nor as they have in Canada. We want to see a growth of Canadian companies in China, but we need a level playing field for our businesses as they expand into global markets. Canadian companies deserve the same promotions and protections that Chinese companies receive in Canada. This is not what the current Canada-China FIPA offers.
    Not only does this treaty expose Canadian businesses to risk; it plays with the future of Canadian taxpayers. The Canada-China FIPA includes investor state dispute mechanisms designed to allow Chinese companies to literally sue Canada if they do not agree with our federal regulations. These court processes are located completely outside of legal jurisdiction and rely on Canadian taxpayers funding them. This is not a contingency issue. Canada has already experienced similar problems through NAFTA treaty tribunal bodies; we have been sued numerous times by American companies and we have never won a case. Furthermore, Chinese companies already have a track record of using the investor state mechanism to challenge regulations of trading partners.
    I do not understand why the Conservative government would expose Canadians to such risk when there is a clear record of arbitration. Perhaps the government is also ignoring its most important resource: its Canadian citizens.

  (1300)  

    As a government that claims to be fiscally accountable and competent in trade, why are the Conservatives trying to undermine Canada's potential? Perhaps they do not understand the worth of our resources and how valuable we are as a trade partner. Perhaps they do not see the potential in Canadian companies. This ignorance does not prove them fiscally capable, and the enormous trade deficit speaks to the lack of credibility in exchange agreements.
    In fact, under the current government, Canadians have seen our trade deficit grow over the last number of years. In 2012 alone, Canada had a current account deficit of $67 billion, which is an $85 billion drop from an $18 billion surplus in 2006, the first year the Conservative government came into power. That is the government's record. It has been reckless. It has shown its incompetence when it comes to negotiating trade agreements, and it has shown its incompetence if we look at our trade deficit over the years. Under the current government, we have had the largest trade deficit ever in Canadian history. Yet, the Conservatives call themselves fiscally competent and want to expand trade.
    We need trade, a fair trade, where Canadian interests are also put forward by the government. That has not happened under the Conservatives.
    In addition to the growing current account deficit, the manufacturing deficit has nearly quadrupled since 2006, to just over $100 billion. Good paying jobs have disappeared under the current government.
    The manufacturing deficit creates a bigger problem because we are importing more finished goods from outside this country, rather than manufacturing those goods in this country; so we can see we are not exporting as many finished goods as we could be, under the Conservative government.
    Stacked up against 18 of the most comparable trading nations, including the U.S. and Australia, Canada is at the bottom of the list when it comes to trade performance.
    If Canada has resources and ideal trading partners, why is the deficit growing? It is due to mismanagement of trade by the inept government agreeing to deficient treaties such as FIPA with China and Canada.
    The government has chosen to undermine democracy through its lack of parliamentary procedures in creating the Canada-China FIPA. It has chosen to benefit Chinese corporations rather than supporting Canadian businesses, and it has chosen to expose Canadian taxpayers to huge liabilities in potential legal arguments through trade tribunals.
    The Canada-China trade relationship should be the foundation upon which our future agreements are built. Canada has an opportunity to create a trade deal with China that is mutually beneficial to both nations. We should be establishing an agreement with elements of communication and co-operation between our two countries because trade deals are not just about trade anymore. They present unique opportunities for the collaborative sharing of education and culture, among many other things.
    We need to inform China about our intentions because we value that country as a trading partner. We must treat China with courtesy and we must pursue a trade relationship that is respectful both of China and of our own country.
    We want bilateral trade agreements like FIPA to be designed to actually serve Canadians and close the embarrassingly large deficit that, under the current government, we have created. We want them to reflect the value we place on Canadian citizens, Canadian businesses and the Canadian economy. FIPA, as it currently stands, is unratifiable, both in spirit and in content.

  (1305)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is interesting that, when the Conservative government thinks of trade, surplus versus deficit, it figures the best way to deal with it is to come up with trade agreements.
    The NDP members have the sense that trade agreements are a bad thing. Even though the member made reference to trade agreements, if the truth be known, NDP members have never stood in their places and voted in favour of a trade agreement.
    The Conservatives need to recognize that trade agreements are good, but they also need to do a little extra beyond just signing an agreement. The example I used earlier was China. The current Prime Minister goes to China and brings back a couple of panda bears.
    When former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien went to China, he brought a trade mission with him and literally brought back hundreds of millions of dollars. Trade agreements and active trade missions provide thousands of jobs and opportunities for Canadians and businesses.
    Would the member not agree that trade missions are critically important—
    The hon. member for Surrey North.
    Mr. Speaker, before I answer the question, let me state in this House that I am very disappointed in the Liberal Party. Not only do the Liberals actually campaign on NDP policy, but when they form a government, they do what the Conservatives are doing.
    We have an excellent opportunity for the Liberals to stand with the official opposition, to stand for Canadians on this issue, but they will be voting against this motion presented by the member for Vancouver Kingsway. I am very disappointed in the way the Liberals are behaving.
    In regard to this question, it is absolutely true. We should be pursuing a fair, equitable trade with China.
    Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to my hon. colleague, who is a member of the trade committee, and I listen to him quite often at trade committee. His position on this issue and the position of the NDP is really quite astounding.
    The position of the New Democrats on trade is really quite anti-trade, but when it comes to China, they are prepared to go against an agreement that would actually protect Canada's interests in China and not compromise Canada's interests. How they bend and twist it is really ideological.
    When it comes to our colleagues in the Liberal Party, they too have an interesting perspective when it comes to trade. The Liberals seem to want to subsidize China. China can get along very well without subsidies, thanks very much, when it comes to taking them off the list with regard to tariff compromisation.
    Getting back to the issue at hand, I ask my hon. colleague a question with regard to his comments. When we have signed 24 of these agreements with other countries around the world and when we are actually doing more trade with China than ever before—in fact, 24% more just in forestry alone in the last few years—why is it so wrong to have a deal with China that we have signed with 24 other countries when it is okay with these other 24 countries?

  (1310)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, the chair of the international trade committee, for his question.
    The trade record is very clear. Conservatives will try to twist this around that somehow it is the fault of the official opposition that they have created the largest deficit in our history. It is under their stewardship.
    The NDP has always fought for a fair trade deal for Canadians, and we will continue to stand up for Canadians to make sure the trade agreements the government is signing are not only brought into this House, as we are doing with this FIPA, but are available for Canadians to see for themselves.
    This is not the same template as we have been using previously. This template is different, and it is under this government that our businesses and Canadian taxpayers are being sold out.
    Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise this afternoon to join my colleagues in the House to speak on this very important issue. It is a matter of great importance not only to the constituents of Kelowna—Lake Country but to all Canadians and Canadian businesses, specifically those that are looking to do business or are doing business in China at the present time.
    Our government understands the importance of trade to our economy. It represents one in five jobs in Canada and accounts for nearly 65% of our country's annual income. That is why our government is moving forward with the most ambitious pro-trade plan in our country's history. It is a plan that is opening new markets for Canadian exporters, including in the fast-growing Asia-Pacific region. We are committed to expanding commercial relations in the region and deepening and strengthening ties that will create jobs and prosperity for hard-working Canadians here at home from coast to coast to coast.
    The opportunities for Canadian exporters in the Asia-Pacific are tremendous. Countries in the region include those with economic growth rates at an impressive two to three times the global average. In the past few years, our government has been aggressively expanding commercial relations with the Asia-Pacific region to create jobs and economic benefits here at home. Our efforts are yielding results. We are maximizing opportunities for entrepreneurs through innovative trade, investment, air transport, and science and technology agreements.
    I would like to take a few moments to review a few of the steps our government has taken to create new opportunities for Canadian exporters in these fast-growing and dynamic markets.
    In November of last year, the chair and members of the international trade committee visited Japan. We are advancing free trade negotiations with Japan. It is the world's third-largest economy. We are commencing exploratory discussions towards trade negotiations with Thailand and are adopting the joint declaration on trade and investment with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to increase Canada's trade and investment ties in the region. We are signing air transport agreements with six Asia-Pacific countries and are joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations.
     If anybody has any doubts, they can check the schedule of the Minister of International Trade. The gentleman is incredibly busy travelling the world and opening doors to help Canadian markets expand and create opportunities for all Canadians, from coast to coast to coast. It is a very exciting time.
    These efforts, along with establishing numerous additional trade offices in the region, are generating real results. Our efforts to deepen Canada's trade and investment ties in the fast-growing Asia-Pacific region are further bolstered by our government's strategic investments and partnership in building the Asia-Pacific gateway. These investments are positioning Canada as the gateway of choice between Asia and North America. In fact, Canada's west coast ports are more than two days closer to Asian markets than any other ports in North America.
    For those in the House who are not aware, Prince Rupert is booming. I was there several years back when the cranes were installed. It was an incredibly exciting day for the community of Prince Rupert. It has been growing by leaps and bounds.
     In November, I participated in a pilot project announcement with the Minister of International Trade and the United States government and border security on both sides. President Obama and Prime Minister Harper are working on the regulatory reform. To help—

  (1315)  

    I would again remind all hon. members not to reference other members by their names.
    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister and President Obama worked together on regulatory reform to find ways to move goods and services efficiently across not only our borders but around the world. These investments are positioning Canada as the gateway of choice between Asia and North America. Canada's west coast ports are more than two days closer, so it is helping to expand that market.
     Since 2006, our government has invested $1.4 billion in Asia-Pacific gateway infrastructure projects, an amount that has been leveraged to almost $4 billion with the participation of provincial and municipal governments and the private sector. It is a true partnership. A total of almost 50 projects have been supported, creating jobs and economic growth in local communities, while easing the movement of goods, services and people to and from the fast-growing Asia-Pacific economies.
    As a result of these strategic investments and partnerships, Canadian exports to the Asia-Pacific region have reached record levels. These investments are also generating new business opportunities, improving the flow of traffic, enhancing the efficiency of the transportation system, attracting investments and contributing to Canada's global competitiveness.
    In what remain globally challenging economic times, more must be done to improve the flow of Canada's much sought after commodities, from oil and gas to potash, lumber and coal, through our west coast.
     Our government will continue to build on this competitive advantage. These are just a few examples of how our government is promoting the interests of Canada's exporters.
    Ultimately, to capture new opportunities in these dynamic markets, our government is creating the right conditions for Canadian businesses and exporters to compete and succeed internationally. The principle is quite simple. Government does not create the business. What it does is set the framework to make it more convenient, efficient and stable for businesses. They like the elements of stability and certainty within the agreements and will move forward and invest. Consequently, an important part of the equation is ensuring that not only two-way trade but also investment between Canada and other countries can take place in a stable and secure manner. That is why Canada has over 24 foreign investment promotion and protection agreements with key trade and investment partners, including China, the world's second-largest economy.
    I would be remiss if I did not highlight the fact that not only is China the world's second-largest economy, but it recently became Canada's number two export market, second only to the United States. Canadian goods exports to China rose 15% last year to over $19 billion. Not only that, but Canada's exports to China have nearly doubled under our Conservative government.
    I am not one of the most partisan members of Parliament in this House. I have been on the international trade committee. I have worked together with all colleagues in the House. It is unfortunate that despite all these successes, the NDP continues to fearmonger and spread myths about our trade agreements in general, this foreign investment protection agreement, and trade overall and how important it is for Canadians. This should not be a surprise to many Canadians. After all, it is the same NDP that opposed the Auto Pact and the historic North American Free Trade Agreement, otherwise known as NAFTA, and whose member for the B.C. Southern Interior recently argued that trade agreements “threaten the very existence of our nation”. It is the same party that stood in this House to oppose trade agreements with countries as diverse as Panama, Colombia, Israel, Chile, Costa Rica, Norway, Switzerland and even Liechtenstein.
    Page 18 of the NDP policy book today states that the “New Democrats believe in...[r]enegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement”.
    In my community of Kelowna—Lake Country, NAFTA has been an incredible success for the wine industry in British Columbia as well as in Ontario, Nova Scotia and across Canada. It has been a great success, and the NDP wants to renegotiate it. I just cannot imagine that. Last year, our two-way trade in goods and services with the United States exceeded $742 billion. That is nearly $2 billion a day, or almost $1.4 million every single minute.
    The chair of the international trade committee, Senator Andreychuk, and I had the opportunity last week to be in Washington to meet with new members of Congress and to inform them of that importance. Many of them were not aware of the one in five jobs, 20% of the GDP and the $2 billion a day in trade. It is a great success story, and we need to continue to be proud of it, not go down to the United States and tell them how bad we are here in Canada. We are in this together. It is the best partnership and the two most integrated economies in the world. We want it to continue to grow. These numbers are not simply sterile statistics. They represent some 2.4 million Canadian jobs, jobs that the NDP would jeopardize if it had its way.

  (1320)  

    The NDP's anti-trade credentials are well established. In particular, I would like to take a moment to dispel the many inaccuracies the NDP and its anti-trade allies have been spreading about Canada's foreign investment promotion and protection agreement with China.
    Our Conservative government is committed to creating the right conditions for Canadian businesses to compete globally. Ultimately, Canada's foreign investment promotion and protection agreement, otherwise known as FIPA, with China, the world's second-largest economy, will provide stronger protection for Canadians investing in China and will create jobs and economic growth right here at home. It is an agreement that establishes a clear set of rules under which investments are made and under which investment disputes are resolved. For Canadian businesses looking to set up in China, they cannot be treated less favourably than any other foreign company looking to do the same. Once an investment is made, Canadian businesses cannot be treated less favourably than any other businesses, including Chinese businesses. Importantly, the agreement protects investors from government expropriation, except under strict conditions, and even then only with appropriate compensation. That is only fair. We treat others as we would want to be treated.
    This FIPA would also ensure that all investment disputes are resolved under international arbitration, ensuring that adjudications are independent and fair. It would remove some of the challenges of culture, language, etcetera. Canadian investors in China will no longer have to rely on the Chinese legal system to have their disputes resolved. As David Fung of the Canada China Business Council said, “Without this agreement, Chinese investments in Canada would receive the protection of the well-developed Canadian judicial system but Canadian investments in China would have to live with the uncertainties of a developing Chinese judiciary”. Very simply put, Chinese investors in Canada have the protection of the rule of law. All we are asking now, with this agreement, is that our Canadian investors be given the same benefit in China that investors from China have been experiencing all along. We are leveling the playing field to help Canadian businesses.
    I would also like to emphasize that ours is the first such agreement China has signed that specifically includes language on the transparency of dispute settlement proceedings. There has been lots of discussion about that today. This is the most transparent agreement that has been signed between China and any country, and that obviously speaks volumes about the negotiation skills of our senior public trade officials and trade commissions.
    This has been said many times in the House, but allow me to repeat it: It is Canada's long-standing policy that all dispute resolution should be open to the public and that submissions made by the parties be available to the public. Under this FIPA, any decisions of a dispute resolution panel will be made public, period. It is that simple.
    As I mentioned earlier, the NDP and its special interest allies have gone to great lengths in the past and today in the House to spread misinformation about this agreement. Let me categorically state what the agreement does not do. First, the agreement does not hinder Canada's ability to regulate and legislate in areas such as the environment, culture, safety, health and conservation. On top of that, provisions in the agreement will preserve Canada's current ability to review foreign investments under the Investment Canada Act to ensure that they provide a net benefit to Canadians and that our national security is not compromised. Let there be no doubt that under this treaty, Chinese investors in Canada must obey all the laws and regulations of Canada, just as any Canadian must.
    In short, the Canada-China foreign investment promotion and protection agreement is similar to other investment treaties Canada has signed with key trade and investment partners. We join countries such as New Zealand, Germany, the Netherlands and Japan that have all signed investment treaties with China on terms that are similar to, or in many cases less favourable than, the terms Canada has been able to negotiate with China. Once again, I give full marks to our senior public servants and the trade commissions negotiating this very good FIPA.
    Ultimately, this investment treaty will help protect the interests of Canadian investors. The key purpose of the foreign investment promotion and protection agreement is to ensure that Canadian investors can invest in China with greater confidence, spurring increased investment in China and creating jobs and economic growth for hard-working Canadians. I do not know how many times I can say it, but we want to have a rules-based system for Canadian investors in China, just like Chinese investors have had in Canada for a number of years.
    This investment agreement is just one example of how our government is promoting the interests of Canadians and is working to create new opportunities for Canadian exporters in China. The potential for increased Canadian investment in China is significant, given that China is expected to become the world's largest economy by 2020. My hon. colleague from Vancouver Kingsway mentioned that earlier in his comments. We will have great opportunities in the years ahead. The Chinese economy can and will benefit greatly from Canadian innovation expertise.

  (1325)  

    China is home to an expanding middle-class consumer base, and it has a burgeoning science, technology and innovation sector that needs Canadian expertise. Further boosting the Canada-China partnership is the fact that we are joined by the ties of family. More than 1.4 million Chinese Canadians enrich every aspect of our country, including some members of our House. We are looking at all aspects of the country. We are enriching the arts, literature, science, business, politics and philanthropy. This reflects the strong people-to-people links that are helping us to take our relationship to the next level.
    Therefore, it is very unfortunate that, in addition to pursuing their archaic anti-trade ideology, the New Democrats do not see the value in strengthening our relationship with China. For our part, the Government of Canada is working very hard to deepen relationships with dynamic, high-growth markets around the world. As I mentioned, the Minister of International Trade is working tirelessly to grow the markets around the world, but quite obviously China is not at the top of the list of the NDP.
    We have been very clear with the Chinese government that Canada wants to continue to expand its commercial relationship with China, but only in a way that produces clear benefits for both sides, a win-win situation. By establishing this clear set of investment rules that provides greater protection against discriminatory and arbitrary practices, this agreement will give Canadians greater confidence as they consider whether to invest in China. As I mentioned, the stability and predictability are what members of the business community cry out for, and this is what we are providing with this agreement.
    In summary, the principle of the foreign investment promotion and protection agreement, or the Canada-China foreign investment protection agreement, or FIPA, is to ensure that Canadian investments in China are protected and that there is reciprocity so that Chinese investments in Canada are protected. As well, this is about giving Canadian companies investing in China the same rights and privileges as a Chinese company would have. This is about protecting Canadian foreign direct investment in China. We cannot do that without allowing those same rights and privileges to the Chinese. It is called “reciprocity”. It is called “fairness”. It is called “reasonable rules-based trading”. Rules-based trading is reasonable, in my mind, and it is fair, and I believe that all Canadians support fairness.
    To alleviate some of the fearmongering from our NDP friends across the way, this treaty in no way impedes Canada's ability to regulate and legislate in such areas as the environment, culture, safety, health and conservation, which is another thing that needs to be clarified. I am concerned about the environment just as much as anybody in the House. I have three daughters and two grandsons, a one-year-old and a six-year-old, and I care about their future. I care about jobs and the opportunities they will have. This agreement provides that certainty for businesses.
     Because of the diverse composition of the exports to China, this agreement affects people from all regions of Canada. We all need to pay attention and support this agreement because overall it is a good opportunity to provide jobs for Canadian workers. It is a good agreement for all Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
    Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague is entitled to his own opinions, but he is not entitled to his own facts. The truth is that article 33 of this FIPA does provide a compromised and weak provision in Canada's ability to protect the environment.
    However, what is very interesting about this is that my hon. colleague keeps talking about reciprocity. We have just entered into an agreement with China, a country that has a judicial system that is so unreliable and weak that he uses that fact as a justification for having an investor state dispute mechanism. In other words, Canadian companies cannot trust the Chinese judicial system well enough with the law suits to enforce their rights in China. Yet, my hon. colleague then says that the Chinese will treat Canadian companies just like it treats its own. I have some news for my hon. colleague. China is a communist command economy. It does not have the same system or record in terms of treating businesses the same way Canada treats businesses in our country. It is not reciprocal when businesses go to China and can expect only the treatment given to other Chinese companies.
    Could the member tell Canadian business people why the Conservatives have failed to achieve true reciprocity for Canadian businesses operating in China, whereas we have given Chinese companies much better treatment in our country?

  (1330)  

    Mr. Speaker, I enjoy working with my hon. colleague on the committee. We grew up in the same city of Edmonton and I know that he has a law degree and is very familiar with these contracts and knows the importance of working together.
     There have been about 18 years of negotiating going back and forth, so this agreement did not happen overnight. The rules and disciplines established by the FIPA are reciprocal and they apply equally to both parties. That is a fact, that at the present time and likely in the future Chinese investment in Canada is and will continue to be greater than Canadian investment in China. Therefore, it is important that the treaty establishes, as I said, the stable predictable investment environment in China for Canadians.
    The bigger question is this. My hon. colleague has been talking about supporting the fact of helping out China. I do not understand. Is he saying that it is better for Canada to continue to expect taxpayers to fund foreign aid to China, the second-largest economy in the world?
    Mr. Speaker, I agree with the member for Kelowna—Lake Country on one point, and that is throwing out the FIPA is not the answer but we should fix the flaws.
    The member said “our government” a number of times, so I think he would know the answer to the question I am about to ask.
     One of the member's favourite witnesses, Mr. Van Harten, has indicated that Canada is responsible for any obligations under the international treaty. In other words, Canadian taxpayers would be responsible for decisions made at a provincial level that may be in violation of this agreement. Has the federal government given any undertakings to provinces, municipalities and first nations that it will in fact cover all financial liabilities arising from an arbitration or award that is triggered by a provincial, municipal or first nation decision? That is a serious issue.
    We need to know that. We need to know the flaws and we need to know solutions to them. If a first nation, municipality or province makes a decision that is in violation and causes a liability to a business, is the Canadian government responsible for that? Has the member's government notified those jurisdictions of such?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his great work on the committee and working together on Canada-U.S. as well in the House.
    That is why this foreign investment promotion and protection agreement is so important. It levels the playing field. It sets the certainty. If a provincial government makes a decision to change legislation, it has to ensure it is not negative toward a foreign investment. All Canadian investors are to be treated the same as foreign investors. If a NDP government decided to legislate a carbon tax that would affect all Canadians, which would be a bad decision, all businesses, whether foreign or Canadian, would be affected in the same way.
    We have consulted with provinces along the way.
    Mr. Speaker, I listened to my hon. colleague and I listened to the comments of my colleagues across the way with regard to this FIPA, which really does protect and level the playing field between China and Canada.
    It is interesting. When we were in Japan as a committee, and the last two colleagues who spoke were there, we asked Japan if it had a FIPA with China. Japan is China's largest trading partner, much larger than Canada, much larger than America. It said that it did not. We asked if it would sign a FIPA and it said it would love to, which would level the playing field and give protection for the Japanese in China and for Japanese investment. Has Japan been compromised with some of the investments in China? Yes, it has but it continues to work. Japan would love to have a FIPA that would allow it that protection that China has offered through this FIPA with Canada.
    My hon. colleague was on the trip with us to Japan. Would he see this as a good thing not only for Canada but also for Japan?

  (1335)  

    Mr. Speaker, to answer the question from the hard-working chair of the trade committee, being in Japan was definitely a great learning experience. It was a second trip. Our sister city to Kelowna is Kasugai, so I have been there before. Seeing the great opportunities that Canadians will have because of this agreement, it would be easy to say that the Japanese are almost salivating over the fact that Canada has this agreement in place.
    It is a great opportunity for the certainty and predictability for Canadian businesses. Jayson Myers, Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters executive director said:
    These agreements strengthen Canada's position as a strategic partner for China, advance our commercial interests within the second largest market in the world, and promise to deliver enhanced access to China's market for Canadian exporters.
    The Canadian Council of Chief Executives stated, “The Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection agreement (FIPA) will allow Canadian business leaders to invest with greater confidence”.
    Consequently, our negotiators, with Mr. Ian Burney, assistant deputy minister, are taking the lead on this. The fact is that we have a stronghold over other countries because we have this agreement in place. It is a great asset for all Canadians.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I find it somewhat cynical of my colleague to use Chinese Canadians as an example.
    Every Chinese Canadian I know loves their adopted country and their homeland. I would point out to my colleague that those people fled a corrupt totalitarian communist regime whose economy is controlled to the nth degree. They came to Canada because it made sense.
    Now they see that China could end up exerting the same type of control over our Canadian economy through protectionist measures that do not work.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, unfortunately my colleague from across the way does not understand what rules-based trading provides.
    I do not condone the actions of a communist government, but we need to realize that it is the second largest economy in the world and it is growing exponentially. Therefore, we need to have rules in place so there is fairness.
     The fact that we have an international arbitration process in place will help Canadian businesses rather than have every Canadian business hire a lawyer and have an agreement set up for every situation. This is in place for all Canadians. I mentioned Jayson Myers of the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, a variety of the Canadian chambers of commerce and business associations across Canada that are looking to expand business. We also welcome that certainty for Chinese investment in Canada to help to develop our resources to create jobs.
     Therefore, it is a win-win situation with this certainty and predictability.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I wish to inform the House that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques.
    Today I really want to speak to my constituents and discuss a very important issue. It has to do with the motion put forward by my hon. colleague from Vancouver Kingsway.
    That, in the opinion of this House, the government should inform the Government of the People's Republic of China, that it will not ratify the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement.
    I would like to revisit the process that has led to this motion. The negotiation process leading up to the agreement was truly clandestine and undemocratic. The negotiations were conducted completely in secret. We were not able to have our say as the negotiations were progressing. They were not even open to parliamentarians. The negotiations took place in a tiny bubble.
    Then, in October 2012, the Conservatives tabled the agreement, without consulting the provinces or first nations. There was no committee review or any consultation with Canadians. Despite all our efforts and requests, the agreement has never been debated or examined by a committee, nor has it ever been voted on.
    I would first like to point out that this agreement affects a first nations right. In fact, the aboriginal peoples of Canada have a constitutional right to be consulted if the government adopts any measures that will have an impact on their rights. This right has been upheld repeatedly by the Supreme Court. We already knew that this government thought it was above the law, and apparently, nothing has changed.
    The Hupacasath First Nation has filed an injunction with the Federal Court to stop the ratification of the FIPA. Brenda Sayers of the Hupacasath First Nation said:

  (1340)  

[English]

    First Nations were not consulted on the Canada China FIPPA. As First Nations with our Aboriginal Title, Rights and Treaty Rights, it is our duty to intervene for the sake of our children's futures....if ratified, FIPPA will immediately affect our Title and Rights by limiting our ability to exercise [our] jurisdiction in land use planning and regulation of our territory...

[Translation]

    In my view, it is particularly disturbing to see that the government reached an agreement without even consulting with first nations, even though the agreement will have a direct impact on their rights.
    In my region, there are six aboriginal communities. When we talk about natural resource development, the forestry and mining industries are often located on their ancestral land.
    A company trying to set up a project is sitting down with first nations and is taking the time to consult with them. It is trying to develop a rare earth project. Rare earth materials are used in a lot of high-tech devices, especially batteries. Because of China's technology boom, those materials are highly sought after. If there is presumably one deposit in the region, there may be others.
    Under this agreement, Chinese companies may appropriate or attempt to appropriate some of the rare earths. This would be done with no consultation of first nations, with no one even sitting down with first nations communities. We have to be very careful.
    From the outset, this type of agreement indicates that Chinese investors are probably more interested in Canada's natural resources or natural resource industries. We must be very careful. The Idle No More movement came out of protests against a number of legislative measures in the budget that had been put in place without any consultation with first nations.
    We must be extremely careful before we bring in an agreement that would once again fly in the face of Canada's Constitution. We have already done enough harm to first nations communities. We have imposed enough things on them without any consultation. Right off the bat I have a lot of concerns about this measure.
    The government did not consult the provinces either, even though many legal experts are saying that this agreement will interfere in the provinces' exclusive jurisdictions. It did not consult Alberta, whose oil sands industry could be attractive to Chinese investors. It did not talk to Ontario or Quebec about the forestry and mining industries. It simply did not talk to the provinces. I find this very worrisome because this agreement directly affects them. I will come back to this.
    Lastly, the government has not conducted any studies in this House or in committee. Trade agreements are generally subject to study in Parliament and then to a vote. Why is this agreement the exception to the rule? I have no idea.
    When the text of the agreement was finally made public, the NDP called for a study in committee, but the Conservatives refused. We then asked for an emergency debate. Once again, the Conservatives refused. We have asked the government questions during question period and we have not even gotten an answer.
    More than 80,000 Canadians sent messages to the government to ask it to conduct a study on the Canada-China FIPA. The trade agreement with Panama was examined, as was the agreement with Jordan. This agreement with China is much more complicated and restrictive for Canada, but the government is refusing to allow Parliament to study it. That is completely irresponsible and shameful.
    This agreement will bind the two countries for the next 30 years. The public has a right to know what kind of disaster to expect with the current agreement. Right now I am 29 years old. This agreement would bind Canada and China until I am 59. That is more than twice my age right now, and during that time we will be stuck with an agreement that could present a lot of problems.
    In addition to the fact that the process leaves much to be desired, the treaty itself is extremely problematic. We will not have the right to withdraw from this agreement for 30 years. No matter what happens, there is no way out of this agreement whatsoever. The treaty is written in such a way that the dispute settlement mechanism between an investor and the state allows foreign companies to sue for damages in foreign courts outside the Canadian justice system.
    That means, for example, that if a Chinese company investing in Canada finds a new Canadian regulation to be too bothersome, that company can file a complaint in courts outside Canada's jurisdiction and seek damages from Canadian taxpayers.
    To make matters worse, foreign investors will be able to sue the federal government over laws that are not even federal. A provincial government could implement a law and foreign investors would still be able to take the federal government to court. We could therefore be sued over laws that do no even fall directly under our jurisdiction.
    Before I close, I would like to point out that, so far, every time Canada has taken other countries to court under similar agreements, it has lost. We are 0 for 17. Every time, we have lost. On the other hand, any time China or the United States has been taken to court, it has won its case.
    Therefore, from the outset, this is a very risky undertaking. The government has refused to consult the public and is not respecting the rights of first nations. What is more, we must remember that this agreement directly targets natural resources. This is a big investment, and these resources belong to all Canadians.

  (1345)  

    I think we need to be careful. Right now, this agreement does not contain the legal provisions needed for Canadians to really support it. If it did, I would have supported it, but that is not the case right now. That is why I wanted to share my concerns about this agreement.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for her passionate and very relevant speech. She identified some very pertinent points, such as the lack of consultation with first nations and the problem of interfering in provincial areas of jurisdiction.
    She represents the riding of Abitibi—Témiscamingue, which has its share of natural resources. In the context of natural resource development, how does she think the locals feel about these types of agreements and compromises? I am not just talking about aboriginal communities, but also the Canadian public in general.

  (1350)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his question, because this is an extremely important topic.
    We need to understand that the people are greatly affected by these companies that are developing natural resources. There is concern about losing control over development. There is support for this type of development and people want industries, but they want to see these companies develop the resources in an environmentally responsible and sustainable manner and by investing locally. People have already seen enough disasters; they do not want any more. In my region, when a mine shuts down, an entire town shuts down. Some towns no longer even exist in my riding.
    We need to be very cautious about these investments. People want to be consulted and want to be part of the process. Right now, parliamentarians are not even allowed to be part of the process.
    The community will have basically no role in this, and there will be a great deal of legal fallout. Thirty years is a long time. As I said, that is twice my current age and then some. In my riding, mines—which have a lifespan of 15 to 20 years—may be subject to this agreement for the entire time they are in operation. That is huge.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it is very clear that Canada is a trading nation. Hundreds of thousands of jobs across our great land, from coast to coast to coast, depend on trade. It is very important for us to recognize the value of trade agreements.
    I can appreciate the NDP members have never stood in their place and voted in favour of a trade agreement in the House of Commons, but my question to the member is, does she believe that there is any value whatsoever in trade agreements?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to clarify that those types of agreements are indeed very valuable and they are of paramount importance. However, they are binding agreements, so we have to negotiate carefully. Canada is actually on the losing end of this particular agreement.
    Generally speaking, in negotiations, both parties must gain something and the benefits must be comparable. However, in this case, too many measures are actually placing Canadian investors and Canadian industry at a disadvantage. We run the risk of clandestine legal action. The lawsuits could be secret. Canadian taxpayers will pay a bill without even knowing that the Canadian government has been sued.
    From a legal standpoint, this agreement is not well structured. If the agreement had been good and negotiated properly, I would have been happy to support it. I recognize that the Chinese government's investments are important for our country. However, this agreement is really not good and we cannot support it, because such a binding agreement with so many flaws is really dangerous for the future of our country.

[English]

     Mr. Speaker, the FIPA with China is about providing a level playing field between Chinese investors in Canada and Canadian investors in China, allowing them to have the same type of protection on their property and investments that they are putting in place in each other's countries.
    Right now, Chinese companies have full value and full protection under Canadian law. That is something that is not reciprocated in China for Canadian investors over there. Does she believe that Canadian investors and Canadian businesses, that are doing all sorts of investing and activities within the Chinese economy, deserve the same type of protection that we give to Chinese investors here in Canada?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, yes, we do need to have the same protection. The problem is with the other flaws.
    A government could challenge a new environmental law, and that could prevent us from moving forward. Under this agreement, if we wanted to move forward with the same environmental protections, and there was no possibility of legal action, even if not everything was done properly, that might be possible. However, this is not the case right now.
    That is why I cannot support this agreement.

  (1355)  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House to speak to the foreign investment promotion and protection agreement. This is a very important issue. I am quite pleased that my colleague, the international trade critic for the official opposition, moved this motion calling on this House not to support the agreement that has been entered into, but not yet ratified by Canada.
    I have only 10 minutes; five minutes before question period and five after. I would like to go over four key aspects of the agreement and certain parameters surrounding it. If I had more time, I would talk more about the problems with this agreement, but the four points I am raising are, in my mind, the biggest problems with this agreement. These points are the reason that I, as the member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, agree to the motion and therefore reject the premise of the agreement proposed by the Conservative government.
    The first point is the Conservative government's claim that the foreign investment promotion and protection agreement will protect foreign investment and encourage more investment. One very clear item in the agreement leads us to believe that the agreement will actually discourage investment, Canadian investment in China in particular. Investment might not be discouraged, but it is not being encouraged either.
    Let us compare two articles in particular. One is about the most favoured nation. In short, it ensures that the party the government is signing the agreement with is given the same general or minimum protection that the government gives to other countries with which it already has agreements. I want to compare this article with the one on national treatment, which specifies that businesses protected in our territory must receive the same treatment as businesses from here. I will read both articles.
    The article on most-favoured-nation treatment states that:
    Each Contracting Party shall accord to investors of the other Contracting Party treatment no less favourable than that it accords, in like circumstances, to investors of a non-Contracting Party with respect to the establishment, acquisition, expansion, management, conduct, operation and sale or other disposition of investments in its territory.
    In contrast, the article on national treatment states that:
    Each Contracting Party shall accord to investors of the other Contracting Party treatment no less favourable than that it accords, in like circumstances, to its own investors with respect to the expansion, management, conduct, operation and sale or other disposition of investments in its territory.
    There is a fundamental difference between these two articles, which I admit are very technical. With regard to national treatment, the agreement does not give the same rights to investors who are getting established or acquiring new companies and therefore making new investments.
    That means that, under the terms and conditions of the agreement before us, companies that want to invest in China will not have as much protection as companies that already have investments in China. Clearly, the opposite is also true. Chinese companies that are already investing in Canada have the same rights as a Canadian company. However, Chinese companies that will invest in Canada in the future will not have the same rights as Chinese companies that are already investing in Canada.
    As a result, the agreement will protect the $5 billion in investments that we currently have in China, but it will not provide as much protection for future investments that Canadian investors want to make in China. The problem is that Canadian businesses in China are not getting nearly as much protection as Chinese companies and investors that are currently in Canada.
    In 2011, we had only about $5 billion worth of investments in China, whereas China had over $22 billion worth of investments in Canada in 2012. From the outset, the agreement is not providing equal protection. This demonstrates a lack of reciprocity and is a blatant problem with the agreement before us today.
    I would like to address another aspect that the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway and the official opposition critic for international trade spoke about, and that is the changes being made to non-conforming measures in trade agreements in general.

  (1400)  

    This agreement allows countries, including China, to keep these measures that do not conform to international treaties.
    I will come back to this after question period.
    The hon. member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques will have five minutes after question period.

STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS

[Statements by Members]

[English]

Canada Israel Hockey School

    Mr. Speaker, last month, in Winnipeg, 17 children aged 11 to 14 came to visit us from the Canada Israel Hockey School. They faced off with the Winnipeg South Centre-based Corydon Comets. Five of these children were Arab, 12 of these children were Jewish. The teams met not only to improve their hockey skills, but also to just get to know each other.
    This hockey initiative was organized by the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, in conjunction with the Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University and the Canada Israel Hockey School, which is most generously funded by Sidney Greenberg. I had the opportunity to meet with Michael Mazeika, a Canadian who is the head coach of the Canada Israel Hockey School in Metula, Israel. His efforts have helped the youth improve their hockey skills on the ice and their cultural acceptance of one another off the ice.
    I would like to commend the organizers of this event and also to let my colleagues know that CIJA will be taking a group of students from Norway House Cree Nation to the Canada Israel Hockey School in Metula next month.
     Long may this cultural collaboration continue.

South Asia Community in Pierrefonds-Dollard

    Mr. Speaker, today, I want to shed light on the solidarity and vivacity of the South Asian community of Pierrefonds—Dollard. Here are just a few examples of events that occurred in the span of one month:
    The India Canada Organization and the Himalaya Seniors had their first International Women's Day event.
    Holi, the festival of colours, was celebrated at the Hindu Mandir Temple in DDO, which just celebrated its 16th anniversary.
    Murugan Temple in DDO hosted festivities for the Tamil New Year and the Sikh community-organized Vaisakhi celebrations at the DDO gurdwara.
    SAWID, Montreal's South Asian business directory, just launched its new edition last week.
    Also, the Himalaya Seniors will be celebrating Eid Milad ul-Nabi, the birth of the Muslim prophet, this week.
    I am proud to be part of a community that is rich in its diversity, a community where people work to be united and build bridges. Without the South Asian community, the West Island would not be the West Island.

St. John Ambulance

    Mr. Speaker, next Tuesday, April 23, St. John Ambulance is hosting its first ever Day on the Hill. I would like to thank the member for Ottawa—Vanier and the member for St. John's East for helping make this day a success.
    All parliamentarians are invited to attend one of several meetings to be held that day, to learn about the importance of first aid training and the valuable work done by St. John Ambulance. Members are also invited to a reception that evening, hosted by speakers of both the House and the Senate, where we will honour several people who have done the incredible act of saving a life.
    Later this spring, St. John Ambulance will provide free CPR and free AED training to all parliamentarians so that we too will know how to save a life.
    Since founding Canada's first St. John Ambulance Brigade in London, Ontario, Canada's tenth-largest city, St. John Ambulance has always had a close relationship with the constituents in my riding and I am proud to support it.
    As my Cape Breton mother used to say, “community service is the price you pay to live somewhere”. When the price to pay is learning the skills to save a life, we should all be willing to pay that price. I look forward to working with all of my fellow parliamentarians in making a difference in our communities.

Coptic Christian Community

    Mr. Speaker, Coptic Christians are one of the oldest Christian communities in the Middle East. While they have integrated into the larger Egyptian nation, the Copts have survived as a distinct religious community, forming around 10% of the population.
    Coptic Christians have faced increasing marginalization since the 1952 coup d'état led by Mr. Nasser. The Coptic community has been targeted by hate crimes and physical assaults. Their churches, homes, and businesses have been looted and burned. They have faced a growing number of personal attacks, which have left uncounted numbers injured and several hundred dead, and the death toll is rising.
    Earlier this month, six Coptic Christians were killed in an attack in Saint Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral, in Cairo. They were attending the funeral of four Coptic Christians who had been gunned down two days earlier.
    It has been estimated that in 2011 alone, 100,000 Coptic Christians fled Egypt. There are no figures yet for 2012. However, for most of Egypt's Coptic Christians, some six million to eight million, flight is not an option. They are too poor. The Canadian Coptic community is--

  (1405)  

    The hon. member for Elgin—Middlesex—London.

Scouts Canada

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to take the opportunity to recognize Scouts Canada's Good Turn Week, which is taking place this week, from April 13 to April 21.
    Giving back and helping others has always been the core value of Scouts Canada, and Good Turn Week is an initiative that was spearheaded by the Scouts Canada National Youth Network. This fantastic initiative follows the principles of scouting which teach youth to always do unto others as they would do unto us, and it is from this that Good Turn Week was born. This campaign encourages everyone across the country to share Scouts Canada's passion by generating a cycle of kindness from coast to coast to coast. Just witness the unlimited potential that Canadian youth have on building a happier, stronger community.
    I ask my colleagues in the House to join me in wishing Scouts Canada a successful Good Turn Week and to join the movement by doing a good turn, as each good turn has the power to help shape and change the world.

[Translation]

Canadian Youth

    Mr. Speaker, today I am pleased to welcome to Ottawa seven youth from youth centres in Pont-Rouge, Portneuf, Saint-Basile and Neuville.
    Driven by an interest in public affairs as well as an impressive social conscience, these young people are here to learn more about the work of MPs in Ottawa and our parliamentary system.
    These youth from my riding of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier are a shining example of the drive and extraordinary potential of Canadian youth.
    Their presence on the Hill is proof positive that they are already actively involved. They are also a reminder of the importance of ensuring that all young Canadians have a real voice here in the House and that this government provides them with all the support they require.
    Whether it is through funding for youth-specific programs, such as youth service co-operatives, or the creation of initiatives that encourage youth to actively participate in our democracy, it is time to take action.
    As elected members, we have a responsibility to carve out a place for youth in our debates and in the policies we create. They are far too often forgotten by this government.

[English]

Bathurst-Finch Community Hub

    Mr. Speaker, early this month, I attended the grand opening of the Bathurst-Finch Community Hub in my riding of York Centre.

[Translation]

    This centre will have a real impact on the day-to-day lives of the people of York Centre, in particular families, new Canadians and job seekers.

[English]

    At the hub, service providers will offer classes, career counselling and training to clients in an accessible and modern setting.

[Translation]

    I am proud that our federal government has invested $11 million in this centre.

[English]

    This investment follows through on our government's economic action plan commitment to fund infrastructure, help connect Canadians with meaningful and stable employment and work to improve the accessibility of social services.

[Translation]

    On behalf of the people of York Centre, I would like to thank the Prime Minister for his dedication to making Canada a better place.

[English]

Tribute to Boston Bombing Victims

    Mr. Speaker, I invite all members of the House to join a throng of people who will assemble at the eternal flame at 1 p.m. on Monday. We will march to the U.S. Embassy. We will march in freedom, unity and peace to remember those who were lost last Monday in Boston at the hands of people who would impose hatred where others seek love, people who shed blood among those who had gathered as friends.
    People in Ottawa will, on behalf of all peace-loving Canadians, stand with those who were killed, injured or bereaved in Boston.
    In 1963 a great Bostonian, the late U.S. president John F. Kennedy, stood in Berlin. He stood in unity with all people who crave freedom and democracy. He stood to say that those who believe in freedom would not be intimidated, not by guns and not by tanks.
    Brave Bostonians will not be intimidated by bombs. On Monday and always, we will stand with them for freedom. In Berlin, President Kennedy said, “I am a Berliner”. I ask my colleagues in the House to stand with me now as I say, for today, Monday and always, “I am a Bostonian”.

  (1410)  

[Translation]

Francophone Community in Northern Ontario

    Mr. Speaker, our party leader recently visited Sudbury and the Nickel Belt, where he had the opportunity to meet representatives from our vibrant Franco-Ontarian community.
    The Nickel Belt riding proudly boasts the second-largest French-speaking population in Ontario.
    We met with the Regroupement des organismes culturels de Sudbury, an association of French-language organizations that includes the Carrefour francophone de Sudbury; the Centre franco-ontarien de folklore; 5-Penny New Music Concerts; Concerts La Nuit sur l'étang; the Prise de parole publishing house; the Galerie du Nouvel-Ontario; the Salon du livre du Grand Sudbury; and the Théâtre du Nouvel-Ontario.
    The Nickel Belt area has three French-language newspapers: Le Voyageur, La Tribune in Sturgeon Falls, and La Vision in French River.
    We also have a French-language radio station, Le Loup.
    West Nipissing is a model of bilingualism in Canada. La Francophonie in northern Ontario is an amazing and dynamic community. Congratulations and keep up the good work.

[English]

International Trade

    Mr. Speaker, today's NDP motion to advocate against the interests of Canadian investors and against Canadian jobs should come as no surprise from the socialist party. After all, the NDP leader travelled to Washington to attack Canadian jobs and our national interests in secret meetings with American politicians.
    The NDP leader stood, front and centre, as he and his party opposed every trade agreement brought forward by our government, including recently voting against a free trade agreement with Panama. The NDP even opposed the Auto Pact.
    While the NDP leader's opposition to free trade is well known, their opposition to an agreement to give Canadian investors in China the same protections as Chinese investors enjoy here in Canada is simply ludicrous. This treaty will create jobs and growth by protecting Canadians who want to do business in China.
    While the NDP leader and his party are fighting for special deals for Chinese companies and against protections for Canadians investing in China, our Conservative government will continue to open new markets and to build Canadian jobs and economic development here in Canada.

[Translation]

Charlesbourg

    Mr. Speaker, in 2015, the borough of Charlesbourg will celebrate its 350th anniversary. On this historic date we will commemorate the founding of the first inland village in New France.
    A few weeks ago, our community set up an organizing committee that will oversee the many activities to commemorate this historic event.
    Some very talented individuals have been recruited, and well-known organizations from the community will get to work to make these celebrations a success. The Société d'histoire de Charlesbourg, the cross-country ski centre, the Maison des jeunes la Marginale, the Corporation des loisirs Notre-Dame-des-Laurentides and business people will all be involved. I want to offer my support and best wishes.
    Charlesbourg is steeped in history, and there is much to see and do. I urge the entire community to participate in our 350th anniversary celebrations, which will shine the spotlight on one of the oldest boroughs in Canada.

[English]

Aboriginal Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, for decades, aboriginal women on reserves have been without the legal protections they need in situations of family violence. Women have been victimized and children and families have been deeply affected.
    For 13 years, the Liberals did nothing. Aboriginal women, international organizations and even the Manitoba NDP have called for this change. We have responded with matrimonial property rights legislation to protect aboriginal women and give them the same rights as all other women in Canada. This bill would allow judges to enforce emergency protection orders for the safety of the women and children, yet shockingly, last night, the Liberals and the NDP voted against giving aboriginal women and children these protections.
    This is shameful. Whether it is on reserve or anywhere in Canada, I am proud to say that our Conservative government continues to stand up for the protection of women, children and families.

Duke of Edinburgh Award

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize Sarah Erikson-Gaudon, a young woman from Lourdes in the riding of Random—Burin—St. George's.
    After completing a rigorous program which included community service, skills development, physical fitness, a residential component and a strenuous four-day expedition to the Rocky Mountains, Sarah was awarded the prestigious gold Duke of Edinburgh Award, the highest achievement in the program. Sarah's activities as an army cadet and high school athlete helped her complete much of her program. She volunteered in the community, participated in provincial marksmanship competitions and served as senior drill commander of her corps and as a senior member of the Honour Guard at Camp Argonaut in New Brunswick.
    Sarah is a fourth-year psychology student at Grenfell College, Memorial University. She credits the Duke of Edinburgh program with developing her academic and leadership skills and deepening her passion for helping others.
    I ask all members of the House to join me in recognizing Sarah-Erikson Gaudon, a remarkable young woman who is a shining example of our exceptional youth.

  (1415)  

Boston Marathon Bombings

    Mr. Speaker, the attacks in Boston that targeted innocent civilians are a tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families, Boston and all Americans. The law enforcement officers who are now investigating this heinous attack are working around the clock, and we hope that they will soon be able to bring the person or persons responsible for this attack to justice.
    While the Liberal leader wants to talk about the root cause behind why the perpetrator launched this attack, we know that what is really important is getting this person or persons off the street so that they do not kill or injure any more innocent people. Regardless of the motives behind this attack, there is simply no root cause that can justify the killing and maiming of innocent civilians. This behaviour must be condemned unequivocally wherever it occurs. We will always stand with the victims and against this kind of senseless, violent attack.

Prime Minister's Office

    Mr. Speaker, once again there is trouble in the Conservative caucus. This time, the member for Edmonton—St. Albert is blowing the whistle on the PMO.
    During an interview with Global News, the member offered Canadians something they rarely see from Conservatives: the truth. When asked if he would be repeating the carbon farce lies of Conservatives in the House of Commons, he responded, "I will absolutely guarantee you that I won't be talking about the carbon tax", because he does not like these untrue statements.
    The member went on to give a first-hand account of the tyranny rained down on backbenchers from the "kids that work over in Langevin Block". The member even recalled pressure put on him by PMO staffers to censor his blog on his MP website.
    Fortunately, Canadians will have a clear choice in 2015. New Democrats will offer honesty, openness and strong MPs who truly stand for their constituents.

Carbon Tax

    Mr. Speaker, Canadians know that our Conservative government is focused on their priorities: jobs, growth and long-term prosperity.
    Meanwhile, the leader of the NDP has made promises that will cost over $56 billion. He does not want to tell Canadians where he will get the money to pay for these new spending promises, but a bit of research found that he will raise the money by imposing a new $20 billion job-killing carbon tax.
    This NDP carbon tax plan is found in the party's last election platform and even in the NDP leader's personal policy documents.
    The NDP leader's job-killing carbon tax would raise the price of everything, including gas, groceries and electricity.
    Our government will stand up against the NDP leader's job-killing carbon tax and against his party's now hidden socialist spending promises.

ORAL QUESTIONS

[Oral Questions]

[Translation]

Aboriginal Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday, provincial and territorial ministers and representatives of aboriginal affairs called for a public inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.
    The families of 600 aboriginal women have been calling for such an inquiry for far too long.
    Will the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs finally listen to families, provinces, territories and civil society groups and launch a public inquiry so that justice can be served?
    Mr. Speaker, this is a very serious issue, and we take our obligation to protect the interests of all Canadians very seriously.
    That is why our government, the Prime Minister and the minister himself are doing everything they can to stand up for the rights of all women across Canada and protect them from these types of attacks.
    An investigation has already been launched in British Columbia. We are putting in place the investments, policies and approaches necessary to ensure the safety of all Canadians and the aboriginal women affected by these tragedies.

  (1420)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, civil society gets it, the provinces get it and Canadians get it, and the families of the victims need it, so why do the Conservatives not get it? Why do they not understand that they need to call this inquiry now?
    We are talking about the tragic deaths and disappearances of more than 600 aboriginal women and girls. Yesterday, the provinces joined their voices together to call for an inquiry.
    Will the minister now do the right thing? Will he provide justice and peace for the families of the victims by immediately calling a public inquiry?
    Mr. Speaker, I agree with the sentiment of the need for justice and peace, and I think what all Canadians are looking for is action.
    Our government has indeed taken action. The minister has spoken to that, as has the Prime Minister, and not only has our government taken action on the file of missing and murdered aboriginal women, which is an issue that touched my home province of British Columbia very deeply and indeed the entire country, but this House took action last night in extending equal rights to aboriginal women on matrimonial property rights as well.
    Our government is proud of our track record of standing up and defending the interests of all Canadians, of all aboriginal Canadians and, indeed, aboriginal women, to ensure not only that they have protection but that they have equal rights in Canada.

[Translation]

International Trade

    Mr. Speaker, aboriginal women deserve more respect from this government. They deserve justice. They deserve a national public inquiry.
    On another matter, it has now been 222 days since the Conservatives signed their investment agreement with China. However, the agreement has still not been ratified.
    Why not?
    Mr. Speaker, my colleague is referring to the Canada-China FIPA, which is designed to protect the interests of Canadians who want to make investments in China.
    The purpose of this agreement is to protect Canadians and their interests. That is what we are doing.

[English]

    The NDP does not seem to understand what these agreements do, which is protect the interests of Canadians who are doing business in China.
    New Democrats made the exact same criticisms about FTA and NAFTA, and chapter 11 of NAFTA. They were wrong. That protected the interests of Canadians doing business in the United States.
    What the Canada-China FIPA agreement does is protect the interests of Canadians doing business in China. This is about protecting Canada. The hon. member should stand up for it.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, this agreement has been sitting on the Prime Minister's desk for seven months. There must be a problem.
    It may be because the agreement gives Chinese state-owned companies the same rights as Canadian companies, or it may be because it gives the Chinese government the right to buy new oil leases and to take unlimited control of our natural resources without any assessments or debate.
    This agreement does not benefit Canada.
    Will the Conservatives still go ahead with ratifying it?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it is ironic that the NDP leader and the New Democratic Party are asking for a special break for Chinese exporters, for Chinese exports coming into Canada.
    At the same time, they are asking that Canadian companies working in China should not be protected at all.
    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member picked up the wrong talking point, so let us try again.
    It seems Conservatives fail to even understand their own agreement. Thirty-one years ago, Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed negotiated a historic deal to give provinces control over natural resources as part of the repatriation of our constitution, but today, these Conservatives sign a deal with China and throw that legacy away.
    FIPA essentially guts provincial control over our natural resources. Is this really what Conservative MPs from western Canada came here to do, sell out Canada's and Alberta's natural resources to the Communist government of China?
    Mr. Speaker, that is clear, patent nonsense. The hon. member himself knows he is incorrect when he is making those statements in the House of Commons. What this agreement does is give Canadian investors in China the same protection that Chinese investors will have in Canada. There are equal rules for both parties; it is as simple as that.

Taxation

    Mr. Speaker, last fall the Minister of Finance went into a bicycle shop to announce and promote measures related to his omnibus budget bill. However, this spring in his budget he announced increases to the bicycle import taxes that would affect that very same shop owner. The Conservatives say this is not a tax, but yesterday the shop owner said this is going to hurt his business.
    Does the government accuse this hard-working shop owner of lying?

  (1425)  

    Mr. Speaker, I know in the last couple of days the new Liberal leader has expressed an interest in getting to the root causes of things. The member opposite used the word “lying”. Well what is clearly not true is any attempt to suggest that this government has done anything other than lower taxes time and again for Canadians. We have lowered taxes on investment; we have lowered taxes on small business. We have raised the personal exemption for even paying taxes, taking thousands of low-income Canadians and seniors on fixed incomes off the tax rolls altogether. In every single one of our budgets, time and again, we have defended the interests of lowering taxes for Canadians.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives just increased taxes on Canadians by over $300 million a year. Let us be clear. The exporting countries will not be the ones paying these taxes. This money will come out of Canadians' pockets. For example, the cost of shampoo, dishwasher detergent and even deodorant will go up by 3.5%.
    When will the government cancel these tax increases?
    Mr. Speaker, as I just said, our government is lowering taxes for Canadians. That is what we are doing. We have lowered the GST, the tax on small and medium-sized businesses and the taxes on seniors. In every single one of our budgets there are tax cuts. Even budget 2013 has lower taxes, which means more money in Canadians' pockets so they can decide how to live their lives.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservative tax on baby cribs, tricycles, blankets and everything is affecting almost 1,300 household items that most Canadians need. Now, at a time of record debt level, high unemployment and stagnant wages, the worst possible thing one can do is increase taxes. When is the government going to realize it, and when is it going to cancel those tax increases on hard-working Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, the Liberals have never stood with us in lowering taxes on Canadians. They have never stood with us on every one of our budgets where we have lowered taxes, time and again. The average family in Canada pays $3,200 less in taxes because the Conservatives are in government in this country.
    Again, the hypocrisy of the Liberals is really quite something. They come to this House and say we need to do something to support Canadian manufacturing, and then they beg the government to put in place a special deal for China to dump goods into this country. It is outrageous.

[Translation]

International Trade

    Mr. Speaker, from the beginning, the Conservatives have been mishandling the negotiations for the foreign investment promotion and protection agreement with China.
    Not only does it lack reciprocity, but it protects the few existing Canadian investments in China while not providing the same protection to new investors. It says that Chinese enterprises have the right to be treated fairly and equitably, but does not define what that means. It gives China the right to sue the Canadian government before secret administrative tribunals.
    Will the Conservatives finally admit their mistake and tell China that Canada will not ratify the agreement in its current form?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, what this investment treaty does is give equal rights to Chinese investors in Canada and to Canadian investors in China, no more and no less. The members opposite can try to spread whatever rumours they want. They need to back that up with facts. They do not have the facts.
    Mr. Speaker, Conservative incompetence on this file is breeding uncertainty and chaos in the foreign investment community. Today we have another report detailing how the Conservatives' failure to spell out clear rules on foreign takeovers is scaring off investment. Also, with the FIPA, Conservatives want to lock Canadians into a 31-year deal with China without even understanding its provisions.
    Here is some news. FIPA is not just about protecting Canadians in China; it is about protecting Canadians in Canada.
    Will Conservatives take the first step to restoring investor confidence and fix the serious deficiencies in FIPA before it is too late?

  (1430)  

    Mr. Speaker, number one, the hon. member knows that Canadians are protected in Canada. Number two, he also knows that Canadian exporters and Canadian investors in China need protection. That is what this FIPA does. That is why we are supporting it.

Government Appointments

    Mr. Speaker, today's integrity commissioner's report on the former head of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal is nothing short of shocking. The report states that Shirish Chotalia's behaviour as the former head constituted harassment and an abuse of her authority, that she mismanaged through intimidation and that she ordered employees of what should be an arm's-length organization to carry out government policy. It also stated that virtually no vetting occurred before the appointment of Ms. Chotalia.
     Who on that side will take responsibility for this patronage debacle?
    Mr. Speaker, the individual no longer works for the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, which is an arm's-length agency operating independently from the government, and the tribunal has now addressed this matter.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, that perfectly illustrates this government's “laissez-faire, I don't care” attitude. The Conservatives are fully and completely responsible for the fiasco that resulted from that appointment.
    In his report, Mario Dion said that proper procedures for verifying candidacies were not followed when Shirish Chotalia was appointed to chair the tribunal. This was their candidate, a candidate who “repeatedly harassed employees at all levels”.
    When will the Conservatives apologize?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the NDP always wants us to get involved and interfere with arm's-length organizations. That is exactly what the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal is. It operates independently from the government. As he can see, the tribunal has now addressed this issue.

[Translation]

Employment Insurance

    Mr. Speaker, with the Conservatives, it is one failure after another.
    There has been a significant drop in the number of EI recipients in Sherbrooke, Quebec City and Vancouver. This drop is not the result of an increase in jobs. On the contrary, last month, Canada experienced the most significant loss of jobs in four years. There is only one job available per seven unemployed workers. Meanwhile, more and more people are being forced to repay employment insurance benefits.
    Is the minister aware that her reform encourages economic instability?
    Mr. Speaker, our government's primary objective is economic growth and job creation.
    To achieve this, the labour force must have the required skills. That is why we have changed the EI system. It helps people acquire skills and find new jobs in their area of expertise in their region. If there are no jobs available in their region, employment insurance will continue to be there for them.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the fact is there are six and a half job seekers for every one vacancy, and EI is no longer there for those who need it. The minister has nothing to brag about.
    The labour force survey shows that unemployment is on the rise at the same time that a Statistics Canada report shows that fewer Canadians are receiving EI benefits. Taken together, the two reports prove that the Conservatives' changes to EI mean fewer Canadians are getting the benefits they paid for.
    When will the minister finally wake up to the problem and fix the mess she created?
    Mr. Speaker, that is exactly our government's number one priority, job creation and economic growth, because with more jobs there will be fewer people out of work. That is better for them and it is better for their families.
    We will continue on the progress we have already made in helping create more than 900,000 net new jobs across this country. That is our priority. It is time the NDP supported that effort.

Employment

    Mr. Speaker, while nearly 1.4 million Canadians are out of work, the Conservative government has persisted in bringing in more temporary foreign workers than any government before. Even Canadian pilots are not safe from losing their jobs to imported labour.
    From September to October last year, HRSDC issued 119 positive labour market opinions, which led to the hiring of pilots from abroad, all while Canadian pilots had to go overseas to find work. How could the minister allow this to happen?

  (1435)  

    Mr. Speaker, our goal is to ensure that Canadians always get first crack at every job. We are working with airline pilots and the airlines to ensure there are training opportunities so Canadians can get these jobs. In fact, the Air Line Pilots Association said:
    
ALPA has been working with your departments on several aspects of this issue as it relates to pilots. We are pleased with the progress that has been made.
    Mr. Speaker, pilots want results and they do not have them.

[Translation]

    The hypocrisy in this matter lies in the discrepancy between what the Conservatives say and what they do, or rather what they do not do.
    They have managed this program so poorly that qualified professionals such as pilots are losing their jobs, while dozens of foreign pilots are being brought here to fly their planes.
    How can they justify foreign pilots being hired by Canadian airlines while our pilots are forced to go abroad to find work?

[English]

    As I indicated, Mr. Speaker, the airline pilots and the airlines are working with us to ensure that there are Canadians who have the skills for those jobs, but we are going beyond that. In budget 2013, we have introduced the Canada job grant that will help industry, the provinces and the federal government work together to ensure that Canadians get the skills for the jobs that employers need filled. I would expect that the NDP would support that effort. Unfortunately, it is not.
    Mr. Speaker, I do not know how the Conservatives expect the program to work considering they never consulted with the provinces before implementing it.
    We are trying to defend Canadian jobs against this attack of bringing in foreign temporary workers when Canadians are out of work. Conservative mismanagement is encouraging more of this. When the Conservatives first weakened those rules in 2006, the then minister said, “When it starts to affect our ability to go to Tim Hortons and get a double-double, it's a serious issue”.
    When will the minister finally step up and take responsibility for the mess the Conservatives created?
    Mr. Speaker, we are trying to create jobs for Canadians, give Canadians first crack at those jobs and provide them with the training skills they need for those jobs. The NDP is voting against that. It is not supporting helping Canadians get new jobs.
    Also, the hon. member talks about protecting Canadians and their jobs, except that several of his colleagues are in fact making special requests to this government to help them bring in foreign workers to fill those jobs that should be filled by Canadians. What is it: what they talk or what they do?

Taxation

    Mr. Speaker, the government's attack on the middle class continues to expand. First, there was shampoo, deodorants and dishwasher detergents. Now it is blankets, toothbrushes, hairbrushes and even pillows. These are things that families use every day and the government just cannot keep its hands out of the pockets of Canadian families. The government has mismanaged the economy, we all know that, and now it wants to balance the books on the backs of families that are struggling to make ends meet.
    When are the Conservatives going to cancel this nothing short of a tax hike on middle-class families?
    Mr. Speaker, every time we bring forward a tax reduction for Canadians, the Liberals vote against it. It is rather odd that they stand in the House and argue for special breaks for Chinese companies and companies from India that are providing products to Canada that Canadian companies could actually be manufacturing. It is unbelievable that the NDP and the Liberals would be fighting for jobs offshore instead of fighting for jobs in Canada.
    Mr. Speaker, the government is levelling hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes on everyday items used by Canadian families. The reality is that middle-class families cannot afford to pay more for necessities, such as playpens, carriages, bicycles, tricycles, school supplies, and the list goes on, just because of a Conservative tax.
    When will the Conservatives cancel this new tax on Canadian families?

  (1440)  

    Mr. Speaker, once again, it is unbelievable that the Liberals and the NDP are actually fighting for, as they say, offshore jobs.
    Chinese products are coming into our country at a discount and we are going to change that. We need to remember that the Chinese do not need special breaks for products coming into Canada.
    I wish the opposition would stand up for Canadian jobs.
    Mr. Speaker, Canadians are obviously weary of being used as props in deceitful Conservative publicity stunts. Just ask that bicycle shop owner.
    Tariffs are taxes. The government is raising taxes by $333 million every year, and do not blame China. The Chinese did not impose the taxes and the Chinese will not have pay them.
    This is a self-inflicted Canadian tax grab on the Canadian middle class, draining Canadian disposable incomes, driving Canadian businesses and consumers across the border.
    Why does the government not just cancel the tax increase?
    Mr. Speaker, we do continue on our low-tax plan. That is what we have run all of our campaigns on. All of our budgets have ensured that we make taxes affordable for Canadians and that the programs we put in place actually reduce costs for consumers and for taxpayers.
     Actually 150 different times we have reduced taxes for Canadians and the Liberals and the NDP voted against it every time.

Ethics

    Mr. Speaker, it is now 1 month and 27 days since Mike Duffy offered to pay back the taxpayer.
    However, last night we saw Prince Edward Island's most famous summer tourist once again ducking and weaving from accountability. He gets asked a simple question by a reporter, “Have you paid back the money?” and he runs away.
    How long will the government allow this ripoff of the taxpayer? What will it do to get our money back? Will it at least send a collection agency to the red chamber down the hall? What about it?
    Mr. Speaker, as we have said, we want to see that the expenses incurred by senators are appropriate and that all the rules are followed. That is what the Senate review has been seeking to do.
     The more important question is we also want to see fundamental change to the Senate. This week, taking his seat is one more elected senator actually chosen by the voters of his province, Scott Tannas. We are pleased to see he is there.
    What Canadians want to know is why is the NDP is standing in the way of having real democracy and having all senators selected by the people of Canada?
    Mr. Speaker, Canadians want to know why the Conservatives promised reform and gave us Patrick Brazeau.
    The Conservatives promised to clean up the Senate. Instead they are defending their entitlements in the worst political spending scandal in memory. They refuse to tell us how many are being investigated. They refuse to tell us how much money is being paid back and why the senators are allowed to police themselves when they pay out their expenses based on a pinkie swear. That is not accountability.
     Will the government demand that its Conservative-dominated Senate hand over the audits and come clean with Canadians so we know how much taxpayers are being ripped off? That is accountability.
    Mr. Speaker, we have made it clear throughout that we want to see respect for Canadians' tax dollars.
    Canadians work too hard to have their tax dollars taken by excessive and irresponsible government spending. We want to see the Senate apply the rules. Canadians do not want to see the tax-and-spend approach by the NDP.
    What Canadians do want is a chance for them to actually be treated with respect by political parties. They want to see an opposition NDP, instead of saying Canadians do not have the maturity to select their own representatives in the House, actually support real democracy and support our legislation to give Canadians a say in who actually represents them in the Senate. That is what Canadians want to see.

[Translation]

Democratic Reform

    Mr. Speaker, the example of Mike Duffy, who is feigning remorse, only goes to show that there is one rule for the Conservatives and another rule for everyone else.
    The delay in tabling reforms of the Canada Elections Act raises some troubling questions. We are wondering why the Conservative caucus blocked the introduction of the new bill. We know that the Conservatives refused to provide the powers that the Chief Electoral Officer was asking for. We know that their lawyer dragged out the investigation into the fraudulent calls for months and that the minister dragged his feet for over a year to avoid changing the legislation as promised.
    What is behind these tactics? When will there finally be changes to the Canada Elections Act?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we have some serious concerns over what the Supreme Court of Canada has called the Liberals' attempt to disenfranchise entitled voters and undermine public confidence in the electoral process and the fact that the NDP has accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal union donations.
    We are going to make changes to Canada's election laws and we are going to take the time to get it right.

  (1445)  

    Mr. Speaker, we have gone from “in due course” to “in the near future” to “we will take the time to get it right”. The fact is, Conservatives have dragged their heels on giving Elections Canada the tools it needs to combat election fraud, just as their lawyer ran interference for months to prevent interviews of Conservatives by Elections Canada investigators.
    On Tuesday the democratic reform minister said he would introduce legislation “on Thursday”. Today is Thursday, so could the minister please tell Canadians which Thursday he was talking about?
    Mr. Speaker, we are making changes to Canada's election laws and we will take the time to get it right. We are concerned about what the Supreme Court of Canada said about the Liberals' attempt to disenfranchise entitled voters and undermine the public confidence in the electoral process and the fact that the NDP accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal union donations.

Justice

    Mr. Speaker, Canadians are concerned about crime, which is why our government has passed over 30 measures cracking down on violent crime and—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order, please. The hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley has the floor.
    Mr. Speaker, our government is cracking down on crime by passing over 30 measures that stand up for the rights of victims. My constituents are particularly concerned with the case of Herbert John Hawkins, a convicted murdered who was recently granted escorted leave. He was convicted of murdering beloved Cape Breton musician Mr. Sheldon Boutilier.
    Could the Minister of Justice please inform the House of our government's reaction to this decision by the independent parole board?
    Mr. Speaker, I do not comment on specific cases, but we are concerned. If violent criminals are released in the community, we believe that to keep our streets and communities safe, dangerous criminals must be kept behind bars.
    My colleague, the Minister of Public Safety, is currently reviewing the laws with respect to escorted leave and our government will soon bring forward legislation to ensure that victims' rights are respected and that their voices are heard at parole hearings.
    I hope for once that all opposition members will support our efforts to stand up for victims of crime.

Taxation

    Mr. Speaker, the GTA is already one of the most expensive places to live in Canada and Conservative GTA MPs are just not getting the job done. They just sit here quietly, while unemployment goes up. Youth unemployment in the GTA is over 15%.
    Now Conservatives are raising taxes on over 1,200 everyday items, from brooms to bikes to iPods. Why are Conservatives delivering less and less for cities, while taking more and more money out of the pockets of already squeezed urban Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, the only thing the NDP would deliver is a $21 billion carbon tax. I do not think that is what Canadians want.
    The NDP continues to fight for special breaks for companies from China and India. We will stand up for Canadian jobs. It is about time the NDP did.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, if they were truly standing up for Canadians, they would not have created the conditions to allow Canadian workers to be fired and replaced by temporary foreign workers. Many people living in large Canadian cities are already deep in debt and can barely make ends meet. They will have to work even harder to pay for the Conservatives' tax hikes on all manner of everyday consumer goods such as bicycles, coffee makers, umbrellas and so forth.
    The Conservatives promised not to raise taxes. Why did they break their promise?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I might remind the hon. member that Canadian taxes are at the lowest they have been in 50 years. That is no thanks to the NDP. Every time we put forward a tax credit for Canadians, or lower their taxes, the NDP votes against that. It is time NDP members started recognizing that Canadians drive this economy. They should stop beating up on Canadians.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, outside of large urban centres, many people enjoy fishing for sport. I, myself, have been known to fish for walleye, northern pike and yellow perch in the many lakes and rivers that are no longer protected in my beautiful riding.
    However, with the tariff increases, the price of fishing rods, reels and lines will also go up.
    Why do the Conservatives want to go after the sport fishing industry by taxing it?

  (1450)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, that is a good question to a fly fisherman, but let me talk about what the NDP have actually voted about.
    We are talking about reductions in taxes for Canadians. The NDP voted against reducing the GST twice. The NDP voted against the universal child care benefit. It voted against the children's arts tax credit. It voted against the children's fitness tax credit. It voted against the family caregiver credit and the textbook tax credit. I can go on and on.
    Mr. Speaker, Canada's fishermen do not deserve another tax. It is wrong.
    Budget 2013 will make life more expensive for fishermen and outfitters in Thunder Bay, Rainy River and right across Canada. The Conservatives are quietly increasing tariffs on $50 million worth of fishing gear, including rods, reels and fishing line. “Look, Dad. Look what I caught. It's a Conservative bass tax.”
     Why did no one on the government side raise the concerns of fishermen and outfitters about raising taxes on the equipment they count on? Why are the Conservatives casting out fishermen hook, line and sinker?
    Mr. Speaker, the real truth is he has it bass-ackwards because actually we are reducing taxes to Canadians.
    Let me continue with where I was going in the last answer.
    The NDP also voted against the Canada employment credit. It has voted against the public tax credit. The NDP voted against the volunteer firefighters tax credit. Let the member sell that one back home.

Suicide Prevention

    Mr. Speaker, in the wake of the second suicide in a week, the Neskantaga First Nation has declared a state of emergency. This community of 421 persons has tragically had four suicides this year and 20 attempts. They are not alone. This community, like far too many communities, is in crisis and needs urgent help.
    A year and a half ago the Conservatives voted for the Liberal motion to create a national suicide prevention strategy. Where is it?
    Mr. Speaker, we welcome the leadership of the Chief of Neskantaga First Nation at this very difficult time.
    Health Canada has sent additional nurses as well as counselling staff to assist the community members during this very difficult time.
    Our government takes the situation seriously, which is why we provided funding for drug and alcohol abuse programs in the community. It is also why the community received funding to prevent and combat youth solvent abuse.

Pensions

    Mr. Speaker, when the courts ordered Revenue Canada to refund taxes that were inappropriately garnished from commercial fishermen participating in the fisheries licence buyback program, no one told them the impact this decision would have on their future pension eligibility. Service Canada has ruled that the interest on these tax refunds will result in their GIS being denied to these retirees as of July 1 of this year.
    Will the minister assure this group of retired fishermen that they will not have their GIS benefits cut in 2013 and 2014? Will she allow the pensioners the ability to option that particular lump sum payment and keep their GIS, yes or no?
    Mr. Speaker, this is a situation involving decisions made under the former Liberal government.
    I am happy to report that all the fishermen involved in the initial court case have received their due payments, and our expectation is that reassessments and cheques will continue to be issued going forward.
    Each situation is unique. However, our government's absolute expectation is that the CRA administers the Income Tax Act in a manner that is fair and equitable to these fishermen.

  (1455)  

[Translation]

Foreign Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, I have had the honour of working with many members of Canada's diplomatic corps, true professionals who defend Canada's interests around the globe with great dignity.
    Unfortunately, the Conservatives are about to damage the reputation of Canada's diplomatic corps with a questionable appointment. The head of the Prime Minister's security detail, Bruno Saccomani, does not really seem to have the qualifications required of an ambassador to Jordan, no less.
    Why did the Conservatives not entrust this important position to a career diplomat?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we will not comment on speculation. Bruno Saccomani is a distinguished individual with a strong record as a professional public servant. Our government, this House and all Canadians can be proud of the work he has done and continues to do.
    Mr. Speaker, as the commercial says, “This is about judgment”.
    The minister is well aware that the ambassador's position in Jordan is critical, given the key role this country plays in the Middle East. Canadians are simply left scratching their heads at this appointment. This should be a well-considered appointment to a very sensitive region.
    My question is to the minister: is this just another Conservative patronage appointment?
    Mr. Speaker, I just said this is pure speculation at this time.
    Mr. Saccomani is a very distinguished individual with a strong record as a professional public servant. Our government, this House and all Canadians can be proud of the work he has done and continues to do.

Aboriginal Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, for over 25 years women and children living on reserves have been without the legal protection they need. Women and children have been victimized and their families deeply affected. Yet for 13 years the Liberals did nothing and the NDP will not even listen to aboriginal women or their Manitoba NDP counterparts.
    Will the Minister for Status of Women please update the House on what our government is doing to protect aboriginal women?
    Mr. Speaker, we have introduced a bill that could protect thousands of aboriginal women and children from violence. The bill responds to calls from victims, from the United Nations and from Amnesty International. It even responds to the Manitoba NDP government, whose legislation unanimously supports the bill, yet last night the Liberals and the NDP shamefully voted against giving aboriginal women rights that are afforded to all other Canadian women.
    How can the Liberal and the NDP leader explain this unbelievable paternalism?

[Translation]

Regional Economic Development

    Mr. Speaker, this week, it was confirmed that Pâtisserie Chevalier, a subsidiary of Canada Bread, will be shutting down. Seventy employees in Shawinigan will be let go. This closure reflects the economic difficulties in the Mauricie region, which needs the federal government's support in finding the investment needed to re-open this type of factory.
    Since the minister responsible for Quebec is so concerned about skills training, is he focusing on the regions and the disappearance of this type of—
    Mr. Speaker, families are affected every time a company decides to shut down. That is a given. If these companies decide to shut down, it is because, unfortunately, they can no longer afford to be in business. We respect the private sector. We support each and every region, but we will not manage each individual company.
    That said, I have had the honour of making a number of announcements in Mauricie, and there are more to come. Take, for example, Premier Aviation in Trois-Rivières, which is doing an exceptional job in aircraft maintenance. Then there is Delastek in Louiseville, which is another success story. We will continue to work with the people in the region and support the economies of all of the regions in Quebec.

  (1500)  

[English]

Aboriginal Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, when OxyContin was pulled from the shelves last March, the Minister of Health claimed the federal response for first nation communities struggling with addiction was adequate and attacked anyone who disagreed.
    Now the Neskantaga first nation is in a state of emergency after a cluster of suicides while rampant addiction to prescription drugs is still a problem.
    Will the minister stop playing political games and start working with aboriginal communities? These willing partners need long-term solutions, not Band-Aids.
    Mr. Speaker, our hearts go out to those individuals who have lost loved ones to suicide. Health Canada will work closely with the community and send both additional nurses and counselling staff to assist the community during this time.
    We have renewed funding for, and work very closely with, the national aboriginal organizations to develop the framework for the national aboriginal youth suicide prevention strategy. We also continue to fund a number of community-based programs and services for mental health promotions, counselling, addiction prevention treatments and aftercare for first nations. Suicide prevention is also a pillar of the pathways to aboriginal health equity program we announced last year.

Canadian Heritage

    Mr. Speaker, today Rush, one of the most influential rock bands in Canadian history, is being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The trio, composed of leader singer and bassist Geddy Lee, guitar player Alex Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart, has sold more than 40 million records worldwide. Their album sales place them third behind The Beatles and the Rolling Stones for the most consecutive gold or platinum studio albums sold by a rock band.
    Rush followed Tom Sawyer, Roll the Bones and rode their Red Barchetta into the Limelight of YYZ, a Subdivisions for the Working Man, and their Freewill is now being rewarded.
    Could the Minister of Canadian Heritage please expand on how this influential band has impacted and shaped the music scene in Canada?
    Mr. Speaker, formed in 1968 in Toronto and still selling out concerts to this very day, Rush has become one of the most influential bands in Canada's history. Songs like Freewill, Tom Sawyer and Closer to the Heart are known and loved by all Canadians. The band's fame extends well beyond Canada. Rush's international popularity will have indeed been recognized and will be formally recognized today as Rush is inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
    On behalf of all Canadians and I think all members of the House, we want to wish Rush all the best and congratulations on their success and their recognition today.

Employment

    Mr. Speaker, in January the jobless rate in London was 8.5%. In February, it was 9.1%. By March, it hit 9.6%.
    London has long been a manufacturing centre with good value-added jobs. In 2011, the Prime Minister was happy to have a photo op at Electro-Motive Diesel, but when it closed it doors, there was not a Conservative in sight. Their so-called action plan has failed my community.
    We need a job plan that brings value-added jobs back to London. Where is it?
    Mr. Speaker, I am proud to announce that just through one program, the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario, we have assisted London in many ways, including putting tens of millions of dollars into its academic community, into the airports and into the colleges.
    However, that member voted no. Not only did she vote against that funding, but she showed up when the cheques were delivered and smiled for the cameras.
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order, please.
    The hon. member for Thunder Bay—Superior North.

Telecommunications Industry

    Mr. Speaker, the government's feeble wireless policies are headed for failure—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order. The hon. member for Thunder Bay—Superior North now has the floor.
    Mr. Speaker, the government's feeble wireless policies are headed for failure. All three of Canada's small wireless companies are up for sale, owing to an unlevel playing field. Unchecked, Canada's theree big telecoms will grab the last 9% of the market, guaranteeing higher prices and worse service.
    Will the minister protect consumers and block such a sale? Will he limit the auction of new spectrum to only new players?

  (1505)  

    Mr. Speaker, of course we are standing up for consumers. We want to enhance competition and investment in this country, and this is why we adopted this policy back in 2008 for the AWS spectrum.
    Let me say that the price went down by an average of 11% since then, and we will continue this way with the 700 megahertz spectrum. We launched consultation with the industry to make sure that we enhance competition and provide better choice and better rates for our consumers.

Presence in Gallery

    I would like to draw to the attention of hon. members the present in the gallery of Her Excellency Dr. Maia Panjikidze, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Georgia.
    Some hon. members: Hear, hear!
    The Speaker: I know we have the normal Thursday question, but there is a point of order arising out of question period, I believe, from the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance.

Points of Order

Oral questions  

    Mr. Speaker, I do not often rise on points of order, but I just cannot remain seated after hearing what the member for St. Paul's screamed out in one of her uncontrolled outbursts, which we hear time and time again in question period.
    When the Minister for Status of Women was speaking, the member for St. Paul's was disrespectful in the words she used to try to indicate that aboriginal women who do not have the same rights as other Canadian women ought to go and find shelters as opposed to getting the same rights as all the women here have.
    I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, because of the out-of-control outburst by that member every single day, that you might consider putting a camera that way so that when we make points of order, you can actually discipline her for once.
    Mr. Speaker, I apologize for the outburst, but I believe that it should be on record that the Conservative government has refused to fund shelters on reserves at the levels of other shelters and that—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    I believe the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley has the Thursday question.

[Translation]

Business of the House

[Business of the House]
    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to rise to ask the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons the usual Thursday question about what is on the agenda for the rest of this week and for next week.

[English]

    This week's calendar has once again shown the utter lack of a plan from the government. Of the five days the House was sitting, four have been assigned as opposition days.
    Yesterday, the one day the Conservatives actually chose to debate government legislation, they demonstrated once again their total lack of respect and fundamental disregard for Parliament and democracy by shutting down debate after only a few hours.
    This was, in fact, the 31st time, in this Parliament alone, the government has used the guillotine of shutting down debate, setting the all-time record for any government in Canadian history, in only two years.
    The pace the Conservatives are on right now is that once every seven days, the government moves a motion to shut down debate on some bill or another.

[Translation]

    Perhaps we will have a chance to discuss the new bill announced earlier this week. This bill has to do with the NDP motion presented on a previous opposition day calling on the government to amend the Canada Elections Act to prohibit tactics like the ones used in Guelph in 2011 aimed at suppressing votes.

[English]

    As soon as the Conservatives announced that this new electoral reform act was coming, they had to immediately announce that they had to scrap that same plan, as they discovered so many flaws in their own legislation.
     This may be reminiscent for Canadians, because they had to change fundamental mistakes in their own immigration bill, Bill C-31. They never even got to Bill C-30, the Internet snooping bill. It never saw the light of day. The Conservatives had to wait until its omnibus crime bill got to the Senate before they could fix the fundamental flaws, because they so rushed it through this place with closure.
    The government is totally out of ideas and out of gas. I beg the hon. House leader across the way to give us something, anything, that shows us that the Conservatives are doing something for hard-working families and Canadians in our economy.

  (1510)  

    Mr. Speaker, the opposition House leader expressed concern that the scheduling of several opposition days, on which the opposition gets to determine the subject matter of debate in the House of Commons, showed a complete absence of a plan and a complete absence of any ideas for policy innovation. Having heard the debate and the resolutions coming from the opposition for debate on those days, I am inclined to agree with him.
    Sadly, they have shown that when the opposition has the agenda, there are no new ideas and there is nothing of value spoken. However, the Standing Orders do require us to have those opposition days scheduled as part of our procedure, and that is what we are doing.
    I would like, however, to respond a little bit to his comments on the time allocation on the bill yesterday. Yesterday's bill was Bill S-2, a bill to give aboriginal women and their children on reserve the same matrimonial rights that other people have. It is a bill that has been in Parliament for five years, through a series of Parliaments, in fact, and it has not yet come to a vote. To paraphrase the President of the United States in the recent State of the Union address, the aboriginal women and children of Canada deserve the right to a vote. That is why we did what we had to do, after five years of obstruction from the opposition preventing the bill from coming forward.
    The bill would provide the protection they have been denied for decades. It is truly shameful that, starting with the Leader of the Opposition, every single opposition member stood up against this bill at second reading. They voted against the principle of protecting aboriginal women and children and providing them with rights equal to those of all Canadian women off reserve. They voted against giving them protection from violence in the situation of a domestic family breakdown and giving them the same rights to matrimonial homes that other women have had for decades in this country.
    It is another example of how the NDP approaches things. It claims that it is for women's rights and aboriginal rights, but when it comes time to actually take action, it does not. It is “do as I say, not as I do”.

[Translation]

    This afternoon we will continue the New Democrats' opposition day. Tomorrow is the fourth allotted day, when the New Democrats will again propose our topic for debate. Monday shall be the fifth allotted day, which will see a Liberal motion debated. Tuesday shall be the sixth allotted day, with a further New Democratic motion being considered.

[English]

    Next week is victims week in Canada, so on Wednesday, the House will continue the second reading debate on Bill C-54, the not criminally responsible reform act, which aims to put the protection of society and of victims front and centre.
    On Thursday morning we will consider Bill C-48, the technical tax amendments act, 2012, at report stage. After question period on Thursday, we will start report stage for Bill C-52, the fair rail freight service act, which was reported back from the transport committee this morning.
    Finally, next Friday, Bill C-15, the strengthening military justice in the defence of Canada act, will be again considered at report stage.

Points of Order

Oral Questions  

[Points of Order]
    Mr. Speaker, during question period on Tuesday, in response to a question I posed to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, the minister made reference to a letter I had sent in support of the temporary foreign worker program. We have had an opportunity in the office to go back through all records and saw no such correspondence.
    In an attempt to try to put some truth to this issue, I ask the minister to table that letter.
    Mr. Speaker, does the member have to respond to the request to table such a document?
    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is a member of some standing in the House. He raised the subject earlier in the week. The member is aware of the rules. It is quite clear that if one quotes or reads from a document, there may be a requirement for tabling. However, simply indicating that one has a document in one's possession and that it exists does not give rise to an obligation to table. That being said, the minister certainly has the right to table it at some point if she sees fit.

  (1515)  

    Mr. Speaker, just as a courtesy, when a member stands in his or her place and waves a document around implying that it is a letter, and a member of Parliament is not 100% sure and questions whether the letter was sent, there is some obligation for a minister or member to at least demonstrate that he or she is not just throwing a name or a piece of paper around.
    There has to be some sort of accountability. Otherwise, any member could stand up and say that he or she has a letter from so and so. I am sure that the government House leader will look into the matter, and if there was, in fact, a letter, the member will provide some assurance that it exists. That would be the proper thing to do.
    Mr. Speaker, it would be quite easy for the hon. member to go through his records and find any letter he might have sent to the minister asking for additional foreign workers for his riding. Perhaps the mistake is that the member has so many letters he has written requesting them that he does not know which one the minister is talking about. I do not know if that is where the problem arises. However, if it is a question of his having written only one letter, it should be fairly easy for him to find it. I can only presume, from the hon. member's remarks, that there must have been several letters, and he just wants to know which one the minister was waving about.
    Mr. Speaker, this discussion is getting out of hand.
    The member for Cape Breton—Canso made it very clear in his first intervention to you, Mr. Speaker, that he searched his records and found no indication of the existence of any such document. The government House leader is now more than trying to make a joke of it; he is trying to leave a very false impression of what the member for Cape Breton—Canso in fact said.
     In fairness, the record has to be clear. The member searched his records. He found no evidence of any such document, and the latest gratuitous remark by the government House leader is complete horse feathers and ought to be withdrawn.
    I will allow the hon. government House leader one more intervention, and then I think we can bring this to a conclusion.
    Mr. Speaker, I will speak with the minister involved. I am quite sure that she will be able to find this letter that he has not been able to find fairly quickly. Perhaps we can have a discussion and solve the matter after that.
    I thank the hon. government House leader for that assurance, and I am sure that the House will look forward to whatever comes out of that.

[Translation]

Privilege

Electoral Reform Bill—Speaker's Ruling  

[Speaker's Ruling]
    Yesterday, the members for Ottawa—Vanier and Toronto—Danforth both rose on a question of privilege regarding the possible premature disclosure of the contents of a government bill prior to its introduction in the House.

[English]

    Both members referenced an article that appeared in the Globe and Mail newspaper that suggested that during the weekly Conservative Party caucus meeting, some Conservative members had expressed concerns about how specific sections of the bill were drafted and had asked that they be rewritten. The members for Ottawa—Vanier and Toronto—Danforth suggested that this demonstrated that the Conservative members may have been provided with the actual text of the draft bill in question. Both members emphasized the seriousness of the premature disclosure of bills and asked the Chair to investigate this matter.

[Translation]

    In response, the Leader of the Government in the House assured the House that at the caucus meeting held by the Conservative Party that day, no draft copies of the bill or sections of it were circulated or displayed, nor were excerpts provided.

[English]

    As members know, it is a well-established practice that the contents of a bill are kept confidential until introduced in Parliament, thus making their premature disclosure a serious matter. However, in this case, a careful reading of the arguments presented to the Chair about what transpired reveals that the concerns expressed appear to be based more on conjecture and supposition than on actual evidence.
     Furthermore, the government House leader has stated categorically to the House that no copies, sections or excerpts of said bill were in any way made available to those who were in attendance at the caucus meeting. In other words, he challenges the supposition being made, and he insists that there was no breach of confidentiality regarding the bill.
    In light of the lack of evidence and the minister's categorical assurances, the Chair considers the matter closed.

[Translation]

    I thank members for their attention.

[English]

S. O. 31  

[Privilege]
    Mr. Speaker, it is with great honour to rise today in this place as the democratically elected member of Parliament for Medicine Hat. I rise to speak on the question of privilege raised by my colleague, the hon. member for Langley. Our Westminster parliamentary system is without a doubt the best in the world, as we all know. It is not perfect, but if we look at all of the other democratic systems, ours is the best.
    Obviously, here in Canada, our system has evolved over time. Starting in the early 1980s, it became the responsibility of the party whips to submit lists to the Speaker of those who would ask questions before each member is able to make an S. O. 31 statement before question period. That seemed to make sense at the time because Parliament was growing and the Speaker was getting busier. That is completely sensible. I do not think we could find any member who would disagree with that, and I am certainly not either.
    What is unfortunate is that some members are denied the ability to speak if what they are going to say is unacceptable to the powers that be. I was elected by the people of my constituency to represent them in Ottawa. When the majority of my constituents feel strongly on one particular issue, I feel it is my duty to speak freely in the House about that issue. In fact, our handbook, House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, 2009, clearly stipulates what my rights are as a duly elected member of the House.
    Allow me to quote from O'Brien and Bosc, 2009, which states:
    By far, the most important right accorded to Members of the House is the exercise of freedom of speech in parliamentary proceedings.
    Therefore, we know that freedom of speech in this place is key to us being able to carry out our task of being good representatives of the people who elected us.
    It goes on to state:
    Freedom of speech permits Members to speak freely in the Chamber during a sitting or in committees during meetings while enjoying complete immunity from prosecution or civil liability for any comment they might make. This freedom is essential for the effective working of the House.
    Mr. Speaker, it is for you to decide whether the privileges of the member for Langley had been breached. O'Brien and Bosc further states:
    A Member may also be obstructed or interfered with in the performance of his or her parliamentary functions by non-physical means. In ruling on such matters, the Speaker examines the effect the incident or event had on the Member's ability to fulfil his or her parliamentary responsibilities.
    I realize that some have tried to make out of this issue more than what it is. I can assure the House and, indeed, all Canadians that there is nothing antagonistic or rebellious about these interventions. It is a question of the rights of members, like the member for Langley, who wish to speak out on issues that are important to his or her constituents. Is that not what the role of a member of Parliament is? His or her role is, indeed, to be their voice here. To suggest that voice should be muted because an issue is considered too controversial is bizarre, to say the least.
    This is the Parliament of Canada. I do not believe there are issues here that are too controversial for members to debate. That is why we are here. If we do not do it as democratically elected officials, then who will? That is why I stand here today to lend my voice and wholehearted support not only to the member for Langley but other members of Parliament who have stood to speak out on this issue. The member for Langley should be allowed to speak. I believe he was dropped from the speaking order because the powers that be decided that what he was going to say was just too controversial for them and that goes against the point of our system.
    What started as a way to make it easier for the Speaker to manage who stood up to speak has now become a way to control the message. I believe it has gone too far and that is why I stand here today to lend my support to my colleague from Langley, as well as all others who have risen to speak on what they feel is an injustice.
    As one of my colleagues pointed out previously, we need not look outside the Westminster parliamentary system for clues on how we can do things better. Let us go directly to the source that we inherited the system from. In the United Kingdom, government backbenchers rise from time to time to ask very tough questions of their own government.
    Mr. Speaker, I conclude by asking you to look into this matter at your earliest convenience and thank you for giving me this opportunity to make my case.

  (1520)  

    I thank the hon. member for Medicine Hat for his further comments on the question of privilege currently before the Chair. Of course, I will be getting back to the House in due course with a decision.

Government Orders

[Business of Supply]

  (1525)  

[Translation]

Business of Supply

Opposition Motion—Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement  

    The House resumed consideration of the motion.
    The hon. member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques has five minutes.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to discuss four issues, that is, four specific problems raised by the Canada-China foreign investment promotion and protection agreement. I probably will not have enough time to address all four problems, but I should have enough time to discuss the three main ones.
    I have already talked about the fact that the agreement uses different language in articles about most-favoured-nation treatment and national treatment, meaning that current Canadian investors in China, which is a very small number, will be protected. However, future investors will not be protected, which poses a serious problem.
    The second point I want to discuss was also raised by my hon. colleague from Vancouver Kingsway, the official opposition critic for international trade. It has to do with the fact that both countries can keep all existing measures that do not conform with trade liberalization. This measure can help them locally. For instance, in China, provisions currently exist, and China will have the right to keep them after the agreement is signed, that is, after it is ratified.
    These provisions require Canadian businesses to hire local workers or to have a certain number of local administrators, for example. There has been a lot of liberalization in Canada over the past 30 years, and we have eliminated all the measures that were not consistent with the spirit of freer trade. If each country can retain measures that are not consistent, we are giving an unfair advantage to our Chinese trading partner. That is what explains the lack of reciprocity I referred to earlier in my speech.
    The third thing I want to talk about is the mechanisms for resolving conflicts between investors and the state. We have a lot of concerns about such provisions, which are in this agreement and in the previous ones. Unlike the existing agreements or the existing provisions between investors and the state, what is in this proposed agreement with China goes much further. It would allow either of the countries to go ahead with conflict resolution before an administrative tribunal that is not a judicial tribunal. These are not people chosen by the state, but private arbitrators who could, at the request of one of the countries, deal with these issues behind closed doors if one of the countries deemed it was not of public concern. They do not have to justify why it is not of public concern; they simply have to say so.
    These three specific reasons—the different treatment of current and future investors, the maintenance of non-conforming measures and a different mechanism for settling disputes between investors and the state—make us wonder where the comments that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade and the Minister of Canadian Heritage made in question period are coming from. They are telling us that the sole reason for the agreement is to protect investors, and that the agreement gives Canadian investors in China the same rights as Chinese investors in Canada.
    Yet, there are enormous differences in how the two are treated, partly because of the non-conforming measures, which are much more prevalent in China than they are here. Chinese investors in Canada benefit from the same protection as Canadians who are currently investing in China. In 2011, Canadian investors had about $5 billion worth of investments in China. These investments will be protected. In 2012, Chinese investors had $22 billion worth of investments in Canada—that is five times more. These investments will be protected.
    We can therefore already see the imbalance. The fact that the agreement will not protect investors with regard to national treatment and the establishment or acquisition of various investments means that new markets will not be opened to Canada, as the Conservatives have promised. The Conservatives think that the opposition should vote in favour of this agreement because of these markets.
    I am trying to understand the logic behind that argument. This agreement has been on the negotiating table for about 30 years or more. However, a solution has still not been found.
    The softwood lumber agreement was signed quickly after the Conservative government came to power in 2006. This agreement was very bad for Canada, but producers accepted it because they were absolutely desperate.

  (1530)  

    At that time, the Conservative government wanted to win a quick victory. Right now, they want to achieve a victory, even if it harms Canada's interests and those of future investors in China. That is why we cannot support this agreement. We therefore support the motion moved by my colleague.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague with interest, but I think he is missing the main intent and purpose of this agreement. I would like to give him an example. There is a very successful business person in British Columbia who has been doing business in British Columbia for many years and has just recently set up his business in China. He is very pleased to know that we have protection agreements in place.
    Why does the hon. member believe that this businessman, who has taken the great initiative to move into China to try to create additional success, should not actually have the same protection? Why would the member deny that protection for Canadians who are looking to do business in China?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I do not think the Parliamentary Secretary quite understood what I was saying.
    The investor she is referring to, the one who has just set up shop in China, will be protected under the agreement, because he set up his business in China before the agreement was ratified. However, if the same person wants to invest after the agreement is signed, he will not be protected in the same way he is right now.
    Contrary to what the member is claiming, it is not true that the agreement will protect future investments and increase trade opportunities that will protect Canadian investors. That is simply not the case.

[English]

    I see that there is lots of interest in questions and comments, so during these five-minute periods for questions and comments I will be asking members to keep their interventions brief.
    Mr. Speaker, I posed this question earlier to one of the member's colleagues. I was emphasizing the importance of world trade. Canada is very much a trading nation. We need to have trade. It creates hundreds of thousands of jobs and provides the quality of life that we have.
    The question I had posed was, does the NDP support trade deals? I have seen NDP members stand up and talk against trade deals. I have never witnessed them vote in favour of a trade agreement. Can the member indicate, in the last 30 years, when the NDP members stood in their place and actually voted in favour of a trade agreement?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the same myth is still floating around.
    First, we have supported the Canada-Jordan free trade agreement in the past. Second, to give the hon. member a direct answer, we do in fact support trade agreements.
    Having a document labelled “trade agreement” is not the same thing as examining the content of trade agreements. If some provisions in trade agreements are not in Canada's best interests and shortchange Canadians, it is our duty to stand up and point it out.
    In this case, I have pointed out a number of issues, including the issue of whether both countries will be able to keep their non-conforming measures. China may keep a myriad of non-conforming measures, measures that Canada no longer has because they were eliminated. Actually, this lack of reciprocity is extremely problematic.
    I would therefore ask the hon. member to review the trade agreements that he wants to support before he brings in his agreement.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, over and over again today we have been told by Conservative members that this is a standard FIPA and that they are all the same.
    This language is from the current investment treaty with Benin. It will take me a minute to read it:
....except in rare circumstances, such as when a measure or a series of measures is so severe in the light of its purpose that it cannot be reasonably viewed as having been adopted and applied in good faith, a....measure...designed...to protect...public welfare objectives, such as health, safety and the environment, does not constitute indirect expropriation.
    That is not bad language. The language in the China investment treaty requires that a country like Canada prove that any measure is “necessary” to protect “human, animal or plant life or health”. We are way less protected under the Canada-China investment treaty than Benin is in dealing with Canada.
    Does my friend have any comments?

  (1535)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, my colleague is absolutely correct, and that is why I am perplexed by the comments from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade. This morning, in his first question to our critic, he said that this agreement is no different from previous foreign investment protection agreements. On the contrary, there are some very different and extremely worrisome provisions in this agreement.
    Hypothetically, we may have to face a secret administrative tribunal at the request of one of the two partners. That measure does not currently exist in any treaty or accord. The protection given to current investors is different from that given to future investors—those who will invest after this treaty is ratified—and that is one element that differs from past measures. We do not agree with those measures.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Richmond Hill.
    Our Conservative government is committed to protecting and strengthening the long-term financial security of hard-working Canadians. Canada's prosperity is directly linked to reaching beyond our borders for economic opportunities that serve to grow Canada's trade and investment.
    Trade has long been a powerful engine for Canada's economy. It is even more important in the current global economic climate. Jobs and economic growth for the benefit of Canadian businesses, workers and their families continue to be our focus.
    Our government understands the importance of trade to our economy. Export-related industries represent one out of every five jobs in Canada and account for nearly two-thirds of our country's annual income. Our Conservative government clearly understands that our standard of living and Canadians' future prosperity will be generated by deepening and broadening our trade relationships.
     No government in Canada's history has been more committed to helping create jobs and prosperity for Canadian businesses, workers and their families. Deepening Canada's trading relationships in dynamic and high-growth markets around the world is key to these efforts. Whereas during their 13 years in government, the Liberals completed only three trade deals, in less than six years under this Prime Minister's leadership, Canada has become partner in nine new free trade agreements, with Colombia, Jordan, Panama, Peru, Honduras and the European Free Trade Association, which includes Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. Sadly, the ideologically driven NDP has generally opposed these agreements.
    Our government recognizes that protectionist restrictions stifle our exporters and undermine Canada's competitiveness. Thanks to these actions and our government's free trade leadership, Canadian workers and businesses now have preferred access and a real competitive edge in more markets around the world than at any other time in our history.
    However one cannot talk about dynamic and fast-growing markets without touching upon Canada's successes in promoting the interests of Canadian exporters in the Asia-Pacific.
    In the past few years, our government has been aggressively expanding commercial relations with the Asia-Pacific region to create jobs and economic benefits here at home. The opportunities in this region are great. Asia-Pacific countries represent huge markets with economic growth rates two to three times the global average, and our efforts are yielding results.
    For example, last year Canada joined the trans-Pacific partnership, a significant opportunity that serves as a key pathway for economic integration in the Asia-Pacific region. Once complete, the TPP will strengthen Canada's efforts to broaden and deepen its trading relationships with dynamic and fast-growing Asia-Pacific markets.
     We launched negotiations with Japan toward an economic partnership agreement and announced exploratory discussions toward a bilateral free trade agreement with Thailand. Canada also achieved observer status with the Pacific alliance, a grouping of four fast-growing Pacific countries in Latin America.
    In addition to all this, an important part of Canada's efforts in the Asia-Pacific pertains, of course, to our engagement with China. I would be remiss if I did not highlight that not only is China the world's second-largest economy but it has recently become Canada's number two export market, second only to the United States.
    In fact, Canadian exports to China rose 15% last year to over $19 billion. This means that Canada's exports to China have nearly doubled under our Conservative government.
    However, investment is also an important part of the Canada-China relationship, and so I would like to take a moment to refute some of these myths being repeated by the anti-trade NDP.
    Fundamentally, the foreign investment protection agreement, or FIPA, is about protecting the interests of Canadians abroad. With this treaty, Canadian businesses wanting to invest in China cannot be treated less favourably than any other foreign company looking to do the same. The FIPA also ensures that all investment disputes are resolved under international arbitration, ensuring that adjudications are independent. Canadian investors in China will have an independent, international legal system where their disputes can be fairly resolved.

  (1540)  

    Ultimately, this agreement would give Canadian investors in China the same types of protection that foreign investors have long had in Canada. This begs the question of why any member opposite would deny Canadian investors the same benefits internationally that foreign investors have here.
    Finally, I would emphasize that ours is the first bilateral investment agreement that China has signed that expressly includes language on transparency of dispute settlement proceedings. Let me be clear. It is Canada's long-standing policy that all dispute resolutions should be open to the public and that the submissions made by the parties are available to the public, period.
    As our government has said time and time again, this agreement does not impair Canada's ability to regulate and legislate in areas such as the environment, culture and health, nor does it impair the ability of the provinces to do so.
    Furthermore, restrictions in the agreement will preserve Canada's current ability to review foreign investments under the Investment Canada Act.
    It is unfortunate that the NDP and its fellow anti-trade activists have continued to spread a great deal of misinformation about this agreement. Canadians should not be surprised at the anti-trade agenda of the NDP. After all, this is the same party whose leader travelled to Washington recently to argue against Canadian jobs, nor was that an isolated occurrence. In November 2011, the NDP dispatched its deputy leader to Washington with the same anti-Canadian message.
    This is the same party that also opposed NAFTA and the same leader who called Canada's natural resources sector a disease. The NDP continues to oppose NAFTA, an agreement that sparked the creation of millions of Canadian jobs. To this day, the NDP platform commits its party to renegotiating NAFTA, if it ever has the opportunity.
    This is the same party whose member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, called free trade agreements “job destroying”, and whose natural resources critic argued that free trade has cost Canadians dearly.
    The NDP member for B.C. Southern Interior summarized the NDP's archaic views on trade when he argued that trade agreements “threaten the very existence of our nation”.
    Thankfully, Canadian exporters know that our government, unlike the NDP, continues to stand up for trade, jobs and our economy.
    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member claims that the current Conservative government has made trade a key component of its economic policy. If that is the case, it is a miserable failure.
    When the Conservatives took power in 2006, the current account situation was that it inherited a surplus of $17 billion. Under their watch, they have now run us into the ground with a $67 billion deficit. We have a record $100 billion deficit in merchandise items.
    If my hon. colleague thinks trade is so important, can she explain to Canadians why the policies of her government are running our Canadian exporters into the ground and creating the highest record current account deficits in Canadian history?

  (1545)  

    Canadians need to ask why the NDP wants to kill jobs and kill the Canadian economy, and why its leader went to Washington to argue against trading with Canada. That is truly what Canadians need to ask.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from the NDP for mentioning the large budget surplus that the Conservative government inherited from the last Liberal government. I am a bit disappointed at the partisan response, because we are debating a treaty, which has important economic consequences.
    I do want to correct the speaker who seemed to be claiming, again in a rather partisan way, that the Liberal Party did not work for trade. The Liberal Party supports trade. I would remind the member that the talks that led to the treaty we are debating today actually began in the years when the Liberals formed government, just a year or two before the Conservatives won the election in 2006.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the hon. member that during the 13 years of his party's rule, it only brought home three trade agreements, at a time when the global economy was very stable and very open.
    We have actually been able to bring home nine free trade agreements under this leadership and government, along with membership in the trans-Pacific partnership and various other trade agreement associations, which will be helpful to our economy and our future.
    Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate my hon. colleague's position about Canada's interests in investment in China. It is well thought out.
    I find it a little rich when my hon. colleagues from across, particularly the NDP members, look at trade surpluses or deficits in the sense of whether we bring in more imports than we export. We are in a global world. He has heard witness after witness, at committee, testifying as to how integrated we all are. Just because we, for a certain period of time, bring more in than we export, that does not necessarily mean that is bad for Canada. In fact, that is actually a good sign, because we have to bring products in to manufacture them and create them to have greater exports.
    I really find it a little rich when the opposition, actually both parties, take the position that it is a really negative thing. It is actually a very good thing, and we will continue to promote trade, as a government.
     I want my hon. colleague to answer the question with regard to the position we take on trade, as a government, compared with the opposition, because I think that needs a little more explanation, obviously.
    Mr. Speaker, no government in Canada's history has been more committed to creating jobs and prosperity. We lead the G7 countries in creating more than 900,000 jobs in Canada during a fragile economic time. That is because we have taken a strong stand and a proactive stand on negotiating trade agreements with nine different countries.
    Deepening Canada's trade relationships in dynamic and high-growth markets, such as the Asia-Pacific, is also critical to the future of Canada. I think the members opposite know that. I would like to strongly encourage them to support this trade agreement and to vote for the Canadian economy and for Canadian jobs, not against them.
    We are resuming debate.
     I would just like to compliment hon. members for keeping their interventions to less a minute, as more members are able to participate in these times for questions and comments.
    Resuming debate, the hon. member for Richmond Hill.
    Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to rise today to speak in favour of the Canada-China foreign investment promotion and protection agreement on behalf of the great constituents of Canada's largest town, Richmond Hill, Ontario. Richmond Hill is a diverse community, thriving in the heart of the greater Toronto area. I have the honour and privilege and am humbled to be here to represent them.
    No government, as my colleague has just stated, in Canada's history has been more committed to creating jobs and prosperity for Canadian businesses, workers and their families. A key driver of prosperity is free and open trade. That is why our government has adopted the most ambitious pro-trade plan in Canadian history.
    Our government recognizes that protectionist restrictions stifle our exporters and undermine Canada's competitiveness.
    While we are opening new markets for our exporters in dynamic, fast-growing markets around the world, we are also ensuring that Canadian investors have the predictable business climates, environments they need to invest with confidence. That is why we pursue foreign investment promotion and protection agreements to provide the predictability investors need when investing in foreign markets.
    These bilateral trade and investment treaties are essential to bringing continued prosperity to Canadian families. In fact, since the launch of the global commerce strategy, Canada has concluded 16 new or updated foreign investment promotion and protection agreements.
    By improving access to foreign markets for Canadian businesses, our government's ambitious pro-trade plan is supporting economic growth and the creation of new opportunities for Canadian exporters and investors.
    We are putting in place the conditions necessary to create jobs for Canadians and to capitalize on our strengths as a country. Foreign investment promotion and protection agreements provide greater predictability and protection for investors from both countries that are parties to the agreement.
    These treaties support Canadian business efforts to explore the growing investment opportunities in a variety of sectors. Once in force, they provide more stability for Canadian firms investing in the foreign country. The foreign investment promotion and protection agreement is a high standard agreement and is comprehensive in its scope and coverage.
    Despite the many naysayers who have said it is important to note that all obligations of the agreement apply reciprocally to both parties to the agreement, it will also grant investors access to the international arbitration to resolve disputes.
    The dispute settlement provisions in this treaty ensure greater protection for investors against discriminatory and arbitrary practices and they provide a way for Canadian investors to pursue adequate and prompt compensation in the event of an expropriation.
    I would also emphasize that it is, and continues to be, Canada's policy to open all hearings to the public whenever the Government of Canada is challenged under these dispute settlement procedures. This also applies to the relevant documents in an arbitration.
    Canada always makes these documents public, subject to the protection of confidential information. What is more, the results of arbitrations will always be made publicly available. It is also important for me to note that in any foreign investment promotion and protection agreement, we take steps to ensure that we maintain full policy flexibility in key areas.
     Parties at all levels of government maintain their ability to regulate and legislate in areas such as the environment, culture, safety, health and conservation. All investors and their investments, whether domestic or foreign, will face the same requirements with respect to existing local laws and regulations.

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    A foreign investor and their investments in Canada must respect existing Canadian laws and regulations just like any Canadian must. This includes laws aimed at protecting the environment and those ensuring the highest labour, health, building and safety standards.
     As such, and as is the case with all proposed foreign investments of significance in Canada, we will continue to use the Investment Canada Act to ensure that investments from any foreign country, including China, bring concrete benefits to Canadians. Our FIPA with China will not in any way impede our ability to do so. This means helping to create more jobs, foster innovation and increase Canada's competitiveness and productivity. These are elements that we include in all 24 of our foreign investment promotion and protection agreements that are currently in force.
    Our foreign investment promotion and protection agreements allow investors to invest with confidence and confident investors contribute to the growth and investment both inbound and outbound, and growth in investment always benefits the Canadian economy. In fact, two-way investment is an absolutely critical driving force in today's global economy. Investment links our businesses to global value chains and to the technology and expertise they need to forge a wide-range of commercial links with our partners around the globe.
    However, the risk of investing in a foreign country can be high. That is why our government negotiates FIPAs to ensure that Canadian investors abroad have access to a predictable, secure investment climate. It is designed first and foremost to protect Canadian investments abroad through legally binding provisions.
    By ensuring greater protection against discriminatory and arbitrary practices and enhancing the predictability of a policy framework in markets abroad, a FIPA allows businesses to invest with greater confidence. As such, these agreements provide a more transparent and predictable climate for Canadian investors abroad.
     Investment with our partners, inward and outward, is enormously important and so is promoting and protecting these investments through tools such as a foreign investment promotion and protection agreement. If Canada can establish a strong rules-based bilateral investment relationship with a country before some of our closest competitors, it will give our companies an advantage in doing business in that market and it will serve to benefit our own industries right here at home.
    It is a shame that the NDP members and their anti-trade allies continue to propagate myths about these agreements. Their archaic anti-trade ideology would stifle the Canadian economy and slam the door on opportunities for Canadian exporters around the world. The NDP has shown its true colours on trade ever since NAFTA, which it opposed 25 years ago, and astonishingly enough still opposes to this day.
    Let me be clear. Our government will not stand by and let Canadian companies operate in an uneven playing fi