Madam Speaker, it is an honour to stand here today and engage in the debate on NAFTA.
Many of my constituents in Nanaimo—Ladysmith will know that I am very passionate about trade issues and concerned about international trade and investment agreements.
First of all, I want to say that the Green Party of Canada supports trade. We think it is a vital part of our economy. However, what we want to see in trade agreements is respect for environmental regulations, labour standards, health and safety standards, and consumer protections. These things should be increased in trade agreements, the way that the European Union does. Countries that enter the European Union must increase their standards and regulations to meet the highest standards in the union. We think that those kinds of approaches to international trade are important.
About 15 years ago, I was focused on a lot of local issues and worked on films about local water. Somebody had asked me if I knew anything about the Security and Prosperity Partnership, the SPP, and I did not. Therefore, I went off to Ottawa to go to the people summit and learn about the SPP.
I went to Montebello to document the protests that were happening there, and I happened to videotape three police officers who were dressed as radicals with masks on who were attacking their own riot squad. They were unmasked in the process, and all of their boots matched with those of the riot squad. This raised questions for me about why the police would be involved in this kind of incitement, and I have footage of them banging rocks into shields, etc. I wondered why they would be involved in this kind of incitement at a peaceful protest, and they were later proven to be police officers.
I became interested in the Security and Prosperity Partnership and started to dig in. What I found was that in this process there was a deep integration of Canada, the United States and Mexico as part of a fortress North America after 9/11. It also included integration of our regulatory standards. I looked into who was negotiating on behalf of Canada for these regulatory standards. There were 20 corporations for each of three countries, Mexico, the United States and Canada. There were some great Canadian corporations representing Canada in this negotiation process, such as Home Depot Canada, Walmart Canada, Chevron Canada and Ford Canada.
I started to study trade agreements a little more and found that there really was no involvement of civil society in these agreements. These were corporate agreements. Therefore, I really appreciate in this new version of NAFTA that the government has involved labour organizations and environmental organizations as part of the negotiating process, and I see that as progress. This is what we need to be doing in our negotiations on international trade and investment. They cannot just be secretive processes where only the corporations and the bureaucrats are involved. We need people who represent consumers, workers and environmentalists so that we have a fair process that can look at all aspects of trade and make sure that our regulations and standards are protected.
One of the others things I learned working on this film was about investor-state dispute settlements. Chapter 11 in NAFTA was the first time that a developed country had signed on to this process. It was something that the Europeans had used with their former colonial states to kind of keep corporate control over mineral extraction, etc. However, when I looked into Chapter 11, there were cases such as Ethyl Corporation, which got $5 million when Canada blocked the use of MMT, an additive that was a neurotoxin in gasoline. Ethyl Corporation said that it was an unfair trade practice to ban it. There are also things in these investment chapters such as indirect expropriation, and we all know what expropriation is; national treatment; as well as most favoured nation status. These are all things that are used by corporations to challenge our laws and policies. Therefore, I was really happy to see that the investor-state dispute settlement was taken out of the new NAFTA.
Let us look at cases like Bilcon, where a foreign corporation is challenging our environmental assessment process and getting $7 million for doing nothing. It is not a process that makes sense. We see this used as a big stick by mining companies to get developed countries to accept mining and extraction projects.
We need to do something about softwood lumber. That is an important issue in my community.
I am also concerned about the extension of patents for pharmaceuticals from eight years to 10 years for biologics and how that will affect the cost of drugs. We see many people, seniors in particular, who are having to make decisions about what they spend their money on: rent, food or pharmaceuticals.
Article 22, the state-owned chapter, has a carve-out for the Trans Mountain expansion project. That is a concern for me as well.