Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak tonight. In the final days of Parliament, I would be remiss if I did not thank my colleagues in the NDP for our tireless fight for fair trade for Canadians, who represent farmers and workers, to keep the cost of pharmaceuticals low and to address the issues Canadians care about and matter to them in terms of trade.
I would like to thank my family for the time that I have been able to devote here, my husband Germaine, my sons Maxwell and Maliq. I thank them for their support and love and for the wild ride we have been on this last four years and I look forward to going further. I would like to say a quick thanks to my team. They are just so incredible. I thank Nadine, Lindsay, Katrina, Joseline and Megan and the many volunteers throughout the years.
We are back on Bill C-100 and I am pleased to rise to speak on this stage of the bill. I thank my colleague, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh, who brought forward a reasoned amendment, something the government should consider, which is to decline to give second reading to Bill C-100. Before I get into the reasons, which my colleague laid out quite well in her reasoned amendment last night, there has been a lot of discussion about what is happening in the U.S., the moves the Democrats are making. We know they have written four letters from the subcommittee on trade to Ambassador Lighthizer.
They are in the middle of negotiations right now and it is quite shocking to know that the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs will be going to Washington, for Donald Trump, to pressure the Democrats to drop these progressive elements that they are trying to achieve. I do not think that is something that Canadians widely support. It is certainly not something that Speaker Pelosi has said she is willing to do. She said that the Democrat-controlled House will not take up legislation to ratify the deal until it is tweaked to address her concerns, which include issues with enforcement tools, labour reforms in Mexico, environmental protections and provisions on pharmaceuticals.
Are these not things that we in Canada should all be pursuing? Is this not something that the Liberal government should be getting behind and supporting instead of ramming this through, closing down debate in the dying days of Parliament with an uncertain future throughout the summer on Bill C-100? I understand that we are heading into an election and that it is in the best interests of Liberals to try to get this done, to put something on the shelf to show Canadians that they have achieved something on the trade file. I just say “something”. I reserve my comment as to the value of it or how this deal is being viewed.
I want to go back to the member for Windsor—Tecumseh and the reasoned amendment she put forward. The first reason she states is that this new deal, the NAFTA, the CUSMA, the USMCA, whichever one chooses to call it, fails to improve labour provisions necessary to protect jobs. This is entirely true. Yesterday, there were 12 witnesses at the trade committee. There was a witness from Unifor who expressed concerns about the labour provisions. Unfortunately, what was initially attempted was not fully achieved. We know the Democrats are working hard to improve it.
I want to talk about more specifics and the uncertainty that still exists. The first thing I want to talk about is working women. In the agreement that was signed last fall, there was a negotiation that included provisions for improving the conditions of working women, including workplace harassment, pay equity and equality issues, but in the scrub phase of this new deal, those things disappeared. They are completely gone from the agreement now. The Liberals have yet to answer why. They have yet to acknowledge that these important gender gains have completely disappeared and they have yet to ask what happened to them and say they need to be put back in Bill C-100. I would be curious to hear why the Liberals are not pushing for these gender changes that have now somehow disappeared.
There is a lot of discussion about the $16 U.S. per hour wage that has been talked about. The unfortunate part of this provision, and I hope that Canadians understand this, is that it is not a minimum $16 per hour; it is an average $16 per hour, and the determination of that has yet to be defined. If we use the example of an auto assembly plant or a manufacturing plant, we would have to include everyone, the CEO, all of the shareholders, all of the stakeholders, all the way down.
If we take the average wage of everyone working there, $16 an hour is not going to be what people are being paid in right-to-work states in the U.S. or in Mexico. It is simply what the average wage has to be among workers in that whole company. Again, while this appears to be something progressive on the surface, I want Canadians to understand there is no guarantee here that people will actually be paid that amount of money. That is definitely a concern to us.
We know that in the Mexican government, the people have moved toward some labour reforms. The problem is that we are taking a gamble on the backs of working people in hoping that this thing will correct the imbalance and have the jobs continue to drain down to Mexico. There are many Canadian companies that have footprints in Mexico that are not paying a fair wage to people in plants. These are North American multinational companies. Of course, when executives are looking where to put a new manufacturing facility, they know that in Mexico people are being paid a very low wage, there are no labour standards, no legitimate unions and no environmental provisions, and then they look at the Canadian standard.
This is the reason we have not had a new greenfield site in Canada over the life of NAFTA. We will continue to have this problem. It is a great gamble that is being taken, once again, on the backs of working people. We have lost 400,000 manufacturing jobs over the life of NAFTA. We lost our entire textile industry. We lost 50% of our vintners, our wineries that are in a lot of our ridings here in the House. There are a great many questions, to find out whether the provisions in this deal would actually work and would actually help the Mexican working people, the U.S. working people and the Canadians. It is a great gamble and risk that we are taking here. I do not believe that I have heard a strong argument from the other side, other than to say that this is the best that we could do. Canadian workers deserve better than that.
Most people, when they think of the U.S. and Canada and labour standards, certainly do not think of the U.S. as being more progressive than we are, but that is exactly what is happening there now. The Americans are actually trying to stand up for working people in the U.S. It is a shame that we do not see the same thing happening here in Canada.
The other thing I want to talk about, which my colleagues have touched upon and I have in my previous speech, is that this deal allows for the extension of drug patents, which would significantly increase the cost of medication for Canadians. We know that Dr. Hoskins came out with his report saying that we should move toward a single-payer universal pharmacare plan in Canada, something New Democrats have been saying and putting forward as a plan to Canadians for quite some time. It is disappointing to see the Liberals dangle that carrot once again in front of voters, saying, “Do not worry, we are going to do it”. We have been hearing that for 20 years.
Here is a deal that would make drugs like insulin, drugs that are used for Crohn's disease and drugs that are used for rheumatoid arthritis more expensive. That is so counterintuitive to where we need to be going because we know that Canadians already cannot afford the medication that they are taking. The fact is that Big Pharma is getting its way once again in a trade agreement. This is a complete TPP hangover. This was part of the original TPP that, thankfully, disappeared when the U.S. left, but it is right back on the table again.
My colleagues have rightly pointed out the impact on supply management. We heard from the egg farmers at committee yesterday. I just have to pause to point out that it is shameful that we had only 12 witnesses before the committee on a study on the new NAFTA, or the CUSMA, when we had over 400 on the TPP. We did a whole cross-country tour on the TPP, where we not only included everyone in the local communities but we also had open-mike periods. Now we have the complete opposite. While the Liberals keep saying this is our most important relationship and this is why we have to do this, I believe that is the reason it deserves proper attention and proper oversight. Certainly that is not what is happening here.
I am very pleased to rise to say that New Democrats will always fight for fair trade that is in the best interest of people, communities and workers, and we will put the poorest and most marginalized Canadians in the best position when we do so. When we continue to sign trade agreements that will have negative impacts and violate people's human rights, do not address gender inequality and do not work to make the wealth inequality in our country shrink, we are doing a disservice. We need to do better. New Democrats are committed to fair trade at every turn.