Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Cumberland—Colchester.
It is a great pleasure to rise in the House today in support of Bill C-4, the implementing legislation for the Canada-United States-Mexico agreement, otherwise known as CUSMA.
This agreement brings about the continued economic benefit to all parties and secures economic development and job opportunities by maintaining economic security, investment confidence and our dispute resolution and retaining existing access. The agreement provides key outcomes for Canadian businesses, workers and communities in areas such as labour, environment, automotive trade, dispute resolution, culture, energy, and agriculture and agri-food. Importantly, CUSMA also includes language on gender and indigenous peoples' rights.
The new and modernized agreement includes Canada's most ambitious environmental chapter to date, completed by a new environmental co-operation agreement. The environment chapter of the new NAFTA introduces key measures, such as a new enforceable chapter on the environment that replaces the separate side agreement. It provides assurances to workers and businesses by ensuring that all three state parties are held to account. It makes dispute resolution more accessible by reducing the burden of proof for the complainant, and clarifies the relationship between the new trade agreement and domestic or multilateral environment agreements. Moreover, the amendments agreed to in December of last year strengthen the act's dispute settlement provision to make a good deal even better and ensure that robust obligations on the environment will be fully enforceable.
It is the Government of Canada's priority to ensure that Canada's trade agreements not only advance our commercial interests, but also bring real benefits to all Canadian stakeholders. The environmental provisions support Canadian businesses by ensuring that trading partners enforce their environmental laws so that all parties operate on a level playing field.
When NAFTA came into effect in 1994, it was the first free trade agreement to link the environment and trade through a comprehensive agreement. This agreement was called the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation. Over the past quarter-century, officials and experts from all three countries have carried out co-operative projects through this agreement. By doing this, we have enhanced our shared capacity to address environmental challenges.
Continuing with this tradition, the new NAFTA, or CUSMA, integrates comprehensive and ambitious environmental provisions directly into a dedicated environment chapter within the agreement, which is subject to provisions on dispute settlement that were not there before.
The new NAFTA preserves the core obligations on environmental governance that were present in the original agreement. This includes commitments to pursue and maintain environmental stewardship, effectively enforce environmental laws and promote transparency, accountability and public participation. These measures reflect the importance we place on ensuring that open trade and environmental conservation go hand in hand.
The new environment chapter includes commitments that go beyond what the original environmental co-operation agreement envisioned. State parties are no longer permitted to ignore environmental law to attract trade or investment and must also ensure that proper environmental impact assessments are carried out for projects with potential risks to the environment.
The new NAFTA creates new commitments on a wide range of global environmental issues, such as illegal wildlife trade and illegal logging, management of fisheries, protection of the marine environment and the ozone layer, sustainable forestry, and the conservation of biological diversity and species at risk. It also includes new commitments aimed at strengthening the relationship between trade and environment, including the promotion of trade in environmental goods and services, responsible business conduct and voluntary mechanisms to enhance environmental performance.
For the first time in a free trade agreement, the new NAFTA includes articles on air quality and marine litter. It includes binding commitments prohibiting the practice of shark finning. It also recognizes the important role that indigenous people are playing in the ongoing stewardship of the environment, sustainable fisheries and forestry management, and biodiversity conservation.
This agreement also provides for an environment consultation mechanism. Should state parties fail to resolve any environmental matter in a co-operative manner through various levels of consultation, including consultation at the ministerial level, a complainant may seek recourse through a broader formal dispute settlement. Additionally, trade sanctions may be imposed by an independent review panel, if needed, to ensure compliance with environmental obligations.
Although the core obligations on environmental governance apply only to federal legislation, commitments in other areas of the agreement, such as conservation and fisheries, apply to not only the federal level but also the provincial level.
I mentioned earlier that the new NAFTA contains enhanced provisions to ensure enforceability. In December 2019, Canada, the United States and Mexico agreed to update certain elements of the agreement, including stronger environmental obligations. For example, state parties have committed to doing their part to implement multilateral environmental agreements that have been ratified domestically. The new NAFTA also provides better clarity on its relationship to these other environmental agreements.
Canada, the United States and Mexico have negotiated a parallel environmental co-operation agreement that ensures a continuation of a trilateral co-operation, ministerial-level dialogue between parties and public engagement. The Commission for Environmental Cooperation will continue to operate with the support of a secretariat based in Montreal, a ministerial council that will continue to meet on an annual basis and a joint public advisory committee.
The environmental co-operation agreement also allows the three countries to establish a work program in which they can develop co-operative activities on a broad range of issues. These include strengthening environmental governance; reducing pollution and supporting strong, low-emission and resilient economies; conserving and protecting biodiversity and habitats; supporting green growth and sustainable development; and promoting sustainable management and use of natural resources.
Furthermore, through the joint public advisory committee, representatives from each country will continue to ensure active public participation and transparency in the actions of the commission. This committee's membership will be diverse and gender-balanced, and will reflect all segments of society by including representatives of non-governmental organizations, academia, the private sector, indigenous peoples, private citizens and youth.
These measures highlight the importance of honouring our role as environmental stewards and upholding multilateral environmental standards.
The issue of environmental conservation is of the utmost importance to the residents of my riding of Richmond Hill. While I was knocking on doors last summer, resident after resident raised the issue of environmental action and compliance as something that our government should prioritize. In fact, concern over the environment was second only to affordability as a key voter issue.
In response to this feedback, my team and I have collaborated with environmental stakeholders and community groups, such as Blue Dot and Drawdown, and have held town halls to encourage public participation and give residents the opportunity to comment on how we can improve government programs and services.
The Government of Canada is committed to bringing Canadian goods and services to international markets while maintaining our highest standards of environmental conservation and stewardship. We know this is possible, and we have a responsibility to do both at the same time. Under the new NAFTA and the parallel environmental co-operation agreement, Canada, the United States and Mexico have come together to ensure we are protecting our shared environment now and for future generations.
I encourage all members of the House to support the bill so we can move it toward implementation.