Madam Speaker, before I start my first speech in the House, I would like to thank my wife Barbara; my kids Shauna, Carolyn, Christina; their partners, their kids, the whole team that helped to get me here, including my campaign manager Brent McArthur, and the voters of Guelph.
It is such an honour to rise in this place today in support of Bill C-4 regarding the implementation legislation for the Canada-United States-Mexico agreement. This agreement encompasses Canada's most ambitious environment chapter to date, and it is also complemented by the environmental co-operation agreement.
It is a priority for the Government of Canada to ensure that all of Canada's trade agreements not only advance our commercial interests, but also bring concrete benefits to all stakeholders. By including environmental provisions with our free trade agreements, we support Canadian businesses and ensure that trading partners do not gain an unfair trading advantage by not enforcing their environmental laws.
The North American Free Trade Agreement, which came into effect in 1994, was the first free trade agreement to link the environment and trade through a historic parallel agreement on environmental co-operation, the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation.
The parties committed at that time to maintain robust environmental provisions established on our trinational institution for environmental co-operation, the Commission for Environmental Cooperation.
The Canada-United States-Mexico agreement integrates comprehensive and ambitious environmental provisions directly into an environment chapter within the agreement, which is subject to the chapter on dispute settlements.
The agreement also retains the core obligations on environmental governance found in the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation. This includes commitments to pursue high levels of environmental protection to effectively enforce environmental laws and to promote transparency, accountability and public participation. This reflects the importance that we place on ensuring that trade liberalization, environmental protection and conservation are mutually supportive.
The agreement also includes commitments that go beyond the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation. This includes prohibiting a party from moving away from environmental law to attract trade or investment and ensuring that environmental impact assessment processes are in place for projects having potential adverse effects on the environment.
The new NAFTA creates substantive commitments and many of these are in line with the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership on a wide range of global environmental issues, which shows the interconnection of our trade agreements within major markets within the globe.
These protections include illegal wildlife trade and illegal logging; fisheries management; protection of the marine environment and the ozone layer; sustainable forestry; and conservation of species at risk and biological diversity, which also includes consultations with indigenous peoples. New commitments aiming to strengthen the relationship between trade and the environment include the promotion of trade in environmental goods and services, corporate social responsibility and the voluntary mechanisms to enhance environmental performance.
For the first time in a free trade agreement, the new NAFTA includes new articles on air quality and marine litter, as well as a binding commitment that prohibits the practice of shark finning. This is a first for Canada. It also recognizes the important role of indigenous peoples in the long-term conservation of the environment, sustainable fisheries and forestry management and biodiversity conservation to make sure that their voices are also at the table as we move forward.
The agreement provides for an environmental consultation mechanism. Should parties fail to resolve an environmental matter arising under the agreement in a co-operative manner through various levels of consultation right up to the ministerial level, the complaining party may seek recourse through broader formal Canada-United States-Mexico agreement dispute settlement procedures. To help ensure compliance with the environmental obligations, trade sanctions may be imposed by an independent review panel.
While 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 the federal government as well as to Canada's provinces and territories. Provinces and territories were consulted thoroughly throughout the negotiation process.
The agreement maintains and incorporates the submissions on the enforcement matters process established under the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation, which is a key mechanism to promote transparency and public participation on the enforcement of environmental laws in North America. Under this process, citizens of the three countries may file a submission alleging that one of the three parties is not enforcing its environmental laws. The Commission for Environmental Cooperation secretariat evaluates the submissions and requests from the implicated party to provide information and clarification regarding the enforcement of the environmental law at issue within its jurisdiction.
In December 2019, Canada, the United States and Mexico also agreed to update certain elements of CUSMA, including to strengthen environmental obligations under the agreement. This includes a commitment from parties to implement their respective obligations under specific multilateral environmental agreements, MEAs, that are ratified domestically, as well as the new provision to clarify the relationship between CUSMA and MEAs.
New language has also been added confirming that failure to comply with one's obligations in the environment chapter that affect trade or investment is now presumed to be “in a manner affecting trade or investment between the parties”, unless the defending party can demonstrate otherwise. The environmental provisions are written right into the law of the agreement.
In addition, Canada, the United States and Mexico have negotiated a parallel environmental co-operation agreement that ensures trilateral environmental co-operation continues, supported by ministerial-level dialogue and public engagement as we move forward to improve our targets under the co-op agreement and other international agreements.
The environmental co-operation agreement ensures that unique institutions for trilateral environmental co-operation are created under the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation and maintained and modernized going forward. This includes the continued operation of the Commission on Environmental Cooperation, including the secretariat, based in Montreal; a ministerial council, which will continue to meet on an annual basis; and a joint public advisory committee.
The environmental co-operation agreement allows the three countries to establish a work program in which they can develop co-operative activities on a broad range of issues related to strengthening environmental governance, reducing pollution and supporting strong low emissions and resilient economies, conserving and protecting biodiversity and habitats, supporting green growth and sustainable development and promoting the sustainable management and use of natural resources.
In addition, 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. Membership of this committee will be from a diverse pool of candidates, including with respect to gender balance, and will include representatives from all segments of society, including non-governmental organizations, academia, the private sector, indigenous peoples, private citizens and youth.
The environmental co-operation agreement complements the ambitious environmental chapter of the Canada-United States-Mexico agreement. The environmental co-operation agreement will contribute to the maintenance of robust environmental governance and the modernization of the existing institutions for trilateral environmental co-operation.
The Government of Canada is committed to bringing Canadian goods and services to international markets while maintaining our high standards of environmental protection and conservation. We know it is possible, and we have a responsibility to do both. Under this agreement and the new parallel co-operation agreement, we will be moving forward together to ensure we are protecting our shared environment now and for future generations.