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View Terry Sheehan Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you for that. I think it's very important for people to understand how important it is.
Stuart, I have a question for you. The first NAFTA deal was negotiated many years ago, a lifetime ago, as I call it, for a lot of people, and some of these people are in the room. Trump also wanted to have a sunset clause about every five years. The industries, all industries, said, “We've heard stability, stability, stability, and we would just be in a constant negotiation.”
With the new provision, this deal lasts for 16 years with a review every six. In six years, you can start tweaking some of those things. What is your comment on that particular provision of the NAFTA deal, please?
Stuart Trew
View Stuart Trew Profile
Stuart Trew
2020-02-25 11:28
I don't have a huge amount to say on it other than it would be nice to make use of that period. It's six years away. We might actually get a period sooner, depending on how the election goes in the United States. As you've heard, we might be back negotiating in a few months. I think it would do well for us to take whatever opportunities we have, when it comes time to look at the agreement again, to see what's working and what's not working.
View Michelle Rempel Garner Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you.
I'll direct my question to Mr. Poirier. I understand that there's a greater degree of benefit to Canada in this agreement. My concern is less with that and more with the lack of information in terms of long-term economic impact. We've seen reports recently, over a few days, especially from the C.D. Howe Institute and others, saying that perhaps this will have a long-term detrimental impact. I also saw a quote from Jared Kushner earlier this month, who was talking about the fact that the sunset clause, and basically the re-review clause, would allow for the United States to exert leverage.
Are you at all concerned that this particular provision perhaps is going to chase away long-term investment in Canada, given that six years is barely a blink of an eye in terms of investment, perhaps not in your industry but in industries where we're dealing with intangibles such as data or intellectual property?
Matthew Poirier
View Matthew Poirier Profile
Matthew Poirier
2020-02-24 8:30
I have a few thoughts on that.
You're right. I think that having a review mechanism is good, but the six-year timeline is pretty short. In what we just got over with the negotiations, what we learned is that once we're renegotiating, there is all this uncertainty that hits the market, and where does the investment go? It goes to the safest harbour, which is typically the United States, not Canada.
That's a concern, but that said, this negotiation was a fight for dear life to try to maintain the basic access we had to that market and all the protections in NAFTA that we currently enjoy, so given that this was what we were up against, where we ended up is pretty good. That thought about the renewal and the uncertainty of every six years notwithstanding, where we could have ended up could have been really bad for the industry. We're pleased with what it is and, under that alone, we're very supportive of CUSMA.
View Michelle Rempel Garner Profile
CPC (AB)
Would you characterize this less as a victory and more as a concession that allows us to continue the status quo-ish...?
Matthew Poirier
View Matthew Poirier Profile
Matthew Poirier
2020-02-24 8:31
What we maintained under the status quo is a victory for sure, but also, all the new chapters that we're doing, the modernization of the agreement, is stuff that was long overdue and that we got in this as well. I'm thinking particularly of the competitiveness chapter. That's something that's specific for manufacturing and that will let the three countries act as a trade bloc. That wasn't in there before, and that's something that has a lot of potential going forward.
Yes, we maintained, but we got a lot of new good stuff as well.
View Michelle Rempel Garner Profile
CPC (AB)
Sure. I'm sitting at the table, and we have very important sectors of the economy represented here today, but I'm also questioning what our economy will look like 10 years from now for intangibles. Your industries represent production of tangible goods. Is that right?
Mr. Poirier, did your industry liaise with any associations, or did any of your member associations talk about the fact that intangibles—data, IP, etc.—might be under threat the way that this agreement has been negotiated, especially given the six-year renegotiation clause?
Matthew Poirier
View Matthew Poirier Profile
Matthew Poirier
2020-02-24 8:33
Certainly for manufacturing it's a win, this agreement. Other sectors have concerns and we share those as well, from just a general business perspective, but the way we look at it is where this could have gone. What stability it returns to the market is the good thing.
Other than that, based on those merits alone.... We can always be concerned about the other issues that are plaguing investment in Canada in general, and we could sit down and have a long discussion about all of those, but as for what we have within our control, that is, this trade agreement and passing it to remove at least one level of uncertainty, we should do it. For everything else that we can't control beyond our borders in terms of economic challenges, let's park that. We can control this.
Normand Pépin
View Normand Pépin Profile
Normand Pépin
2020-02-20 10:35
As for labour, chapter 23, which addresses that topic, seems to us to be quite incomplete. Once again, we think there are some interesting good intentions with respect to forced labour, violence against workers, migrant workers, and discrimination in the workplace. However, implementing these measures seems very problematic to us.
Two days ago, Minister Freeland again stated that the new agreement, CUSMA, includes ambitious and enforceable labour obligations to protect workers from discrimination in the workplace, including gender-based discrimination. However, the first texts released on October 1, 2018 stated that each party is supposed to implement policies that protect workers from employment discrimination based on gender.
A few months later, the final text instead stated that each party shall implement policies that it considers appropriate to protect workers. The reference to “policies that protect workers” was changed to “policies that it considers appropriate to protect workers against employment discrimination on the basis of sex.” This protection is now left to the good judgment of each party. The worst part is that Canada has agreed to allow the United States to shield its federal agencies' existing policies from this article, even if watered down.
In addition, it is mentioned that cases of violence against workers must have an effect on trade or investment between the parties, which we find difficult to demonstrate and far too restrictive, just like the entire chapter.
CUSMA also fails to solve the problem of competition between workers, nor does it put forward concrete measures to improve their working conditions. Only the auto sector is subject to a target of a production wage rate of at least $16 U.S. per hour, which is an arbitrary choice and clearly insufficient overall.
Finally, we come to the brand new chapter 28 of the new agreement on good regulatory practices, a chapter that was completely absent from NAFTA and that Minister Freeland did not even mention last Tuesday. While the victory of NAFTA chapter 11 being removed was noted earlier, we must curb our enthusiasm in light of chapter 28. First of all, the title of the chapter is misleading, since the practices it highlights are not what they seem.
According to the CUSMA rules, the parties must make public each year a list of the regulations they plan to implement in the following year, in addition to being required to justify the need for new regulations and to make public all scientific studies and data consulted. That is not all. If the parties decide to conduct an impact assessment of the new regulations, which is strongly recommended, it should include an explanation of the need for the new regulation and the problem it is intended to address, a list of all other regulatory or non-regulatory alternatives that could be used to try to address the problem, a cost-benefit analysis of each of those different scenarios, and the reasons why the proposed solution is preferable.
It gets worse. Article 28.13 requires each party to adopt or maintain “procedures or mechanisms to conduct retrospective reviews of its regulations in order to determine whether modification or repeal is appropriate”. Article 28.14 requires the parties to provide the opportunity for any interested person to submit “to any regulatory authority of the Party written suggestions for the issuance, modification, or repeal of a regulation.” As a result, the doors are wide open for corporate lobbyists to attempt to directly influence those responsible for enforcing the regulations.
Deregulation is therefore the focus of the chapter on good regulatory practices, rather than regulation that could help to better protect the environment or the people.
Attempting to improve regulations or create new regulations will become so complicated that the only change left will be deregulation. There will be no need to be able to sue governments in this context, since discouraging governments from acting at the grassroots level is likely to prove just as effective, if not more so. We are really surprised that a Liberal government would support this type of provision, which makes any government action suspect in advance.
Thank you for listening.
View Colin Carrie Profile
CPC (ON)
View Colin Carrie Profile
2020-02-05 15:57
Thank you very much, Madame Chair.
I want to start off today by thanking the officials for being here, particularly Mr. Verheul. I think your experience and knowledge are very much respected around the table, so thank you for being here today.
Off the top, I want to address some things that have happened recently on this. On December 12 we met and asked the government to provide important documents so that the members of Parliament on this committee could fulfill our democratic obligations, basically to review this very important agreement. These include economic impact studies. We've watched the process in the United States—I think, everybody around the table has—and there is some concern about having something unexpected happen and our reviewing it and having an issue that needs to be addressed. I therefore have a process question for you.
If Canada decides to amend the agreement, would it have to be sent to the United States and Mexico to be ratified?
Steve Verheul
View Steve Verheul Profile
Steve Verheul
2020-02-05 15:58
Yes. If we are proposing to make some change to the agreement that has already been agreed upon trilaterally amongst the three parties, we would certainly have to ensure that the U.S. and Mexico were on board and agreeable to those changes.
View Mona Fortier Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Good afternoon everyone.
I'd like to thank the witnesses for being with us today. Many of my questions have already been asked, but I still have a few left.
Earlier, we talked about the Privacy Act and other legislation that protects people's personal information. I realize that the legislation will require some amending as society embarks on the digital path and the government adopts digital service delivery. I've been an MP for two years, so I understand that that type of legislative review takes a long time.
Given our legislative framework, what do you do when you realize that certain amendments are necessary in order to protect Canadians?
Alex Benay
View Alex Benay Profile
Alex Benay
2019-02-19 16:40
You raise some very good points. The current Privacy Act has been in force since 1983, well before the Internet era. The discussion we're having today attests to the big changes on the way that will affect society. The act applies to 265 institutions. I mention that not to make excuses, but simply to highlight how colossal the undertaking is.
When we encounter an issue, we work closely with the Department of Justice. TBS is responsible for building an inventory of situations that arise, and our discussions with the Department of Justice and other stakeholders are ongoing. The enterprise architecture review board began cataloguing issues and key points that have come to our attention.
Naturally, it takes time. Take, for example, Europe. The EU General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, wasn't developed in a few years. It takes time to come up with those kinds of rules, which will likely require regular review, as Mr. Snow pointed out. Many of our private sector partners are currently putting new services in place. Obviously, it's an ever-evolving challenge. We also have to work closely with our partners at Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, since they are the ones in charge of enforcing the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, or PIPEDA, in the private sector.
There is no doubt that the digital ecosystem is quite complex, so we want to be sure we take the time we need to analyze all of the issues reported to us. The next step will be to engage with Canadians about their private data.
View Mona Fortier Profile
Lib. (ON)
As you go down this critical path, have you identified any measures we should take a closer look at now, in light of what's coming? When or how often should we expect the eventual reviews?
Alex Benay
View Alex Benay Profile
Alex Benay
2019-02-19 16:42
In the timetable we gave ourselves, we set aside two years to review certain legislation that might hinder information sharing. We wanted to ascertain whether an issue was real or merely just a rumour, so after examining 11 departments, we identified 187 amendments to legislation that could affect the sharing of information.
What I just said is also based on the premise that information sharing is a problem, real or imagined, but we wanted to validate it. With some of the technologies we talked about earlier, namely X-Road in Estonia, we'll be able to validate some of the notions we have. We'll continue working with our partners at Justice Canada and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada to make sure we have the complete picture. Right now, we are thinking it all through.
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