Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Burnaby—New Westminster for sharing his time with me.
I am rising to speak on the NDP motion calling on the government not to ratify the Canada-China foreign investment promotion and protection agreement. I know the member for Vancouver Kingsway has very ably covered a number of areas of concern. I am going to focus on one particular area.
One of the big challenges with this agreement is that it does not acknowledge the Crown's constitutional obligations to first nations. This is outlined in section 35 of the Constitution, which states that the government has a legal obligation to consult aboriginal peoples before undertaking measures that impact on their rights. Of course, this right has been reaffirmed in any number of court decisions.
I only have 10 minutes, so I am going to try to focus on a couple of key arguments. The Assembly of First Nations has conducted a very preliminary analysis on the impacts of this agreement. It is a draft and much more work needs to be done, but part of its analysis includes the statement that the government has a duty to consult on FIPA and, to its knowledge, has not consulted with first nations. It went on to point out that the Hupacasath First Nation is currently challenging FIPA in court, mainly on this basis. I want to turn for a moment to this challenge.
Hupacasath filed a notice of application against Canada in early January. One of the councillors, Brenda Sayers, stated, “This deal will pave the way for a massive natural resource buyout and allow foreign corporations to sue the Canadian government in secret tribunals, restricting Canadians from making democratic decisions about our economy, environment and energy.”
Steven Tatoosh, the chief councillor, says, “We will argue that the Government of Canada breached its fiduciary duty to consult First Nations on our respective constitutionally enshrined and judicially recognized aboriginal title, rights and treaty rights.”
There are many organizations that are supporting this initiative. I have a quote from Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, who said, “To recklessly disregard our title, rights and treaty rights is an outrage. Our inherent rights are our fundamental human rights. Canada repeatedly violates our human rights when our inherent rights are totally ignored in agreements such as the Canada-China FIPA.”
Councillor Brenda Sayers went on to say that the court action is intended to put the brakes on the FIPA process until all Canadians have had a chance to study the far-reaching and potentially devastating implications of the agreement.
One of the glaring threats in this agreement is around environmental protection. Sayers pointed out that under a FIPA, the foreign investor is subject to all the environmental regulations of the host country, but only as those regulations were in place at the effective date of the agreement.
Ms. Sayers further stated, “This is not just a First Nations battle. This is a battle for the rights of aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians. Both of our constitutional rights are being violated. There are a lot of common threads behind our two communities: the protection of our water, the protection of natural resources and our environment, the protection of our future. Canadians need to realize this is a fight for Canadians as a whole.”
Because I have limited time, I cannot read all of the letters I have received into the record. I have a letter from the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, a presentation from the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, a detailed brief from the First Nations Summit, a brief from The Council of Canadians with regard to how this agreement threatens indigenous rights, and a brief from the Coastal First Nations Great Bear initiative. There are many more. Those are the ones I was able to grab as I left my office.
I want to return to the Assembly of First Nations' preliminary analysis. It has identified the following:
Several modern treaties contain an express obligation to consult prior to the adoption of new International Legal Obligations (ILOs) which could affect rights under the treaties. We believe that the government is very likely under a duty to consult even those First Nations who do not hold modern treaties, based on the unilateral nature of the conduct of foreign relations and the potential for new [international legal obligations] to impact the exercise of existing or claimed [first nation] rights.
There are numerous in this draft analysis, and I think it would be incumbent upon the government to take a look at the concerns being raised that impact not only first nations, both treaty, non-treaty and self-governing, but also non-indigenous Canadians.
Further on in the brief, it says:
The potential for FN rights claims to be dealt with in investor state arbitrations is especially problematic for modern treaty holders. FNs would have, at best, intervenor status in such arbitrations. Past practice of international investor-state tribunals suggests that the ability to raise FN rights issues or human rights issues would be substantially impaired in such forums. The problem arises because some modern treaties contain language which suggests the exercise of some rights under the Agreements would need to be modified if those exercises conflicted with an ILO (hence, the reason for the consultation clauses). If an investor-state tribunal holds that a particular treaty right is effectively an expropriation, and hence contrary to the ILO of Canada in the FIPA to prevent such expropriations, then it means that future exercises of that right may need to be modified. This could arise with respect to self-government exercises of authority which are deemed expropriatory, and likely harvesting activities.
Further on it cites a claim under NAFTA, and it says:
To give you an idea of the kinds of cases which attract investor state claims, consider the Glamis case under NAFTA. There, a Canadian mining company was subjected to a mining reclamation regulation enacted, in part, to preserve a sacred site of the Quechan Nation. Glamis claimed this environmental regulation (enacted to preserve the Quechan Nation's connection and access to its sacred sites) was expropriatory.
When we are dealing with first nations sacred sites, cultural sites or traditional sites, mechanisms need to be in place in order to protect them and in order to consult appropriately with first nations.
Later on, the brief states:
Quechan intervened, but was unable to participate meaningfully in the case. Indeed, it had to rely on the US DOJ to defend the measures (which, incidentally were promulgated by the state of California). This should concern FNs because unlike the US DOJ, which occasionally acts on behalf of tribal rights as part of its trust responsibility, DOJ Canada typically is adversarial to FN interests.
We have seen that in any number of cases. We see the number of times that first nations have been forced to the courts to defend their rights, with the Department of Justice intervening on behalf of the government to prevent first nations from moving forward. It is very worrisome that we do not have these kinds of protections in Canada.
I want to turn briefly to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, because this should be a fundamental underpinning for any kind of action that the government is going to take in the context of infringing on first nations rights. Article 19 indicates:
States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.
It is clear from the very brief overview I was able to present that there are grave concerns around the great potential this agreement has to infringe on inherent rights.
One of the things that often comes up in the context of talking about consultation is not only the duty to consult but the duty to accommodate. There is certainly no mention in this agreement either around the duty to consult or the duty to accommodate, so it is important that the Conservative government pull back from this agreement and undertake its constitutional responsibilities under section 35 to conduct those consultations to ensure that first nations treaty rights and inherent rights will not be abrogated in this context.
I am hopeful, given the very reasoned and rational presentations that are being made in the House of Commons, that the Conservatives will reconsider their position on this matter.
I did not have time to talk about the hundreds of emails and letters I am getting in my own riding expressing grave concerns about this agreement. People are very concerned about how it is going to impact on the environment and on our waters. People really want an opportunity to have their say on this agreement.
In the absence of the government undertaking any meaningful consultation with indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians, I encourage people to write directly to the Prime Minister to ask him to back down on this agreement.
Mr. Speaker, in starting I would like to say that I was very disappointed, having been in this House now for nine years, to see the Liberal Party yet again siding with the Conservatives.
I have been in Parliament nine years, and hundreds of times, when push comes to shove, when Canadians' interests are at stake, the so-called new Liberal Party seems to be exactly like the old Liberal Party, always siding with the Conservatives, always siding with the Prime Minister.
I would just like to share my disappointment, because I know that this is an important debate. The member for Vancouver Kingsway, in his very eloquent speech, spoke of thousands of emails flooding in from across this country on this important debate. We have received tens of thousands of emails, letters, cards, and phone calls from Canadians who are very concerned about the Canada-China FIPA and its implications for Canada.
I would like to say at the outset that on this side of the House we are resolute fair traders. The NDP has always stood for fair trade, that means a rules-based system that is balanced and well-negotiated and serves both parties.
In the NDP caucus of 100 strong members, we have many members of Parliament who have actually worked as negotiators in the past. They have represented the interests of their side in negotiations. What we have seen before in the Liberal government and most certainly now under the Conservative government is governments that seem incapable of negotiating strongly for Canada's interests.
I would just like to say on behalf of the NDP caucus that when we come to power in 2015, Canada's interests will finally be effectively protected. Canadians can know for sure that we will have tough Canadian negotiators who will always stand for Canada first and will always be capable of negotiating fair trade agreements.
I just want to mention in starting off that I will be sharing my time with the very eloquent member for Nanaimo—Cowichan who has just reminded me of that point. I look forward to her speech. She will be speaking particularly to the consultation that was not done on the Canada-China FIPA, and will also be referencing the lawsuits that are starting to emerge because of this badly botched negotiation.
Let us start with the Conservative approach to trade. Let us start with the record. The member for Vancouver Kingsway very eloquently set it out. We have the worst trade deficit in our nation's history, and this is after seven years of Conservative government. So badly have they botched negotiations, so badly have they been in terms of defending Canada's interests, that the Conservatives have taken Canada into the worst trade deficit in our history.
This is something the Conservatives were trying to explain, badly, quite ineptly, just a few minutes ago, that somehow that was due to international conditions, that somehow it was somebody else's fault. It is the worst government in Canadian history for trade deficits, but it is “somebody else's fault”. We see this systematically. The Conservatives are always trying to point the finger at somebody else. The member for Vancouver Kingsway replied that out of 18 countries, in terms of the trade deficit, in terms of our chief industrial partners worldwide, Canada is 18th out of 18 among those countries. It is the worst trade deficit because of Conservative incompetence.
We have seen this firsthand, time after time since the Conservatives came to power. We have seen half a million manufacturing and value-added jobs evaporate because of Conservative incompetence. We have the worst trade deficit in our history.
If we look at the inability of the Conservatives to negotiate even one fair trade agreement, then every time we bring fair trade proposals forward, Conservatives and even the Liberals always vote against them. They have never supported a fair trade agreement or anything that has been brought forward that even smells of fair trade on the floor of the House of Commons, certainly since I have been here.
When we look at the components of what the Conservatives have actually negotiated, we see how badly they have defended Canada's interests.
I will give one example, because it strikes home in my riding of Burnaby—New Westminster. It shows the impacts of these badly botched agreements the Conservatives throw onto the floor of the House of Commons and then try to cover up. Of course, there is never any debate because they are so reprehensible in how badly they negotiate these agreements that they never want them to be examined in committee. They never want them debated on the floor of the House of Commons because they are all so bad.
I will give one example: the softwood lumber agreement. In my riding of Burnaby—New Westminster, in the weeks following the ramming through of that agreement on the floor of the House of Commons, Conservatives and Liberals concocted together, and another party that used to exist and that is not so present today, the Bloc Québécois, conspired, on behalf of Canadians, to push it through. In my riding of Burnaby—New Westminster, 2,000 families lost their breadwinner. Within a matter of weeks, we saw three softwood plants go down, one, two, three: Canfor, Interfor, Western Forest Products. Those workers were sold out by Conservatives and their partner, the Liberal Party, resulting in those workers losing their jobs and those families losing a breadwinner.
We said at the time, on the floor of the House of Commons, that there would be dire consequences if we rammed this through. Most of the Conservatives did not even bother to read the agreement. They just voted blindly because the Prime Minister told them to. Many of the 60,000 jobs that were lost were lost in Conservative ridings. The Conservatives said, “We don't care about those workers. We don't care about those jobs. We don't care about those businesses.”
Actions have consequences. That is why the member for Vancouver Kingsway is bringing forward the motion today. Having read the Canada-China FIPA and understanding the consequences, we are saying we need to take a halt on this, not ram it through, not ratify it, because the consequences to Canadian communities and the consequences to Canadians would be serious.
We have a government that seems intent on a one-dimensional economy. It wants to ship raw logs, raw minerals, raw bitumen out of this country. That is all it wants to do. It seems to think that there would be some economic benefit to doing that. I think the figures prove the contrary. Half a million manufacturing and value-added jobs were lost. We have the largest trade deficit in our nation's history. We have the worst trade economic performance in our nation's history. Those facts basically speak for themselves. What, then, would happen if we compounded that by ratifying a Canada-China FIPA?
Here is the situation. It was badly botched. The member for Vancouver Kingsway was very eloquent about that, going over step by step, section by section, how badly botched the negotiations were.
It would permanently keep in place all of the discriminatory measures taken by the Chinese state government, but it would open up Canada and basically ensure that the measures that we might normally take to protect our environment, to ensure that there is economic development, even value-added economic development, could be contested and that Chinese state companies that then choose to move forward and seek compensation could seek compensation from Canadian taxpayers.
Who would negotiate an agreement that would ensure that discriminatory measures could be taken by one party but not by another? And who would then say, “We're going to put this into place and ratify it for three decades”?
We have our answer. It does not seem logical. It does not seem consistent with what the Conservative Party ran on. Yet it is the current Conservative government that wants to put into place this FIPA and ensure, for all time, that those discriminatory measures could be taken by the Chinese state government but that Canadian measures that we put in place to protect our environment, our health and safety, our economy, could not be taken.
On this side of the House, we stand with the Canadians who are writing to us throughout this debate, the tens of thousands of Canadians who have expressed valid concerns about how badly this negotiation was botched.
The New Democratic Party caucus stands with Canadians on this issue. That is why we encourage the debate. We invite members who have actually read the agreement to vote with us to send a clear direction to the government that the agreement should not be ratified because it is not in Canada's interests.
Order, please. The hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster has the floor.
Mr. Speaker, I have been asked by residents of Burnaby—New Westminster to table a petition that their member of Parliament refused to table.
The petitioners are concerned about the inclusion of subjective terms like gender identity and gender expression in the laws, and they are concerned that these terms are poorly defined.
The petitioners call upon the House of Commons and Parliament to vote against Bill C-279 and to base all future policy decisions and legislative language on objective, measurable criteria.
Mr. Speaker, there is nothing in the FIPA or any of the free trade agreements that prevents Canadians, the federal government, provincial governments and municipalities from making economic, social or environmental policy to suit themselves. I have responded to the member many times on this subject.
It is hard to combat rumours, innuendoes, half-truths and misleading statements. As a great example, the hon. member himself said something about folks who are generally supportive of free trade. What is that? What does that mean? That is some kind of great half-legalese speak craziness. No one really knows. Who are those people? We have heard time and time again from the NDP about claims against Canada by the United States or Mexico. How many claims have there been against Canada? We have not heard that number. Another number we have not heard is how many have been successful.
We are a trading nation that needs clear, solid, unequivocal rules to trade by. Part of that is negotiating free trade agreements around the world. Part of that will be the final stages of the CETA, the comprehensive economic trade agreement with the European Union that the hon. member discussed. He discussed some of the challenges in a negotiation that has not yet been completed. However, what he does not say is that there is a 20% increase expected in Canadian trade that is expected to bring $12 billion to the Canadian economy. In order to do that, we need clear parameters on investment. We need surety for Canadian investors abroad and for foreign investors in Canada.
Let us take a look at the fearmongering and the record of the NDP. Let us talk about protection against discrimination in the marketplace and how to do that. We do that with foreign investment promotion and protection agreements. We do that with investor state provisions. That is how we do it. There is no guesswork. There is no tying it up in the courts for years and years at a time. There is an arbitration process, and the issue is settled.
The former NDP critic from Windsor West said he supports the efforts of big union bosses to stop any future trade negotiations with Korea, Japan and the European Union because apparently it affects some people who are NDP supporters. The former NDP trade critic from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour described the free trade agreements as “job-destroying”. Another former trade critic, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, said that free trade has “cost Canadians dearly”. That should be explained.
Let us have a reasonable, rational debate about this, and hopefully soon, but let us not speak in innuendo, rumours and half-truths.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to follow the member for Beauharnois—Salaberry, who gave a wonderful, detailed speech.
We have just begun to really delve into this bill that is more than 1,000 pages long. Bill C-48 is absolutely enormous.
As my colleague just said, we are talking about measures that should have been taken 10 or more years ago. Some of them go back as far as 1998. We have to wonder why the government took so long to introduce this huge bill in the House. Why did it take so long to address the 200 various sectors affected by previous budgets? Why did the government drag its feet on introducing these technical amendments in the House?
When we look at the size and scope of this massive bill, we are talking about areas touched throughout the tax system: changing how labour-sponsored venture capital corporations are treated and the transitional issues that arise from that; amending corporate taxable income allocation formulas; looking at the tax treatment of shares dealing with offshore investment fund property and non-resident trusts; dealing with taxation of foreign affiliates of Canadian multinational corporations, affecting legislation that touches both common law and civil law; avoiding anti-avoidance measures for specific leasing properties; clarifying rules on taxable Canadian properties; looking at housekeeping changes to the Excise Tax Act; clarifying the minister's authority; allowing for tax administration agreements; and putting in place coordinating amendments.
Many of these measures date from more than a decade ago. As my colleagues from Beauharnois—Salaberry and Edmonton—Strathcona mentioned earlier, the former Auditor General of Canada called the government on its complete absence of bringing forward all of the 1,000 pages of technical amendments that should have been brought forward years ago.
Commitments were made at one point. I am not going to criticize just the Conservatives. I am going to criticize the Liberals, as well.
Indications were made in the past that these types of technical amendments should be brought in on an annual basis. What the Parliament of Canada would be called upon to look through would be, basically, one-twelfth of what we are looking at today. On an annual basis, technical treatment would then be updated. That is a necessary part of our tax system. That would mean, as well, that we would avoid the kinds of loopholes that exist when the House of Commons passes budgets or measures are put into place and the technical amendments are never brought forward.
That is not what happened under the Liberals. We know now that the Liberals were simply unable to put in place an effective administrative structure for technical amendments. It has not happened under the Conservatives, either. This is something New Democrats deplore. Of course, we support these technical amendments, but instead of dealing with a yearly review that would allow those technical amendments to be brought in in a systematic way and on a timely basis, we are dealing with another massive Conservative bill of 1,000 pages that Parliament is being asked to scrutinize, because for over a decade, the work was not done.
This is symptomatic of why many Canadians consider the idea of Conservative administrative competence to be an oxymoron. We have seen this time and time again, whether we are talking about technical amendments that have not been brought in or massive budget bills that are thrown on the floor of the House of Commons without the government having any understanding of what the impacts are.
We saw last spring massive changes to environmental assessments and the National Energy Board. Charitable people would say that the government was simply unaware of what it was trying to do when it gutted 99% of environmental assessments in this country. That is what a charitable person would say. The government was simply incompetent. Many others believe that it was mean-spirited and deliberate. Even though the government pretended that it had no idea that it was gutting 99% of environmental assessments in this country, the government actually did understand that it was doing that when it threw those amendments forward. Either way, what we are seeing is administrative incompetence and mean-spiritedness of the highest order.
I am privileged to come from the political party that over the last 20 years, when it has been in power, according to the federal Ministry of Finance, has been the most effective at managing the nation's finances and paying down debt in various provinces. For the last 20 years, the fiscal period returns, year after year, have indicated that NDP governments are much better at balancing budgets and paying down debt. They are much better than their Conservative counterparts and much better than their Liberal counterparts, who seem to be even worse than the Conservatives, if people can believe that, in terms of balancing budgets and paying down debt. Fiscal period returns show that. We certainly have no lessons to learn from anybody.
I would say to the Canadian public that we always have to endeavour to be better and more transparent. We had the Leader of the Opposition stand in the House today and put forward an NDP bill to put in place a Parliamentary Budget Officer. What we believe in is a system of checks and balances, in terms of finance, to ensure that the public is aware that the figures we are putting forward are tested by an impartial third party. We believe in supporting our Auditor General's department and in actually enhancing the ability of the Auditor General to look at the nation's finances as well.
What have the Conservatives done? It is quite the opposite. By death from a thousand cuts, they have cut back on the Auditor General's ability to actually look at the nation's finances. They are seriously, in the most vicious, underhanded way, attacking the Parliamentary Budget Officer. They are systematically removing, and this is the only government in the western world doing this, the checks and balances the Canadian public depends on.
On our side of the House, not only are we better financial administrators, we also believe in the impartiality of a third party to ensure and verify that the financial figures put forward by a government are tested and are subject to those rigorous tests of checks and balances the Canadian public expects.
In my riding of Burnaby—New Westminster, what I hear most often from people who voted Conservative last time, because I still had about a third of the public in Burnaby—New Westminster vote Conservative last time, is that they voted for administrative competence, and they have gotten incompetence. They say that they voted for some kind of honesty on fiscal matters and have gotten exactly the opposite.
People who voted Conservative are now saying that what they got is the F-35 scandal, the continuous shame of Conservative senators trying to bilk the public and milk the public of every last dollar, pretending they live in provinces where they do not and trying to break the law in a couple of jurisdictions.
What former Conservative voters, because they are not going to vote that way in 2015, are telling us is that it is not what they voted for, but that is what they have gotten.
When we look back to Bill C-48, we can see that this is symptomatic of a much greater malaise. We have a Conservative government that is administratively incompetent, that is mean-spirited and that is unable to control the natural inclination of the Prime Minister to go after shiny baubles and pay whatever it takes, whether we are talking about the Muskoka spending of $1 billion or the $40 billion or more that would go into the F-35s or the ongoing scandal of Senate-gate, with 15 Conservative senators now trying to hide where they live to cover up their past indiscretions.
When we look at all of those things, what we see is symptomatic of why so many Canadians are saying that what they want to see, whether we are talking about a bill like this or any other government decision, is competence. They want to see a government that actually understands the impacts of what it is doing. They want to see a government that is not bringing forward 14 years of technical amendments, because it has been dropping the ball, systemically, for the last seven years.
In 2015, what Canadians will get is a government that is competent, an NDP government that will be submitting technical amendments on an annual basis, because that is what is right and proper for this House of Commons to consider.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to wish Chinese Canadians and all those who celebrate the lunar new year a happy new year of the snake.
In Chinese tradition, the snake represents wisdom, friendship and determination.
This is the time to come together around these values for a positive change during the year, in the spirit of sisterhood, brotherhood and sharing. May this year of the snake bring good health, peace and good fortunate to all.
In my community we say: Gung hei faat choi; Xu da dja xin nian kuai le; She nian kuai le; Nian nian kuai le; Tian tian kuai le.
I would like to take this opportunity to convey my deepest gratitude and appreciation to all Canadians of Chinese origin as well as to all those who celebrate the lunar new year, from my riding of Burnaby—New Westminster to all of Canada.
I am thankful for their immense contribution to our country and continuous efforts to build a better, wiser and stronger Canada.
Da ji da li.
Mr. Speaker, that member is absolutely correct. Double-bunking is a completely normal practice used by many western countries.
Corrections Canada, last year, completed a study that showed that the rates of double-bunking were not connected to the rates of violence. The fact of the matter is, contrary to the suggestion of the member for Burnaby—New Westminster that prison populations would explode, the increases have actually been less than a quarter of what CSC predicted.
Not only is the NDP soft on crime, it is absolutely soft on facts.
Mr. Speaker, our government is committed to an ambitious free trade agreement with the European Union, an agreement that is expected to boost Canada's economy by the equivalent of $1,000 for every Canadian family.
Shamefully, the NDP and its anti-trade allies consistently oppose our government's plans to open up new markets for Canadian exporters. The former NDP trade critic and MP for Windsor West has said that he supports the efforts of big union bosses to stop any further trade negotiations with Korea, Japan and the European Union. Another former NDP trade critic, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, summarized his party's views when he said that free trade has cost Canadians dearly.
A leopard cannot change its spots and the NDP cannot hide its anti-trade agenda. In challenging global economic times, Canadians know that it is only our government that has a pro-trade plan to generate jobs, growth and long-term prosperity.
The hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Edmonton—Strathcona. Before I start, I would like to thank the member for Halifax West for reminding us of the Liberal-Conservative coalition during his speech.
I want to thank the member for Burnaby—New Westminster for moving this motion. It helps Parliament and Canadians have the debate that the Conservative government would prefer be kept behind closed doors with its well-connected friends. It is the kind of debate that Canada must have. Indeed, it is kind of debate my leader, as Leader of the Opposition, is ensuring we have now and Canadians will have in the next federal election.
Until last Friday at 5 p.m., I had thought the Black Friday sales for shoppers had ended on the day after American Thanksgiving, a few weeks ago. However, Communist China and Malaysia companies knew better. They especially knew where to go for a good sale on our natural resources. No matter what the government says, its actions tell everyone that Canada is for sale.
Imagine the delight of the communist China National Offshore Oil Corporation and Petronas. They find a country willing to sell its natural resources in a secret deal, whose conditions they do not need to divulge, with no public consultation and a green light to lay off workers, lower wages and whatever else they have up their sleeves to bring more petrodollars back home to their countries. They have to be laughing all the way to the bank.
People might think this was a comedy skit, if it were not so sad and serious. The Prime Minister of Canada looks Canadians in the eye and says that he has grave concerns about the sale to China and its increasing ownership of the oil sands. Then he approves the sale of the largest takeover ever, in his next breath.
The Prime Minister races to privatize state-owned companies, like Petro-Canada, and then turns around and welcomes state ownership by companies from communist countries. He is leaving Canadians, provincial governments, like Alberta, and investors wondering what exactly the conditions are for foreign investment.
We were treated to a spectacle this weekend of the Minister of Industry telling Canadians to ask the Chinese what was in the deal. Just imagine. Are there any environmental protections for Canada in this deal? “Ask Communist China” says the Canadian minister. Are there any commitments to keep current workforces in place? “Ask Communist China” says the Canadian minister. Are there any commitments to maintain existing wages? “Ask China.” The government probably needs a link on its government website to the Communist Chinese government for Canadians to know what is happening in their country.
Before 5 p.m. last Friday, I wanted to speak on this NDP opposition day motion. The Calgary Chamber of Commerce in the Prime Minister's home town and a large majority of Canadians are right; we need to clarify the net benefit test for foreign investment.
Why did I want to speak? I am the member for Nickel Belt, and that sits on the world's largest deposit of nickel. Most of my riding residents live in Greater Sudbury, a community that saw its Canadian companies of Falconbridge and Inco sold to Xstrata and Vale, and heard the government mumble like it was mumbling on Friday about net benefits for our workers.
I wanted to speak because I worked for 34 years for Inco and know a little about what actually happened in our community following the sale of our companies to foreign investors. Despite all the talk of net benefit to Canada and Greater Sudbury, we saw layoffs at Vale Inco and Xstrata Falconbridge.
When the Conservatives approved the sale of Falconbridge to Xstrata, they received assurance that there would be no layoffs or job losses for three years. Xstrata broke that promise, eliminating 686 permanent jobs. The Conservative government took no action.
After the takeover of Inco by the Brazilian giant, Vale, workers suffered through a long and bitter strike when the employer tried to cut wages. The Conservative government took no action.
I wanted to speak because I have now reintroduced in this Parliament five private member's bills that would amend the Investment Canada Act to ensure there would be transparency, accountability and public consultation, which are now lacking in these foreign investment deals. I will speak more about those bills in a few moments.
We can understand the skepticism of Canadians listening to the Minister of Industry's absurdity on the weekend that China could explain to Canadians the details of this sweetheart deal to CNOOC. That is the kind of nonsense we used to hear from the President of the Treasury Board when he was minister of industry.
Despite thousands and thousands of emails pouring in to the Prime Minister's office with the subject heading that Canada was not for sale, the government is selling off Canada's natural resources. Hundreds of those emails came from my own riding of Nickel Belt. Eighty per cent of Canadians know this kind of deal does not serve the interests of Canadians.
Friday's announcement brought bad news: there is nothing to clarify the “net benefit” test; there are no assurances that public consultations will be held with Canadians, who will bear the consequences of these takeovers; there are no assurances of mandatory disclosure of the guarantees given by investors or that they will be enforced in a transparent and responsible manner; there is no improved reciprocity for Canadian investors outside Canada; and there are no assurances that governments' records of interference in the activities of state-owned corporations will be reviewed.
Let us hear what commentators were writing this weekend about this deal.
Andrew Coyne wrote that it was all about politics and not policy. He said that the political balancing act was at the cost of total incoherence in policy terms.
Workers on the ground in Alberta know better. The Alberta Federation of Labour said the Prime Minister was saying what Canadians wanted to hear, while doing what they did not want and that these tough new conditions were no more than a public relations ploy.
The so-called unprecedented new rules to foreign investment are still largely behind closed doors for the industry minister's decision with no public input, filled with exceptions and still as ambiguous as ever.
If this is a line in the oils sands, as the front page of the Globe and Mail suggests today, it is pretty much an invisible and moving line. So much for protection for our strategic industries, especially from state-owned enterprises in emerging markets. We can do better as a country. In fact, we must.
We need the Investment Canada Act to work for Canada. The NDP recognizes the need for foreign investment and foreign trade when it works for Canada. We need to clarify the net benefit test, introduce parameters around reciprocity, improve the transparency of decisions and set specific criteria for state-owned companies to meet net benefit requirements in order to protect the Canadian economy for potential foreign government interference.
My private member's bill, Bill C-333, would require the responsible minister, on written application by a Canadian citizen, to disclose both the written undertakings by a foreign company in respect of its investment in a takeover and what Canada had demanded in return.
My private member's bill, Bill C-334, would require public consultation with representatives of industry and labour, provincial and local authorities and other interested persons. It would require non-Canadian investors to provide the Director of Investments with a surety that may be forfeited if non-Canadian investors failed to satisfactorily complete all of the undertakings they had made to the Government of Canada in connection with the investment.
The FIPA that this government signed with the Communists stipulates that once the Chinese takeover is complete, the company must be considered a Canadian company. Thus, once the FIPA has been ratified, CNOOC will have extensive rights that will allow it to increase its control over the oil sands, for instance, by buying up new oil leases. It is now clear that the Conservatives have failed to limit the influence of state-owned corporations in the oil industry.
This is no way to manage the economy. This confusion on rules, this secrecy, this failure to clarify rubber stamping and approval make a mess of things. We on this side are with the vast majority of Canadians who do not trust the Chinese state to run Nexen in the interests of Canadians. It will run the Canadian oil sands in the interest of its central party committee of the communist Chinese party that runs the country. We need a government in Canada that puts Canadians first.
Order, please. The hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster has the floor.
Order, please. The hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster has the floor. We will have a little bit of order, please.
I am not sure that is a point of order.
The hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster has about 20 seconds.
Order, please. The hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster has the floor and I am having great difficulty hearing him.
The hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster.
Mr. Speaker, before I start the main part of my speech, I would like to take a bit of time to continue my rebuttal of some of the comments made by my hon. colleague from the NDP. I want to lay it out in pretty general terms.
A number of comments were made that simply do not wash. The comment was made that we can hold off on the treaty until we get a tax information exchange agreement. Yes, we can hold off on the treaty forever. We do not ever have to sign it, but we can also negotiate two different areas at the same time.
The reality is that Panama is off the OECD grey list. It is on the so-called white list, because it has improved its tax information sharing with other nations. Therefore, that is no longer an issue for OECD countries. Meanwhile, we are trading with Panama today.
The hon. member does a total disservice to Canadian companies that are trading with Panama now. There is $111 million worth of trade between Canada and Panama, and he shrugs that off as if that is nothing. A good deal of that trade is coming out of Quebec, Atlantic Canada, Ontario, western Canada and British Columbia. It is shared equally among the provinces, and everyone gains. It is an absolute disservice to say that $111 million worth of trade is not important. I frankly disagree.
When we look at the idea of rules-based trading, having a system in which we understand what the tariffs are, going in, and that they will be eliminated to zero, it is all about building capacity in Panama. We cannot do that overnight. Panama has moved light years in the last 20 years, and it has moved in the right direction on every single thing. When the Panamanians took over the Panama Canal, the naysayers, a group the NDP apparently belongs to, said that they would never be able to operate the Panama Canal. They said that the Americans could operate it, because they can do anything. Do you know what? The Panamanians took over the Panama Canal, and not only did they operate it, they did it well.
What has that done for the Panamanian psyche and Panamanian society? It has put hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue into Panama. That hundreds of millions of dollars builds capacity, the very capacity the NDP wants to thwart in Panama. That is the capacity that builds roads and hospitals and sends kids to school. More importantly, when we sign this free trade agreement with Panama, which will enable it to acquire cheaper food because it will be tariff free, kids will be sent to school with food in their bellies. That is a terrible thought, apparently, for the NDP anti-trade group.
I shake my head. I had great hopes for the New Democratic Party in this Parliament. It said that it was going to support trade and look at the trade deals for what they were. New Democrats found a way not to support trade. Whether they like it, whether they do not like it, there are some good things and some bad things. At the end of the day, when the rubber hits the road, the final verdict is what counts. If New Democrats do not support this trade agreement, they do not support trade. They should not try to have it both ways. They should not try to equivocate. Either they support trade or they do not support trade.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for putting up with that. It was important that I get it off my chest. I would like to get into the main part of my speech now.
I am pleased to be here today to talk about the Canada-Panama free trade agreement. The free trade agreement would generate increased export and investment opportunities for Canadians by creating a preferential and more predictable trade and investment environment, something I talked about in my opening comments.
When the free trade agreement comes into force, Panamanian tariffs on over 90% of Canadian goods exported to that country will be eliminated immediately. That is good news for Canadian exporters. With $111 million of merchandise traded between Canada and Panama, that is fantastic news.
For Canadian service providers, the free trade agreement would help expand market access opportunities in areas such as information and communications technology, energy and financial services. For Canadians looking to invest in Panama, the free trade agreement would include a chapter of comprehensive rules governing investment. These rules would provide greater protection and predictability for Canadian investors and their investments in Panama. At the same time, the labour co-operation agreement would ensure that these economic advances would not be made at the expense of workers' rights. Furthermore, the agreement on the environment would commit both countries to pursuing high levels of environmental protection, to improving and enforcing their environmental laws effectively, to maintaining appropriate environmental assessment procedures and to ensuring that they do not relax their environmental laws to encourage trade and investment.
I will speak for a moment on that, because it is absolutely key to protecting the environment. Not every country in the world has the same standard of environmental protection. That is the reality of the world we live in. Many of the G8 countries and more advanced economies can afford to protect the environment. For growing economies, those dollars are taken from somewhere else to protect the environment. The great thing about this chapter of the investment treaty would be that they could not allow their environmental protection rules to become slacker. They could not be less for a Panamanian company than for a Canadian company. At the end of the day, it would mean that both countries would have to ensure that they did not relax their environmental laws to encourage trade or investment. That would be a step in the right direction, and it is those types of basic rules that would make a difference for the future of Panama.
The same agreement on the environment would also include provisions on encouraging the use of voluntary best practices, corporate social responsibility and a commitment to promote public awareness of the parties' environmental laws.
The free trade agreement would also provide Canadian exporters of goods and services with greater market access to Panama's government procurement opportunities, including those related to the Panama Canal expansion and other infrastructure projects.
The Panama Canal project is one of the largest and most ambitious projects in the region. It is expected to cost an estimated $5.3 billion. This agreement would better enable Canadian suppliers and investors from across the country to participate in this megaproject by ensuring that Canadian goods and services would have access to procurement by the Panama Canal Authority, without discrimination.
However, it is not just about the canal. I will broaden the discussion further to many of the tremendous opportunities this agreement would offer Canadians when it comes to government purchasing. Our government has been at the forefront of efforts to expand and secure access to foreign government procurement markets. According to OECD statistics, government purchasing plays a significant role in the economies of most countries, including Canada. It accounts for approximately 10% to 15% of a country's GDP, amounting to hundreds of billions of dollars annually around the world. These markets present significant opportunities for Canadian suppliers, and our government is working hard to ensure that Canadians have the tools available to take advantage of these opportunities. These obligations would also support the interests of Canadian taxpayers, ensuring increased access, competition and fairness in government procurement in Canada.
What is wrong with the idea of the taxpayer getting the best possible value for his or her hard-earned tax dollars? There is nothing wrong with that principle. These obligations would also support the interests of Canadian taxpayers, ensuring access, competition and fairness in government procurement. I have said that twice, because it is worth repeating. It is worth understanding the basic fairness that can be brought to the procurement market. Ultimately, suppliers, governments and their taxpayers all benefit from these efforts. Our government seeks to accomplish these goals by negotiating agreements such as the World Trade Organization agreement on government procurement and specific chapters in Canada's free trade agreements, such as the one with Panama.
Earlier this year, our government welcomed the successful conclusion of negotiations to modernize the WTO agreement on government procurement. However, our efforts to secure and expand opportunities for Canadian suppliers go beyond the World Trade Organization. Most of Canada's free trade agreements, from the North American Free Trade Agreement to those with Peru and Colombia, have obligations on government purchasing. These obligations are based on core principles, including a commitment to non-discrimination between domestic and foreign suppliers as well as an assurance of transparency and clear procedures.
The Canada-Panama free trade agreement we are debating here today is another step in our effort to create jobs, growth and long-term prosperity for hard-working Canadians.
It has been said many times in the House that Panama has a dynamic and rapidly growing economy. Canada's businesses have long been interested in gaining or expanding access to this emerging market. Despite the global economic downturn since 2008, Panama's economy continues to show strong signs of growth. In fact, its political stability and progressive business environment have helped Panama achieve impressive average growth of 6% to 7% over the past several years.
Panama is also an ideal location for Canadian businesses seeking to expand and build long-term business ventures in the Americas. As a gateway to the region, our trade agreement with Panama will make it easier for Canadians to establish that foothold in the Americas.
Panama's government market, particularly in the areas of infrastructure, transportation and services, represents a significant opportunity for Canadian suppliers. The ambitious $5.3 billion expansion of the Panama Canal, which I mentioned earlier, is at the top of the list. The Panama Canal serves as a key hub between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and is a significant driver of Panama's economy. Its expansion would bring about increased container traffic, some of which will access Canadian ports to supply the North American market. This is yet another example of why Canada must act quickly to implement this agreement. Canadian businesses can compete and win against the best in the world, but we must ensure that they have a fair opportunity to do so.
As I said, opportunities exist beyond the canal. In 2010, the Panamanian government announced an infrastructure plan valued at $13.6 billion over five years. Numerous infrastructure projects are either under consideration or are already in progress to build and improve roads, hospitals, bridges and airports. Among these projects is the Panamanian government's plan to construct a metro system valued at $1.5 billion.
These projects present many opportunities for Canadian companies and Canadian workers. However, we need this agreement in force, because Canadians can benefit from it. The fact is that despite having signed nearly two and a half years ago and having debated it in this place for nearly 60 hours, the opposition continues to accuse our government of rushing this deal. Two and a half years and 60 hours somehow means that we are rushing the deal. I really beg to differ.
We have seen time and time again that the NDP will use any excuse to oppose a trade agreement. It has been that way ever since NAFTA. Twenty-five years ago, the opposition claimed that the Canada-U.S. and North American free trade agreements would wipe out millions of jobs, compromise Canada's sovereignty over freshwater and cause us to lose our Canadian culture. None of those claims came true. In fact, precisely the opposite happened. Since those agreements were signed, the Canadian economy has boomed. Hard-working Canadians have benefited, and we still have full control over our water. Canadian culture is more alive and well, and I dare say, profitable, than it has ever been in the history of our country.
It is not only the NAFTA that the NDP opposes. The NDP member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, when he was the leader of the Nova Scotian NDP, called trade agreements jobs destroying and vowed to fight all trade agreements. The member for Burnaby—New Westminster and former NDP trade critic went so far as to work against Canadian exporters when he argued that Buy American was a perfectly logical policy.
Protectionism is not logical. There is nothing in protectionism that is logical. We should not be surprised that this is yet another trade agreement that the NDP has failed to support. In fact, the NDP members have stood in the way of our attempts to open up new markets for our exporters at every opportunity.
Now, because of these delays, our competitors are catching up. Panama's free trade agreement with the European Union could enter into force as early as the end of this year. Let us consider that for a moment. Most members in this House would look at the European Union and say it is a market-based economy with very high standards for labour relations and the environment and, certainly, that it has democratically based governments.
The EU has done a tremendous job in putting 27 member states together, and soon to be 28 with Croatia joining. We also need to look at the EU for a moment. It did all of that for its member countries to trade with one another. It broke down the trade barriers. The EU has challenges, and in fact the entire world has challenges, with the economy. However, the EU moved forward because it tore down trade barriers. I ask the NDP members to think about this for a moment, that these nations some 60 years ago were shooting at one another. Where are these nations today? They have the most powerful and richest consumer economy on the planet, with 500 million people. It is amazing, and it is because they dared to tear down trade barriers.
Even more importantly, the Panama-U.S. free trade agreement came into force just last week. Another democratically based government with high respect for the environment and for labour, our closest neighbour and largest trading partner, is trading with Panama. That is okay to the NDP members: they will let the Americans and the European Union trade with Panama, but somehow it is wrong for Canada to do the same thing and let our companies compete on equal footing.
Our companies need this agreement so they can take advantage of these commercial opportunities. It is important that Canadian firms establish an early presence to build solid relationships to capitalize on the future opportunities that will arise in this emerging market.
Canadian companies clearly have the expertise to meet Canada's development plans. The Canada-Panama free trade agreement would guarantee access for Canadian suppliers to these types of procurement opportunities, reducing the risk of doing business in the region. The agreement, moreover, would ensure that Canadian suppliers can compete on the same basis as their main competitors in the United States.
It is our job as members of Parliament to make sure that Canadian companies have secure access to opportunities of this nature.
In summary, the time has come to move forward. I certainly still hold out hope for my NDP colleagues. I certainly believe that they do want to move to the centre of the political spectrum. I think in their heart of hearts they understand that trade is good. They have some challenges maybe with some members, but we all have challenges. We do not all agree on every single item. I understand that.
Intuitively, look at the folks we are trading with around the world, especially the United States and the European Union. They are trading with Panama now. They will have their foot in the door ahead of us. We need to be there on equal footing with our foot in the door at the same time.
Mr. Speaker, November 2 is a day of celebration in Burnaby. It marks 100 years of continuous presence of All Saints Anglican Church as a key member of our community and our faith community. Situated on the south slope of Burnaby since 1912, All Saints Anglican Church has provided 100 years of service to families, children and seniors, ministering to their spiritual and social needs and lovingly welcoming persons of all persuasions to its many programs.
I rise today to honour this important anniversary. Generation after generation, our community has had the good fortune to benefit from the parish of All Saints Anglican Church's leadership and guidance. We are very grateful for that and for it setting a high standard of service and dedication.
This week, the church will celebrate with a series of events that honour its past accomplishments and its service and commitment to the people for 100 years.
I say congratulations on behalf of my constituents of the rich and diverse community of Burnaby—New Westminster for 100 years of faith and fellowship in Burnaby.
Order, please. The hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster still has the floor.
Mr. Speaker, three years ago, the Federal Court of Canada and the Immigration and Refugee Board ruled that former KGB agent Mikhail Lennikov was inadmissible to Canada.
Lennikov is now a fugitive evading deportation orders and has illegally taken sanctuary in a church basement in Vancouver.
Two weeks ago, the NDP MPs from Burnaby—New Westminster and Vancouver Kingsway had Thanksgiving dinner with the former KGB agent in a show of support.
It must be said that anyone who was part of the former KGB assisted in one form or another with the atrocities carried out by the KGB. It does not matter how basic or advanced their role was, they all worked together to fulfill the KGB's brutal mission. How many people were wrongfully arrested or killed by the KGB as a result of Lennikov's services?
Those two NDP MPs have insulted Vancouver's Ukrainian community and over 1.2 million Ukrainian Canadians across Canada, as well as the other ethnic groups who suffered under the cruel hand of the KGB. I demand that these MPs apologize.
The electoral district of Burnaby--New Westminster (British Columbia) has a population of 118,713 with 80,110 registered voters and 190 polling divisions.
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