Alistair spoke on the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement Implementation Act in the House of Commons
November 22nd, 2016 - 10:05am
Mr. Speaker, I had three minutes in my speech yesterday so I will be continuing along today. The point I want to underline is that we in the NDP will be here to provide reasoned and progressive elements to debate in this implementation act for CETA.
As I was saying in my saying in my speech on the bill yesterday, it remains a mystery as to why the government is trying to ram the bill through without letting parliamentarians conduct their proper research and oversight. I want to refer all members of this House to the open and accountable government publication from the Prime Minister that ministers were to treat Parliament with respect and provide the necessary information for parliamentarians to do their job. I quote from that document:
Clear ministerial accountability to Parliament is fundamental to responsible government, and requires that Ministers provide Parliament with the information it needs to fulfill its roles of legislating, approving the appropriation of funds and holding the government to account.
The Prime Minister expects ministers to demonstrate respect and support for the parliamentary process. However, if we look at the facts surrounding the introduction of the bill, on October 30 the Prime Minister signed CETA at the EU-Canada Leaders' Summit, and it was only two days later that the implementing legislation, Bill C-30, was introduced in Parliament.
This rushed process violated the government's own policy on the tabling of treaties in Parliament, which requires the government to table a copy of the treaty, along with an explanatory memorandum that outlines the key components of the treaty, at least 21 sitting days before we debate. That was violated, and I would argue that the spirit of open and accountable government was clearly violated by ignoring that process.
Furthermore, we know that the international trade committee has already passed a motion that will restrict written submissions to only those witnesses who are selected to appear. Let me make that clear. No Canadians who do not appear before the committee will be allowed to provide written submissions, and only those who have the means to travel to Ottawa and the time to do so will be allowed to do so. We are in effect closing down exactly from whom we will hear on this.
If we compare that with the government's process on the trans-Pacific partnership, where the committee heard from over 400 witnesses and received written submissions from approximately 60,000 Canadians, there really is no comparison.
The underlying point here is that Parliament is essentially being asked to write a blank cheque with this implementation bill, despite the fact that each of the 28 EU member states will have to ratify CETA for all of the provisions to apply, and it is a process that is expected to take between two to five years.
I ask again, what is the rush? What is the government trying to ram through here? Why is it not letting parliamentarians do due oversight when there is obviously enough time for us to examine the bill?
The next part I want to look at is on the investor-state dispute mechanism.
New Democrats support trade deals that reduce tariffs and boost exports, but we will always remain firm that components like investor-state provisions that threaten our sovereignty have no place in trade deals.
The new investor court system still allows foreign investors to seek compensation from any level of government over policy decisions they feel impact their profits. Furthermore, the Liberals still have not explained how they will ensure that environmental and health and safety regulations would be protected from foreign challenges. Even the joint interpretive statement about the investor court system falls outside the text of the treaty, and therefore does not have full legal weight.
If we look at the quote from the Canadian Environmental Law Association, it states that CETA "will significantly impact environmental protection and sustainable development in Canada. In particular, the inclusion of an investor-state dispute settlement mechanism...." It goes on to say that it will really "impact the federal and provincial governments' authority to protect the environment, promote resource conservation, or use green procurement as a means of advancing environmental policies and objectives."
The other part I want to examine is particularly important to me, both as the NDP seniors critic and the member of Parliament for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford. It is the impact this deal would have on the cost of pharmaceutical drugs. I take the issue of pharmaceutical costs very seriously, because I have helped enough seniors over the last eight years to know that the high cost of these drugs can have a real impact on the quality of life of our seniors.
The chapter on intellectual property rights goes well beyond Canada's existing obligations. The increased patent protections granted to brand-name pharmaceuticals will have the effect of delaying the arrival of cheaper generics and will increase the cost of prescription drugs to Canadians by between $850 million and $2.8 billion per year.
This is a cost that I do not think seniors are prepared to take on.
Furthermore, I would argue it would hamper any efforts of bringing in a national pharmaceutical strategy both at the federal level and in what individual provinces are trying to do with their already ballooning health care costs.
I also want to quote Jim Keon, the president of the Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association, who said:
A study prepared for the CGPA by two leading Canadian health economists in early 2011 estimated that, if adopted, the proposals would delay the introduction of new generic medicines in Canada by an average of three and a half years. The cost to pharmaceutical payers of this delay was estimated at
Therefore, we do have validators of this opinion, we do have the research to back it up, and it is certainly a very real concern that we should be bringing up.
In conclusion, we are in favour of a trade deal with Europe. As I have stated previously, we have deep historical and cultural ties, and they are some of the most progressive democracies. However, we are concerned with specific measures in CETA as it is negotiated, and it is our job on this side of the House to uphold the interests of Canadians in process.
The Liberals have missed key opportunities to fix this agreement, but the deal is still not done. We will continue to urge them to fix it.
Furthermore, if Liberal members of Parliament are not prepared to stand up for the progressive interests of their constituents, we in the NDP are always ready to take on that rein, and we will do so proudly.
November 22nd, 10:15 a.m.
Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. friend for bringing that question up, because I have before me a copy of the minutes of proceedings from the Standing Committee on International Trade, meeting No. 42, when it met on November 1st. Paragraph (b) of the motion that was passed at that in camera meeting states that the committee "consider testimony, written submissions and briefs only from the witnesses appearing before it". That says to me that it wants to limit testimony to organizations that have the means to come forward. The committee is really trying to narrow down the depth of the conversation, so that when it provides its report to Parliament at report stage of the bill, it will seem as if it has the unanimous backing of Canadians, and that is going to be the furthest thing from the truth.
This is yet another example of the Liberals limiting debate on an important issue on which all Canadians deserve to have a say.
November 22nd, 10:15 a.m.
Madam Speaker, as I stated in my speech, if the Liberals and Conservatives are not going to stand up and raise concerns about the high cost of pharmaceuticals, about the impact of investor-state dispute resolutions, about the abilities of local governments to legislate and make laws in the public interest, then we will bring those issues forward for Canadians.
As I have stated, we support the overall intention of trade with Europe, but as long as these problematic provisions are in the trade agreement, we will give voice to those concerns. Furthermore, we have legitimate questions as to why the government side is rushing this through without due process.
The government member knows very well that he has broken his own government's policies in this regard. They are trying to ram this through and limit the number of witnesses because they want to limit the amount of bad news they receive on the bill. Therefore, I say to the member that he should let Parliament do its job, not rush this process through, and allow the legitimate concerns of Canadians to have voice in the House, because it is not just a one-sided argument. There are many Canadians who have legitimate concerns. I will continue to proudly stand here and give voice to those concerns.