Alistair's speaks on the CPTPP
September 18th, 2018 - 12:38pm
Alistair MacGregor (Cowichan—Malahat—Langford):
Madam Speaker, it is a great pleasure to rise in the Chamber today after a lovely summer being back with the good people of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, all the way out on the west coast, and beautiful Vancouver Island. It was a fantastic summer spent in all of my various communities, really getting some great feedback on what they see as their priorities.
It is interesting that the first item on the government's agenda today is the debate on Bill C-79, the bill that is going to implement the CPTPP, which stands for the comprehensive and progressive agreement for the trans-Pacific partnership.
Right off the bat, I really want to acknowledge the incredible work that has been done by my colleague, the member for Essex, who stands as our international trade critic, and is one of the vice-chairs on the Standing Committee on International Trade. She and I are both from the class of 2015, and for her to take on such a complex and difficult file and deliver on it with such amazing grace and knowledge, she has served our caucus and, indeed, so many Canadians, very well on this file. I want to acknowledge the work that she is doing.
When we look at this, it is just a revision of the old trans-Pacific partnership, but the Liberals have decided to add two words, or have managed to get a lot of people to add the two words. In the course of the debate in support of this agreement, Liberals are relying heavily on the power of adjectives for this agreement to look good for Canadians.
Let us look at the first word “comprehensive”, which we can define as including nearly all elements of the aspects of something. If we really dig down, I do not think the agreement is quite as comprehensive as the Liberals would like to make it out to be. There are significant shortfalls in labour agreements and in environmental protection. There is no mention whatsoever of indigenous rights. There are significant gaps, despite the Liberals' attempts to paint this as a comprehensive agreement.
The second word is “progressive”. As I will lay out in the course of my speech, this agreement is really going to make a mockery of that word and the Liberals' attempts to really hoodwink us with that particular word.
New Democrats have long been concerned about the secrecy that surrounds both the TPP and the CPTPP negotiations. Despite the promises by the Liberal government to be transparent on trade deals, we have continued to get vague updates and mixed messages. In fact, it was during the 2015 federal election that the Prime Minister stated:
The government has an obligation to be open and honest about the negotiation process, and immediately share all the details of any agreement. Canadians deserve to know what impacts this agreement will have on different industries across our country. The federal government must keep its word and defend Canadian interests during the TPP’s ratification process – which includes defending supply management, our auto sector, and Canadian manufacturers across the country.
As I am going to lay out, it is precisely those sectors that are going to be negatively impacted by this agreement. We see this time and again in this place. As the Liberals come out with their words, their actions always, and sometimes very consistently, fail to meet up with those words.
Just for the benefit of my constituents back home, the CPTPP is a new agreement. It is slightly newer than the older version. It is an agreement between Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
The negotiations for this agreement began in 2005 and concluded in October 2015. Countries did come in at various stages. Canada, unfortunately, was pretty late to the game, which the member for Essex has correctly identified as something that sort of eroded our ability to be a key player and to get some key provisions into the agreement.
I hear a lot of talk in this chamber about how important free trade is. It is important to note that we already have free trade agreements in place with South Korea, Chile, and Peru, and course with Mexico through the North American Free Trade Agreement. Some of the major players within this agreement are already covered by bilateral free trade agreements with Canada. Those are moot points right there.
The agreement was officially signed by the minister on February 4, 2016. The plans for it were disrupted with the election of United States President Donald Trump, who withdrew the United States from the agreement in January 2017. In January of this year, the 11 remaining countries agreed upon a revised TPP and renamed it with the two adjectives I mentioned.
The government has always made much about consultations. The consultations really were kind of downloaded on the Standing Committee on International Trade. That committee held dozens of sessions. It heard from more than 400 witnesses and received written comments from more than 60,000 Canadians, and I should note that 95% of those were against the agreement. The Liberals had promised that they would consult with the public, but again, those consultations were downloaded on the Standing Committee on International Trade, a body, like all committees, that has very limited resources to hold the kinds of meaningful consultations that we expect in an agreement of this size.
When the committee travelled to a few different locations, translation services were not really up to par and the testimony was not transcribed for the record, which is problematic when a committee needs to look at witness testimony, because it has to rely on written notes. However, it is important to note that in cities like Montreal, 19 out of 19 public presenters were opposed and in Quebec City, there were three out of three. Receiving 8,000 written submissions and struggling to translate them does not add up to meaningful consultation. It would have been better if the executive branch of the government had launched the consultations and used the resources available to its various ministries for meaningful consultations with all of the affected sectors.
The most interesting statistic to me is that with the submissions that were received by Global Affairs Canada, 18,000 Canadians wrote in and only 0.01%, two people out of those 18,000 submissions, were in support of the TPP. That is a pretty abysmal rate of success if we go by these things.
The member for Essex has gone over this, but it is really important to reiterate what New Democrats' major concerns are with this agreement, because it is not simply about trade. These agreements cover so many different areas and chief among them are our concerns with labour standards and human rights. I will start with labour.
If we hold up the provisions that protect labour and help investors, they are really not equal at all. If someone has a complaint with labour practices, the CPTPP obliges the complainant to basically prove that a member country has not enforced its own labour laws, but then it also has to show that the violation has had an impact on trade. Therefore, the burden of proof is so ridiculously unattainable that there has actually not even been one successful labour complaint. This is very troubling, because if we look at some of the member countries that are involved in this, we see that there are labour standards in Vietnam, which we have some serious concerns with and Mexico has been implicated in a number of human rights violations. There are countries with very differing standards compared to what we in Canada or in Australia, South Korea, Japan and New Zealand are used to, and yet we are bringing these countries into an agreement. We are essentially rewarding them with trade with Canada, but not asking them to bring their standards up.
The language on the labour standards is essentially unchanged from the old TPP, which, as I pointed out in my introduction, does make a mockery of the word “progressive”. One case I want to cite is the decision that was made with respect to a dispute between the United States and Guatemala. A panel of arbitrators found that no documented labour violations in Guatemala, including the murder of a union organizer, had occurred in a manner affecting trade. If a union organizer in some of these countries is murdered or tries to implement a strike to get better working conditions for their families, the arbitration most likely will find that it did not have an impact on trade and, therefore, is not covered under this kind of agreement.
As I mentioned there are some serious and systematic violations of labour and human rights that have occurred in Mexico and Vietnam and in some other countries. I just want to point out that in Vietnam in 2011, Human Rights Watch released a pretty shocking report on how drug addicts in that country were basically forced to do labour as a part of their sentences. In some cases, we have had multinational companies who have been soliciting their products from this forced labour. If that kind of a condition were to exist in Canada, we would absolutely be up in arms. It is a practice that rightfully belongs in history, and I believe that most Canadians, if they were to hear of it, would be rightly incensed.
We know of documented testimonies by people in these forced labour camps. When they refused to do the work, they were subject to beatings and all kinds of abuse. These are the kinds of things that Canadians are concerned about. We want to know how other countries practice human and labour rights when we sign free trade deals. They are important to us. They are important to our values and we want to see them reflected in our foreign policy.
The other country I really want to highlight is Brunei, because prior to 2014, homosexuality was illegal and punishable there by up to 10 years of imprisonment. However, the law was changed in that year and homosexuality can now be punishable to death by stoning. Brunei is one of the signatory countries of this agreement and yet we like to stand up here and talk about how progressive the agreement is. However, one of the member countries that we are granting access to our economy, Brunei, still has such a terrible way of dealing with a right that we cherish in this country and that we, as parliamentarians, have stood in this place time and time again to defend.
Canadians want to know if these are the types of countries we want to reward with trade with Canada. I think if another country is going to trade with one like ours and to get access to our economy and the amazing workforce and products that we have, if they want to sell their products here, they have to demonstrate a certain commitment to basic fundamental human values. I think that should be a starting point.
Yes, we in the NDP do have problems with this agreement because it is not just about trade. It is about the behaviours that exist in the countries that we are seeking to build partnerships with.
Let me move on to the other rights, to the indigenous and environmental rights. Climate change is arguably the biggest issue of the 21st century and we do not see a single mention of it in this. It is going to have ramifications for everyone on this earth. We all share the same planet. How are we going to lead our lives? The way we meet the challenge is going to chart the course of the 21st century. For countries like Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Mexico, which have pretty huge impacts on climate change by virtue of their emissions, this would have been a perfect opportunity to hammer that out.
As well, for a government that likes to proclaim time and time again that no relationship is more important to it than first nations, why is there no mention of indigenous rights in this? Each of the member countries has significant indigenous populations. If we are serious about implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, this should be a starting point for our international relations. This is something we should be promoting, something we should take seriously, because I can tell my colleagues that first nations, Métis and Inuit across this country are watching the government. Yes, the words are welcome, the commitments are welcome, but these have to be followed up with meaningful action. We are seeing time and time again that they are failing.
Let us look no further than when we were here in the spring. It was fantastic to see the Liberal government join our NDP members to ensure the passage of Bill C-262. However, when it came to the moment when the rubber met the road and we were, via the member for Edmonton Strathcona, to insert language in Bill C-69 that would live up to the aspirations of that bill, the Liberals rejected every single one of those amendments. Again, words are fine, commitments are fine, but at some point Canadians are going to ask, where are the actions that have met up with your commitments?
The Liberals will say a lot about the side letters that covered some of those things, but as the member for Essex rightly pointed out, the side letters are not enforceable unless they are specifically referenced in the text. Furthermore, if the content of the side letters were so important and meaningful, why did we not make the effort to get them included in the main agreement?
I also want to talk about the investor-state dispute settlement process, because it is one of the most egregious things that has remained in this agreement and something we have major problems with. Giving rights to corporations to basically come after rightfully and democratically elected local governments, as well as provincial governments and even the federal government, basically makes this an instrument to rein-in democracy. We believe that our ability to make make public health laws and laws on how we want to protect our local environment should not be superceded or challenged by international corporate interests, full stop. I think most Canadians would agree with that statement. It is basically a tool for big businesses to make governments pay when they regulate.
If we look at all of the federal statutes that exist on the books, at all of the areas where the minister is given powers to regulate, regulations that are changed from time to time and put in the Canada Gazette for consultation periods, what is going on behind those closed-door meetings between industry stakeholders, international industry stakeholders and ministers? Are threats being made that if we go ahead with a certain regulation, they are going to sue us? I think there is a lot of evidence on that. We know that with the investor-state dispute mechanisms, we have seen claims against states explode. In the mid-1990s there were a few dozen. Nowadays, we are up to almost 600 known cases. It is one of those graphs that is going to continue to go up, and the more we put this kind of provision into our trade agreements, the more multinational companies will use it and challenge the democratic and sovereign rights of local governments to make laws for their citizens.
I will conclude by talking about agriculture, and specifically supply management. I want to acknowledge that the Grain Growers of Canada, the Canadian Cattlemen's Association and the Canola Council of Canada are going to benefit from this agreement. I am very happy they are. If we survey the votes in this place, we know that the Liberals and Conservatives are going to pass this agreement. However, the problem I have is with the repeated times Liberal ministers stand in this place to talk about defending supply management. I have in my hands quotes from the Dairy Farmers of Canada, the Chicken Farmers of Canada, and the Egg Farmers of Canada that unanimously condemn the government for the concessions it is making in the supply-managed sectors.
These sectors have good-paying, family farms that are often the cornerstone of small communities like mine in Cowichan—Malahat—Langford. The supply-managed system has enabled them to weather the shocks of international pricing or domestic pricing. One of the key components of that system is our import controls. However, when we start carving away these little niches, especially when Canadians have expressed the desire to have local dairy products, eggs, and chicken, we are undermining the basic unit of what goes on in many parts of rural Canada. I take issue with the Liberal government standing up time and time again saying it supports supply management but not following through with actions.
Canadians expect better when their governments are signing these kinds of trade deals. They expect that our values will inform how the government negotiates these agreements, and when the government actually talks about labour standards, human rights, environmental standards, and indigenous rights that it is actually going to follow through, and that it has some kind of an enforcement mechanism. These are all very sadly lacking in this agreement. It makes a mockery of the word “progressive”, and that is why I will stand united with my NDP caucus to voice our concerns and vote against this agreement.
Kevin Lamoureux (Winnipeg North):
Madam Speaker, even before the legislation was talked about and the details of this agreement became known, we all knew that the NDP would be voting against it. It has traditionally, and continues today, not to recognize the value of trade agreements and their benefits for all Canadians, in particular our middle class. It does not recognize how an economy can grow from good, sound trade agreements. That is what this legislation is all about.
When we look at the NDP's position of opposing this, would the member indicate to Canadians that even before this legislation was actually tabled and the agreement was even reached, the NDP was in fact against it or any trade agreement. Is that not the reality?
Perhaps he could share with people what trade agreements among the last 60 the NDP has actually supported. Can he say it has supported more than three agreements?
Alistair MacGregor (Cowichan—Malahat—Langford):
Madam Speaker, my colleague was talking about the creation of middle-class jobs and lifestyles. Let me correct him on that. The middle class was not created; it was fought for every step of the way by the hardworking men and women in the labour movement. It was the labour movement that fought hard for the minimum wage, workplace standards, for the eight-hour workday, for the weekend, and for parental leave. It was the labour movement that has been at the forefront of some of the greatest progressive social change in our country. It had to fight every step of the way for those standards. We see the labour movement coming out and saying there is a big problem with this agreement.
He talks about the creation of jobs. I agree that some sectors are going to benefit. However, in the industrial heartland of Ontario, especially in the auto sector, arguably some of the most powerful middle-class jobs that exist in our country, they are going to face some serious downfalls.
In terms of what kind of trade agreements the NDP is prepared to support, I thought I was pretty clear in the course of my 20-minute speech what we would like to see in trade deals. Just because the Conservatives and the Liberals have failed to include those provisions does not make us wrong. We are just trying to apply a standard that certain members of Canadian society expect of their government, and I am proud to stand up in this place and argue for those every single time.
Tracey Ramsey (Essex):
Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my wonderful colleague, the MP for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, for his wonderful speech here today on the NDP's position on the trans-Pacific partnership, now the CPTPP. I know his portfolio is agriculture. He does a wonderful job as our agriculture critic, and certainly supply management is something that has been bantered about in the House since I was elected in 2015. It is ironic that when we are on the cusp of something potentially better in NAFTA, the Liberals are bringing this trade agreement forward that clearly shows we are willing to throw open the doors on supply management.
I would like to quote a pre-election release from the Liberal Party of Canada. The Prime Minister, who was then the candidate for Papineau, stated:
The government has an obligation to be open and honest about the negotiation process, and immediately share all the details of any agreement. Canadians deserve to know what impacts this agreement will have on different industries across our country. The federal government must keep its word and defend Canadian interests during the TPP’s ratification process—which includes defending supply management, our auto sector, and Canadian manufacturers across the country.
Does the member finds it mind boggling like I do that when the Liberals were running for government, they said they were going to protect these things, and yet today we see the ratification of the CPTPP in which none of these things have been protected by the Liberals?
Alistair MacGregor (Cowichan—Malahat—Langford):
Madam Speaker, as my colleague knows, we in the NDP have a favourite saying that the Liberals love to campaign from the left and then govern from the right. This happens time and again.
She is so right to point out the concessions that have been made by the Liberal government on our supply-managed sectors are in absolute contradiction to what Liberals have been stating in the House. If we look at the losses, the Dairy Farmers of Canada are looking at losses of $160 million a year. That is $160 million that goes to small family farms, which as I said in my speech are the cornerstone of many rural agricultural communities across our great country.
I will just read quick quote of Pierre Lampron, president of the Dairy Farmers of Canada. He said:
On the one hand, the Canadian government has repeatedly stated that it wants a vibrant, strong, and growing dairy sector that creates jobs and fosters investments; on the other hand, it continues to carve out pieces of our domestic dairy market, first through CETA, and now through the CPTPP.... The Government must understand that in continuing to make these concessions, they are putting the Canadian dairy sector in jeopardy.
There are similar quotes from the Chicken Farmers of Canada and the Egg Farmers of Canada.
Earl Dreeshen (Red Deer—Mountain View):
Madam Speaker, I always enjoy listening to my NDP colleague's speeches as they are well-thought-out.
The Liberals seem to mismanage anything that they touch. I think back to the concerns that took place when the Prime Minister had an opportunity to speak in Vietnam and to be engaged. That created so much confusion not just for the negotiators but for each of the commodity groups because they really have no idea where anything is going to end up.
Right now we are concerned. There seems to be a political play with the discussions on the North American free trade agreement and that really is affecting our producers. Where I come from, the grain industry is really interested in moving this forward so that it can become a part of it.
I wonder if the member could speak to some of the confusion that has been left out there for everyone because of the Liberals' approach to trade.
Alistair MacGregor (Cowichan—Malahat—Langford):
Madam Speaker, I will return the compliment. I enjoy sitting with my colleague on the Standing Committee on Agriculture. It is a committee where we take a good, measured approach to agricultural policy.
I want to say off the bat for the grain growers of Canada and other agricultural groups that I am very sympathetic. They are pushing for this deal and if I could carve off that one section and support it, I would.
My opposition to this comes from just the whole comprehensive act itself.
The member is right about the confusion. I talked in the opening segment of my speech about the secrecy where the negotiations had been played out with this and the Liberals continued that. It is in direct contrast with what has been going on with the North American free trade agreement. Labour groups, environmental groups and even Canadian businesses themselves have been left in the dark as to which direction the Liberal government is going in. I am sympathetic to that claim. It is bang on, and it is something that we can rightfully criticize with the government's approach to trade.
Kevin Lamoureux (Winnipeg North):
Madam Speaker, there is a lot of positive news happening because of trade in the agricultural sector, and I am going to cite the pork industry that employs thousands of Manitobans. An excellent example is HyLife in Neepawa, which exports 95% and employs hundreds of Manitobans. If it were not for trade, the company would not exist. It provides a lot of good-paying jobs and contributes to the health and well-being of the community.
Would the member across the way not agree that Canada is a trading nation and in order to secure those markets into the future, having well-reasoned trade agreements between different nations is healthy for Canada? That is something our Prime Minister and our government is doing.
Alistair MacGregor (Cowichan—Malahat—Langford):
Madam Speaker, if only they were well-reasoned agreements.
I want to take this opportunity to identify that Canada's hog producers are going through a very rough patch right now. In Alberta, they have seen prices drop precipitously over the last few weeks. They are innocent bystanders of a trade war going on between the United States and China. I certainly hope that the Liberal government is there to support them because for any business to suffer price drops of that magnitude is an absolute calamity. I want to ensure that the government is there to support our hog producers.