IN THE HOUSE ~ SPEECHES ~ Take note debate on Economic negotiations with the European Union / DISCOURS le débat exploratoire sur les Négociations économiques avec l'Union européenne
December 14th, 2010 - 4:00am
40th Parliament, 3rd Session
NDP International Trade Critic, Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP):
Mr. Chair, I am a little saddened to rise on this debate, though I know this is the first of what will be a debate that may last a year or two in our Parliament and in the European parliament as the negotiations go on.
I will talk about what the debate is not about and then I will talk about what is on the table. Thankfully, at each stage in the negotiating rounds, leaked documents have indicated exactly what will be debated and discussed at the negotiating table.
This is clearly not about any sort of functional trade policy. My colleague in the Liberal Party a little earlier said this was about trade and that the Liberals supported trade. All parties in the House support trade. Unfortunately, the Liberals have had a tendency to support a profoundly dysfunctional trade policy on behalf of the government.
Every time the Conservatives have done something that has been bad for the country, like the softwood lumber sellout that cost tens of thousands of jobs, ministers have risen in the House and said that this would give us billions of dollars in economic spinoff. Yet Canadians from coast to coast to coast have seen the results of the softwood lumber sellout, the cost of tens of thousands of jobs, particularly in my province of British Columbia and in my community. With the shipbuilding sellout, we have seen the loss of a key strategic industry that is protected by every other major industrialized economy, but not by the Canadian government. We have seen blatantly bad and dysfunctional trade policy at every step.
What does this mean? Again, when we talk about this agreement, it is not about improving family income, which has been sorely battered over the last 20 years. Through these agreements, family incomes have gone down in most cases. Middle income Canadians are earning much less than they were 20 years ago. Lower middle income Canadians are earning much less. The poorest Canadians are earning far less. This started under the Liberal government and it continues under the Conservatives.
Even Maclean's, which is certainly not a left-wing publication, said very clearly in its latest issue, “Generation Screwed. Lower incomes. Worse jobs. Higher taxes. Bleaker futures. What boomers are leaving their children”. That is what we have seen from the government. Conservatives have sold out our manufacturing industries, 500,000 lost manufacturing jobs over the last few years as they have sold out various sectors. We talked about supply management, which has been the only stable agricultural sector over the last few years. They put it on the table. When we see what the government has done, we have farmers pleading to get back to 1994 levels in agricultural research funding from the government. Farmers are pleading for a modicum of some of the product promotion supports that our major competitors get. As an example, Meat & Livestock Australia has a budget in excess of $100 million. What does Canada have? Just a few million dollars. It is clearly a dysfunctional trade policy.
What has been the result? We have seen the bilaterals. In every case we have signed these bilateral trade agreements, our exports to those markets go down in real terms. The minister will say that he will throw out apples to oranges and pretend there is no devaluation of our dollar over time. In other words, let us use the dollar of today and then we can pretend exports have increased. I was unable to get this information from the department, because it does not compare apples to apples, so I had to get this from the Library of Parliament. One example is the trade agreement with Costa Rica. Before signature, we were exporting $77 million worth of goods. Now, almost 10 years later, we are exporting $73 million. It has gone down $4 million in real terms. This is happening in case after case.
Therefore, it is not about jobs and it is not about exports. We have a cheerleading government that loves to sign these agreements no matter what the cost. It throws things on the table and ends up always being bested. With the EFTA agreement, Liechtenstein out negotiated us. When we look at every one of these agreements, the Conservative government is about the worst negotiator we have ever seen. That is why most Canadians are earning less. That is why our exports have gone down in markets after we have signed them. However, it not about trade and it is not about agricultural policy.
What is on the table? What is this agreement about?
The only credible study was actually done by the economist Jim Stanford. He indicated a net loss of 150,000 jobs. I just want to read a brief excerpt, because this is important for those who are listening across the country. I have certainly gotten a lot of emails from people who are keenly interested in what is on the table. He referenced a botched model that was thrown out by the minister, one which the minister referenced, as they do with all the trade agreements, as having billions and billions of dollars of net benefits and then of course we see what the results are.
The department never does a post-signing analysis. We never actually even see an impact statement prior to it. It is difficult for Canadians to believe just how dysfunctional the government is on trade policy. It does not do the impact studies before. It does not do the analysis afterward. It does a lot of cheerleading. There is a lot of bluster, but when we look at all the facts that we are putting on the table, that the minister was not able to put on the table, we see a sorely lacking policy.
The comments are: Only thanks to the idealized assumptions built into the model [... ] could Canada hope to “snatch victory from defeat”: attaining aggregate economic gains despite such a marked deterioration in bilateral trade performance. The real-world experience of other free trade agreements implemented by Canada does not support the hope that a free trade agreement with the EU is the way to make that unbalanced relationship more beneficial for Canada.
We are not talking about the fantasy world of the Conservative Party. We are talking about the real world.
What is on the table? We have heard about supply management and certain of my colleagues have raised this issue. We have and will be talking about food sovereignty. My colleague from the B.C. Southern Interior will be referencing that a bit later in the debate. We have talked about the loss of jobs, about 150,000 net lost jobs. Let us talk about some of the other components within this agreement.
What has been tabled by the government, what is in the leaked documents, shows very clearly that we are looking at substantially enhanced patent protections for the extremely profitable pharmaceutical companies in Canada. We are looking at increases to our provincial drug plans, and to Canadians who depend upon those drugs to maintain their good health and often to survive, of up to 30%. I asked the minister just a few moments ago to respond to that. He had either no idea or wanted to hide those figures. He did not address the issue at all.
What else? We have the egregious investor-state provisions, and that is why Canada has one of the worst trade templates in the world. Investor-state provisions allow for an override of companies. Wherever they are, they can set up a mailbox, as we saw with AbitibiBowater, with Canadians taxpayers coughing up $130 million in that case.
This is a Canadian company using NAFTA rules, these investor-state provisions, a hot button for corporate compensation, for anything they want. It does not go through the court system. It is done in a secret backroom and it is the Canadian taxpayer who pays the tab. In the case of AbitibiBowater, it is $130 million, a Canadian company suing the Canadian government, but doing it by pretending, through a mailbox down in Delaware, that it was a company from somewhere else. It is open season.
I can say that from conversations I have had with European parliamentarians a few weeks ago, who fortunately will have the right to ratify or not to ratify this agreement, they are waking up to investor-state provisions and are extremely concerned.
There is the loss of public procurement. The government has done no study on the job losses that would result from that, but the Union of B.C. Municipalities and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities have all expressed concerns about this, and this investor-state override also has impacts on the environment and environmental protection.
What this means is that the corporate sector can say, “We do not like those environmental regulations. Either stop those environmental regulations or give us massive amounts of compensation”. In a secret backroom, they negotiated away from the public interest. It affects democratic rights. It affects our public services, our public health care, of course, which I mentioned earlier, and it is an increase in costs to all Canadians.
This agreement surely is not free, and the government has to come clean with what the impacts will be for ordinary Canadians.
NDP Critic on Agriculture and Agri-foods, Mr. Alex Atamanenko (British Columbia Southern Interior, NDP):
Madam Chair, it is a pleasure to be in the House at this late hour with a multitude of my colleagues sitting around waiting for this speech to take place.
Before starting my speech, I would like to comment on something the hon. member from Alberta said a few minutes ago about jobs and the equation that the more agreements we have, the more jobs we will have.
I am wondering if he is aware of the fact that since FTA and NAFTA, we have lost over 300,000 manufacturing jobs in Canada alone. After the softwood sellout many lumber mills have shut down. The border has been closed to beef in spite of NAFTA but it is opening. And of course we have had the loss to farmers with the dumping of apples. Then we have the famous chapter 11 where corporations have sued. The hon. member from Newfoundland mentioned that when talking about AbitibiBowater.
There is another way of looking at agreements. I would submit that this agreement is not about trade. This agreement is about control. This is an agreement about our sovereignty. I would go so far as to say that CETA is another nail in the coffin of the sovereignty of Canada.
I would go further to say that perhaps the next election should be fought on the control of our country. Those who are in agreement with our country, with our sovereignty, with fair trade, with jobs for Canadians, should be on one side regardless of party. People who want to continue down the road to more trade and try to open up more markets, shutting down jobs and sending jobs offshore, should be on the other side. Let us have a debate in the next election about the future of our country. That is what I would like to see.
In my questions earlier, I referred to a very interesting and thorough legal opinion by Steven Shrybman of Sack Goldblatt Mitchell LLP, for the Centre for Civic Governance at Columbia Institute. It talks about municipal procurement.
I am going to spend the majority of my 10 minutes quoting from this document because I think it is very relevant. I am happy to see that some of my colleagues in the House have a copy of this document, and they have already brought it up.
On the first page we see a letter by Charley Beresford, the executive director of the Columbia Institute, saying the following: Sub-national public procurement in Canada had largely been left out of earlier international trade agreements, such as NAFTA and the FTAA.
In other words, our municipalities did not have to worry about that under NAFTA, but then when we gave away a lot in this buy American deal, the Canada-U.S. procurement agreement, this came into play.
What happened is that we got the short end of the deal. Whereas communities in the United States said that they were going to continue with local procurement, we opened it up, and we sold out.
What this document is saying, and the research is saying, is that the European Union agreement is an extension of what we started giving away with the buy American agreement.
It states: The EU has made specific requests for full access to public procurement in cities across Canada, including the right of European multinational corporations to bid on core municipal services, such as public transit systems, water services and wastewater treatment. The leaked CETA documents explicitly propose that environmental and local economic development considerations be excluded as factors in procurement decisions, and the deal would open up opportunities for corporations who don't get their way to tie municipalities up with expensive legal challenges.
In other words, our tax dollars will be going to defend our communities against these legal challenges, just as they have gone to defend our country against legal challenges by corporations under chapter 11 of NAFTA. I repeat, this agreement is not about trade, it is about control.
Let us look further at this document prepared by Steven Shrybman. He says for example, Canada proposes to provide corporations with a virtually unfettered right to invoke international arbitration to seek damages where they claim a Canadian government or other public body has failed to comply with the investment rules of the regime.
Further on he talks about the Federation of Canadian Municipalities:
...and the FCM has also called upon the federal government to preserve the right of municipalities to insist on local content and job creation as conditions of procurement. In setting out the principles that should guide Canadian trade negotiations, the FCM stressed the importance of:
Canadian content for strategic industries or sensitive projects: A trade deal must recognize strategic and public interest considerations before barring all preferential treatment based on country of origin.
I will go on and talk about some excerpts from page 4. It states: To put it simply, proposed CETA rules would permanently remove the option of using procurement in this manner. Thus under CETA, municipalities would no longer be able to restrict tendering to Canadian companies, or stipulate that foreign companies bidding on public contracts accord some preference for local or Canadian goods, services, or workers. As a result, municipalities would lose one of the few, and perhaps the most important tool they now have for stimulating innovation, fostering community economic development, creating local employment and achieving other public policy goals, from food security to social equity.
It also states that the agreement would target local food security. In other words, according to the research and the study, it would prohibit municipalities from using procurement for sustainable development purposes, such as promoting food security or adopting local food practices. Tell that to the folks in Toronto who have initiated the tremendous local food initiative or all those initiatives right across the country.
I repeat, the agreement is really not about trade. It is about gaining access or control of our way of life by European companies with the support of their governments.
I alluded to the recently concluded Canada-U.S. procurement agreement. It is a remarkably one-sided agreement, where most benefits flow to U.S. companies.
The argument and the hope is that we will open up more markets. I would like to note that we already have access to 20,000 tonnes of hormone-free beef, recently opened out of Europe. Our high-quality protein wheat and durum has no tariffs in the European Union. Although, wheat producers would like no tariffs for low-quality wheat.
Let us move on and see what the rest of this document says. It states: Most importantly, given the failure of CETA proposals to preserve the right of municipalities to insist on Canadian content for strategic industries as the FCM called for, it would be reasonable to renew calls for the Federal Government to provide clear assurance that it will not trade away the authority of local governments to use procurement to achieve economic, social, environmental, sustainability and other valid public policy goals.
So far, I have not heard any assurance from our federal government in this regard.
To see how it can affect specifically, let us look at the province of Ontario and the Ontario Green Energy Act. This agreement could target that act. This act includes significant domestic content requirements for the procurement of renewable energy projects. According to this new policy, at least 25% of wind projects and 50% of large solar projects must contain Ontario goods and labour. CETA, with an agreement signed, according to the document that has been leaked, will do away with all of this.
The capital region district of Victoria is promoting environmental innovation with respect to the management of waste water. This would also come under scrutiny and threat of an agreement signed with the European Union.
I have already talked about food security.
Is it protectionism then to want to ensure that we have Canadian jobs or to ensure that we get the best deal and fair trade deal, as my hon. colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster often talks about?
To begin with, procurement was not, until the advent of a WTO agreement, a subject for inclusion in any international trade agreement. Canada has been a trading nation from its birth as a nation. We have traded with countries. We have had debates over free trade over the years of our history. Never before has the idea that local procurement or the control of water, sewage, energy products, or the building of municipal arenas or recreation centres would come under the scrutiny of some kind of trade agreement. As I mentioned, this was exempt even under NAFTA. Now all of this is into play, and I submit that it is not worth it.
Every agreement has its pluses and minuses, and we as parliamentarians have to have a really strong debate about whether it is worth signing away our sovereignty in order to get a few more supposed contracts from a union that has very protectionist policies of its own.