IN THE HOUSE ~ C-46 (Canada-Panama Free Trade Act)

40th Parliament, 3rd Session
Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP):

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my colleague. We lament the fact that he is no longer the trade critic for the Liberal Party. The one time, since I have been in Parliament, where the Liberal Party did not act as a sock puppet to the Conservative trade deals, regardless of how bad they were, was when he was trade critic. He came back from Colombia and stood with the New Democrats and the Bloc and said no to the Colombia trade deal. That was a proud moment for the Liberal Party. It was the last time that it took any principled position at all on trade and it was under his leadership as trade critic.

As the member well knows, the biggest problem with the Panama trade deal, and the elephant in the room, is the dirty drug money laundering that takes place in Panama. It is tied for worst in the world, according to the IRS, for drug gang, dirty money laundering. It is a tax haven. It is a fiscal paradise.

The Hells Angels are listening to the debate and saying, “Great, the Conservatives are helping us yet again by bringing absolutely no regulation on dirty money laundering in Panama”. We had the parliamentary secretary saying that the government would send a letter and ask the Panamanians to stop the dirty drug money laundering. The member knows that this is a crock. It is ridiculous.

Given that there is nothing that deals with dirty drug money laundering, with the Hells Angels use of Panama as a tax haven, why is the Liberal Party supporting a deal that so clearly goes against the interests of Canadians, against our Canadian police officers who are trying to fight dirty drug money laundering? Why is the Liberal Party capitulating yet again to the Conservatives on a trade issue?

Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, as with the Canada-Colombia agreement, the Liberals and the Conservatives are refusing to listen to the public. As the member is well aware, only the Bloc Québécois and the NDP were able to address the constant human rights violations in Colombia. The Conservatives, on the other hand, wanted to support the government in Colombia. Panama has some of the worst tax loopholes in the world. Yet the Liberals and the Conservatives want to endorse the actions of a country that is a known tax haven.

Why are the NDP and the Bloc Québécois the only parties that are listening to Canadians? Why do the old parties—the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party—always go along with the lobbyists instead of listening to people who want a fair and equitable tax system and want us to put an end to tax havens instead of helping them grow?

Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, after hearing interventions from the Conservatives and the Liberals around this bill, I am saddened to have to stand in this House, although I have enjoyed hearing the speeches from the Bloc.

As members are well aware, when we talk about Panama we are talking about a country that is tied for the worst money laundering tax haven on the planet. That is according to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. This is the reason the U.S. has not ratified an agreement with Panama, and yet the so-called anti-crime Conservatives are pushing ahead with this deal with a drug gang, drug money, money laundering, tax haven country.

The Conservatives are bringing it to the House of Commons with the explanation that the reason there is not one word in this agreement that in any way would close off the money laundering, close off the drug money, is that they sent a letter to the Panamanian government. They did not say how, whether it was sent by snail mail or by email. That somehow resolves the money laundering issues that made the U.S. Congress say no to this deal, say it is not going to pass this deal, and which are the reason the U.S.-Panama agreement has not been ratified.

For the Conservative government to pretend it is somehow anti-crime is a real crock when put in the context of presenting this bill, because this bill does not deal in any way with money laundering or drug money and does not in any way close those loopholes. The bill in fact widens them. Hells Angels across the country are rejoicing. The Conservatives have done something incredibly stupid and appallingly irresponsible, but they expect members of Parliament to ratify it.

In a normal functional Parliament, all three opposition parties would say, no, this is irresponsible and they are not going to ratify this deal. Sadly, the Liberal Party is once again endorsing Conservative action. We have seen this before. We saw this with the softwood lumber sell-out, which cost tens of thousands of jobs across this country and crippled many of our softwood lumber communities, and yet the Liberals just rubber-stamped it.

We saw this with the shipbuilding sellout. We had in this House hundreds of shipyard workers from across the country pleading with us that members of Parliament should put in place protections for this key strategic industry, our shipbuilding industry. The Liberals endorsed the Conservative action. That was irresponsible.

We have already cited the Colombia trade deal, a massive sell-out of human rights, a complete repudiation of Canada's principle, a principle and a value that the vast majority of Canadians share, that we do not reward regimes for killing trade unionists and human rights activists in their countries. Yet the Conservatives and the Liberals endorsed that government and the actions of its intelligence service and paramilitary and military groups and the ongoing killings of human rights advocates and trade unionists in Colombia.

Now this bill has been brought forward, which implicitly endorses the idea that Panama can be a tax haven for dirty drug money laundering.

When the IRS says Panama is tied for worst in the world, one would expect the Canadian government to be a bit more responsible. The Conservatives have not been responsible. They have not dealt with it in any way, and that is why the NDP is standing up in the House and saying this is irresponsible.

Canadians are calling out for a fairer tax system, calling out for an end to the shell game where big Canadian corporations and the wealthy can transfer their money overseas and not have to pay taxes on it, while the hard-working middle class and poor Canadians have to work and pay their taxes. They contribute to their country. Here we have the Conservatives, with Liberal support, saying they will facilitate money laundering, facilitate tax havens and let people move money to Panama and not have to pay taxes on it. That is absolutely irresponsible. It is the only word one can use to describe it.

Then we have to think that because the Conservatives have taken this irresponsible action that there must be some merit to it and maybe it is because they have some strategy around trade. Sadly, not even that is the case.

When we look at all the bilateral agreements Canada has signed, such as those with Israel and Chile, the famous shipbuilding sellout, the EFTA deal, the one with Costa Rica, when we look at all those FTAs, in case after case after case we sign the FTAs and exports to those markets from Canada drop. That is the absurdity to all of this. We have a lot of free trade cheerleaders but not a lot of them are doing their homework. They are actually not looking at the export statistics.

The government will say it is going to throw out some figures that are in constant dollars and say that shows a growth in trade. However, yesterday the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, a man who I admire, actually was able to say that we have to take real terms to talk about the cost of the Canadian deficit and debt. He actually talked about that. There is one financially literate member among the Conservatives.

Here we have a situation where not a single Conservative, in real terms, has looked at the export figures that have actually declined. I compliment the parliamentary secretary because he understands the difference between current dollars and constant dollars. Nobody else on that side appears to know the difference. People who know the difference know that our exports have declined in every single bilateral market. Therefore, there is a fundamental problem.

Now, Conservatives will say that maybe exports have declined in real terms, maybe we do not know what we are doing with money laundering, but surely this contributes to prosperity. Again, we have to look in real terms and talk about constant dollars to get the most recent figures about what has happened to family income in Canada. If we go back to the NAFTA days and the signing of the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, sadly, we will see that for middle class and poorer Canadians, in every single case there has been a decline in real income.

We sign these bad trade agreements, transfer out Canadian raw resources and have them processed and value-added overseas. We outsource the jobs that were in Canada before, take the good family-sustaining jobs and replace them with service industry jobs that are lower paying. We have more burger flippers than we have ever had before in this country, but we have lost half a million good manufacturing jobs largely because many of these trade agreements are structured so that Canadian companies can take their factories and manufacturing capacity overseas.

When we look at the overall income of the average Canadian family, it is no secret why the debt load of the average Canadian family has doubled over the past 20 years. It is because real income has declined for every single income category except one, and that is the real reason why we are seeing this dirty drug money laundering bill today. The wealthiest of Canadians now take 52% of all Canadian income, most of the Canadian income pie, and those are the folks who would love to take their money to Panama and not have to pay taxes on it. We are seeing a hollowing out and a very bad, dysfunctional export strategy.

In this corner of the House we are standing up for the average Canadian family and saying that, if the government has such dysfunctional trade and export strategies, it is up to us in this NDP corner of the House to say no to bad trade deals and no to deals that are irresponsible. That is what we are doing.