In Debate: C-30 CETA Implementation


  CETA JOBSCETA-Government

Ms. Irene Mathyssen (London—Fanshawe, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by saying unequivocally that New Democrats believe that it is possible to create a Canada whose economy is sustainable, just and fair while remaining competitive on the world stage. We believe that we all thrive in an equitable society where everyone has equal access to nutritious food, a safe home, an education, decent work at fair wages, clean air, fresh water, health care, pharmacare, secure retirement, as well as child care.

    Just today it was reported that child care costs in Canada are unaffordable and through the roof. Canadian parents knew that but the current government does not seem to have a clue. After 40 years of promises from the Liberals and Conservatives alike, we still have no national, affordable and regulated child care in this country.

    Our trade agreements should not only reflect the importance of a strong social safety net but our values as a nation, and child care is certainly one of them. Any trade deal should promote and protect our communities and our families. Remarkably, it is not clear that CETA serves Canadians in regard to community needs and values. Because of this lack of clarity, New Democrats cannot support Bill C-30. The NDP supports deepening the Canada-EU trade relationship in order to diversify our markets, but that does not cloud our vision or divert us from our commitment to ensuring that our trade deals serve the people who have placed their trust in us.

    Despite lofty promises to the contrary, it appears that once again the current government wants to force this bill into legislation without the transparency, public consultation and the careful consideration that it warrants. This kind of smoke and mirrors tactic invites a healthy dose of skepticism. Canada's trade relationship with Europe is too important to get wrong. We should be working to fix problems with the current deal rather than settling for this flawed agreement. We have significant concerns and unanswered questions about CETA. It has been called the biggest trade deal since NAFTA. Without proper security however and scrutiny, trade agreements such as CETA have the potential to bargain away programs, services, products, and even the values that we as Canadians hold dear.

    Our experience with NAFTA should be a lesson to us. Under NAFTA, Canadian workers suffered when well-paid union jobs moved south to low-wage jurisdictions, leaving communities and local economies devastated. In London, the story of Siemens, ABB, Westinghouse, Philips and Caterpillar are sad examples.

    Under the investor state dispute settlement provisions of free trade agreements, Canada has become one of the most sued countries in the world, winning only three of 39 cases against foreign governments. Under NAFTA, Canada has paid out over €135 million on these claims, mostly to the U.S., and outstanding cases worth another €1.75 billion remain and are of concern.

    This past February, the minister announced changes to the ISDS provisions which are purported to improve transparency and neutralize the potential for arbitrator conflicts of interest. However, the renamed investor court system still allows foreign investors to seek compensation from any level of government over policy decisions that those governments make, decisions that the investors say threaten their profit margins; in other words, foreign companies will have access to a special court system to challenge Canadian laws without going through our domestic courts. This is evidence that private corporations have attempted to use the threat of investor-state charges under NAFTA to discourage governments from advancing legislation that is in the best public interest, threatening the progressive social values that we hold dear as Canadian citizens.

    Critics have argued the following with respect to CETA: that it threatens our public services, including health care; that local job creation is endangered; that it threatens our sovereignty with respect to fresh water and a clean environment; that it threatens our food sovereignty and farmers' rights; that our cultural and communications sovereignty is in danger; that indigenous sovereignty and human rights are threatened; and, it threatens our labour rights and the quality of our existing jobs.

    Several European states have already made it clear that the investor-court provisions of the agreement must change before it is implemented, yet Bill C-30 includes all the necessary legal changes to implement CETA without knowing what those changes will be. Liberals are basically asking parliamentarians to sign a blank cheque and trust them to fill out the amount afterward: Sign the contract and read it later.

    This is not an exaggeration to say that our democratic and domestic sovereignty is at risk in accepting a deal whose consequences are unknown. We can do better. Some could argue that Canada and Europe have more progressive policies than the U.S., making CETA different from NAFTA in its potential to affect our democratic sovereignty. Consider, however, that most large American corporations have Canadian subsidiaries. What is to stop one of those subsidiaries from invoking the investor-court provisions of CETA to challenge environment, health, and labour policies of signatory states?

    New Democrats have been calling for a national pharmacare program for Canada forever. Evidence shows that such a program is not only sustainable but cost-efficient for the government. It is cost-efficient for implementation, will save billions in taxpayer dollars, and will make life easier for Canadians who rely on those prescriptions for their health and quality of life.

    In opposition, the Liberals demanded a study of the fiscal impacts of CETA on prescription drug costs. In government, they are rushing to implement CETA, while at the same time they are refusing to consider increased health care transfers to the provinces.

     One would think that sunny ways would require a comprehensive analysis of policies and agreements and their effects on Canadians before signing off, but that does not seem to be the case here. Canadians deserve better, recognizing that supply management farmers would suffer under CETA and the TPP.

    The previous Conservative government earmarked $4.3 billion for compensation to industries affected by the deal. The Liberal government has announced a $350 million package for dairy farmers, falling far short of their actual losses under CETA. Neither has the government explained how it will compensate Newfoundland and Labrador for fish processing losses expected under the deal.

    Under CETA, companies will also have the increased ability to employ temporary foreign workers without consideration for the impact on Canadians. These effects have the potential to be devastating to our local economies, as well as those workers who must accept precarious working conditions in order to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads.

    In opposition, Liberals called for further consultation with Canadians on CETA. In government, they passed a motion in camera to restrict written submissions to those who the trade committee had selected to appear. This is yet another example of Liberals campaigning on the left and governing on the right. It is understandable that Canadians might have a hard time keeping up with this Liberal sleight of hand.

    Given that testimony from over 400 witnesses and written submissions from 60,000 Canadians were overwhelmingly critical of the TPP, it appears that the Liberals have learned from their TPP experience. If only they had used this hard-won knowledge to actually listen to Canadians about their very real concerns regarding CETA rather than restricting public consultation and conducting what should have been public business in a closed and secretive environment.

    We know from the example of Wallonia and Belgium that improving the agreement is possible where there is political to do so. Because of Wallonia's interventions, consideration of trade union concerns has been incorporated into the legally-binding, interpretative instrument of the agreement.

    New Democrats do not oppose trade deals that reduce tariffs and boost exports, but we do not believe that investor-state provisions that threaten our sovereignty are necessary evils. In fact, investor-state provisions are unacceptable evils. They serve corporations and only corporations. These provisions do not serve people. We believe that the job of government is to pursue better trade; trade that boosts human rights and labour standards, protects the environment, protects our health care system, social security, and Canadian jobs.

    We believe that better trade deals are achieved with inclusion and must involve a better consultation process than has been employed by previous Conservative and Liberal governments, and now the current Liberal government.