February 25, 2004

?

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

The hon. member indicated two or three minutes into his speech that he wanted to split his time with the member for Edmonton--Strathcona, but in a 10 minute speech splitting is not allowed. The member can continue on for the remainder of the time, unless he gets unanimous consent, and he can certainly ask for that if he wishes.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Customs Tariff
Permalink
CA

Deepak Obhrai

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Deepak Obhrai

Madam Speaker, I would ask for the unanimous consent of the House to split my time with the member for Edmonton--Strathcona.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Customs Tariff
Permalink
?

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

Is there unanimous consent for the member to split his time?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Customs Tariff
Permalink
?

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Customs Tariff
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CA

Deepak Obhrai

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Deepak Obhrai

Madam Speaker, there has been some confusion and we will not be splitting our time now. He will get his own spot.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Customs Tariff
Permalink
?

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

The member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Customs Tariff
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BQ

Stéphane Bergeron

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Stéphane Bergeron

Madam Speaker, unless I am mistaken, you asked for the unanimous consent of the House to allow the hon. member to split his time and you obtained that consent. How is it that a decision of the House is being reconsidered? I seem to be missing something here. I would appreciate it if you could clarify this, for my benefit and the benefit of all the members of this House. I thought we had agreed to allow the hon. member for Edmonton—Strathcona to continue for the time remaining.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Customs Tariff
Permalink
?

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

The House did give unanimous consent and then the member withdrew his request to split the time.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Customs Tariff
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CA

Deepak Obhrai

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Deepak Obhrai

Madam Speaker, I would like to now dwell on the point of preferential tariff and the least developed country tariff. We know that in order for developing countries to get out of poverty, it is more important that they engage in fair trade practices where they have access to the markets of developed countries.

I grew up in Tanzania, a country that is classified as a least developed country. We see the poverty over there on our televisions. We see Canadians helping building wells, hospitals and classrooms.

The pictures that we do not see are the people, like my family and other families who used to live over there, engaging in businesses. We never see the developed side of those countries. Now there is a huge element of development in these countries where businesses thrive and succeed.

To help them become an engine of economic growth, they need a market. For a long time the western world market was closed. It used to be one-way trade when I was there. Everything went from here to there, but nothing came from there to Canada. As a matter of fact those countries were just supplying raw products to developed countries. However, that does not create prosperity. Prosperity is when they have products growing over there, when they manufacture and make products in their own country and then they sell them.

Coming out with the general preferential tariff and the least developed country tariffs, where there is almost zero tariffs, gives this country the opportunity to access those markets, where it can help those countries. Of course, the problem now is we have to look at how we can help these countries with investment flows so they can take advantage of these tariffs. If there is no investment flowing to those countries and if they do not have an industrial base, what is the point of having preferential tariffs, if they cannot export anything to other countries?

I know the Prime Minister was appointed by the United Nations to look at private investment flow. As a matter of fact, I wrote to him, not in the his capacity of the Prime Minister, but his capacity as a member of the United Nations panel looking into private investment flow. I gave him my input on what I thought should have been part of his report on how we could assist in sending private investment to these countries so eventually they could enjoy economic growth.

It has become quite evident and all studies suggest that because of globalization almost 200 million people have been lifted out of poverty, both in China and India. There is concrete proof out there, contrary to what my friends in the NDP would say, that globalization has not worked.

In conclusion, we are supporting the bill. Although the bill is for 10 years, there are other venues that we have to look at to ensure that we reach the objective of tariff reduction, which is to help the least developed countries and developing countries.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Customs Tariff
Permalink
BQ

Stéphane Bergeron

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Stéphane Bergeron (Verchères—Les-Patriotes, BQ)

Madam Speaker, I am informing you from the outset that I have no intention of splitting my time with anyone. I should normally use all the time that is allocated to me.

First, I want to say that the Bloc Quebecois will support this legislation. Bill C-21 seeks to extend, to June 30, 2014, those sections of the Customs Tariff that allow Canada to provide preferential tariff to imports from countries that are members of the World Trade Organization, and to imports from the least developed countries.

The Bloc Quebecois will support this legislation because we simply cannot disagree with it. To oppose it would be tantamount to reneging on our international commitments, including with the World Trade Organization. This would also be tantamount to reneging on our international commitments in the area of development assistance, particularly those made by Canada in Kananaskis regarding Africa. I will get back to this later on.

A few moments ago, my hon. colleague from the Canadian Alliance referred to the impacts of globalization. Heaven knows, globalization has many impacts, both positive and negative. As I said yesterday, in another speech, it is not about being for or against globalization. It is about benefiting from it while simultaneously trying to limit the negative impacts of the totally unavoidable phenomenon of globalization to which we must adapt.

As I also mentioned yesterday, the leader of the Bloc Quebecois has repeatedly said that asking if we are for or against globalization is a bit like asking, each and every day of our lives, if we want the earth to stop turning. We must deal with this phenomenon and try to benefit from it as much as possible and to limit its negative impacts.

There are benefits to globalization, of course, both for industrialized countries like our own and for developing countries that want to use globalization as a stepping stone to gain access to the international trade network. The bill before the House will give developing countries, those less developed, easier access to the international trading network.

However, there are also negative impacts. Earlier, I heard the Secretary of State for Financial Institutions say, at the end of his speech, that he will soon be announcing adjustment or assistance measures for the soft sectors of the Canadian economy that are hard hit by globalization, like the textile, footwear and apparel industries. Good. However, I happen to remember that, when we talked about the advisability for Canada to sign NAFTA, those who were against argued that it would have a negative impact on a number of manufacturing sectors in Canada and in Quebec.

They asked, demanded and begged the government for adjustment measures, not only for the workers in such industries, but also for the industries themselves. In fact, globalization does not necessarily mean that we must write off all manufacturing operations in industrialized countries. Globalization simply means that we must change, reorient and modernize our sectors and our economic niches.

When we talk about manufacturing industries, we must remember that we benefit from a certain number of advantages, such as the presence of significant capital and of technology that can be used to manufacture high value added products.

Instead of producing clothes just to be producing clothes, we have the technology and the capital that we could use, for example, to produce clothing and textiles in the health or food sectors, where we could carve out niches that would be unique to Canada.

Coming back to the speech by our colleague, the Minister of State for Financial Institutions, who said, nearly two decades later, that measures are needed to support the manufacturing industry in the textile and clothing sector, we would have expected the government to have taken action well before now.

The negative impacts are already being felt in our ridings and our communities. Very recently, a business in my riding, Genfoot Lafayette, which has been operating in Contrecoeur for over 100 years and makes the famous Kamik boots, announced that it will be closing its doors at the end of this week to move its operations—at least the production that was done in Contrecoeur—to the People's Republic of China.

What did this government do? Absolutely nothing. In the meantime, businesses are closing and workers in our communities are losing their jobs. At Genfoot Lafayette, we are talking about nearly 200 workers, many of whom are women over 50 who will have great difficulty finding another job. These workers are losing their jobs, and the government has no programs in place to assist them.

This government withdrew from the program for older worker adjustment, thereby adding to their plight. I hope that the Minister of Human Resources Development will agree, at the request of the Quebec minister responsible for employment and social solidarity, to renew the pilot project, which is helping—although not to any great degree, but helping nonetheless—place older workers in new jobs. There is still no news from the government in this regard.

Given the almost total lack of measures to help workers in soft sectors such as textile, apparel and footwear manufacturing, for example, the government must, at the very least, commit to rapidly renewing POWA to help the older workers at Contrecoeur who will lose their jobs by the end of this week.

It goes on. A company in Drummondville has closed its doors. It was not a Mickey Mouse operation. We are talking about a company that makes designer jeans closing its doors. Several hundred employees in Drummondville are going to lose their jobs.

What does this government do? It tells us that it will eventually come up with assistance measures for the textile, apparel and footwear industries. They should have thought about that in 1988, 1989 and 1990. It is now 2004, and the government is saying it still needs to think about it. In the meantime, jobs are being lost.

Of course, there are negative impacts from globalization, but there are, as I mentioned earlier, positive ones as well. We have to be consistent in honouring our international commitments with members of the World Trade Organization, and also in our relationship with a number of least developed countries and the 49 least developed countries on the UN list, including 34 African countries. We all know about Canada's commitment to African countries. We must therefore support this legislation.

I have statistics that were quoted in 1994 by my colleague Philippe Paré, who was the member for Louis-Hébert at the time. I must say this is a step back in time for me because, in 1994, I spoke to the bill for renewing preferential tariffs until the end of June 2004. My point is that the amount of money developing countries are losing because of protectionism in industrialized countries is much greater than any development aid.

This is an important and positive measure for developing countries. We have to vote in favour of this legislation.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Customs Tariff
Permalink
CA

Rahim Jaffer

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Rahim Jaffer

Madam Speaker, I believe that if you seek it you would find unanimous consent that the motion standing on the Order Paper for the Conservative opposition day tomorrow, February 26, 2004, be replaced with the following:

That the government reallocate its resources from wasteful and unnecessary programs such as the sponsorship program, or badly managed programs such as the gun registry, to address the agricultural crisis at the farm gate across Canada.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Customs Tariff
Permalink
?

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

Does the member for Edmonton—Strathcona have the unanimous consent of the House?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Customs Tariff
Permalink
?

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Customs Tariff
Permalink
?

An hon. member

No.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Customs Tariff
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NDP

Bill Blaikie

New Democratic Party

Hon. Bill Blaikie (Winnipeg—Transcona, NDP)

Madam Speaker, let the record show that it was a Liberal who said no to that suggested amendment by the official opposition.

I am not here to speak to that at the moment. I am here to speak to Bill C-21, an act to amend the Customs Tariff. As has already been said by previous speakers, this bill would extend the general preferential tariff and the least developed country tariff for another 10 years as they were both due to expire in June 2004.

These regulations would allow for products imported from a list of 48 least developed countries and from other countries which have preferred trading partner status to be brought into Canada without having to pay customs duties.

Originally the list of products that could be imported from least developed countries was relatively limited, but as a result of the least developed countries initiative announced by the Canadian government after the 2002 G-8 meetings in Kananaskis, the list of eligible products includes everything other than certain agricultural products.

While it might be laudable to open the Canadian market to products from developing countries, the problem with this legislation--and we do not oppose it, but we do want to point out this problem--is that it reinforces the system that currently exists in which North American retailers can get cheaper products, especially apparel from developing countries. These are countries without labour codes, minimum wage or environmental standards.

Though it is important that developing countries be able to export goods to Canada, the Canadian government must take a much more active role than it ever has in ensuring that these products are produced in unionized and fair workplaces, a concern that is not reflected in the least developed country tariff.

We all agree that our markets should be more open to least developed countries because we know that to some degree this is key to economic growth for them. Although I must say that I think the model by which countries are expected to grow and develop their economies by an overemphasis on export markets can also be destructive, where stable and sustainable local economies have often been destroyed in the name of creating export markets. This has often had a terrible effect on the environment and on the sustainable way of life of peoples in these various countries.

We should not take for granted that the only way to development in the least developed countries is through this overemphasis on export markets. To the extent that export markets play a role in the development of the least developing countries, developed countries have a responsibility to open their markets. However, do we have a responsibility to open our markets for the products that then flow from these least developed countries without regard for how they are produced?

If the products flowing into our country, as a result of the reduction in tariffs, are products that are produced in sweatshops or are produced in workplaces that not only are not unionized but cannot be unionized because of no recognition or poor labour standards in particular countries, is this what we call a fair trading regime? Not at all. This is at the root of many of the objections to the current model of globalization, which everybody has been singing the praises of for the last 20 years.

We are not suggesting that any particular least developed country should adopt the same labour standards which we enjoy here in Canada. Sometimes I wonder whether we enjoy them any more, when we see that the CNR is able to import American scabs with impugnity into the current rail strike. But let us believe our own mythology for a minute and say that Canada has good labour standards.

We have been persistently--in all the forums in which I have spoken as NDP trade critic and many other New Democrats and social democrats around the world have spoken--asked that core labour standards be recognized and enforced.

What are core labour standards? Core labour standards are basically the right to form a trade union, the right to organize collectively, the right not to be a victim of slave labour. These are very basic rights. If even these rights were recognized and enforced around the world, we would move closer to what everyone says they want, which is a level playing field, but it is not a level playing field.

It may be a level playing field for the corporations in some way or another, but it is not a level playing field for Canadian workers. It is not a level playing field when they have to compete with workers in other countries who do not even have core labour standards, who cannot organize, who cannot defend themselves without ending up in the river or the victim of some death squad or losing their job, or whatever the various levels of punishment are depending on the country. That is not a level playing field.

This is the big lie that is at the root of the current globalization model, that somehow we are all moving toward this great level playing field where the competitive will thrive and those who are not competitive will fall by the wayside. There is nothing competitive in the best sense of the word competitive about exploitation.

What we now have is a global economic system that rewards countries on the basis of how much they persecute their workers. I do not call that competition. I do not think exploitation of workers should be a comparative advantage, to use a traditional economic theoretical term. I do not think exploitation is a comparative advantage or should be regarded as one in the global trading system.

That is why in the House back in 1994 when the legislation was brought in to implement the World Trade Organization, I moved amendments to the implementing legislation for the World Trade Organization that called on the government to prohibit imports from countries that were engaged in child labour.

Another element of what it means to have core labour standards is no child labour. Is this some kind of radical socialist idea, no child labour?

What we are saying is that when it comes to the global trading system, there should be the same zeal for enforcing a level playing field as there is when it comes to investors' rights. Right now we have this perverse moral hierarchy whereby for investors or a transnational corporation, their property rights and their investor rights have to be protected because that is a sacred thing.

However, a working person's job can disappear overnight if the owner can find a group of people to make it cheaper under more exploitive conditions somewhere else in the world.That is what is happening to manufacturing jobs here in Canada, in the United States and now even in Mexico because this capital keeps seeking the lowest common denominator. Therefore jobs disappear out of Canada into the United States, from the United States into Mexico, and now they are being lost out of Mexico to China, where we have the worst of all possible worlds.

In China we have the worst of capitalism and the worst of communism; a single party state running a capitalist economy. Yet our government is so far up the rear end of the Chinese market that we cannot even find it. It will not say anything critical of China because that might damage our opportunities for penetrating the Chinese market.

I was on one of the trips to China. It was disgusting to watch how uncritical the Canadian corporate elite and the Canadian government were when it came to China. Talk about the wilful blindness that the government has with respect to the sponsorship scandal. It pales in comparison to the wilful blindness that the whole world has right now about China.

What if everything could be made in China? What would the rest of us do?

These are just some of the concerns that we bring to this kind of legislation. We understand the intent but in the absence of recognition and enforcement of core labour standards, this kind of legislation is going nowhere. It is a recipe for exploitation and it is not going to solve the world's economic problems.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Customs Tariff
Permalink
LIB

Diane St-Jacques

Liberal

Ms. Diane St-Jacques (Shefford, Lib.)

Madam Speaker, discussions have taken place among all parties and you will find that there is unanimous consent for the following motion:

That the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, concerning the membership and associate membership of committees, be deemed tabled and concurred in.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
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?

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

Is there unanimous consent?

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
Permalink
?

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
Permalink
CA

Rahim Jaffer

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Rahim Jaffer (Edmonton—Strathcona, CPC)

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Seeing that it is getting late in the day, I think there is even more spirit of cooperation and I believe that you would find there is unanimous consent for the following:

That the motion standing on the Order Paper for the Conservative opposition day tomorrow, February 26, 2004, be replaced with the following:

That the government reallocate its resources from wasteful and unnecessary programs such as the sponsorship program, or badly managed programs, such as the gun registry, to address the agricultural crisis at the farm gate across Canada.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Business of the House
Permalink
?

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

Is that agreed to?

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Business of the House
Permalink

February 25, 2004