March 6, 2014 (41st Parliament, 2nd Session)


Jasbir Sandhu

New Democratic Party

Mr. Jasbir Sandhu (Surrey North, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I will respond to the parliamentary secretary's question with regard to whether the NDP is for trade.
I will be splitting my time with the member for Beauport—Limoilou.
I am honoured to speak to Bill C-20, the free trade agreement with Honduras. Let me talk about how we got here today. This bill has been under time allocation. For Canadians who are watching, time allocation is when the Conservatives shut down a debate. They do not want to debate the bill. They do not want Canadians to find out what it is exactly they are trying to rush through. We have seen this over and over. In fact, they have moved time allocation motions 53 times in this Parliament. Not only that, they have had closure on six debates.
I am lucky to have the opportunity to speak in the House, but there are many other members who are not going to get the opportunity to speak about this bill that is being rushed through the House of Commons. What is the rush? Are Conservatives trying to hide something from Canadians?
We saw the shenanigans this morning in regard to the unfair elections act. The Chief Electoral Officer spoke at committee, and we had time allocation motions here in the House. These are shenanigans by the government, which is trying to hide the real facts from Canadians. I will talk about some of those.
The parliamentary secretary talked about why we are against trade with Honduras. Before I get to that, what are the principles? What should we be looking at when we look at trade agreements with other countries? There are a number of things we need to address to decide which countries we should have trade agreements with.
Trade is a reality. We are a trading nation, and Canadians are very competitive. We can sell our products to other countries. I am very proud that Canadians have products other countries want.
There are three fundamental criteria to assess trade agreements. First, does our partner respect democracy, human rights, adequate environmental protection, labour standards, and Canadian values? If these are not being met, is the partner willing to meet some of these requirements?
Second, is the proposed partner's economy of significant and strategic value to Canada, and are the terms of the proposed agreement satisfactory?
Let us talk about how democratic Honduras is. Let us talk about its human rights. All Canadians know the history of Honduras. In the last 15 or 20 years, I have known the history of Honduras. It is undemocratic and corrupt. In 2009, a democratically elected president was overthrown in a coup, and condemnation was worldwide.
Elections were held, and those elections were fraudulent. They were not fair. Guess who condemned those elections? It was the European Union, the United States, and many countries around the world. What does Canada do? We want to enter into a trade agreement with a corrupt dictator of a country that is known as the capital of Central America for drug laundering and so on. That is not the type of country we want to enter into free trade agreements with.
Of course we want to trade. We should be looking at trade agreements with countries that are strategic to Canadian products and where we can increase trade with those countries. Let us take a look at those countries. Let us look at Japan. Why do we not have a trade agreement with Japan? We have been negotiating with Japan for a number of years.
In fact, we started trade agreement negotiations with South Korea before the United States did. Guess what? The United States already has a trade agreement with South Korea.
Our pig and beef farmers are losing billions of dollars every year because the Conservative government has not put a priority on trade agreements that would be beneficial to Canadian producers.
We should be negotiating trade agreements with emerging countries, such as India, Brazil, and South Africa. These countries have populations that need the products we have here. Yet the Conservative government is negotiating a trade agreement with a dictatorship and a corrupt government.
We have $38 million in exports to Honduras right now, which is not very much. The Conservative government wants to say that it has trade agreements with 15 countries. Well, if we add up the trade with all the little countries like Honduras and Liechtenstein, it will not add up to even one agreement with one of the emerging countries or Japan or South Korea. Those are the countries we should be pursuing.
Let us talk about the Conservative government's trade record.
Eight years ago, when the Conservatives came into government, we had a trade current account surplus of $18 billion. What is it today after eight years? We have a deficit of $62 billion. That is a swing of $80 billion, which is roughly about $10 billion a year. Under the current government, we have a trade deficit.
There is also a merchandise deficit. Merchandise is value-added goods that we export. Under the Conservative government, we have had 23 straight months of a merchandise trade deficit, and it is growing.
For us to provide good jobs, we need to export goods we add value to. They are secondary goods. However, most of the products we export are either not processed at all or are barely processed. That is the Conservatives government's record.
How do we improve on that? We improve on it by getting our product to markets. Under the current government, we have seen what is happening in the Prairies. The wheat is rotting in the fields under the Conservative government. It has been unable to convince the railroad companies to get the product out to the ports.
Once it gets to the ports, guess what is happening? At the port in Vancouver, there has been a simmering labour dispute for the last four or five years. I have spoken in this House to ask the government to address the situation before it gets to a point where we have a shutdown. Guess what? The deadline for a strike at the major port of Vancouver was this morning at 12 o'clock Pacific Time.
What has the Conservative government been doing for the last four years, or even the last six months? It has been sitting on its hands. The Conservatives could have appointed a mediator six months ago. When was a mediator appointed? It was this morning. Talks are ongoing and hopefully things will be resolved, but it is under the Conservative government that we are on the verge of having a major port shut down.
To support our exporters, we need to build infrastructure, ensure that our ports are freely functioning, ensure that our traders are supported, and ensure that we have consulate and trade services overseas so that we can identify buyers for our products. Those are the kinds of things the Conservative government needs to do.
The current Conservative government has failed our exporters.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
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