Minister of Trade Won`t Commit to Follow FULL Democratic Process for TPP

The following is an unofficial and unedited transcript of a meeting of the Standing Committee on International Trade.  This is for information purposes only, as it may contain transcription errors. 

 

 

Mr. Daniel Blaikie (Elmwood—Transcona, NDP): Thank you very much.

    I'm going to circle back quickly to Mr. Allison's question about the TPP-enabling legislation. I think we heard clearly you're planning to table that before the end of the summer, but I didn't hear pass it before the end of the summer.

    Can I take that as a commitment that your government is not going to use time allocation before the end of the summer to pass the TPP-enabling legislation?

    Hon. François-Philippe Champagne: I think you can take it from my words that I think the technical term is we will introduce legislation before the House rises this summer.

    Mr. Daniel Blaikie: But it won't be passed?

    Hon. François-Philippe Champagne: Sorry.

    Mr. Daniel Blaikie: But time allocation won't be used to pass it before summer?

    Hon. François-Philippe Champagne: I can say we will introduce legislation, and we will respect the parliamentary process as it should be.

    Mr. Daniel Blaikie: Is that a yes, or a no?

    Hon. François-Philippe Champagne: It's as clear an answer as one can give.

    Mr. Daniel Blaikie: Well you're the government, so it's the government that decides whether time allocation is used or not, so I think it's fair to ask you, as the responsible minister, whether there are plans—

    Hon. François-Philippe Champagne: I appreciate it's a fair question, and my answer is as fair as your question. I'm saying we will introduce legislation, and we will follow the parliamentary process. Our intention is to have it done promptly, because I think there would be SMEs in your own riding, and certainly workers in your own riding, who would benefit from having an expanded market.

    Mr. Daniel Blaikie: There is not one person in my riding that says time allocation should be used to pass enabling legislation for the TPP before the summer.

    Hon. François-Philippe Champagne: I'm sure if you were to talk to your constituents, I'm sure you would find some of them who would say having a trade agreement open up the market in the Asian Pacific is something they would benefit from.

    Mr. Daniel Blaikie: All I'm talking about is before summer. I'm not trying to talking about not passing the legislation in the fall.

    Hon. François-Philippe Champagne: I can only tell you we will introduce legislation, and we will proceed expeditiously with the rest.

    Mr. Daniel Blaikie: Well, that's a disappointing answer. I hear more people in my riding talk about concern about government abusing time allocation than I do people saying that TPP enabling legislation has to be passed by a certain deadline.

    We'll have to agree to disagree on that, but I was hoping to get a commitment here today.

    I'm also wondering why it is that workers should feel that they can trust your government when it comes to defending their rights in trade agreements. I mean, my understanding is that prior to the election of Donald Trump, you were meeting with representatives from the building trades who were highlighting important problems with chapter 12 of the TPP, and the line at that time was that you agreed very much, but geez, it's too bad that the TPP is already negotiated and it's a done deal. Then there was an opportunity to renegotiate TPP, and chapter 12 didn't change.

    Chapter 12, of course, reproduces a lot of the worst abuses of the temporary foreign worker program. It's going to allow companies to be able to bring workers in under all sorts of categories without any vetting, tracking, or standards assessment by Canadian governments, whether provincial or federal.

    I'm wondering why it is workers should feel that they should trust you when you, at one point, or your government, certainly, were admitting the problems with chapter 12, and then completely passed up the opportunity to do anything about it when the negotiations for CPTPP came around.

    Hon. François-Philippe Champagne: Thank you for the question, I appreciate it, because labour is probably the group I meet with most often. Like I said, when we did Mercosur, I was the first minister of a foreign government to meet with labour in that country regarding a trade agreement, the same thing in Argentina.

    I also hosted the L7 in Ottawa.

  Hon. François-Philippe Champagne: Thank you for the question, I appreciate it, because labour is probably the group I meet with most often. Like I said, when we did Mercosur, I was the first minister of a foreign government to meet with labour in that country regarding a trade agreement, the same thing in Argentina.

    I also hosted the L7 in Ottawa.

    Mr. Daniel Blaikie: [Inaudible] be more focused on the results, rather than window dressing.

    Hon. François-Philippe Champagne: Yes, I'll speak to your question. I can say with the Building Trades Association, I met with them, and I even spoke at their conference. What we're doing is taking onboard what they wanted. What they wanted was stellar enforcement of the rules we have, we want labour mobility, but certainly, we want to preserve the integrity of the labour market in Canada. We have agreed with them on a way forward, and we're looking with our civil service at how we can implement what we've been discussing.

    Mr. Daniel Blaikie: Part of the problem is that that wording isn't in the agreement, so the agreement is very explicit that Canadian governments won't require any kind of standards qualification.

    Hon. François-Philippe Champagne: I would challenge you on that, and I'll refer you to the text. The text is very clear that people who come into this country would have to pay the same labour rates as we have, need to come with experience, they need to have specialized skills, and we're working with the building trade. The concern they had—

    Mr. Daniel Blaikie: The text of the agreement says, “Canada shall grant temporary entry and provide a work permit or work authorization to", these workers, “and will not: (a) require labour certification tests or other procedures of similar intent as a condition for temporary entry; or (b) impose or maintain any numerical restriction relating to temporary entry.”

    I think that's pretty clear in terms of Canada's right to impose any kind of test on the qualification of workers coming into Canada. Wouldn't you agree, Minister?

    Hon. François-Philippe Champagne: I'm quite familiar with the text, by the way. What I can say is that what we've agreed to with the Building Trades Association is to make sure that the enforcement, which is their concern.... I met with them, so—

    Mr. Daniel Blaikie: So, why is it [Inaudible]?

    The Chair: Mr. Blaikie, your time is up.