STANDING AGAINST THE RUSHED RATIFICATION OF THE NEW NAFTA
June 11th, 2019 - 3:36pm
Mr. Speaker, the rumours that the Liberals would push through the legislation on the new NAFTA after Mike Pence's visit are now a reality.
Since 2015, we have heard the government talk about its so-called progressive trade agenda time and again. The question that Canadians should be asking about the new NAFTA is: Why, if the Liberals are truly interested in improving the deal, are they undermining the efforts right now in the U.S. to improve it?
Right now, congress and labour in the U.S. are working hard to improve the key progressive elements in this agreement. In four separate letters sent to Ambassador Lighthizer, they have laid out their call for stronger language to include labour and environmental provisions. They are also pushing hard to change the intellectual property protections in the new NAFTA that favour big pharma and will lock in high prescription drug costs for all three countries. No progressive party should be arguing to increase the cost of medication for citizens, and on this basis alone, we should support their efforts.
I have to note that it was quite interesting to have the minister in the House earlier giving her speech and not even mention that the cost of drugs will be going up for Canadians. Certainly, I can understand why she would not want to wear that badge proudly, but it is something that the Liberals need to be honest with Canadians about. They are now increasing the cost of medication on a whole host of biologics that many Canadians rely on for their health, and that is fundamentally wrong.
This renegotiation is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to right the wrongs of the original NAFTA, which has cost Canadians hundreds of thousands of jobs. New Democrats believe that truly progressive trade means working with our partners to improve the lives of Canadians. Instead, it appears that the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs are choosing to ram through this legislation at the end of Parliament to bow to President Trump. It would be no surprise that Trump wants the new NAFTA signed to put pressure on the Democrats in Congress to back down from their progressive asks, but the real surprise here in Canada is that the self-proclaimed progressive government that claims to value the environment, fair working conditions and affordable medication is now bowing to U.S. pressure, and that is not something that Canadians are proud of to see our government not trying to get improvements that would help the lives of Canadians.
We all know that the U.S. is our largest trading partner. I come from a region in southwestern Ontario. I am right on the border of the U.S. We have the largest border crossing on the Ambassador Bridge, soon to be the new Gordie Howe bridge. We have a tunnel crossing, a rail crossing and a ferry crossing. We are crossing in every way possible, and goods flow across that border every single day at a very high volume. Certainly, we understand the importance of trade in our region. However, we also have a responsibility to ensure that trade deals are being negotiated in the best interest of Canadians. There is no reason to rush this ratification in Canada.
I have to say that the minister also said earlier that we are moving in tandem with our partners, which is false. The U.S. has not even tabled legislation on the floor of Congress yet, and Speaker Pelosi herself has said that they will not until they can come to some sort of agreement with Ambassador Lighthizer. Therefore, to say somehow that we are moving in tandem is completely and utterly false. The U.S. is not moving at all in that process. Of course, it is in part of its TPA process right now. That is true, but to say that it is moving toward ratification is not the case.
The Liberal government could and should join New Democrats in our support of what is happening in Congress and its important efforts. If there is any attempt to improve this deal to protect jobs, workers, the environment and the cost of medication, why would the Liberal government not be supportive of that? It really is bizarre to me.
The Conservatives, under Brian Mulroney, of course, were the original architects of NAFTA. At the time, they ignored the alarm bells that were being raised about job losses and impacts. The member for London—Fanshawe sat provincially at that time and she told me that at the time everything that they raised, all of the issues that they brought forward prior to the signing, is exactly what has come to pass in these 25 years: the incredible amount of job losses, the textile industry being completely eradicated in our country, the vintners and our wine sector losing 50%. Therefore, we have had widespread job loss throughout our country, and for some reason, there seems to not to be an acknowledgement of that in the House.
The Liberals should not be so quick to make the same mistake. They should listen. Any attempt to improve labour provisions in particular should be supported and championed.
The NDP has repeatedly raised major concerns about the impact this deal would have on Canadians. The new NAFTA has sacrificed our dairy farms, locks-in the increased cost of medication for sick and vulnerable people and provides no guarantee that workers' jobs would be protected.
Our number one priority is protecting Canadian jobs. If the Liberals rush this new NAFTA through, they will be sending a signal to working people in Canada that they are more interested in a trophy on their shelf than they are in improving the lives of working people who are deeply impacted by trade.
At the heart of NAFTA are millions of people that work every day for a decent life for their families and their communities. I am one of those people. Before I was elected, I was an auto worker in Ontario. I lost my job. I was laid off for three years, because investments were going only one way after the signing of NAFTA. They were heading down south, chasing cheaper wages.
Twenty-three years ago when NAFTA was being originally negotiated by the Mulroney Conservatives, they tried desperately to sell Canadian workers on the idea that it is more than just a trade deal. They tried to make the case that this trilateral deal would bring prosperity to everyone across the continent. They claimed it was going to be an equalizer for all. There is an an analogy that they use that really gets to me. They say that NAFTA was a high tide that would float all boats. The only boats that anyone saw raised were yachts and many of the other boats sank.
Working people studied NAFTA carefully at the time, and they began to raise alarm bells that it would not work. Labour and civil society brought their concerns to the streets over the weak, signed agreements. They rightly claimed that it would do nothing to change the inequalities if they did not improve the deal then.
Conservatives pressed on, and now in 2019, we see the impact this deal has had on every community across our country.
Successive governments have neglected to address the alarming reality that the NAFTA promise of 1994 has not led to an increased standard of living for all. The only benefit has been for those who already hold the power and influence.
Where are we at today? Income inequality and wealth inequality in Canada is at a crisis level. Forty-six per per cent of Canadians are $200 away from financial trouble. To say that NAFTA has not played a role in that economic instability is just complete nonsense.
As I said, I was an auto worker from southwestern Ontario. I saw the effects of NAFTA every day. When I started working 23 years ago at Ford Motor Company, we had six plants in Windsor and 6,700 people working. Today, we have two plants and 1,500 people. There is a direct line between those job losses and NAFTA.
Every contract negotiation after NAFTA was signed reminded us that our jobs could go to Mexico in a heartbeat. That was always the threat, and it has been held over heads of working people in the Canadian manufacturing sector at every contract table since NAFTA was signed.
We just saw this at local 88 at CAMI Automotive in Ingersol last year, where workers went on the line, on strike, because they were being threatened to have their jobs moved to Mexico. Not surprisingly, not one Liberal showed up on that line. Those people were living the reality of NAFTA and what has happened to working people.
I am not saying that working people in Mexico and the U.S. have it any better. In Mexico, people are constantly threatened to accept unsafe working conditions and keep their wages low. They are threatened that if they ask for more or better, they will not be able to attract that work away from Canada and the U.S. Labour conditions in Mexico in practice do not reflect their international standards or commitments and the regulations are not enforced. The minimum earned salary in Mexico is $142 Canadian per month. Even that does not meet the monthly minimum living wage in Mexico of $177 Canadian.
How can workers in Canada compete with extremely low unfair wages to workers who are being treated poorly? It is shameful that Canadian companies and global companies in Mexico are taking advantage of Mexican workers. In the new NAFTA there is a $16 average wage but many across the labour movement are concerned.
When looking at an average wage, it includes the entire plant. The wages of executives and management are included, so the wages of Mexican workers will not go up at all, because that is what the average wage is going to be. That is if corporations even try, or pretend to try, to achieve this at all because, quite frankly, the tariff is so low there is no incentive for them to even follow through with this. This is a gamble we are taking on the backs of working people once again when we have lost hundreds of thousands of jobs. There is the transnational blackmail that is happening between our countries and it has hurt all working people, and it is because we are all connected. Working people are always looking to raise standards for others.
Then there is the disappearance of a chapter to promote gender equality. When the deal was signed, it included provisions for improving conditions for working women, workplace harassment, pay equity and equality issues, but for some reason they did not survive the scrub phase and have completely disappeared. What do Liberals have to say about this loss? Where did this promised gender chapter go? I have to be honest, New Democrats do not believe a chapter is sufficient and it is not the answer. There needs to be a full gender analysis and gender impact assessment on this deal and every trade deal we sign, but we have yet to see one from the Liberal government nor have we been given any indication that this is a direction it is going in. Once again, women have been knocked completely off the table in this deal, without any explanation from the minister today about why that happened.
The minister did talk about indigenous people today. There was a promise of a chapter to promote indigenous rights, and that does not exist in the CUSMA either. Once again, Liberals are signing another trade agreement that disrespects article 19 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which states that they have to obtain free, prior and informed consent. New Democrats believe that indigenous peoples should not be just delegated to a chapter; they should be at the negotiating table and be considered a full partner in any trade deal. We heard the minister reference a lot of the provincial partners she worked with, but we did not hear her talk about the indigenous partners she worked with at the table because they simply were not at the table in an equal fashion.
There is a lot of uncertainty, and this has been talked about throughout the day, about what is happening in the states, but this is why Congress is working hard to improve this deal. I mentioned that I met with Nancy Pelosi and several other Democrats last week and I told her that New Democrats in Canada support the efforts and the important work that Congress and labour are pushing for in the states. It is quite incomprehensible why the Liberals, who came out with some of their objectives after we forced them to at the trade committee, have let those things completely fall off the table.
We have an opportunity to truly fix the problems in this deal, but it appears that Liberals do not want to be a part of that, and they cannot seem to answer why. Why are we in Canada putting pressure on not getting these improvements and doing Donald Trump's dirty work? Quite frankly, it is mind-boggling. This whole idea that somehow we are going to open Pandora's box, we all have to be afraid of that, that is way too scary and we cannot actually improve the deal because we are afraid of what they might do is complete nonsense. This is happening in the states. They are pushing for this. There is a precedent of this happening before. In 2007, there were four trade agreements opened at the same time in a very targeted fashion and they were able make improvements. Therefore, why would we not support that and why are the Liberals fear-mongering to the Canadian public, trying to make people think that better is not possible?
I want to talk about dairy and supply management. Many people know that in the new NAFTA Canada has once again thrown our dairy families under the bus to appease the U.S. and the U.S. will gain 3.59% access to our dairy market. Therefore, on top of the concessions that were in the CPTPP and CETA, that brings the total loss to a 10% market share. I have to ask what other group or sector the Liberals and Conservatives would dare cut 10% of their market share from. That is mind-boggling. For some reason, dairy farmers have become the favourite to throw completely under the bus.
That is not even the worst of it for dairy farmers, who, by the way, are not the wealthy people that some in the House would have us believe. These are hard-working families in my community, in Essex, and across the country, people like Mark Stannard and Vicky Morrison. I have been to their farms and know how much pride they put into producing top-quality milk for our communities.
We all know that the bovine growth hormone is used by American dairy farmers and it increases milk production. By the way, that BGH is created by Monsanto. We have absolutely no studies on the effect of human health of this hormone that is being used.
We live in a border city and the people that I know would much rather see that little blue cow and know that it is Canadian milk than wonder where it is coming from and what it is in it. They would rather pay the prices which are honestly right in line with the rest of the globe on the prices that we pay, to know that they are getting quality milk that is safe for our families.
The other thing that was done in the CUSMA is to have this provision that grants the U.S. oversight into the administration of the Canadian dairy system. While the Liberals like to say that they protected it and they are not dismantling it, now they have to go to the U.S. to get permission to do anything in our own system. This is an issue of sovereignty and the farmers are rightly raising it and asking why the Liberals have done this. We were forced to abandon our class 7 milk pricing. Also, it allows the U.S. to limit and monitor our exports, not just to the U.S., but to the world. We have given up far more than just the percentage of market share when it comes to our dairy farmers and our dairy farmers are certainly not happy about the situation we are in.
I want to talk about the cost of medication and also what, again, is a major concession in this deal that the minister did not even address in this deal and fails to do so at every turn.
We pay the second-highest prices in the western world and the IP provisions that the Liberals have agreed to, to appease big pharma in this deal, will increase the cost of drugs for two more years. We have extended the patent. These are biosimilar drugs like insulin, drugs that treat Crohn's like the brand Humira or rheumatoid arthritis.
Thanks to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, my colleague, the member forVancouver Kingsway we now know that the estimated drug costs of the CUSMA in the first year alone are $169 million. we are literally making medication more expensive at a time when our country is demanding a national pharmacare program because people cannot afford their medication. If we did not know that the Liberals are doing the work of big pharma in the fact that they have not introduced national pharmacare in four years and keep dangling that carrot out in front of Canadians, we certainly know that they did it in the new deal. They do not even want to talk about it or the reality of it.
This is one of the areas that the U.S. Congress is trying to fix. Again, it is people and patients in all three countries who will pay the price while profits for pharmaceutical companies soar for big pharma. I know there are people who say we need that patent extension so that there can be more R&D in our country. We are below 4% R&D. There is no R&D investment that is happening in Canada and big pharma has made this promise to us before when they got an extension on their patent and they did not follow through on that deal. Why do we keep rewarding them for bad behaviour that is costing Canadians and Canadians are not even able to take the drugs that they need?
The new copyright provisions in chapter 20 raises the term from life plus 50 to life plus 70 years. This is another TPP hangover that exists that again the Liberals have happily signed onto. It will raise educational costs alone by millions of dollars. In fact, when we did the study on the TPP, we had Girl Guides and librarians coming to warn us about this provision and how it would not only cost us money but it would limit accessibility to these works in our public space.
If we look at all of these things in regard to where we work, what we eat and the drugs we need, these are all things that matter to Canadians and all concessions that the Liberals have given up on in this deal.
New Democrats will always stand for fair trade that benefits the lives of Canadians and the new NAFTA is simply not good enough for Canadians in its current form, and we are strongly united to see the changes and the work that is being done in the U.S. to go through. We hope that the Liberals will stop this foolishness of ramming this through the House because there is nothing happening in the States right now until this deal happens, and join us to see a truly progressive deal for working people and for Canadians.
To be honest, working people should not be expected to pay the price for bad negotiations. If the Liberals force this legislation through, they are throwing away our greatest opportunity to make trade fairer for Canadians.