CETA Debated in House of Commons for a Second Day

By Drew Wilson

The debate over the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) has been heating up lately. Earlier this week, the agreement made its way onto the floor in the Canadian House of Commons. The next day, there were more questions being asked in Parliament.

One of the notable patterns we noticed in the previous debate we covered was the fact that the Liberal party was the party that was asking the questions about CETA. That pattern was reversed the next day with the NDP being the party to ask the questions. We got the transcripts of what was said during the debate again and we’re going over some of the points that were brought up.

The first question was brought forth by Don Davies of the NDP who said the following:

Mr. Speaker, negotiators from the EU are in Ottawa again this week to discuss trade with Canada. New Democrats believe we should broaden and deepen our trade ties with Europe, because Europe is an ideal partner. It is a modern, dynamic economy with high standards and respect for the rule of law. However, Canadians do not just want any deal they can get. Canadians want a good deal.

Will the Conservatives commit to this House that the interests of farmers, our seniors and our local municipalities will not be sacrificed at the negotiating table?

The Canadian Prime Minister responded with the following:

Mr. Speaker, I know the NDP members are trying to shift all over the spectrum these days, but they are not going to fool anyone with that one.

The fact of the matter is that this is a party that is so ideologically opposed to trade, its foreign affairs critic actually already called for Canada to pull out of the talks some time ago. We would not even be discussing this with the European Union if the NDP had its way. It is very consistent, since it opposed trade with NAFTA, every other trade deal we have had, and even the Auto Pact.

The only people who pursue responsible trade are on this side of the aisle.

Mr. Speaker, the only people being fooled are those who believe that the Conservatives are good, competent negotiators in trade.

These are important talks, but the Conservatives have refused to conduct them in an open and accountable manner. They refuse to give information to Canadian taxpayers or brief this Parliament. Canadians had to find out from European negotiators that the Conservatives are considering concessions that would limit local economic development.

Can the government assure Canadians that CETA will protect Canadian communities’ rights to invest in local initiatives to create jobs in our communities?

Indeed, the transparency, or lack thereof, has been a major and valid criticism of CETA. A lot of what we know about CETA are based on leaked information and what is known isn’t very good news for a lot of people.

In response, the Prime Minister responded with the following:

Mr. Speaker, the trade deals this country has are basic to its economic prosperity. The free trade deal signed by an historic Conservative government with the United States is the basis of a lot of the prosperity we have today.

We will never let the ideologues on that side of the House tear that up or the Auto Pact or anything else they want to tear up. We will make sure we have good and diverse trade throughout this country.

Malcolm Allen of the NDP was next to ask the following:

Mr. Speaker, let me help the Prime Minister. As an auto worker for 32 years, there is no Auto Pact, and it was not this side that tore it up.

[…]

Mr. Speaker, Canadian farmers are becoming increasingly concerned about the contents of leaked reports from the EU trade negotiations. The idea of pitting one sector of Canadian agriculture against another is a worrisome development, especially so if these negotiations are intended to be a clear precedent for further trade negotiations in the agriculture sector.

Could the Minister of Agriculture guarantee all farmers that their livelihoods will not be used as a bargaining chip and he will not leave them out in the cold?

The Prime Minister responded with the following:

Once again, Mr. Speaker, let us be clear about the record.

The integrated Canadian-American auto sector that we have today, which is so fundamental to the prosperity of southern Ontario, was opposed tooth and nail by the New Democratic Party in the 1960s, as it has opposed every trade initiative since because of its socialist ideology. The fact is that we see that party once again opposing a trade deal with the European Union before one is even signed.

We will protect and promote the economic development—

So, unfortunately again, there was no answer to a valid question. There are plenty of different people in different sectors (not just in Canada) that have valid reasons to be worried about CETA. It was unfortunate that the only answer was a partisan attack.

Ms. Ruth Ellen Brosseau of the NDP was next up to ask the following:

Mr. Speaker, supply management is not negotiable because it is essential to the survival of many communities. In Quebec, agriculture is one of the main economic engines of rural communities. People living in the regions rely on these farms to support suppliers and local industries, including the cheese industry.

Consulting these communities must be part of the fundamentals related to the signing of a trade agreement with the European Union.

What protections did the Minister of Agriculture get for these industries?

The Prime Minister then responded with the following:

Mr. Speaker, it is well known that we protect supply management. It is protected in all our trade negotiations.

By contrast, the NDP forgot to mention supply management in its election platform. We are well aware that the NDP continues to oppose the free trade agreement with the United States. That position is completely at odds with the position taken by every provincial party, by every party in Quebec at the time.

Even though there is no direct relationship between these debates and copyright and the Internet, there is a very strong indirect relationship in that even if digital rights were being asked, there would be little more than stonewalling from the government as seen above.

While the NDP may have been asking the right questions in the House of Commons, there was another report that suggested that the leader of the NDP is actually in favor of the agreement. From the Global Post (via CETAWatch):

Mulcair, who is leader of the left-leaning New Democratic Party, said in a speech to the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations that he is “enthusiastic about the idea of deepening and increasing” trade ties with the European Union.

“A trade pact with Europe is exactly what we want,” he said, as Canadian Trade Minister Ed Fast met with his EU counterpart, Karel De Gucht, in Ottawa to try to hammer out remaining sticking points.

However, Mulcair voiced concerns about European demands for longer pharmaceutical patents that would delay marketing of cheaper generic drugs, and the opening up of Canadian municipal procurements to EU companies.

This is a rather odd position given that there is so many criticisms levied against the government over CETA, yet the NDP leader would be in favor of the agreement anyway. The report doesn’t mention anything about it’s secretive nature, only that Thomas Mulcair had some reservations about it.

Politically, this might open the door in that the NDP might support CETA in spite of their reservations and, in many cases, clear opposition towards the agreement. Still, given that the Conservative party has a majority in the House of Commons, the position of the NDP won’t really politically matter at this stage. The Conservatives alone in this session of parliament have the power to pass CETA if it arrives before the next election (very probable at this stage).

What will matter, however, is the “sticking points” a lot of reports are referring to. While a number of reports seem to make light of these differences, we’ve noted earlier that these kinds of sticking points can seriously delay these kinds of trade agreements. As we’ve also mentioned in previous reports, CETA is no stranger to delays. Some say that CETA has been technically delayed by over a year already, so if it were delayed again, it wouldn’t be anything new.

As always, we’ll be keeping a close eye on any developments that happen with CETA and help keep you in the loop.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85



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