Parliament: Speech during debate on CETA

On Monday, February 6th, 2017 in CETA, Debate, Parliament, Speeches
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Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

Elizabeth May – Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC:

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise again in this place to speak to the concerns I have about Bill C-30, legislation to enact the comprehensive economic and trade agreement between Canada and the European Union.

There are a number of fallacies that have come up in the debate today, and I will try to address those. They relate, by the way, to the investor-state provisions, which I believe to be the key and most unacceptable part of the trade agreement. However, I want to make sure I do not skip over the other concerns that have been raised by many in Canada and in the European Union.

One is that this trade agreement will absolutely make pharmaceutical drugs cost more in Canada. There is no question about this. By giving greater patent protection, it will postpone the moment when drugs go to generic form, when they become much more affordable. The estimates are that it will increase the cost of pharmaceutical drugs anywhere between $800 million and $1.6 billion.

Let me give the reasons why. This is what the comprehensive economic and trade agreement commits to and that Bill C-30 would implement. It would commit Canada to creating a new system of patent term restoration that would delay the entry of generic medicines by up to two years. It would lock in Canada’s current terms of data protection, making it difficult or impossible for future governments to reverse them, and it would implement a new right of appeal under the patent linkage system that would create further delays for the entry of generics.

If this trade agreement is in the interest of big pharma, the pharmaceutical industry, which I would have to mention is an economic sector that does not need a handout, can we accept that the prescription drug business, the pharmaceutical industry globally, does very well for itself and does not necessarily do well for those who need life-saving drugs?

This relates to the debates we have had in this place about the need for pharmacare and a national pharmacare program. It is even in the mandate letter to our Minister of Health to pursue bulk purchasing of prescription drugs to try to bring down the price to the level we could get if we had a national pharmacare plan, when all prescription medication could be purchased centrally to try to drive down the cost.

The reality is that the single largest growing cost within our health care system is the cost of prescription drugs. I want to reference the hard work of my hon. colleague from Oakville, Terrence Young, who lost his seat in the last election. His daughter died from taking a drug, as prescribed by her physician. Her name was Vanessa, and in the last Parliament, we passed Vanessa’s Law.

It is very clear that the drug industry charges more than what it costs to produce a drug, because it can. This is the last sector on Earth we should be wanting to give yet more advantages to to make the price of drugs go higher.

At the same time, litigation relating to pharmaceuticals, the notice of compliance proceedings dealing with full patent infringement, has been termed by Canadian Lawyer magazine as streamlining litigation, again, to the benefit of the pharmaceutical industry. It has a very effective lobby. Hats off to the pharmaceutical industry in Europe and in Canada for getting its own way under this agreement, but that does not mean it is in the interests of Canadians.

I am also very concerned, as is the Green Party, about the protection of procurement. This has to do with the rights of municipalities and other government sectors to say that they want the right to choose where they procure their products. They want to say that it is okay to preference their local suppliers. That will not be possible under CETA.

We also know that the way this agreement is structured around intellectual property leaves a lot to be desired and does not adequately protect Canadian companies in the large, more predatory global marketplace.

Getting to the misconceptions, one was, I thought, rather unexpected in this debate. Just to put it to rest, I heard a number of Conservative MPs use this debate on the comprehensive economic and trade agreement with the European Union to rail against having a carbon price. This was a very unusual place to make that argument, since the European Union has carbon prices. Why, in a debate on CETA, would we hear distorted arguments about the economic impact of putting a carbon price in place? It is rather the contrary. If Canada does not put a carbon price in place, we might find ourselves at the other end of discriminatory tariffs brought forward by the European Union, because they have done so, and they want trading partners to do so as well.

Other fallacies have to do with the way in which we characterize investor-state dispute resolution. It is very important that we distinguish and differentiate between terms of trade agreements to resolve disputes over trade. We have those in NAFTA. We have those in CETA. We have those at the WTO. When there is a dispute over a tariff or an alleged subsidy, there is a dispute process that resolves trade disputes. The investor-state provisions are not those. Investor-state provisions have nothing to do with resolving trade disputes. That may seem counterintuitive, but let me back up. Trade dispute mechanisms within treaties are state-to-state. If Canada has a problem with Belgium, or Poland has a problem with Canada, the investor-state dispute resolution is entirely different.

If we go ahead with CETA, it would give a Polish company the right to sue Canada if any government, state, provincial, municipal, first nations, or a court decision, made a decision that interfered with that corporation’s expectation of profits. Therefore, it is not state to state, as it would be in a trade dispute. It is corporation to government.

Let us use a real life example from my home province. The people of Kamloops, B.C. are busy fighting a proposal for a large open pit mine within the town limits. It is called the Ajax mine. It is being proposed by a Polish state-owned enterprise. Kamloops is a mining community with other mines. It is not as if it is against mines, but the majority of people in Kamloops do not want an open pit mine in the town limits. If CETA is not in place and the Government of British Columbia decides it will not go ahead with an open pit mine, that is the end of the story. B.C. can make a decision and Kamloops can make a decision. However, with CETA in place, it would not be the end of the story. The Polish mining company, Ajax mine, could do what Bilcon from New Jersey did under chapter 11 of NAFTA. When its open pit mine on Digby Neck, Nova Scotia, was turned down by the Conservative government of Nova Scotia and the Conservative government federally, under the previous environment minister, John Baird, Bilcon went for a secret tribunal under chapter 11 of NAFTA and sued us for $300 million. Did it allege we were wrong on the science? No. Did it say this was a secret protectionist move to protect trade in Canada? No. It just said it did not think the environmental assessment process was fair to it.

Ajax, the Polish mining company, would have the right to bring secret arbitration cases. The one thing that is different under CETA is the process would not be a secret. There would be an investment court. However, there would be no room at the table to have litigants representing the public interest. No environmental group would be allowed before the so-called investment court to argue this was a reasonable decision that our government made.

Therefore, the presence of these agreements really needs to be much better understood, investor-state agreements, the chapter 11s or sometimes called FIPA, the foreign investor protection agreement, such as the one Prime Minister Harper secretly passed in cabinet, which binds Canada to the year 2045, so the People’s Republic of China has the right to sue Canada and we cannot get out of it until 2045.

These agreements need to be better understood as fundamentally corrosive to democracy. They do not belong in trade treaties. They have nothing to do with advancing trade. They are all about reducing the power of sovereign government and increasing the power of transnational corporations. That is why I will be voting against Bill C-30.

Kevin Lamoureux – Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons:

Mr. Speaker, the member made reference to a company overseas being able to make a statement of claim against an entity in Canada. Could she comment on the reciprocal to that, a company in Canada and the rights it would have as a result of this agreement?

Elizabeth May – Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC:

Mr. Speaker, this is an open question. In essence, there would be reciprocity but for one thing. This provision is still so controversial within the European Union, it is going to the European Court of Justice. We do not know if it will be ruled to be ultra vires of the European Union to put such a provision in its treaty. However, we know from the state of Wallonia within Belgium that the EU has now accepted the notion that individual countries within the European Union can opt out. Therefore, will it be reciprocal? I think the answer to that has to be, it depends.

If a Canadian corporation loses money in the state of Wallonia, I do not think they are going to be able to rely on something such that a Polish company brings an action against Canada. By the way, although the actions may have been provincial, municipal, or federal, the litigation is always against the federal government. Our federal government has paid out millions of dollars under previous investor-state resolution decisions for things where we did not do a single thing wrong, or that were protectionist or against the science. We just cost a foreign corporation money.

Ziad Aboultaif – Edmonton Manning, AB:

Mr. Speaker, I know the hon. member spoke about the impact on the pharmaceutical industry, the cost of drugs, or the investor-state provision. This is on the negative side. I would appreciate if she could highlight some of the positive items of CETA. In fairness to the discussion here, it would be nice if we could hear about the positive side of CETA from the hon. member.

Elizabeth May – Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, it should be clear by now that I think the negatives outweigh the positives, but opening up trade with the European Union is an important balance. This is one of the things that gets overlooked in these debates as well. We certainly already have the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and after the Uruguay round, the creation of the World Trade Organization means that the protectionist measures that people railed against in the call for free trade are already gone. In that sense, we already have free trade with the individual states within the European Union, because protectionist measures that are unjustified are already prohibited under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

However, opening up more connection to the European Union is certainly wise. We know that with regard to our traditional best trading partner south of the border, that its executive is at the moment in the hands of an unpredictable, reckless, and potentially damaging partner. We hope we can steer through that. We hope we can navigate that. However, trade with the European Union is going to be important.

Gord Johns – Courtenay—Alberni, BC:

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the leader of the Green Party, the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, for bringing up some very valid concerns around CETA. One thing she did not touch on very much was that this will be the first time that foreign-owned vessels and foreign crews will be allowed to transport goods between Canadian ports, and it will open up domestic dredging contracts to foreign suppliers.

In my riding and in my community, we have a company called G & N Towing, which is named after the founders, Gale and Neil Botting. Their son, Gord, now runs that business, and his sons crew that boat. It is a family business where they have local knowledge. They employ people from Esowista, Opitsaht, Tofino, local communities. These jobs are critical to the lifeline of our coastal communities. Local knowledge not only saves lives, but it protects the environment. It is very important that we protect local jobs.

Does the member share our concern around the lack of analysis and the economic impact of taking away these jobs from coastal British Columbians and coastal people, coast to coast to coast?

Elizabeth May – Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC:

Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend from Courtenay—Alberni, because I meant to mention the Coasting Trade Act. It is not one of the features that people hear about a lot under CETA. Starting on page 75, we find out that foreign ships, for the first time, will be exempt if they are within the European Union. They will be exempt from getting a licence, and it also affects dredging and other activities that take place in our coastal regions.

As a former Atlantic Canadian, I am very curious about the position of Saint Pierre and Miquelon. We have French islands off the coast of Newfoundland. I can see that it would very easily be the case that foreign shippers registering in Saint Pierre would say, okay now we are European and we do not have to be screened.

As far as I can see, there is no analysis from any entity within the Government of Canada on the impacts on coastal jobs in Atlantic and Pacific Canada from changes to the Coasting Trade Act. By the way, I meant to mention before the House committee on trade that the civil servants testifying on patent protection said that they had not had time to study that economic impact.

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  • James Bodie

    Elizabeth May, you are amazing. Your depth and breadth of knowledge is incredible. “Page 75″! I am blown away. Thank you for your important remarks. May I mention that Transport & Environment of Brussels, and Client Earth, also in Europe, published a review of CETA as the “Gold Standard” and have pointed out that it is anything but. They also point out that the Investment Court System included in CETA is “a parallel justice system that sidelines domestic courts” and the report points out in the Executive Summary that ICS has no place in “any international agreement between two Parties with developed legal systems”.

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