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Second reading of Bill C-31, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and Ukraine

Second reading of Bill C-31, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and Ukraine

Second reading of Bill C-31, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and Ukraine

Second reading of Bill C-31, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and Ukraine

Published on 28 February 2017
Hansard and Statements by Senator George Baker (retired)

Hon. George Baker:

Just a couple of words for the record on this legislation. I don’t intend to give a long speech but just to put a couple of things on the record.

This bill was passed in the Commons by a vote of 304 to 0. A recorded vote was asked for because everybody knew that it would be unanimous, but they wanted it on the record.

The other thing that is striking is that the minister responsible praised the former Prime Minister on this bill. So the first thing that I should do in starting the debate is to make reference to the great contribution made by former Prime Minister Harper.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

Senator Baker: On the facts of the matter, history has shown that this Senate has the same support as that in the House of Commons. We just celebrated the one hundred and twenty-fifth anniversary of the first immigration of Ukrainians to Canada. We have now 1.2 million Canadians of Ukrainian heritage.

Canada was the first Western nation to recognize the independence of Ukraine in 1991, and most people accept the fact that when the movement of immigrants came they settled in the Prairie provinces and that area is the primary location of persons who came from the Ukraine to Canada.

Newfoundland and Nova Scotia can also claim a Ukrainian heritage as far as our fishery is concerned. At this very moment, there is a quota of redfish in Management Area 3O on the Canadian east coast assigned to Ukraine, Canadian quota. It’s an international quota because it belongs to an organization called the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization that provides the scientific work and the quotas for 12 foreign nations to fish off the east coast of Canada.

The fishermen from Ukraine have for years and years fished on the east coast of Canada. It’s quite remarkable. How industrious they are to have fishing vessels that travel right to the coast of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia to fish. They had quotas going back prior to 1991. And after 1991, under their flag, which is blue and yellow in colour, they have had their factory freezer trawlers fishing those stocks off the east coast of Canada.

However, their real contribution, as senators from Newfoundland would know, was in their scientific work. A few moments ago I just looked up some statistics on the contributions made by the scientific community of Ukraine. I’ll read just one sentence from the Scientific Council meeting of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization, Serial No. N6046.Under scientific research it says:

The Ukrainian scientists investigated NWA fishery resources both on research and fishing vessels. Thus, in 1990 research vessel —

—so and so, which I can’t pronounce—

— based in Ukraine with a group of . . . Ukrainian experts onboard carried out bottom trawling survey on the Flemish Cap bank.

That is just off the nose of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, which would be about 200 nautical miles east-southeast of St. John’s, Newfoundland.

It goes on to say:

Beginning in 2001, Ukrainian scientists —

—and then listing the scientists.

The results of this research were submitted in scientific publications —

—and then listing all of the scientific publications.

So you have this great contribution by Ukrainian scientists and Ukrainian fishermen to preserve the fish stocks off the east coast of Canada.

The other thing I would like to put on the record is the contribution that senators make. The primary function of the Senate is, of course, sober second thought on legislation from the Commons. We see it every day in our case law. Every day I read case law and I see cases that arise. Last week for example in the Ontario Court of Appeal in R. v. Osborne, 2017 ONCA 129 at paragraph 55, they quote liberally from the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs proceedings Issue No. 2, November 20, 1986, at paragraph 2-23.

I see a decision by the Ontario Superior Court, by the Supreme Court of Quebec, the Superior Court of Quebec in the last two weeks as well. So you see in case law in our courts constant reference to the Senate, Senate committees, Senate debates. You don’t see a reference constantly to House of Commons debates, House of Commons committees, and the reason is that the Senate is specifically now entrusted with examining legislation in detail so that our courts can actually see what the government intended in their legislation.

What I wanted to put on the record as far as this bill is concerned is this: We have in this Senate a lot of friendship groups with foreign nations. We have associations. We have, for example, seven multilateral associations to which senators belong; bilateral associations, five; interparliamentary groups, four. On some of these associations we have 15 and 20 senators, so senators develop an expertise in certain areas.

For example, today you have on the executive of the Canada- Japan Inter-Parliamentary Group, Senator Massicotte; Senator Mercer on the U.K. association; Senator MacDonald on the U.S. parliamentary group; Senator Day on the Canada-China; Senator Ringuette on the ParlAmericas group. We have Senator Hubley, Senator Ngo, Senator Downe, Senator Andreychuk, and the list goes on, of chairs and vice-chairs held by senators.

The reason why I point this out is when you go to the Canada- Ukraine Friendship Group, you see of course the last meeting that took place, and they have the largest number of parliamentary participants. The annual general meeting was chaired by Senator David Tkachuk, as it is, and the election took place, and the new chair of that particular committee is Borys Wrzesnewskyj. There are 85 members, 21 parliamentarians on the executive of the Canada-Ukraine Friendship Group.

I mention that because when the Government of Canada has an opportunity to take part as observers in an election that takes place in some distant land, they sometimes go to those parliamentary groups and associations and ask a senator to become the chair or the chief representative of that parliamentary group. For example, 500 Canadian observers went to observe the Ukrainian election in 2012. Heading the group was a senator, a senator sitting with us today here in this room.

An Hon. Senator: Who’s that?

Senator Baker: Let me go on and you will probably guess who that senator is.

An Hon. Senator: Oh, name her!

Senator Baker: Let me tell you what happened, the excellent job that that particular senator did. I could use other examples as well, but this one in particular stands out. It was not very long after that when the Government of Russia banned that senator from ever entering Russia. She’s in good company because the second person banned was the Minister of International Trade for Canada who introduced this particular bill. In referring to the great contribution that has been made to Canada-Ukraine relations, I’m referring to Senator Andreychuk.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.

Senator Baker: Those were the two items that I wanted to put on the record, identifying the role of senators. Perhaps some of the newer senators are not members of these organizations and so on, but we would certainly encourage you to become involved, and to fulfill that function that the Senate has always filled. It is probably one of the top functions of the Senate to fill those functions with our foreign nations and to perform as well as some of our senators, like Senator Andreychuk, have performed.

I want to put on the record because, after all, I’m giving second reading speech on the bill, what is in the bill. I’ll do this briefly by saying it’s not just a bill involving tariffs. It’s not. It involves much more than tariffs. Yes, it is the same legislation that was announced by Prime Minister Harper in 2015. Nothing has changed in it, but it does not just remove tariffs over a seven-year period.

It introduces into law — and all our trade agreements should reflect on this — that it gives these agreements a Canadian perspective, a Canadian view of what should be in a free trade agreement. Let me mention a couple of things that are there. As far as section 12 is concerned,

Each Party shall ensure that violations of its environmental laws can be remedied or sanctioned under its law through judicial, quasi-judicial or administrative proceedings.

Then it goes on under the heading of “Compliance With and Enforcement of Environmental Laws.” Then for each party there will be, for example, environmental assessments. Imagine putting that as a necessity. They are free trade agreements, but here’s what we agree to. We agree you will respect the environment and environmental assessments.

It goes on in quite a lot of detail on the environment and then it says “Application to the Provinces of Canada” because, as we know, this is a federal agreement and there is a provision that says “Canada shall use its best efforts to make this Chapter applicable to as many provinces as possible.”

Then in the next section, Labour, it says “freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining.”

It goes on to say:

(d) the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation;

(e) acceptable minimum employment standards, such as minimum wages and overtime pay, for wage earners, including those not covered by collective agreements;

(f) the prevention of occupational injuries and illnesses, and compensation in cases of injuries or illnesses; and

(g) non-discrimination in respect of working conditions for migrant workers.

It goes on in detail about how that is to be monitored under the provisions of this free trade agreement. It is quite remarkable. This is not just about the reduction of tariffs, and it goes on.

A very important section of a free trade agreement is anti- corruption, and those of you who have visited a lot of countries in the world know they that are trying to get on their own two feet and have borrowed money from the International Monetary Fund, trying to meet their standards and their requirements, which go to anti-corruption measures and so on. There is a whole section on anti-corruption measures and the establishment of criminal offences.

It is absolutely outlining in detail what we have in our Criminal Code. It is practically a mirror of what we have in our Criminal Code. As some of you know, there have been problems in Ukraine with some of these matters. We have a contingent of RCMP officers today in Ukraine teaching enforcement of the law, and how the law should be enforced and administered. Canada has contributed a great deal to the organization of the society on grounds that meet our particular standards.

I might mention that Canada has committed $1.4 billion in technical and financial assistance to Ukraine and $27 million in humanitarian assistance to help people affected by the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

In conclusion, I think this bill should be dealt with at the same time that the European trade deal is dealt with. Here is why: The Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement Implementation Act comes into play in the Ukraine bill. When you look at the bill, you discover a clause 43.You go to the coming into force of this act that we’re passing.

It says at clause 44:

This Act, other than section 43, comes into force on a day to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council.

What is clause 43? It contains a detailed breakdown of matters that affect the Ukraine free trade deal in the European Union trade agreement. If you look at the opening sentence of clause 43, it goes on to say:

Subsections (2) to (13) apply if a Bill entitled the Canada—European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement Implementation Act (in this section referred to as the “other Act”) is introduced in the 1st session of the 42nd Parliament and receives royal assent.

Then it goes on to deal with various sections.

Honourable senators, I think that it would be wise to have both of these bills dealt with in quick order or at the same time or in the same section of meetings dealing with the European Union agreement.

As far as coming into force is concerned, this is not a simple matter of just passing the bill. The bill is passed, yes. The act says it will come into force at a date to be given by Governor-in- Council after this bill is passed. However, when you look at the agreement, it goes a little bit further and says that it will come into effect the first day of the second month after which each party notifies the other party that they have carried out their domestic obligations under the agreement. It will not become law until all of this is passed. This process start started in 2009. In 2015, Prime Minister Harper signed it. In 2016, it was finally signed in Kiev with the Prime Minister there. Now we have the act of Parliament presented in 2016 and here we are in 2017. If you think that it doesn’t have to be passed, I can assure you that it must be passed in order for it to come into effect.

It’s not like back in the 1970s when you remember the case before the Supreme Court of Canada of champagne from France under the Canada-France trade agreement. It was supposed to be ratified in France, but it was not. The wine producers in France brought an action in the Canadian courts against Chateau-Gai. You can look it up under the Supreme Court of Canada, heard in 1974. I was a member of Parliament at the time and we were discussing it, and the conclusion of the court was that there was not a requirement that it be ratified by Parliament. Well, after that there is a requirement that all of the regulatory and domestic matters are now settled in the jurisdiction of Canada and the jurisdiction of Ukraine.

So it’s absolutely important that we pass this bill as soon as possible. I’m not suggesting we just not examine the thing. We should certainly give it due diligence, but pass it as quickly as possible, keeping in mind the fact that it would be very difficult to amend a bill that has already been verified between two nations, especially a bilateral. A multilateral bill would be even more difficult because you would have to have the agreement of the other side.

This is an excellent piece of legislation that deserves quick passage. I congratulate the Government of Canada, the former Government of Canada, Senator Andreychuk and all of the other senators who served on that committee of friendship with Ukraine on the great job done in the name of the Senate of Canada.

Hon. Serge Joyal: Would the honourable senator entertain questions?

Senator Baker: Certainly.

Senator Joyal: Thank you, Senator Baker, for your presentation.

As I see it, the free trade agreement with Ukraine is special in a political context. We all know the problems in Ukraine stemming from the Russian annexation of the Crimean region, so this free trade agreement has a political impact that the free trade agreement with the European Union doesn’t have. As you know, the attention of the world is on the moves that the Russian president can make in the context of the geopolitical environment south of the border. Those are very serious issues.

What is your evaluation of the political impact of the free trade agreement that you’re proposing we endorse today? In other words, is it just a trade issue, or should we also be concerned about the political context in which this trade agreement is entered into with the present Ukrainian government?

Senator Baker: Well, this free trade agreement involves a nation — Ukraine — that is not even in the top 40 trading nations that Canada has relations with. The total value of the trade is about $250 million a year. The amount of trade from Canada is about $220 million a year, and Ukraine exchanges about $50 million a year. It’s very little.

When you mentioned “south of the border,” I was reminded that I was asked some time ago about the supply of satellite information that some senators were concerned about, and we were discussing the changes that have taken place over the past year. I know this is on Senator Andreychuk’s mind. I simply make the observation that there was a corporate takeover of the Canadian company supplying the information by a corporate entity in the United States that is registered in Delaware, with headquarters in San Francisco, so it makes it all the more difficult for Canada to continue something that was in effect prior to this.

But in direct answer to your question, no, it absolutely is not a large trade deal. It is not even in the top 40 with Canada, but it has so much significance for Canadians and so much significance for the rest of the world, because it wasn’t just Canada. It was the entire G7 that stood up and said,” Look, what is happening is wrong.” This is Canada stepping forward with a free trade deal with Ukraine that will not just increase trade but will also assist Ukraine in meeting some of their objectives in their society and the operation of their society, almost to Canadian standards, so that it will be free of these complaints from the IMF that privatization is not going fast enough.

For example, the foreign fishing fleet that carries the blue-and- yellow flag off the coast of New Zealand today, and that was off the coast of Newfoundland, is being put up for sale as a part of the privatization network. The faster that can be done, the better it is in meeting the requirements of the IMF and the requirements of the other industrialized nations in the world to trade with Ukraine. But it’s not just the trade; it is the act that Canada is doing on behalf of the Canadian people. You’re absolutely correct.

Senator Joyal: I exchanged ideas with Senator Andreychuk in the midst of the crisis. The other concern I have is that the Russian government was trying —and I will use a word that might be too descriptive — to squeeze the Ukrainian economy and prevent the supply of energy in a country where the main supplier of energy is Russia. If I remember well, Senator Andreychuk made a statement in the chamber at that time that the people of Ukraine were caught in a war with a giant that had its hand on the energy valve and Ukraine had almost no other option than to yield to the Russian request.

It was expressed that Canada could offer the support of supplies at that time, which would have been welcomed by the Ukrainian people and could have given them breathing space to prepare their reaction to the invasion that the Russian government was denying they were doing but that, in fact, all the international observers believed was happening in the region.

Will this trade agreement strengthen the capacity for the national independence of Ukraine? Will it allow for an economic base and a supply of essentials to let them stand for their independence, having made the choice to open their economy to the European Union for a better standard of living and a greater level of freedom in their country? In the end, that is the essential question.

As I said, I hope this trade agreement will have a political impact. We should be more concerned with it than the other trade agreement that we’re looking at with the European Union, which may have all the merit in the world but is not caught in the political straight jacket in which Ukraine is now.

Senator Baker: Yes. There are 46 million people in Ukraine; there are 36 million people in Canada. Your reference to energy is, of course, correct. t is mainly centred around gas, but Ukraine has an advantage in that the gas pipelines from Russia to Europe run on Ukraine’s soil. Russia has put forward, in recent months, plans to build a pipeline under the sea. How long that is going to take is anybody’s guess. But when you read the judgment of the Superior Court of Ukraine on the taxes, because four years ago Ukraine increased taxes on the transmission of gas from Russia to Europe through Ukraine and it ended up in court, and the decision was that Ukraine was legitimately able to charge more money for that.

What will the trade agreement do? It’s interesting that one of the witnesses that I was listening to recently, who should appear before our standing committee, a group of investors from Alberta, who, with this agreement signed and the guarantees that this gives them protection, would like to go as a group of investors to invest in alternate forms of energy in Ukraine. That’s one example.

They explained exactly what they wanted to do. They wanted to bring Canadian technology to Ukraine in other forms of energy to meet that great demand, and that’s why an agreement like this will solidify matters. The anti-corruption and criminal law sections in this agreement will go far in allowing foreign investment into Ukraine, which could solve some of their energy problems.