Transpacific Parternship: are the Conservatives capitulating to the Americans?

Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate.

Madam leader, Canada’s participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations raises a number of questions, including questions about the lack of transparency in the negotiations. Parliamentarians and Canadians are completely in the dark about the terms of this free trade agreement. Moreover, by participating in these talks, Canada has tacitly approved the terms that were negotiated before Canada became involved in the process. Canada will therefore have second-class status because the Americans have stipulated that Canada will not be entitled to veto any of the chapters that have already been included in the agreement. As you celebrate the 1812 victory against the Americans, why is your government caving in before even taking a seat at the table?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Trust the honourable senator and people on that side to always go to the lowest common denominator.

As a major Pacific nation, it is in Canada’s interest to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is consistent with our active and ongoing presence in the Asia-Pacific region. After all, this government has actively pursued trade agreements around the world to a degree that no government has previously done. Canada will bring, of course, a high level of ambition to the TPP negotiations. In addition to the TPP, Canada is exploring free trade with Thailand and has also begun free trade negotiations with Japan.

I believe there was a question from Senator Hervieux-Payette a few days ago, and I would point out that Canada did not give anything away in order to get to the table.

Senator Hervieux-Payette: This Conservative government has often proclaimed itself as the defender of Canadian sovereignty. However, the Trans-Pacific Partnership will effectively erode our sovereignty by allowing multinational companies to use extrajudicial tribunals to challenge laws by the government of any member country. Public citizens and American policy groups state that according to a leaked chapter of the investment chapter, the tribunals used for these lawsuits will be staffed by private sector lawyers that rotate between acting as judges and as advocates for the investors suing the governments.

The group continues by saying that Section B of the leaked text states “these tribunals would not meet standards of transparency, consistency or due process common to TPP countries’ domestic legal systems or provide fair, independent or balanced venues for resolving disputes between sovereign nations and private investors.”

Why is the government so intent on transforming Canada into a corporate autocracy by signing an agreement that would weaken our sovereignty and the impartiality of our judicial system?

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, Senator Hervieux-Payette is fixated on things that are said in the United States. It was prisons in Texas and now it is quoting some American publication with regard to our interest in the TPP.

As I pointed out in my first answer, it is in Canada’s interests to be part of these negotiations, and I can only imagine the screaming and hollering from the other side had we not been invited to the table.

I do note, however, that not all Liberals think like Senator Hervieux-Payette. I noticed that Martha Hall Findlay, who has indicated she may run for the leadership of the Liberal Party, has actually taken a position opposite the position of the Liberal Party. For all of the squawking and screaming in here, if one goes back and looks at the Liberal platform in the last election, there was no mention of any of this, including the whole question of supply management.