Nathan on the proposed Canada - Panama Free Trade Deal

Nathan Cullen (Skeena- Bulkley Valley): We have a government in office that is interested in any trade deal, as opposed to a good one. It crows over the number of deals it has made or has in progress. However, I would suggest that a bad deal is worse than no deal at all. This can be true for both sides.

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I have worked in Panama and in various surrounding countries, and one can see the erosion of democracy at a foundational level when outside countries exert irresponsible influence. Panama, having recovered somewhat from this, still struggles with some of the basic principles of transparency and accountability.

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It is important for members to keep in mind the real impacts on constituents and working people. As a trading nation, we should always seek the most favourable terms for ourselves and our trading partner.

We must also seek terms that align with our own values and beliefs, not just the belief in trade. That is a fine and noble principle, but it is also important to leave the planet a little better than we found it. If one is part of a labour union, one’s life should not be on the line. Fair wages for an honest day’s work should be a principle embedded in every government policy.

We have fought and struggled for these principles in this country. Sometimes these struggles have resulted in protests, violence, and great disruption to our national fabric, but we have come out the other end. We still have many struggles to go. Pay equity is a fantastic example: working women still earn only 78¢ for every dollar a man earns doing the same job. These are struggles we must face and counter. I would suggest the current government has not devoted enough time to issues like this.

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It is a natural orientation for us in the northwest. We have things that other people want. But the principle was always that we would never degrade our own environment, our own quality of life, to enable that trade. We certainly would not want to export misery and enable other places to do harm to their people through our trade. Whether we were trading fish, arrowheads, or modern minerals, the companies and the communities that I represent seek to have a true net benefit, putting people to work in our region, putting food on the table and allowing good things to happen, while enabling other countries to receive the benefit of any technological improvements.