By Stuart Trew
Debate on the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, and attached environmental and labour side-agreements, is drawing to a conclusion in the House of Commons. Tonight, Liberal and Conservative MPs voted against an NDP sub-amendment to a Bloc amendment, both of which would stop the FTA from going to second reading, essentially killing the agreement.
The government motion is as follows:
That Bill C-23, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Colombia, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Colombia and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Colombia, be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on International Trade
The Bloc amendment, brought by Bloc MPs Cardin (Sherbrooke) and Ménard (Hochelaga), suggests:
the House decline to give second reading to Bill C-23, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Colombia, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Colombia and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Colombia, because the government concluded this agreement while the Standing Committee on International Trade was considering the matter, thereby demonstrating its disrespect for democratic institutions
Finally, the NDP sub-amendment, brought by NDP MPs Crowder (Nanaimo-Cowichan) and Julian (Burnaby-New Westminster), which was voted down tonight by the Liberals and Conservatives (74 yeas to 194 nays), says the following:
That the amendment be amended by adding after the word “matter” the following: “, including having heard vocal opposition to the accord from human rights organizations.”
With the NDP sub-amendment off the floor, MPs will now be given a chance to debate the Bloc amendment, which mostly has the effect of stalling the legislation before the 2nd reading vote, which would send it to committee.
The vote against the NDP sub-amendment tonight cannot be seen as a defeat. Without such strong civil society opposition to Canada signing the FTA with the corrupt regime of Alvaro Uribe, the agreement would be law by now. Even the Liberals are saying they will work during committee, after 2nd reading, to stall the deal.
Big congratulations to the NDP (Peter Julian in particular) and Bloc Quebecois (thank you Serge Cardin) for their efforts to stop this dangerous and useless free trade pact with Colombia. It can and will happen if we keep the pressure on.
For a comprehensive update on Colombia — government spying on rights groups, ongoing paramilitary violence, and Liberals Scott Brison and Bob Rae’s summer vacation — see the article “Where will you stand on the Canada-Colombia FTA?” by Micheál Ó Tuathail, 30 September 2009.
Stuart Trew is Trade Campaigner at the Council of Canadians.