Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Edmonton Strathcona.
I am pleased to help outline some of the NDP's thoughts and objections to the motion before us, which has all the thematic unity of a recipe for leftovers soup.
As is the case with leftovers soup, even if people find the totality of it distasteful, it does not always mean they do not like particular ingredients that were thrown into it. There are some good ingredients to this motion, but when taken together, unfortunately we feel we need to oppose it.
The aspect of the motion dealing with softwood lumber is an ingredient we think is a good one. It is right to draw attention to the fact that the government has simply failed to come up with a reasonable solution to the crisis in softwood lumber.
As one of my colleagues in the NDP has just pointed out, it is a little challenging in some ways to hear that criticism come from the Conservatives. They were in government when the agreement expired. They had 10 years. They could have come to another agreement on it, but they did not. They left it to the Liberals, who then made a big deal of their great relationship with the Obama administration and what this would mean for Canadian softwood lumber producers. The Liberals would be able to go ahead and get not just any deal but the best possible deal for producers. That agreement still has not materialized.
A compensation package has been announced, presumably which is a bad omen for Canadian producers who hoped to get a deal that would allow them, through their work, to provide for them and their families, and not have to do that through a government compensation package. I suppose if the Liberals are not going to get it together to get a deal, then that is the next best thing. We would hope, however, to have a government that fights to get that agreement so softwood lumber producers can get back on their feet.
Even the agreement that was in place before was not a great agreement. It was signed by the Harper government. Today Conservatives members want to draw the attention of people to that fact. The leverage the prime minister at the time had was that successive challenges by the United States to the Canadian softwood lumber regime at the WTO and NAFTA had failed. The WTO and NAFTA had supported the Canadian softwood lumber system. In fact, we were on the cusp of getting another decision by the WTO that experts thought would affirm the Canadian position.
Instead of getting to hear that ruling and the benefit that would accrue to Canadian producers by having that ruling on the books, the Harper government went off and cut a side deal. That deal left a billion dollars of the $5.4 billion, which were taken out of the pockets of Canadian producers, in the hands of the U.S. It had taken that money, and not rightfully. That is not just the NDP position; that is the opinion of NAFTA and WTO tribunals.
These are under agreements that we, frankly, do not always like. They were coming to the conclusion that Canada had been wronged by the United States, yet the rug was pulled out from under the feet of Canadian producers who wanted to get the money, which had been taken from them in unfair duties, back. The Harper government did not allow for that. It left a billion dollars of that money on the table.
The Harper government did it with another element of that story, which no one else seems to talk about today. It did it with a Liberal turned Conservative trade minister, David Emerson. Perhaps other parties in the House also want to explore that theme today. No only are the Liberals and Conservatives so close together on this issue, in their common failure to provide a lasting solution to softwood, even under the rubric of the WTO and NAFTA of which they were great supporters, but they felt comfortable using the same guy to negotiate for them on this file in the lead-up to and following the 2006 election.
With respect to this ingredient, we do need a lasting solution for Canadian softwood lumber producers, and it is incumbent on the government to deliver that. It has given us a lot of words, but not a lot of action. However, to hear that criticism coming from the Conservative Party, when it is pretty hard to distinguish the two on this file, is a little rich, too rich to soup me, that is for sure.
Grain is another aspect of this motion. It is quite different from softwood lumber, but nevertheless, here they are together. The issue there, as we started to discuss in questions and comments, is that the big crisis in grain transportation for western Canadian grain farmers occurred after the Canadian Wheat Board was abolished. Partly what we see here is Conservatives criticizing Liberals for failing to find a solution to a problem created by the Conservatives. They found a Band-Aid solution with legislation that is expiring soon, and the problem with the Liberal approach is that while they do suggest some solutions in Bill C-49, the House has yet to pronounce on the adequacy of those provisions. The problem is that it is unlikely those provisions are going to be passed before the expiration of the interim or Band-Aid solution offered by the Conservative Party.
I will remain neutral on whether or not what the Liberals are proposing would provide a lasting solution, but what is clear is that there is going to be a gap between the Liberals' proposed solution and the Conservatives' Band-Aid solution. That puts grain farmers, particularly western Canadian farmers, in a tight spot that they ought not to be in, because we could see this problem coming from a long way off. The Liberals had extended the Conservative Band-Aid solution once before, so they knew when the deadline was coming. The fact that they have not been able to put in place a more lasting solution in time for what is essentially their own deadline is sad. Canadian grain farmers deserve better.
The last bit of the soup has to do with carbon pricing, and this is the ingredient that the NDP finds most objectionable. It is not about criticizing the Liberals' approach to carbon pricing, but it tries to say that any form of carbon pricing, the very principle of carbon pricing, cannot work with a functional, growing economy. That is a claim that we simply reject.
I watched as all but one Conservative member voted last week in favour of a motion for this Parliament to support the Paris climate agreement. The idea that we could go on with our current policies, as the Conservatives advocate, in further development of the Alberta oil sands and pipelines and not put any price on carbon is just not feasible. This aspect of the motion stands in contradiction to the position that they took only last week with respect to the Paris accord. Something has to change in terms of Canada's environmental policy if we are going to make good on our commitments under the Paris climate agreement. That much is clear.
When we get into the details, it does not take long before a lot of controversy is sparked, and there is certainly a lot of fair criticism that one can level at the government for its lack of concrete action.
For instance, if we are going to meet our Paris accord commitments, clearly we would need targets to get us there, but we do not have targets. We have the inadequate targets of the previous Stephen Harper government that the Liberals ran against, but the Liberals have not provided newer, more ambitious targets, so there is a clear problem in how we are going to get there.
In my view, part of the problem with the Liberals' carbon pricing plan is that they have given all the responsibility for implementation to the provinces, which means it may be implemented differently in different parts of the country. This situation raises the issue of equity between provinces, and Canadians living in some provinces may live under a different carbon pricing regime from Canadians living in other provinces. That is a real issue, and it is not one that the Liberals have managed to adequately address.
There is an equity issue as well in terms of people on low or fixed incomes being disproportionately affected by a carbon tax. Other governments, such as the NDP government in Alberta, have sought to address this issue by bringing in a rebate program for low-income people that operates along the same principles as our GST rebate. It is not an insurmountable problem and it is one we could address, except that the Liberal government's approach has been to divest itself of all responsibility for implementation and put it onto the provinces. Once again, whether people will be disproportionately affected by this tax will depend on whether they live under the NDP in Alberta or live under governments in other parts of the country.
There is a lot to talk about and there is a lot to criticize. It is very disappointing to read in international papers this weekend, for instance, about Angela Merkel looking for support within the G20, thinking she could count on our current Prime Minister to stand up to Donald Trump on climate, and finding that she cannot.
It flies in the face of the motion that the Liberals themselves presented in the House last week to affirm our commitment to the Paris accord, a motion that we all supported nearly unanimously. Now we see that the Liberals' actions do not meet their words. It is Kyoto all over again.
We need to do better, but I do not think this motion is about a good-faith attempt to solve that problem.