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40th PARLIAMENT, 2nd SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 009

CONTENTS

Thursday, February 5, 2009





CANADA

House of Commons Debates

VOLUME 144 
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NUMBER 009 
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2nd SESSION  
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40th PARLIAMENT 

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Speaker: The Honourable Peter Milliken

    The House met at 10 a.m.

Prayers


  (1000)  

[Translation]

Privilege

Use of Intraparliamentary Internet  

[Privilege]
    Mr. Speaker, on Monday, February 1, I forwarded to my fellow parliamentarians a news bulletin intended to update them on the latest military operations in Gaza. My intention was to show the horrors of the war, since innocent civilians can be the victims, as well as the destruction it causes. However, before forwarding the bulletin to all members, I did not consult all the links included in the email, as I should have. Some of those links lead the reader to sites with videos containing hate propaganda, which I do not support in any way; in fact, I condemn it.
     I wish to offer my sincere apologies to this House and to my fellow members for having forwarded such an email. Please be assured, Mr. Speaker, that I will be extremely vigilant and exercise greater care in the future, and that this kind of mistake will not happen again.
    Mr. Speaker, we have heard the hon. member for Ahuntsic's apology. However, I would like to raise a few points in connection with this situation.
    A member of Parliament's privilege is based on two things: the rights and privileges granted by Parliament. In the course of our duties, we use items provided for the exclusive use of parliamentarians for the purpose of carrying out the mandate we have been given by our fellow citizens.
    Various documents and emails were sent to our BlackBerries, prompting me to take a look at what the member for Ahuntsic wanted me to see. I received several mentions of photos and texts, and I consulted them. Also, links to groups considered by Canada's Parliament to be terrorist organizations had been inserted into the member's material, either by her or by the employees she is responsible for.
    These links can be considered very serious. The Parliament of Canada's policy is clear: ours is a peaceful nation that does not, in any way, condone terrorist organizations. Anyone could end up on the member's site. Millions of people around the world can surf their way to it. People from other countries can visit the site, where they can see the member's name and her riding. They might not understand how our parliamentary system works, so they might think that the text and the links on the site represent Canada's position, even though parliamentarians in the House of Commons have always refused to support, in any way, shape or form, terrorist organizations.
    Imagine someone in Asia finding the member for Ahuntsic's site on the Internet. That person would see all kinds of sad things, as well as videos encouraging certain forms of terrorism that we have condemned.
    That is important to understand. Parliamentarians in the House of Commons must always support Parliament's policies. If a member thinks that it is okay to flout the rules of Parliament, how can we expect citizens to respect the laws that we pass? It would be impossible, and that is very serious. It makes it look as though Canada is adopting the position of this distinguished member of our Parliament who is known in her region for her opinions. In fact, this is not true, and this is not Parliament's position. In fact, we here in Parliament have decided to work for peace and not in support of terror.
    When a member uses the means at her disposal, it is paid for by the taxpayers from both east and west. We have constituency offices and offices here on the Hill; our computers were bought with taxpayers' money. How can a member promote the things that we have condemned here in Parliament?
    Citizens cannot do this, and the members of this House are also citizens. We must respect the decisions of Parliament. That means that in no way, directly or indirectly, should we be supporting terrorist movements. This is serious. I defer to your judgment, Mr. Speaker.

  (1005)  

    However, we must send the right message. If a parliamentarian does not respect the rules of Parliament, how can we expect a citizen to respect them?
    Mr. Speaker, as you know, I am the one who rose in this House yesterday to raise this matter of privilege. I spoke briefly on it at that time and I would just like to acknowledge the statement by the hon. member for Ahuntsic.
    The hon. member admits in this House that she has failed in one of the fundamental duties of a member of Parliament, which is to act and to work with diligence and care and to make use of the human and material resources allocated to us by the House so that we may fulfill our responsibilities as members. Each of us, therefore, has a duty to ensure that the resources of the House are used, as I said, with diligence and in such a way as not to violate the privilege of either our other colleagues in the House or the House itself.
    We have heard the admission, the statement by the hon. member for Ahuntsic. In it she admits that: first, she did indeed distribute all this information by email to the members' personal Blackberry addresses; second, that some of the information and images contained in the material she distributed incited hatred toward a religious group, namely the Jews, and glorified certain organizations that have been declared legally by legislation passed in this House as terrorist organizations; and third, that she has been remiss in her duties as a member of Parliament. This breach of her duties is at risk, first of all, of being prejudicial to all other members but also—and even more important—of discrediting the House itself.
    On January 29, 2003, another independent member, Jim Pankiw, who was at the time representing Saskatoon—Humboldt, raised a question of privilege. He alleged that his privileges had been violated by deputy ministers of various departments because they had given directives to their staff not to respond to an email he had sent to everyone—in excess of 200,000 public servants—and in fact to simply delete the message. His messages in fact were blocking the computer operations of those departments. Mr. Pankiw claimed this was in violation of his rights.
    Mr. Speaker, you yourself brought down a ruling at that time indicating that the sending of spam using resources—such as computers, Internet service and so forth— provided to members by the House to enable them to assume their responsibilities and do their job as members of Parliament constituted a violation of privileges. It was indeed spam that the hon. member was sending. You gave the directive at that time to all members to use these resources with diligence and care and said that if a member persisted in acting in such a way, the House would sanction him by disconnecting his computers and Internet service.
    We have heard the statement by the hon. member for Ahuntsic indicating that she failed in her fundamental duty as a member of Parliament, that is to use the resources allocated to her—as they are to us all moreover—carefully so as to ensure that their use did not cast discredit on the reputation of the House itself and did not violate the privileges of other members. This merits a sanction. I would suggest that sanction take the form of a warning, namely that if, in future, any member committed this same type of action, his or her services would be cut off, as you ruled in the case of Mr. Pankiw.

  (1010)  

    This action by the hon. member for Ahuntsic goes far further than what was done by Mr. Pankiw, and is far more serious. The spam he sent out blocked certain systems for a period of time, but did not incite any identifiable group to hatred nor glorify any organizations which the government has labelled as terrorist under legislation enacted by this House.
    Mr. Speaker, I will be brief. We planned for an opposition day on a very relevant issue that was raised by our colleagues in the Liberal Party. I am convinced that all the members of this House are anxious to get to the debate planned for this opposition day.
    I would like to start by saying very respectfully that my two colleagues who spoke previously, the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles and the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, were guilty of verbal overkill. Allow me to explain.
    My colleague from Ahuntsic quite obviously committed an error in good faith. Mr. Speaker, you know procedure inside and out, and you are the guardian of parliamentary privileges, but we are of the opinion that in determining whether or not there was a breach of parliamentary privilege, you should ask yourself whether the member acted deliberately or knowingly.
    Yes, an email was sent and forwarded. When my colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles refers to the member's own site, he is guilty of verbal overkill, because that is not the issue. The member for Ahuntsic acknowledged in her speech that she had forwarded a news bulletin to her fellow members. She does not deny it. We all received a copy on our BlackBerrys. The question is whether she did so deliberately and maliciously.
    She further acknowledges that she neglected to check certain links in the email. In her statement, she said, “I did not consult all the links included in the email, as I should have”. What more does the member have to do? My colleague from Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine pressed the point. What more does she want the member to do? The member for Ahuntsic said, “I wish to offer my sincere apologies to this House and to my fellow members”. She is referring to all of us, regardless of party. She is apologizing to all 308 members who received the email.
    Lastly, she is looking to the future. She said that “I will be extremely vigilant and exercise greater care in the future, and this kind of mistake will not happen again”. I think that is clear.
    I well remember the Pankiw affair. He had flooded the system. He had sent 200,000 emails in a single day. This has nothing to do with the Pankiw case, which you yourself dealt with to everyone's satisfaction.
    Consequently, I think we should get on with the debate. The statement by my colleague from Ahuntsic is sufficient to put an end to this matter.

  (1015)  

    I wish to thank all hon. members who spoke about this matter this morning. As I indicated yesterday after the question of privilege was raised, I will consider all interventions and will return to the House soon with a considered decision.

Routine Proceedings

[Routine Proceeding]

[English]

Government Performance Reports

    Mr. Speaker, as part of a comprehensive effort to inform parliamentarians and Canadians of the government's performance, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, on behalf of departments and agencies, 91 performance reports for 2007-2008 and their companion piece, “Canada's Performance”.

Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 32(2) I am pleased to table, in both official languages, three reports regarding leaks at the National Research Universal reactor.
    I am tabling today, for full public disclosure, that the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission is assuring that a no time has the public or the environment been at risk and that there is no radioactive material leaking into the Ottawa River associated with these leaks.

  (1020)  

Interparliamentary Delegations

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1) I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian Delegation of the Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association respecting its participation to the Eighth Conference of Parliamentarians to the Arctic Region, held in Fairbanks, Alaska, August 12 to 14.

[Translation]

Income Tax Act

    She said: Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me today to lend my voice to my colleague from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord and to table in this House Bill C-288, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (tax credit for new graduates working in designated regions). I feel privileged that my colleague has placed his trust in me. I am also proud to continue with the work accomplished in the last session, when he tabled a similar bill.
    Anyone who is familiar with the terrible economic and social situation in Quebec regions will find this bill to be a breath of fresh air. From Lac-Saint-Jean to Mont-Laurier to Gaspé, La Tuque and Amos, all these Quebec regions will benefit from the hard work of the Bloc Québécois.
    I invite all my colleagues who are concerned about the future of youth in the regions of this country to vote for this bill.

    (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

[English]

Hazardous Products Act

     She said: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to introduce my private member's bill entitled an act to amend the Hazardous Products Act (recreational snow sport helmets), which would ban the advertising, sale and import of ski and snow board helmets that do not meet the Canadian Standards Association standards.
    This is not only a medical and safety issue; it is good public policy. It is estimated that recreational head injuries cost Canadian taxpayers over $100 million each year.
    The Canadian Standards Association has set criteria for ski and snow sport helmets. My bill would ensure that Canadians would have approved headgear protection, when they need it, which would in fact be the appropriate headgear.
    I look forward to working with members on both sides of the House to pass this bill and improving the safety of all Canadians, especially the young people who participate in these sports in winter.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

[Translation]

Income Tax Act

    He said: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be back here once again introducing a bill to create a refundable tax credit of 22% for loss of retirement income.
    Retired employees of the Jeffrey mine in Asbestos in my riding and of Atlas Steels in Sorel-Tracy, in the riding of the member seconding this bill, my colleague from Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, saw their retirement income drastically reduced after their former employer went bankrupt. We are trying to help these people with this bill, which I will remind everyone, passed second reading in the last Parliament. I would like to thank my Liberal and NDP colleagues, who have agreed to support this bill in order to refer it to committee. We had made significant progress. Unfortunately, an election was called, which forces us to start over with this bill. We are going to keep at it. The Conservative Party, the government, is the only one that has refused to support our bill. We will try, in good faith and with open minds, to convince them to support these people who were shortchanged when these businesses shut down. They deserve justice and dignity. That is why we are fighting for them.
    Obviously, I would like to thank the hon. members for Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour and Chambly—Borduas who have worked hard with me and with the retired employees in order to develop this bill which is so important for them.

    (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

  (1025)  

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act

    He said: Mr. Speaker, in June 2002, this House passed legislation to amend the number of board members hearing refugee claims, lowering it from two to one. In the past, only one board member was needed to rule in favour of a claimant to approve his or her claim. For the sake of efficiency, it was reduced to one. In their great wisdom, parliamentarians at the time created the refugee appeal division in order to ensure that people's fate would not be decided arbitrarily. In any justice system, one must have the right to appeal. Unfortunately, neither the Liberal government at the time nor the Conservative government since has ever implemented this appeal division, as called for by the House.
    The purpose of my bill is to force its implementation. A similar bill introduced by the Bloc Québécois made it through all stages in the House and the Senate during the last Parliament. I hope there is enough time to do so once again. I urge all members to fully cooperate in order to get it passed. Perhaps we could even begin second reading of this bill today.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

[English]

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act

     She said: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to reintroduce a bill to change the name of my riding to include the vibrant city of Port Moody, known as the “city of the arts”. Port Moody is a city steeped in history, from the gold rush on the Fraser River to the arrival of the first Canadian transcontinental train into British Columbia.
    It is very important that the name of my riding reflect all of the diverse communities, which I have the honour to represent in the House of Commons. I urge the government to expedite riding name changes in this Parliament, as previous governments have done, and not ignore them again in the 40th Parliament as it did in the 39th.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Criminal Code

     She said: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to reintroduce this bill, which would strengthen the laws that protect our children.
    The luring of a child is the first step that is taken by those who would try to exploit, abuse or hurt children. However, as the law now stands, this luring is only a crime if it is carried out by a computer. As we all know, technology has changed. We know that other means of communication are now used by child predators. It is time to modernize our laws to criminalize child luring in all of its forms.
    I urge all of my colleagues in the House to support the bill.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

  (1030)  

Criminal Code

     She said: Mr. Speaker, in an effort to combat child sex tourism, we have laws. I was in Parliament when those laws were first proposed here. We have laws to prosecute Canadians who abuse children while travelling abroad. We know that the first step in abusing a child is the luring or the grooming of that child. That is why I am introducing this bill to add child luring to the list of criminal offences committed abroad.
    I look forward to the support of all members of the House in ensuring that Canadians who lure and abuse children abroad can be prosecuted at home for their heinous crime.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Business of Supply

    Mr. Speaker, discussions have taken place with all parties and I believe you will find consent for the following motion. I move:
    That at the conclusion of today's debate on the opposition motion in the name of the member for Kings--Hants all questions necessary to dispose of this motion be deemed put, a recorded division deemed requested, and deferred to 3 p.m. on Tuesday, February 10, 2009.
    The Speaker: Is it agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    (Motion agreed to)

Petitions

Coalition Government  

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36 I would like to present these attached petitions. There are over 2,500 names in two separate petitions that deal with the same issue.
    I would like to thank a very proud, strong Canadian, Roma Ranger, from my riding for helping spearhead this. She is a proud Canadian who was very concerned in early December when a coalition was presented to Canadians.
    I will not go through the whereas clauses but the therefore clause reads that the petitioners call upon members of Parliament to oppose any political arrangements that would replace Her Majesty's democratically elected government without first consulting Canadians in an open and democratic election.
    Millions of Canadians were concerned about this. I want to thank Roma and all the people who helped her bring these petitions forward.

[Translation]

Interprovincial Bridge  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased once again to present a petition concerning heavy truck traffic in the downtown core of the nation's capital.
    Petitioners from across the national capital region are calling on the government, for various reasons, to force the National Capital Commission to conduct an in-depth study regarding a possible bridge linking the Canotek industrial park and the Gatineau airport, which is option number 7 of the first phase of the interprovincial crossings environmental assessment and a position that is now also shared by Ontario and Quebec.

[English]

Pornography  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition on behalf of residents of Brandon—Souris asking that the House request the support in legislation to protect children and the vulnerable, and to impose harsh penalties on those involved in the dissemination of pornography, including Internet pornography.

  (1035)  

Questions on the Order Paper

    Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.
    Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

Points of Order

Decorum  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.
    On Friday last, during question period, I used language that offended the sensibilities of some of my colleagues. I regret any discomfort the words I used may have caused. I would like to take this opportunity to withdraw those words without any reservation or condition, and have the record show those words withdrawn.

Government Orders

[Business of Supply]

[English]

Business of Supply

Opposition Motion--Canada-United States Relations  

    That, in view of the growing protectionism in the United States, which is reminiscent of the counterproductive behaviour that led to the great depression of the 1930s, this House calls upon the Government to intervene forthwith and persistently, with the United States Administration, and the Congress, in order to protect Canadian jobs, and urge the United States to respect its international agreements including the Canada-United States Trade Agreement (CUSTA), the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
     He said: Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise today to speak to this motion, a tremendously important motion because for Canada no trade issue or policy is more important or as complex as our relationship with the United States. The amazing level of integration between our economies makes this a complex relationship, but by and large a very positive one.

[Translation]

    That is why it is more important for us to strengthen our relationship, especially now, during this economic crisis.

[English]

    Our relationship with the United States transcends economics and politics. We are friends, neighbours and family. We share common values. We believe in equality, democracy and the rule of law. We share common interests and we face common challenges, whether in security, the environment or economic policy.
    The fact is, we trade $1.5 billion worth of goods and services every day across the Canada-U.S. border, and since 1989 Canada-U.S. trade has more than tripled to over $700 billion this year. That increase is about 10% every single year.
    We are each other's biggest trading partners. In fact, Canada is the most important destination for exports from 39 U.S. states. The Canada-U.S. trade relationship is responsible directly and indirectly for seven million U.S. jobs.
    The U.S. economy is heavily dependent on trade and investment linkages with Canada and this interdependence between Canada and the U.S. has only increased over time. In fact, 40% of our bilateral trade is intrafirm, trade within divisions of the same company or corporate family.
    Companies on both sides of the border have integrated their North American operations to take advantage of economies of scale and to become more competitive in North America, and to compete and succeed globally.
    In terms of our energy market, Canada is the largest supplier of energy products to the United States, supplying 94% of U.S. natural gas imports, nearly 100% of electricity imports, and 35% of uranium imports used for nuclear power generation.
    The U.S. imports more petroleum from Canada than from any other country, including Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. This is particularly important, given the continued U.S. concern around energy security.
    The North American gas, electricity and oil sectors are highly integrated, as is our infrastructure for transporting energy and other commercial products. Our shared infrastructure is increasingly being organized on north-south continental lines.
     Canada and the United States do more than simply trade. We build things together. The average North American car crosses the Canada-U.S. border the equivalent of four times before it is completed.
    Each province in Canada now trades more with the United States than with each other. Two-thirds of our trade between our nations is within established supply chains. Our economies are so intertwined that if we were ever to try to separate them, it would be like trying unscramble an omelette.
    Canada is also the largest purchaser of American exports. These facts are important because they illustrate why protectionism, whether in Canada or the U.S., is bad for both of our economies. Increasingly, during a time of economic crisis, protectionism anywhere can turn a downturn into a depression. That is what happened in the 1930s with the Smoot-Hawley tariff act, which raised tariffs on 20,000 goods and ignited retaliation globally against U.S. protectionist measures.
    The response from the government to the current situation in the U.S. and the rising protectionism has been late, and has demonstrated a lack of foresight in failing to see it coming during an economic downturn. At a time when some U.S. legislators are proposing buy American plans, the response from the NDP has been to support the U.S. buy American programs and to say that in fact we should introduce buy Canadian plans.
    If I look at what social democrat leaders and parties around the world are espousing today, they are espousing trade. They understand that in today's world, trade is critical, that during an economic downturn, the worst thing we could do would be to put up protectionist barriers.
     I am hoping that during this debate we can convince the New Democrats to join their social democrat colleagues from around the world who understand the importance in today's modern global economy of trade in terms of protecting Canadian jobs and interests, because when it comes time to vote on this motion, if they do not vote to support the motion, that simply applies pressure to U.S. legislators to avoid these kinds of protectionist measures that can hurt Canadian jobs, they will be voting against Canadian interests.
     I hope that during this debate we can have a rational debate that engages New Democrat members, Conservative members and Bloc members in what ought to be a less partisan approach to Canada-U.S. relations, an important foreign policy and trade policy area for us.

  (1040)  

    The fact is that President Obama has demonstrated great leadership this week. He has moved forward and has set a tone that I hope will have a significant influence on what happens in both the Congress and the Senate, not just on this issue but on future issues, because protectionism continues to percolate. There is a strong vein of protectionist sentiment in the U.S. Congress.
    We have not seen that kind of leadership on this issue here in Canada from the Prime Minister or the Minister of International Trade. When we see American congressmen move forward with protectionist measures, we should be responding immediately. We should be working through established relationships. One of the problems is that the Conservatives have focused so much over the last three years on building relationships with Republicans that they have completely forgotten to build relationships with Democrats. They have put their narrow partisan agenda ahead of the interests of Canada, and now, when there has been a sea change in American politics, Canada is disadvantaged.
    This is really important, because on issues of foreign policy and trade policy, we cannot pick one party or another. We have to have bipartisan relations that are strong during the good times and that help protect our joint interests during the tough times.
    We must recognize the importance of the Obama agenda and how positive it can be not just for the Americans but for the Canadians, and the importance of our working with President Obama in terms of his priorities. Securing access for Canadian business to the U.S. market is one of our priorities, but how can we expect American politicians to take action on our priorities if we are unwilling to take action on theirs?
    If one looks at the Obama government's stimulus package, at the measures on greening the American economy, investing in education and creating the jobs of tomorrow, it is starkly different from the budget recently presented in this House by the Conservatives. It is no surprise that a green economy is a priority for the Obama administration. In fact, Ambassador Wilson recently stated:
    We should expect policies [from the Obama administration] designed to move the country noticeably away from a carbon-based economy. Policies reinforced by a strong commitment to technological change and greater reliance on alternative energy sources.
     Yet we are increasingly seen as both foreign in an adverse sense, and purveyors of dirty fuel.
    What we ought to be doing is making the case to the Obama administration that we are going to be not just their energy partner but their clean energy partner. We are going to invest in cleaning our oil sands operations and CO2 sequestration more vigorously than in the past, in cleaner conventionals, cleaner oil and cleaner gas. We are going to invest more in alternatives and we are going to be the clean energy partner that Americans need and that Obama wants.
    We know that addressing climate change is a priority for the Obama administration. We know that as the U.S. moves forward with a cap-and-trade system and as the U.S. Congress moves forward with a form of carbon tariff aimed at imports from other countries, Canada will be disadvantaged. This is another case where the Conservative government is failing to look ahead. It is failing to look at the challenges of the future and to prepare for those challenges.
    The Obama administration realizes that bad environmental policy is ultimately bad economic policy. We have a responsibility to move ahead as a partner in progress with the Obama administration and the Americans and to build the clean energy solutions of the future.
    There are other issues, not just this immediate protectionist issue, where the Conservative government has failed to see a challenge looming and has failed to take action early.
    I have talked to business people and business organizations across Canada. The thickening of the Canada-U.S. border is a number one issue for many of them. The smart borders initiative introduced by the Chrétien and Martin governments has not moved forward effectively under the Conservative government. On January 23, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano issued an action directive on the northern border strategy. It reads:

  (1045)  

    The northern border of the United States has become, since 9/11, important to our national security. As we have designed programs to afford greater protection against unlawful entry, members of Congress and homeland security experts have called for increased attention to the Canadian border.
    That is ominous when we now see a January 23rd letter from the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security speaking of the risks at the Canadian border. Much of that is based on what I believe to be a false impression of our border and an impression we should be correcting.
    Once again, relationships come into play. The Prime Minister should be speaking with the president. We should be reaching out to legislators and members of the Obama administration and making the case that this kind of thickening of the border will not enhance U.S. security and in fact, will do everything to undermine Canada-U.S. economic prosperity. But once again, there is silence from the Conservative government until the issue becomes a crisis.
    In terms of ITAR, the fact is that Canadian companies are subject to ITAR restrictions by the Americans which actually prevent Canadian companies in many cases from competing for and succeeding in obtaining U.S. defence and aerospace contracts.
     We saw that as one of the principal reasons MacDonald, Dettwiler said that to succeed in achieving contracts with the U.S. Space Agency it actually had to become a U.S. company. That was one of the rationales. The company pointed to the fact that Australia and the U.K. have successfully negotiated exemptions from ITAR from the Americans, but we have not. We are a trade partner with the Americans. We are a security partner. We are a defence partner. We are a friend of the Americans, and it is inexcusable that the Conservative government has not negotiated ITAR exemptions from the Americans.
    It is clear that there needs to be greater cooperation and a better and stronger relationship between not just the Prime Minister and the president and their administrations, but between legislators.
    Another issue that we have seen in recent months is the negotiation on the bailout of the Detroit three.
    The Conservative government sat back and allowed those negotiations to proceed in the U.S. without trying to get a seat at the table, without having any influence on what was happening down there. While we were sitting up here saying that once the deal was done we could provide them with a commensurate amount of money, perhaps 20%, to reflect the Canadian auto sector's percentage of the North American operation, while that was going on and we were sitting back, American legislators, congressmen and senators, were demanding commitments from the auto sector companies to invest in jobs and good product mandates.
    Back in 1979 when the Chrysler bailout was being discussed, Gordon Ritchie, a Canadian negotiator, was part of those negotiations. Canada was successful at that time. Negotiators were successful in getting the mandate for the Chrysler mini-vans, which was a very successful mandate. Now we are at the end of the current negotiations and Canada does not have any leverage whatsoever.
    We saw the spectacle a few weeks ago when the Minister of Industry went down to Washington to meet with the auto sector leaders but they were all in Detroit. In fact, while he was in Washington he was not able to get any meetings with influential legislators. It is bad enough that we are not at the table, but the minister cannot even find the table. At the end of these negotiations, Canadian auto workers will be lucky to find crumbs off the table.
    It is critically important that we work together on an ongoing basis and that we do not ignore the Canada-U.S. relationship as badly as the Conservative government has done.
    These are just some examples--the border, the ITAR issue, the auto sector negotiations--of where the Conservative government, long before the current issue around protectionist policies in the U.S. Congress emerged, had already failed Canadians on the Canada-U.S. relationship.
    Behind every trade statistic is a personal relationship or a human story. Relationships are important. When building relationships in the U.S., they need to be bipartisan. As the Conservatives over the last three years fawned almost exclusively on the Bush Republicans, they missed the sea change that was going on in U.S. politics.

  (1050)  

    The Prime Minister's Office interfered in the U.S. primaries, and the whole NAFTA-gate issue prematurely biased the new administration against the Prime Minister. There is a new U.S. president who provides hope to Americans while our Prime Minister deals in fear. President Obama is a uniter. Our Prime Minister is a divider. President Obama is a multilateralist. We have a Prime Minister in Canada who is a unilateralist who does not trust multilateralist organizations. President Obama appeals to people's better angels. Our Prime Minister pits one group against another. President Obama is a dreamer. In Canada we have a Prime Minister who is a schemer.
    In a speech which Ambassador Wilson made on January 19, he said, “These personal relationships matter a lot in Washington, at all levels, especially with new administration officials and staff”.
    The Prime Minister has not built the relationships in the U.S. that are important to protect Canadian interests and it should not surprise Canadians because he has not built relationships within Canada. We should not wait for an economic and political crisis to build these relationships. It is a little bit like trying to fix the roof during a rain storm. We should not wait for an economic or protectionist crisis to point out the importance of Canada-U.S. trade and economic relations to the U.S. economy to American legislators. We should be communicating on an ongoing basis as allies and as friends.
    Building those relationships one by one during the good times is essential to protecting Canada's national interests during the tough times. On issues we have to look ahead. The Conservatives failed to see the protectionist sentiment brewing in Congress. They failed to see the political sea change happening in the U.S. They failed to recognize the importance of building relationships on both sides of the House.
    Wayne Gretzky, that great Canadian economic and political theorist, once said, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been”. The Conservative government has ignored where the world is going and where the Americans are going under their new leader.
    The Conservative government's narrow ideological and partisan focus in the U.S., in ignoring the Democrats, has hurt Canada's national interests. We cannot only focus on both parties in the U.S., we have to focus on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. It is not enough to deepen our relationship with the presidential administration. We have to one by one as legislators do more to deepen our relations with individual legislators.
    Premiers are tremendously important. The relationship that premiers and governors have is tremendously important. Four of the last six presidents were former governors. President Obama four years ago was a state legislator. These relationships are important. Governor Howard Dean once spoke to me about his relationships with Canadian premiers. He said that we are all in the same boat and there are a lot of commonalities. If the Prime Minister wants to deepen relations with the Americans and to improve his chance of defending our interests, he had better start with building better relationships with Canadian premiers. Bill Clinton was a governor. The former U.S. ambassador to Canada, James Blanchard, started as a governor. These relationships are critically important.
    The fact is relationships do matter. My leader knows people like Larry Summers, one of the chief economic advisers to President Obama, and Cass Sunstein, the regulatory czar of the Obama administration, and Samantha Power, a senior foreign policy adviser to the Obama administration. We need to reach out on a bipartisan basis in Canada to people like Frank McKenna and people like Gordon Giffin in the U.S., people like Derek Burney. There is a lot of expertise. We cannot be partisan in whom we work with in the U.S. or Canada on what is our most critical trade and foreign policy relations.

  (1055)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, as the member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes, a region where the steel industry is vital to the economy and employment, I am pleased to ask a question and make a comment on the speech by the member for Kings—Hants.
    It is evident that our workers and pensioners feel a little more at ease today because President Obama and the Senate have decided to acknowledge the importance of complying with international and trade agreements. The member is correct, for had there been greater vigilance and had better relations been maintained with the United States, there is no doubt that this crisis could have been averted, it could have been nipped in the bud. It is important for a trading nation to maintain good relations and to maintain close, structured and constantly evolving vigilance.
    I would just like to go back to a statement by Leo Gerard, President of the United Steelworkers, who pointed out that Canada was not the target of the Buy American clause. However, Mr. Gerard did say that it was important to have strict anti-dumping measures. The Bloc Québécois is a vigorous supporter of the modernization of trade laws to better protect companies against foreign dumping.
    Is this the position of the member for Kings—Hants?
    Mr. Speaker, first of all, I agree with my colleague with regard to recent developments in the American Senate thanks to the leadership of President Obama. I agree that we must continue to strengthen relations between our Prime Minister's cabinet and the Obama administration, and especially to strengthen our American and Canadian legislatures.
    With regard to the anti-dumping issue, we must constantly be careful not to put ourselves in a vulnerable position. Nevertheless, a period of global economic downturn is not the time to increase protectionist measures.
    I am absolutely certain that it is not the right thing to do. Everyone agrees that current protectionist measures are dangerous for all economies, especially Canada's, because international and trade relations are particularly important to us.

  (1100)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the motion the member has brought forward is a fairly simple one and it is one that we can support. It encourages the government to intervene with the American government to ensure it does not erect protectionist measures.
    Unfortunately, the member then went into a tirade against our government, which is not helpful after all the promises of being collaborative in their approach to government as we move forward.
    Our government is way out in front on this issue. In fact, the Prime Minister and our international trade minister have been actively engaged in this file with the Americans, and that engagement is bearing fruit. The President has now said that he is against those protectionist measures. We know a motion was in the U.S. House of Representatives that sought to limit the buy American provisions.
    Given the fact that our government has been so engaged in this issue, what efforts has he made to engage our American cousins in the issue?
     Mr. Speaker, I have spoken with people like Congressman Brian Baird and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney from the U.S. Congress. I saw them last weekend in Davos, Switzerland. We were speaking on protectionist issues, and I participated in those sessions.
    I have also spoken with people of influence like Governor Howard Dean, who until recently was head of the Democrat national committee, about these issues. I have spoken with people like Jim Blanchard and Gordon Giffin, former ambassadors to Canada, about these issues and sought their advice as to how we should proceed. Therefore, I am doing that and I would hope more legislators are doing it.
    I know, for instance, some our Senate colleagues, senators like Senator Jerry Grafstein, have more connections in Washington than probably any ambassador in history, and Senator Colin Kenny has deep relationships.
    I am certain some Conservative members opposite and members perhaps from all parties are engaging in these kinds of discussions and I think we should be doing more of it. We have the capacity, for instance, to go to Washington four times a year as members of Parliament. We ought to be doing more of that in coordinated way and, on an ongoing basis, making the case of the mutual interest we have as a friend, partner and economic ally of the United States.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his outline of the economic situation vis-à-vis Canada and the United States.
    However, he missed probably the most important factor in the relationship of our trade, and that is the relative positions of our currencies. Right now we are in a situation where the U.S. currency has been artificially enhanced through the falling commodity prices and the falling equity market.
    We are likely to see the situation reverse. As the commodity markets improve, we will see the U.S. dollar fall and the Canadian dollar go up.
    When we look at what is happening in trade between the countries, if we do not examine where the puck is going to be in a year or two with the currency, with the relative ability of Canada to sell into the United States, we are putting ourselves in a degree of difficulty.
    When we talk about trade and protectionism today, it may be that we will want a different solution down the road when the economies of the world settle down, when commodity prices rise, when the U.S. has to bear the incredible burden that it has created for itself with its huge payouts to banks and with its huge stimulus program. These are factors that we have to consider today in determining how that relationship should work, whether protectionism or free trade, rather than simply looking at the situation today.
    Does my colleague not agree that we need to look at where we will be? This very important factor that determines our trade and our ability to feed into the U.S. market is one of the things that has to be very much on our minds?

  (1105)  

    Mr. Speaker, our currency, as the hon. member suggested, is largely related to commodity prices. We have seen the drop in commodity prices and a commensurate drop in our currency.
    As demand for commodities continues to grow because of China, India, Russia, Brazil and those countries that continue to invest in infrastructure, I expect that will come back, but I will not be held to any long-term prediction on our currency.
    However, one thing we could be doing during good times and bad times is finding the non-tariff trade barriers between the Canadian and U.S. economies that impose a real cost for both Canadian and U.S. jobs. There are regulatory differences between Canada and the U.S. in some areas that do not necessarily enhance the Canadian quality of life or safety in any way, shape or form, but simply represent a non-tariff barrier between our countries.
    We should be seeking areas where we can coordinate and work more closely with the Americans, and also with our EU partners, in streamlining regulatory processes so all citizens benefit from better regulatory processes. It is not a race to the bottom, but it can be an actual race to the top with more diligence and at the same time eliminate a lot of these non-tariff barriers between our countries.
    The border issue is one that I think all of us as members of Parliament have to be seized with, ensuring that we make the kinds of investments in infrastructure and processes that enable a seamless movement of goods, services and people between our countries in a secure North America.
    Mr. Speaker, I do not think I have had the opportunity to congratulate you on your new posting since the last Parliament.
    Today I am pleased to join the debate on Canada's competitiveness and place in the world, specifically with regard to the stimulus bill that is being discussed in the United States House of Representatives. Within the stimulus bill, there is a provision that would only allow steel and iron from the United States be used for infrastructure projects as identified within the stimulus bill.
    Today we are cautiously encouraged to the news that the United States Senate has voted in favour of softening the buy American provision within this massive stimulus package. Our government has worked extremely hard with our American counterparts and we have made some great headway. We will continue to see this through to a successful conclusion.
    Why we are concerned about this issue is simple. It has been identified already in the House. Our government recognizes that in this time of global uncertainty, protectionism is not the answer.
     We know from history that protectionist legislation winds up not only hurting the economy in which that protectionist legislation is moved, but it invariably hurts economies that surround it. We are telling our friends in the United States that now is not the time to shut the door. Seven million U.S. jobs are supported by trade with Canada.
     The reality is our North American economy is an integrated one and the stimulus package that is being put together will impact and has to benefit not only the Americans but also trading partners. As long as governments do not succumb to the lure of protectionism, the spillover effects of this stimulus package can be overwhelmingly positive. Given the magnitude of the challenges that we all face, no individual country is likely to be able to save itself without help from trading partners.
     We are living in a world where economies are tightly interwoven, in a world where global supply chains are intertwined, a world where not only capital and products but ideas that our future travel great distances at an ever increasing velocity.
    It is worthwhile to remind ourselves that our closest economic relationship in the world is the one that we share with the United States. Raw materials and finished goods, services, finance and people criss-cross our border daily in volumes that are unmatched anywhere else in the world.
    We all know the numbers: $1.7 billion in two-way trade, 45,000 trucks and 300,000 people move across the border each and every day. The United States is one of our largest sources of foreign investment and innovation, and we are its largest and most secure supplier of energy products, as well as being its biggest customers for agricultural exports.
    As the U.S. economy flourishes, so does our economy. All this contributes not only to our prosperity, but we believe it gives us a special understanding of our neighbours to the south.
     I think we would all agree that there is a strong link between a healthy Canadian industry and our own competitiveness. Obviously competitiveness is a concern to all Canadians, to this Conservative government and to all members of the House.
     The government is well aware that a central challenge facing businesses today is to improve competitiveness by increasing the value of product lines and reducing production costs. This is especially the case for the manufacturing sector, which has been adjusting to higher commodity prices, increased international competition and global economic challenges.
    The first thing I would note is our global competitiveness has improved significantly in recent years. According to the Global Competitiveness Report 2008-2009, published by the World Economic Forum, Canada's world ranking in global competitiveness moved up from 15th in 2004 to 10th place in 2008.

  (1110)  

    This report highlights that Canada's improvement is mainly due to our superior transportation and communications infrastructure. It is also due to our highly efficient markets, particularly the labour and financial markets. Our education system also got excellent marks for its quality. This means that Canada's workforce is top quality and is well positioned to adopt the latest technologies for productivity enhancements and to create new high value-added products for the world markets.
    As we all know, the economies of the world are facing a deep global recession that will draw upon all of our resourcefulness and best cooperative efforts. Governments around the world have found themselves moving into turbulent financial and economic waters, and certainly Canada is not immune. However, there is a general consensus among economists and experts that the Canadian economy will perform better while many other industrialized OECD countries will struggle over the next two or three years. This is largely due to the core strength of our economy.
    The balance sheets of our financial institutions are also in relatively good shape. Canada's financial system is one of the best in the world. It is sound, well regulated and well functioning. Nevertheless, because of globalization and the interdependence of the world financial markets, the Canadian economy is impacted by the adverse consequences of the current crisis.
    Looking beyond the current market turmoil, our focus should be on improving our productivity, as it is the fundamental determinant of our quality of life and our competitiveness.
    When the G20 leaders met in Washington, D.C. in November 2008, there was a wide range of views regarding both the nature and the seriousness of the current situation. In spite of these differences, the G20 leaders were able to agree to provide timely stimulus to domestic demand while also maintaining long-run fiscal sustainability.
    I am proud to say that the Conservative Party of Canada is strongly committed to supporting a productive economy. Our government is committed to creating a competitive environment and putting in place support for business that encourages innovation and entrepreneurship, and rewards investment.
    Canada's economic action plan, to which the members opposite have given their support, addresses both the short-term downturn and the financial constraints, while also stimulating productivity in the long term. It will stimulate the economy through investments to build infrastructure, by reducing taxes and freezing employment insurance rates, by stimulating housing construction, by improving access to credit, and by strengthening Canada's financial system, helping Canadians access training programs, and supporting businesses and communities.
    Our economic action plan will provide over $20 billion in new tax relief over the 2008-09 year and the following five fiscal years. The economic action plan has launched the Canada skills and transition strategy to help Canadians weather the economic storm and provide them with the necessary training to prosper in a changing economy.
    This government is also taking significant action to assist key sectors, such as forestry, agriculture, shipbuilding, automotive and aerospace industries.
    To alleviate the pressure on financing, we increased the resources, scope and action of Export Development Canada, EDC, and the Business Development Bank of Canada, BDC, to ensure they have the extra financial capacity to provide firms with financial assistance. Last year we approved a $2 billion increase in borrowing authority of Export Development Canada, and an increase of $1.8 billion in the borrowing capacity of the Business Development Bank of Canada. This is enabling them to offer additional credit to their clients. This is in addition to the $350 million in capital committed to each of these financial crown corporations to support about a further $3 billion in increased credit.

  (1115)  

    The way we mutually manage our border with the United States is important to our competitiveness. Our gateways to the United States are of particular concern to our highly integrated North American car industry. Our government knows that we cannot remain competitive with a border that clogs and slows down the smooth operation of an integrated industry.
    Our economic action plan is accelerating and expanding federal investments in infrastructure with almost $12 billion in new infrastructure stimulus funding over the next two years. This is in addition to $33 billion in funding that was provided in budget 2007 to build modern infrastructure to keep these gateways open for business.
    With many companies operating on both sides of the border, one-third of our trade is between related firms, it is in the national interests of both Canada and the United States to work together to find constructive solutions to the economic crisis. This is particularly critical in those industries that are especially closely integrated. For example, the auto sector represents 12% of Canada's manufacturing base and employs 130,000 people in Ontario alone. Vehicle production represents one-fifth of the North American total. The majority of this activity is in support of the big three automakers.
    Our economic action plan also streamlines the federal approval process so that more provincial, territorial and municipal projects under the building Canada plan can start in the upcoming construction season. These investments will support productivity and competitiveness for years to come.
    Advantage Canada provides a detailed policy agenda which builds on Canada's strengths and seeks to improve our long-term competitiveness performance. Through ongoing reductions in corporate taxes, we are on track to establish the lowest rate of tax on new business investment in the G7.
    Our Conservative government is making it a priority to regulate smarter and reduce the paperwork burden on small and medium size enterprises. We increased the amount of small business income eligible for a reduced federal tax rate of 11% to $500,000 from its current limit of $400,000.
    Our government created the Competition Policy Review Panel to look at Canada's competition and investment policies. It submitted its final report last June. We will proceed with legislation to modernize and improve Canada's competition and investment laws by implementing many of the recommendations of the Competition Policy Review Panel. This will make product and financial markets more effective and efficient to promote investment and innovation and to create jobs for Canadians.
    Our government has also adopted a number of measures to support innovation in recent years. Budget 2008 provides reforms to enhance Canada's scientific research and experimental development and creates an automotive innovation fund to support strategic large-scale research and development projects to build innovative, greener and more fuel-efficient vehicles. Recently, the Prime Minister committed to boosting the value of this fund by $200 million so that more investments in state of the art assembly plants and leading-edge technologies can be made.
    We are aggressively opening markets abroad for Canadian goods, services and investments through the conclusion of ongoing trade negotiations. The Minister of International Trade is working to fight protectionist sentiments among our trading partners, and we will launch new initiatives, such as an economic partnership with the European Union.
    Clearly, this Conservative government has taken many significant steps and has made significant investments to improve Canada's competitiveness.
    As the Minister of Finance laid out in Canada's economic action plan, our government will continue to manage spending responsibly. We will ensure that the programs and services are efficient and aligned with the priorities of Canadians. We will take steps to enhance credit availability for Canadian businesses that are affected by the global credit crisis. We will continue to consult with the provinces and territories and Canadians to develop responses to short-term economic issues while continuing to implement our long-term economic plan.

  (1120)  

    Finally, this Conservative government recognizes that free, open and fair trade can help Canada weather this financial storm. As the Minister of International Trade stated in the House earlier this week, “With the current crisis squarely upon us, it is crucial to resist the temptation to move towards protectionism. History showed during the Great Depression that imposing trade barriers is not the answer”.
    The United States has seen its manufacturing base reduced, its deficits swell and the rise of new global competitors. The financial industry crisis and the reversal of the housing market have meant a reduction in confidence and even fear of the future. It is therefore not surprising that the voice of protectionism is heard in difficult times.
    As I stated earlier, thanks to the hard work of this Conservative government, the team of my colleagues and our government ministers, we are making great headway. We are encouraged by the softening of the buy American provisions in the United States stimulus package. We are also encouraged by the recent statements by President Obama. The Minister of International Trade will continue to stay in close contact with his American counterparts and to monitor this legislative process very closely.
    Mr. Speaker, what does the hon. member think we ought to be doing to deepen the relationships between American and Canadian legislators?
    Why has the government not done more to build on the success of the previous Martin government in introducing a secretariat in the U.S. as part of the embassy there to develop ties between Canadian members of Parliament and senators and their counterparts in Congress and the U.S. Senate? The Martin government also quite significantly increased consular representation and the Canadian missions in the U.S., recognizing the real importance of having stronger relations between legislators. What has the Conservative government done to build on that?
    Does the member agree that these relationships between legislators are absolutely essential now?

  (1125)  

    Mr. Speaker, despite the calls by the opposition members over the last two and a half years to reduce our contact with U.S. legislators, we have done something quite the contrary. We have continued to build strong relationships on both sides of the political spectrum in the United States.
    I can speak to specific events of which I was part. The Minister of State for Transport, the hon. member whose riding borders mine, has had the opportunity to host congressmen and senators from the United States in his constituency. As well, the ambassador at the time travelled in his constituency and met with us as members of Parliament. We have continued this process of developing these relationships. There were ongoing calls from the opposition to reduce our relationship with the Bush administration, to reduce our relationship with the Americans, but we have stood fast and continued to build these relationships. We are seeing that these relationships have developed fruit. We have seen how well the discussions over the last week and a half have resulted in positive action for us as Canadians.
    Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the speech from the member for Peace River and I have been listening to the debate in the House during question period as well. It seems to me that the debate that is going on focuses on these trade agreements, which have caused enormous problems for Canada. One has to only look at NAFTA and what happened with softwood lumber.
    Of course, now the debate has become totally focused on the question of protectionism. It seems to me that what is being missed here is the reality that the steel industry in Canada and the United States is already highly integrated and complementary. What we should be doing is focusing our attention and leverage, as the Canadian government and as Canadians, on working with the reality we have, ensuring that if there is a buy American policy that Canada is exempted from it.
    I do not know if the member saw a very good article in today's National Post by Erin Weir, who is the chief economist for the United Steelworkers union that represents both American and Canadian steelworkers, but I think it makes very strong arguments about the North American market and how it is complementary. We should be working to achieve job enhancement in sectors such as steel and automotive.
    The other point I would make is that when one has a major stimulus package, one would hope that the emphasis of it is to protect and enhance jobs in our local communities. Yet, we saw nothing of this in the Canadian budget. We saw billions of dollars of expenditure, which the government says it is going to put forward in terms of infrastructure, but there is nothing to emphasize or tell us that those funds will actually be used within Canada to produce Canadian jobs that will benefit people. I ask the member to comment on that.
    Mr. Speaker, I am thankful to see that NDP members have reversed their position of continually calling for additional protectionist measures. It is nice to see that they have recognized that we do have an integrated market with the United States. We are going to continue to ensure that the steel and iron that is produced in Canada can be exported to the United States and used for their infrastructure projects.
    However, the hon. member talked about the investments in our own communities. One of the things that is clearly identified in the budget, that the minister brought forward, is this renovation tax credit. This is something that many of us had been asking for on this side of the House because we recognize that if we were renovating and helping people invest in their own homes, they would be hiring people and using resources within their local communities.
    I have spoken to my lumber mills with regards to this, and they are very encouraged by it because they know it is going to ensure that more of the product they produce in our own communities will be used in our communities. They are very encouraged by this. These are several of the measures. We are going to see many of the dollars that are spent through this economic stimulus plan we are putting forward spent in and supporting our own communities.

  (1130)  

    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for his excellent speech given in this House. We are both from Alberta and we both know the value that our province and country places on having international trading markets.
    I feel it is a little rich for the member for Kings—Hants to get up and start criticizing all of the great things we have actually done, given the fact that his party, under former leader Jean Chrétien, had a notorious staff member bashing America and a former colleague, Carolyn Parrish, who would step on effigies of former U.S. presidents. To hear Liberals actually criticizing us for our relationship with the United States is a little rich.
    I would like to ask my hon. colleague, considering the value we place on these trading arrangements, what has our province done insofar as having a representative in Washington to represent the interests of not only Canadians but Albertans?
    Mr. Speaker, the hon. colleague of mine for Wetaskiwin does draw my attention to the fact that we as the province of Alberta do have a trade secretary in Washington making ongoing efforts in terms of building that relationship.
    I heard some heckling from the other side with regards to the change in the administration. We recognize there has been a change, but we will not put Canadian trade at risk based on who is in the White House. We will not shut it down for four years and then try to re-establish it because of the damage that was done by the previous Liberal government in terms of our relationship with the past administration. It is something we are still working to clean up today under this new president.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, as hon. members are aware, Canada was born out of an attempt to create a permanent trade link between the eastern and western parts of this country. That is why a railway was built from east to west in the early days of Confederation. From that time on, Quebec felt the need—and has always felt the need—to strengthen its trade relationship with the United States in order to offset trade that would remove some if its political and economic power within Canada.
    That is why Quebec was the first province to defend its own interests in expanding its trade relationship with the United States within the free trade agreement. Bernard Landry, who was no longer a member of the Parti Québécois at the time, toured Quebec I do not know how many times to make that happen. That is why the sovereignist forces in Quebec decided to support Brian Mulroney when he ran for office. He not only proposed to bring Quebec back into Confederation with honour and dignity, but he also offered a free trade contract with the Americans.
    We are the ones who suggested a stronger trade relationship. But as soon as the Liberals took power, they decided to tear up that contract. That is what Mr. Chrétien promised at the time. I would like to know what my colleague thinks about that.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I agree. The member has identified the damage that the Liberals have done in terms of our relationship over the last number of years. That damage continued through successive prime ministers up until our Prime Minister was elected. We have seen an improvement in the relationship with our biggest and largest trading partner to the south. We will continue to work to develop that friendship and also the trading relationship.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this issue today in light of the circumstances affecting international trade and the United States of America's attempts at protectionism.
    Let us reread the motion together.
     That, in view of the growing protectionism in the United States, which is reminiscent of the counterproductive behaviour that led to the great depression of the 1930s, this House calls upon the Government to intervene forthwith and persistently, with the United States Administration, and the Congress, in order to protect Canadian jobs, and urge the United States to respect its international agreements including the Canada-United States Trade Agreement (CUSTA), the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
    The notice of motion was submitted at least a day ago, before the Senate announced that it would not take such a hard line when it comes to international agreements.
    We might be tempted to believe that the situation is resolved and that this is the end of the story. However, it would be very dangerous to let the American government get started with protectionist measures. This will do nothing to stop the United States from taking what I would call their protectionist measures even further. Measures viewed as admissible under the WTO or even NAFTA could enable them to keep implementing protectionist measures. In fact, some articles could legitimize the United States' actions and enable that country to defend itself and possibly even win in court. So we have to be very vigilant and not let them put one over on us.
    In principle, when governments make purchases, companies from countries that have signed these agreements—like Canada and Quebec—have the right to submit bids. But that is just in principle. The two agreements include a number of exceptions, exceptions that say, among other things, that when it comes to contracts, governments can do whatever they want.
    Take, for example, a contract to build a government building. Contracts valued below a certain amount are excluded. If I remember correctly, that amount is $5 million under the AGP and $5 million in constant dollars under NAFTA. That being said, all transport department contracts for roads, bridges and so on are excluded. If I am not mistaken, this is not about construction contracts per se, but about the purchase of the structural steel and rebar used in construction. That part is much less clear.
     Construction contracts are a service, whereas structural steel and rebar are goods. It is likely that Canada will contest the American measure claiming that it concerns the purchase of a good, which is covered by the agreements involving Canadian businesses. The United States will say in its defence that the purchases are part of a construction contract, not covered by the agreements. At first glance, the Americans appear likely to win their case, as I was saying. Unless I am mistaken, most purchases will not be made directly by the federal government. The buyer will be either a state or a municipality or a construction company. In all of these cases, the buyer is not covered by the agreements. So the issue is not with the awarding of contracts, but with the awarding of a subsidy, which is not covered.

  (1135)  

     Will the subsidy be considered an indirect purchase by the arbitration tribunals, so that it would be considered illegitimate subterfuge aimed solely at enabling the United States to circumvent its commitments? It is hard to say. We are not familiar with jurisprudence that would enable us to guess how the international arbitration tribunals might decide. I am assuming that the two cases may be argued, although I am not a lawyer, and even though it seems to me that Canada's case could be very weak under the circumstances and in light of the limited pressure exerted by the Conservative government.
     As the matter is very complex, we will likely get bogged down in a long, drawn out dispute. As a decision in this matter is likely to be made long after any contracts have been awarded, the legal avenue is of no interest. The matter must be resolved politically, and a request that the Prime Minister raise the matter when he meets Mr. Obama seems perfectly legitimate.
     American protectionism and legislation, such as the 1930 Smoot-Hawley Act, together with the increased cost of transportation, reduced the flow of trade and protracted the 1929 crisis. Some provisions of the Buy American Act of 1933 continue to apply in the United States, in the case of government procurement, for example.
    American protectionism in the steel industry was counterproductive. A study by the Institute for International Economics found that the Bush government's protectionist measures for the steel industry in 2000 were counterproductive. I have a text here that says:
    In 2000, President George W. Bush implemented protectionist measures for steel imports in response to pleas from the unproductive big businesses in that sector. The effects seem to have been negative in the end because the measures saved 3,500 jobs but destroyed between 12,000 and 43,000 in steel-using businesses.
    These situations could be catastrophic for the United States—although not in the short term—and difficult for Canada and Quebec. In the long term, protectionist measures could spread around the world. The first response from other countries is significant: when one country imposes protectionist measures, other countries follow suit.
    Obama's stimulus plan proposes extending measures for American steel. This action would threaten Quebec's steel industry, which exports 40% of its production. In Quebec alone, 2,000 jobs would be on the line. The less stringent plan proposed by the Senate, which would add respect for international agreements to the controversial section, does not make this clause any less dangerous. Even though the clause is clearly protectionist and goes against the spirit of international agreements, it does not necessarily violate those agreements.
    Purchases made by American federal authorities are subject to NAFTA, but in the United States, almost all of the large contracts in the transportation sector are administered by state or municipal authorities or by private business, all of which are excluded from the NAFTA chapter on government procurement. This chapter deals with federal funding, and so those projects can be excluded, despite the fact that it is a type of subsidy in disguise.
    There is a huge risk. We are not in the time of barter anymore. Simple as things were, even back then people tried to pass off worthless items as being valuable. And so, when Europeans arrived in the new world, the aboriginals of the time were exploited and that has not stopped. Eventually, the financial market and high finance appeared and paper was created.

  (1140)  

     This is the system that has put the whole world in a difficult situation and deepened the current economic crisis.
     Quebec is a trading nation. It has always supported the North American Free Trade Agreement. The United States is Quebec’s largest trading partner, and in these recessionary times, Quebec cannot stand to lose its access to the market of its most important trading partner. The Bloc would rather see a diplomatic solution than recourse to the courts as a way of resolving the dispute between Canada and the United States over protectionism. Although there is often a protectionist reflex in times of economic downturn, it is essential to keep markets open in order to encourage trade and economic recovery.
     The Government of Canada has a solemn duty to put pressure on the United States and ensure that Quebec businesses can export to its markets. Although President Obama has apparently backed down on the Buy American Act, the government must keep up the pressure to persuade the United States to allow Quebec and Canadian companies to access the U.S. market.
     Apart from these trade issues, the Conservative government has proved negligent in its management of the economic crisis. We will obviously be in favour of the Liberal motion.
     As I was saying, Quebec is a trading nation. Our companies, and especially our cutting-edge companies, could not survive on just the domestic market. International exports account for one-third of Quebec’s GDP. If interprovincial trade is added, exports represented 52% of Quebec’s GDP in 2005. Protectionism is not in our interests, and that is why Quebec, and most of all Quebec sovereignists, massively supported the Free Trade Agreement with the United States and then NAFTA. The trade environment has worsened considerably over the last few years. Between 2003 and 2007, Quebec went from a large trade surplus to a $13 billion deficit. In 2007, every Quebecker therefore consumed $2,000 more than he or she produced. And that is not to mention our international trade balance, to which must be added another $5 billion deficit in interprovincial trade.
     We obviously became a lot poorer last year. The steep rise in the Canadian dollar, fuelled by Alberta’s oil exports, reduced the competitiveness of Quebec businesses on the U.S. market, while at the same time a number of emerging countries were taking over world markets. Given the changes in the trade environment, our priorities will have to change as well. Our manufacturing industry was badly hurt by the worsening trade environment because it is more dependent on exports and more exposed to international competition than services are. The Bloc Québécois has long made access to international markets its most important trade priority. The changes that have occurred in the trade environment, especially the rise of China, have revealed cracks in the system. The major international agreements negotiated under the aegis of the WTO are not intended solely to liberalize trade but also to establish a certain number of rules and conditions that must be complied with in order to access world markets. This aspect of the agreements has been neglected over the last few years.
     In order for us all to benefit from trade, we must do more than just liberalize it. We must also civilize it in order to have healthy international competition and clean up the terms of trade. If countries want to access foreign markets, they should have to abide by certain rules.

  (1145)  

    Take social dumping, for example:
     Social dumping is a serious problem. Trading in a product manufactured in violation of major international agreements on labour, the environment or human rights is a form of unfair competition. It puts enormous pressure on our industry, gives offenders an advantage over countries that honour their international commitments and promotes the exploitation of foreign workers and environmental degradation. This development model is unsustainable in the long term.
    The Bloc Québécois has outlined a series of international trade measures, including specific measures to restore balance and healthy competition to trade.
    These measures include:
modernizing our trade laws to better protect our companies against foreign dumping;
no longer rejecting the findings of the Canadian International Trade Tribunal when it recommends implementing safeguards;
allowing workers to submit complaints themselves about subsidies and dumping to the Canadian International Trade Tribunal;
making the fight against social dumping Canada's top priority in negotiations at the WTO;
putting the emphasis back on multilateral negotiations at the WTO, because only then will it be possible to adopt rules to civilize international trade;
combatting social dumping by ratifying the following fundamental conventions of the International Labour Organization: the forced labour convention, the convention on the right to organize and collective bargaining, and the convention on the minimum age for admission to employment.
    As I said earlier, the protectionist measures the United States is considering are in keeping with its Buy American Act, a vestige of the protectionist measures implemented in the wake of the great depression of 1930. Under that act, road construction, infrastructure construction, transit and airport projects that receive government funding are required to use American products. As a result, federal funding for road construction will be granted only if American steel and iron are used.
    The U.S. government is getting around NAFTA by funding work carried out by the states, which does not come under NAFTA. President Obama's plan contains a provision that would extend the Buy American clause to all sorts of projects, with the result that all projects funded by the recovery plan would have to use American iron and steel. At a time of economic crisis, such a measure would threaten 2,000 jobs in Quebec.
    President Obama announced that he was prepared to water down the clause. Early information suggests that the clause will be amended to indicate that protectionist measures must not contravene international agreements. Toning down the American bill will not solve problems affecting the steel industry in Canada and Quebec, but it will be much less damaging to Quebec industry than the Senate's initial bill, which wanted the Buy American clause to apply to all purchased goods.
    We are at an important turning point in what I would call the fight against the global economic situation.
    For some time now, our government has also had the means, not to circumvent the spirit of free trade, but to bring forward solutions to protect certain industries in Canada and Quebec. The government has failed to do so.
    Now the U.S. government is preparing to introduce measures that will significantly restrict free trade with Canada, its closest trading partner, and, for all practical purposes and all things being equal, its primary trading partner, given Canada's size.

  (1150)  

    Protectionist measures imposed by the world's largest economic power, which is nearly on the brink of bankruptcy, would have a negative impact on the entire global economy and every person on this planet.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I was pleased to hear that the member has not bought into the NDP ideology of building economic silos throughout Canada to try to put up trade barriers in response to some of the protectionist threats coming from the United States.
    As the member knows, ours is the first government in many years to aggressively seek out new trading relationships around the world. We have entered into free trade agreements with Peru, Colombia and the European Free Trade Association. We are seeking new free trade agreements with places such as South Korea and with the European Union.
    Given that we still have this protectionist sentiment in the United States, does the member feel that it is advisable for Canada to remain aggressive in seeking out new trading relationships around the world?

  (1155)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the Conservative member for his question.
    He has referred to the free trade agreements, particularly those with Colombia and the European Free Trade Association. The hon. member has, moreover, no doubt heard my references to more humane globalization and more humane criteria, such as the protection of human rights, of jobs, of labour unions or of the environment. That is not what is happening in Colombia. President Obama has, moreover, indicated that he would not sign a free trade agreement with Colombia. For the Conservative government, however, it is a matter of a mad rush to see who can sign the most bilateral free trade agreements. As I said in my speech, what we favour is multilateral agreements. All countries need to be on the same track and defending the same causes.
    As for the agreement with the European Free Trade Association, which has been discussed this week and will be discussed further in committee, I must emphasize that we support it. However, we have mentioned two important points: supply management and a shipbuilding industry policy. Even though a free trade agreement is favourable to Quebec generally speaking, these two elements remain irritants and the government needs to give some thought to dealing with them.
    In the current context, I repeat, there are some 200 countries on this planet all trying to sign bilateral free trade agreements with other countries. Everyone will have free trade agreements. Often, when entering into such an agreement, to get certain things, one must give something as well. Bilateral agreements now contain a little clause indicating that, if ever the country with which one is signing an agreement signs a more advantageous one with another country, ours will have to be adjusted as well.
    It can be seen, therefore, that efforts are being made, not always bad ones, but overall we do of course support the multilateral approach. We want to be sure the WTO works properly. If there is some reluctance as far as the WTO is concerned at present, it is because there is one matter that must be excluded from it. Culture has been excluded, and the food supply must be also, in order to protect food sovereignty and safety in these programs.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member very much for his comments. Does he think that the Conservative government was wrong to work only with the American Republicans? Does he think it would be very important to start working right now with both American parties and to diversify our personal relations, especially in matters of trade?
     Does he also think the Conservative government is acting consistently by pursuing trade relations with Colombia and ignoring human rights, while destroying our relationship with China because of human rights issues there?

  (1200)  

    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. We have said it before and will say it again—the economic situation is an emergency in itself. Specific measures must be taken to resolve the problem or mitigate it in the short term in order to resolve it in more global terms in the coming years.
     The Conservative government is not implementing the right policies to respond to an emergency and revive Canada's economy tomorrow. It is not responding to it at all, and neither is its budget. Right now, times are tough—if I can put it that way—and the American government is telling us it wants to add a protectionist flavour to our relations and even to its international relations. As I said earlier, this is not going to be resolved before the tribunals, but, rather, diplomatically, through discussions with the full Senate and House. They must talk in order to make the United States understand the potential repercussions of their implementing a protectionist measure that will spread like a disease around the world, as everyone tries to protect their own assets. It is legitimate and human nature in such circumstances and conditions to want to protect oneself and one's interests. However, somewhere along the way, it creates disasters of far greater proportions.
     In terms of human rights, it is clear. Obama has said he would not sign an agreement with Colombia. The Conservative government persists in its efforts to sign an agreement with Colombia. It has been signed, but not ratified, because there is a vigilant committee. The representative of the Liberal Party will be on hand to explain fully what needs protecting in the context of a vision for the planet as a whole, that is, respect for the rights of individuals, unions and the environment.
     As for China, it must unfortunately also be called to order in the context of developing international trade. I believe the international community is increasingly sensitive to these issues and must, in the near future, incorporate them into international policies on trade.
    Madam Speaker, I listened with great interest to the speech given by my hon. colleague from Sherbrooke. It left me somewhat confused, since a choice must be made between fair trade—advocated by the NDP—and this theory of free trade adopted by the Conservative and Liberal coalition. It works very well in school textbooks, but not so well in practice.
    I do not understand the Bloc's position. Is it more in favour of fair trade, in other words, against agreements that cost jobs, like the European Free Trade Association agreement, which is going to destroy our shipbuilding industry? Is it against that sort of agreement, like the softwood lumber agreement? Unfortunately, the Bloc supported it, even though it caused the loss of thousands of jobs in Quebec. Does it advocate free trade in areas where the government has no role?
    What is the Bloc Québécois' position?
    The hon. member for Sherbrooke has 35 seconds to respond to the question.
    Madam Speaker, this feels like Groundhog Day. My hon. colleague has raised this question many times. I fully respect the member, but he must be fair and honest. He knows very well that the Bloc Québécois supports economic development, but not to the detriment of people's rights, the rights of unions, or the environment. He knows that. Ideally, our aim and what we work for is ensuring—

  (1205)  

    Resuming debate. The hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, this is a rather fundamental debate that we are having today. Unfortunately the motion does not address the issues that we as Canadian parliamentarians must address; what it does is put in very stark relief the two ends of this House of Commons.
    Sitting at one end of the House and crossing over the aisle sits the Liberal-Conservative coalition, which is essentially a group of flamboyant and radical free traders. These members read in a textbook that free trade is good, so they do not make any sort of intervention, attempt any sort of managed trade, or implement any policies that would lead to job development or industrial strategies in this country. That is what we have seen over the last 20 years.
    Many Canadians know that this approach has led to the collapse of our manufacturing industry, to the collapse of many of our strategic industries and, as I will point out later on, to an actual fall in real income for most Canadians.
    One would think these radical free traders would look to see if the economic theories that they have learned in a textbook actually work, but no, there is no evaluation. There is no real, consistent understanding of the impact these policies have had, and that is unfortunate.
    The Prime Minister never actually ran a business and never met a payroll. He learned his economics from textbooks, and it shows. The Conservative government has been appallingly shortsighted in putting in place industrial strategies for the automobile sector, for the steel sector, for our shipbuilding sector, for our softwood lumber sector, and for a whole range of vital and strategic industries. We have seen the loss of real jobs, and that is due in part to the fact that we have not had a trade strategy that makes any sense.
    At the other end of the House, stretching across both aisles now as a result of the new members we earned in the last election, sits the New Democratic Party. We are strong fair traders. We believe that trade needs to generate additional jobs. We also believe that the people in the country have a role to play in ensuring that industrial strategies are put into place for the preservation and enhancement of our automobile sector, our steel industry, our softwood lumber industry, and our shipbuilding industry.
    We in the New Democratic Party believe that government, working with the public sector and the private sector in mixed economic development, has a role to ensure there is a rise in real income for most Canadians.
    Perhaps nothing throws the difference between fair traders and radical free traders into more relief than the motion we see before us today.

[Translation]

    I would like to discuss certain aspects of the NDP approach to fair trade before continuing with my speech on specific considerations.
    The NDP believes in fair trade that promotes human rights such as women's and union's rights. We believe that international free trade must be adjusted to increase the capacity of individuals to negotiate collective agreements, tackle gender equality issues and reinforce human rights, not diminish them. In the case of the Canada-Colombia agreement, this government's approach—and that of the previous government—has diminished human rights rather than advancing them.
    We also believe in respect for institutions that promote fair trade, such as the Canadian Wheat Board, as well as supply management. Our farmers and communities across Canada depend on these institutions to keep the local economy going. In our opinion, these fair trade organizations must be protected; however, the other parties, the Liberal and Conservative parties, do not believe in them.
    We also believe in agreements that respect the environment by relying on sustainable development. That is the main difference between the Conservative-Liberal coalition and the New Democratic Party. Free trade agreements have been used to contravene environmental regulations. Many companies have found ways to get around all the environmental regulations that most Canadians want.
    We believe that our fair trade agreements must serve to strengthen a policy and an approach based on sustainable development and respect for the environment. We also believe in fair agreements that respect economic diversity and also, for example, the existence of a third sector. We often speak of a public and private sector. However, there is also a cooperative sector, where communities can put together their economic resources in order to develop. I could give you many examples where the cooperative sector has strengthened local or regional economies.
    Thus, fair trade must be used to strengthen this economic diversity. In a sense, we believe in economic diversity. The Conservatives and the Liberals, who are working together, have similar views on trade and believe in only one approach: the private sector and big business. The right regulations can stimulate the economy. Otherwise we end up with a monoculture. By putting all our eggs in one basket we are not strengthening community ties and local economies.

  (1210)  

[English]

    We have here the issue of this particular motion. There is that difference between Liberals and Conservatives, who are perfectly happy selling out Canadian jobs, and the NDP that believes firmly in reinforcing our economy, reinforcing our vital industries like the automotive sector, the softwood lumber sector, shipbuilding and I can go on and on, but there is a very clear difference in our approaches.
    We have this motion today that has three elements and I would like to touch on each one of them. Unfortunately, some of them are factually wrong. It is too bad, but it is a fairly innocuous motion. We will have to decide in the next few days how we take all this together. The first element states:
    That, in view of the growing protectionism in the United States, which is reminiscent of the counterproductive behaviour that led to the great depression of the 1930s,--
    In this sense the Liberal motion changes history unfortunately. I think it is referring to Smoot-Hawley back in the early 1930s. The Liberals are radical free traders. These theoretical folks just love to look at their textbooks and say, “This theory will have to work”, without ever checking on the consequences of their actions. They say that Smoot-Hawley was the cause of the Great Depression. That is simply not true. Smoot-Hawley came as a result of the Great Depression, which had already started. Essentially, the Great Depression, in part, came from a lack of regulation. Does that sound familiar? Of course it does.
    I would like to cite one of our international colleagues, the Australian Labor Party, which is part of the same international entity that the NDP is part of, and the new Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, who said, “The time has come, off the back of the current crisis, to proclaim that the great neo-liberal experiment of the past 30 years has failed, that the emperor has no clothes”.
    Prime Minister Rudd is referring to the fact that a lack of regulation, again, has put us back in the same kind of economic circumstances that we saw in the 1930s. Smoot-Hawley was not the cause. Smoot-Hawley was a right wing Republican attempt to deal with the crisis that began with no regulations, no protections in place for the public across North America.
    Curiously, this particular motion does not refer to what the antidote was for the Great Depression, which was not only a series of regulations to protect the public but, what the NDP has always been calling for, the great economic stimulus that came out of the New Deal. That was missing from the Republican approach. There was no economic stimulus. There was no investment. What Franklin Delano Roosevelt did with the New Deal was provide that economic stimulus that the NDP has been pushing now for months, convinced our Liberal partners to come on the majority coalition, and then they sold us out and went with the Conservatives.
    In any event, we will see if the Conservatives can be trusted to bring in that economic stimulus in a fair and effective way. Many of us do not believe that they can be trusted. Certainly, they have broken their word before. However, the point I am making is that it was economic stimulus in the New Deal that actually started to push the United States out of the Great Depression.
    Therefore, the first clause of the motion is factually wrong. It is, I guess, in keeping with the proud Liberal tradition, but aside from that factual error perhaps pretty innocuous.
    Second, it states:
--this House calls upon the Government to intervene forthwith and persistently, with the United States Administration, and the Congress, in order to protect Canadian jobs,--
    That is something certainly that we could support. That is something that we have been pushing for. However, let me preface my remarks in this regard with what is actually happening in the United States and in Canada.
    Since NAFTA was implemented in 1989, and we have the figures right here, there has been a hollowing out of Canada. Essentially, for most Canadians they have lost in real income. We have seen a loss of real income that is the equivalent for the lowest 20% of the Canadian population of about a month and a half of income. In real terms, they have lost a month and a half of income since NAFTA was implemented. For the lower middle class they have lost about two weeks of income.
    Each and every Canadian family in that income class, and we are talking about more than six million Canadians in those families, has lost about two weeks of income in real terms. The middle class has lost about a week of income in real terms for each and every year since NAFTA was implemented.

  (1215)  

    This is not solely a result of NAFTA. It is also because of the foolish economic policies or lack of economic policies that were put in by the Liberals. Like the Conservatives, they do not seem to change much as they bounce across the floor, but fundamentally we can say that the bottom line is that they have failed over the past 20 years. When most Canadian families are earning less in real terms than they were 20 years ago, one would think that one member of the Conservative-Liberal Party would say, “Well gee, maybe we should change our economic approach”.
     What the NDP is saying, with a growing number of Canadians, is that since Liberals and Conservatives are not changing their economic approaches, we are looking to change the government. That is why we are seeing more and more New Democrats in this House of Commons as we go through each election. We understand that this is not sustainable. Telling the middle class to accept less every year and telling the poorest Canadians to accept much less every year is simply not a sustainable economic policy.
    I will just conclude my remarks on the Canadian income categories by saying that the wealthiest 20%, which is what these economic policies have been intended to do, not a flood upwards, the wealthiest 20% now take most Canadian income. The Canadian income pie is less and less equal, more and more skewed to corporate lawyers and to corporate CEOs. That is why the NDP is saying that we need a much more balanced approach, a much more mature approach, in keeping with what we are seeing around the world.
    We are saying in this motion that we want to intervene with the United States administration. The important thing to note is that when we are talking to President Obama and talking to Americans, we have to understand that they are going through exactly the same thing. Two right wing, radical free traders, Kenneth Sheve and Matthew Slaughter, who has the oxymoronic title of being a former economic policy adviser to George Bush, said in a recent issue of Foreign Affairs:
    [Income] inequality in the United States is greater today than at any time since the 1920s. Less than four percent of workers were in educational groups that enjoyed increases in mean real money earnings from 2000 to 2005; mean real money earnings rose for workers with doctorates and professional graduate degrees--
    --corporate lawyers and CEOs--
--and fell for all others.
    That is nearly 97% of Americans who saw their real income go down.
    These explanations around the issue of so-called protectionism miss a basic point. U.S. policy is becoming more protectionist because the American public is becoming more protectionist, and this shift in attitude is a result of stagnant and falling incomes.
    It is no secret why President Obama was elected on a platform of renegotiating NAFTA, rebuilding it on a fair trade model. It is no secret why we have seen this in the House of Representatives. I was on the phone yesterday talking to friends of mine in the U.S. Congress. They are talking about these issues. The senate rejected senator McCain's ridiculous amendment, certainly not an amendment that was in keeping with the way most American senators felt. It was rejected 65 to 31. It is because Americans are increasingly concerned about the same income fall that we have seen.
    If we are intervening with the United States administration, we have to start on that basis. We have to start on the basis that these free trade agreements and all the economic right wing policies that have gone with them have not been good for American workers and they have not been good for Canadian workers. That is the fundamental problem. I would hope that at least one of our colleagues from the Conservative or Liberal Party would actually start to look at the real facts, the bottom line, not the textbook theory.
    We all know the textbook theory. I can spout the textbook theory as well as anyone in this House, but the real, practical results are a fall in real income for Canadians, a fall in real income for Americans, and that is why we are having to deal with these issues, where more and more workers are saying, “We have to protect jobs here at home”.
    How do we communicate with the United States administration and Congress? We can do it on a win-win basis.

  (1220)  

    I will cite the most recent figures available. November 2008, for Canadian trade with U.S. from iron and steel mills, targeted, as we know, in the house of representatives bill and targeted, as well, in the senate bill, they will go into conference but one can assume that iron and steel will get through that conference and we will have to contend with this and deal with the administration, the American senate and congress, in a meaningful way.
    In November 2008, we exported $349 million worth of iron and steel to the U.S. and imported $401 million from the United States. In other words, the U.S. has a trade deficit with us in iron and steel. That essentially means that we buy more iron and steel from it than it buys from us. In November 2008, that is, essentially, what those figures mean. What that means is that we have an opportunity for a win-win. We have an opportunity to go to American senators and members of congress and say that we would like to exempt them from a “buy Canada” clause so we can use American iron and steel and we would like them to do the same with the “buy America” clause.
    There is just one tiny wrinkle in that. Over the last 20 years of Liberal inaction and Conservative inaction, and their lack of industrial strategies, neither government chose at any time to put in place a “buy Canada” clause. That is something the NDP has been pushing for, which is why there are more New Democrats in this House as we go through each election and why we overflow from one side to the other side of this House. Canadians want to know why the Liberals did not bring this in and why the Conservatives are not bringing in a 'buy Canada' clause. They will simply say that it must be illegal or that it is not in keeping with their textbook theory. However, the reality is that this would provide us with the leverage we need to sit down with the American administration and have a win-win negotiation by exempting our iron and steel in the same way that we would exempt theirs.
    I come to the third part of the motion which states, “urge the United States to respect its international agreements”. I will cite a couple of articles, first, by the Canadian director of the United Steelworkers, Ken Neumann, and second, by the United Steelworkers president, Leo Gerard, a very proud Canadian.
    Ken Neumann stated:
    The US has had laws requiring the use of domestically-produced goods for government contracts since the 1933 Buy American Act. These laws are consistent with international trade obligations.
     Linda Diebel said the same thing in the Toronto Star.
     Buy Canada is legal and buy America is legal for provincial and municipal entities as it is for state and municipal entities. Instead, we are sending millions of taxpayer dollars to buy overseas what we could be building here at home. Many people have cited the Navistar plant, where we are spending $274 million for military contracts in Texas when we, as taxpayers, provided $65 million to the Navistar plant in Chatham, Ontario.
    This approach does not make sense, a purely theoretical approach that we will not have buy Canada because it would interfere with our theoretical approach on free trade. It is legal. It would create more jobs in Canada and that is why the NDP is pressing the government and its Liberal colleagues to put in place a buy Canada policy and save Canadian jobs.

  (1225)  

    Madam Speaker, we just heard from the hon. member that President Obama is wrong to recognize the protectionist risk of “buy America” provisions in the stimulus bill and that Senator McCain was wrong to try to remove the “buy America” protectionist clause from the bill. We also heard from the NDP that we would be better off bringing in similar measures in Canada and that we should be supporting the American buy America program, which does discriminate against Canadian-made goods, but we should also do our own and work together to more deeply integrate the Canada-U.S. economies, which is interesting coming from the NDP.
    Beyond that, does the member not recognize the risk around the world of countries retaliating against Canada and the U.S. if we both were to engage in that kind of globophobic, socialist, Luddite protectionist measure that every other social democratic party in the world, except Canada's New Democratic Party, has rejected? Does he not realize that instead of it being a U.S. Smoot-Hawley, this would be a Canada-U.S. Smoot-Hawley that would provoke exactly the same kind of economic devastation and economic downturn globally, particularly deleterious to the Canadian and, then, the U.S. economies?
    Madam Speaker, is that all he has, the same kind of Conservative theoretical rhetoric? I expected to have a real debate and all he has is that it will be an utter calamity if Canada does what is legal under trade agreements.
    I am sorry to have to announce this for the member but he should have been following this. The Senate just adopted the language on iron and steel provisions, the buy American act, and reiterated that it is essentially within trade agreements. The member should know this. My goodness, he is the trade critic for the Liberal Party and he should know this stuff. This is pretty fundamental. Conservatives should know this too but they are trade illiterates. They simply do not understand.
    The buy Malaysian, the buy Korean and the buy European clauses are all legal clauses and yet they do not bring them in. Is it because they are illiterate, uninformed or just do not understand trade? Is it because they are asleep? I have no idea, but time after time we are told it is legal, and time after time Liberals and Conservatives say no, that if we do that the whole world will explode. No, it will not but more Canadians will have jobs, more Canadians will be able to contribute to their local economy and more Canadians will be off employment insurance or welfare and be able to contribute to Canada the way they want to.
    If the Conservatives and Liberals understood fair trade and understood that buy Canada is legal, more Canadians would be prosperous. It is a shame they do not understand.
    Madam Speaker, it is interesting to hear the rant from the hon. member.
    Speaking of understanding, I understand from his speech that he quoted that middle income Canadians have lost 10% of real income “for each and every year” since NAFTA was implemented. As near as I can tell, that would result in a 100% negative real income for middle income Canadians. I would like to understand. He did not document where he got those numbers and I would like to hear where he got the numbers.
    Second, it is curious that the hon. member is promoting a buy Canada solution to everything. By extension, I would imagine that he would be even more in favour of a buy B.C. provision or perhaps a buy Burnaby provision in terms of trade. Maybe he would like to go back to the days when families made their own clothes, grew their own food and built their own homes. Perhaps that would be the solution to the problems we are facing right now.

  (1230)  

    Madam Speaker, I will deal with the serious question first and then the silly question afterward.
    The numbers are from the Library of Parliament's StatsCan report from 1989-2005. I will use the figures another way. What I was saying was that if one loses a week's income, it has a cumulative effect. If one loses a week over 20 years, less one week for each of those 20 years, one loses more income cumulatively. I was trying to explain it in a very simple way so that Conservatives and Liberals could understand.
    Another way of explaining it is that, in real terms, the loss of real income growth for the lowest quintile has been 14%, for the second quintile it has been 12% and for the third quintile it has been 6%. That is an average loss for all 6 million Canadians within that income category. That is horrendous.
    As for the sillier question, I will say one more time for the Liberals and Conservatives in this House that buy Canada provisions are legal. Virtually every other industrialized country in the world has them, including the United States which will be investing an economic stimulus through a completely legal process. The question that I have to put back to every Liberal and Conservative in this House is: Why are they refusing to protect Canadian jobs with a strategy that is legal under NAFTA and the WTO?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I personally loved the speech just given by my hon. colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster. I thought most of his ideas were incredibly intelligent, particularly, the fact that the depression in the 1930s was due to a lack of government regulation of economic levers and that today's crisis is due to exactly the same thing. I also agree that the buy Canada act is legal and that it has never been implemented by either the Liberals or the Conservatives, but it should have been. I completely agree with him on that matter.
    However, these are topics for another discussion, not today's, when we must respond to Mr. Obama, who is coming to tell us about his plan. We will meet him very soon.
    I would remind my colleague of the various aspects of Mr. Obama's plan— and the hon. member for Sherbrooke listed them earlier—that are subject to litigation. As we all know, when it comes to trade litigation, even when the United States thinks it is right, it accepts the litigation and drags it out for years, until the party suing them dies or is practically driven from the market.
    Mr. Parizeau used to say—and he repeated it a few times—that when a mouse sleeps with an elephant, the elephant must always know where the mouse is. That is important for the mouse.
    When the member's party leader meets with Mr. Obama, will he be able to tell him exactly where the mouse is here?
    The hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster has about a minute and a half.
    Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his question. I am trying to explain to the Liberals and Conservatives that Mr. Obama got a mandate from the American people not just to preserve U.S. jobs but to increase real incomes, which have fallen considerably over the last 20 years and especially over the last five. Even the most partisan admirers of George W. Bush will admit that.
     We should say, therefore, that we understand Americans’ concerns but have one of our own as well. Rather than expanding on far-fetched theories of unadulterated free trade that the Conservatives and Liberals like to talk about, we need to have very real, practical negotiations about iron and steel and propose a trade agreement that would be managed by both parties. In this way, both Canadians and Americans would benefit. It would help us save jobs and improve the efficiency of our iron and steel industry.

  (1235)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the chance to participate in the debate. I congratulate my colleague, the member for Kings—Hants, for introducing this motion. I have listened with great interest to the discussion and debate.
     I will have some comments to make about the speech of the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, but I want to indicate my strong support for a simple proposition, which I do not believe is because I am the captive of some strange ideology that has been ascribed to members of this party.
     My support for the resolution comes from an intensely practical sense. Right now we are facing a challenge as a country because our greatest and closest trading partner is introducing an $850 billion to $900 billion stimulus package, which has provisions attached to it that will discriminate against Canadian companies.
    For my friends in the New Democratic Party, if they are not prepared to defend that, then in my view they are not prepared to defend the interests of Canadian workers and Canadian business. They are missing the point and they are missing the boat. The New Democratic Party is the captive of an ideology.
    The British Labour Party, the French Socialist Party, the German Social Democratic Party, the Swedish Social Democratic Party, the Norwegian social democratic party, I say with great respect, is a movement of which I know something.
    The neo-isolationist view that is taken by the current federal New Democratic Party is removing it from every intelligent debate about trade, globalization, economic change and economic progress that has taken place over the last 30 years.
    In listening to the speech from the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, I must confess I was taken aback. If anything could be described as a lecture in some abstract political philosophy and political theory, it is the speech we just heard from him.
    We face a practical challenge as a country. Our greatest trading partner is about to engage in an act of protectionism. We have an obligation as Canadians and we have an obligation as members of Parliament to intervene forcefully on behalf of Canadian workers and Canadian businesses in the face of that protectionist spirit.
    The dilemma facing the United Steelworkers, an organization with which I am extremely familiar and with which I have had close ties over many years, of which I am extremely proud, is it has decided to take a position that says it can defend the interest of American workers, as it sees it, by excluding products from other countries and it can do it without side-swiping Canada. We will see whether that happens.
     I am not interested in advancing the interests of anyone other than the interests of Canadian workers, Canadian businesses and Canadian economic interests. If I think friends of mine who I have worked with over the years are making a mistake, I have no hesitation in saying they are making a mistake.
     I am certainly not here to argue their case. I am not here to say I am arguing their case as if it is in the general interests of the people of Canada because it is not. Workers in Sault Ste. Marie will be laid off as a result of this measure being introduced in the United States. Workers in Hamilton will be laid off as a result of this measure. Workers at IPSCO steel in Regina will be laid off as a result of this measure.
     The member for Burnaby—New Westminster can engage in all the political philosophy and all the pirouetting he wants, but he cannot ignore the fact that the position being taken today by the New Democratic Party of Canada is contrary to the interests of Canadian working people and of Canadian businesses.
    This notion that somehow what has happened to the Canadian economy and what has happened to the standard of living in North America is a product solely of the North American Free Trade Agreement is preposterous. Those members should open up their eyes, look beyond the horizon, see the transformation of India and China and see what the whole process of globalization has meant. Has it produced hardship for many Canadians? Yes, of course it has. Has it resulted in the loss of jobs in the country? Yes, of course it has. We cannot look at trade agreements alone and say that it is those trade agreements which are the cause of what has taken place in the country. It is a silly proposition.

  (1240)  

    I repeat this point. The social democratic parties in virtually every advanced industrial country have recognized that the best way to produce wealth is through markets. This is not the product of ideology; this is the product of experience.
    Do we need governments? Of course we need governments. Do we need governments to intervene? Of course we do. Governments make up somewhere between 30%,45% and 48% of the GDP of economies across the OECD countries. We can see where we have been in the mix, but we are all mixed economies. However, at the basis of that mixed economy has to be strong markets. Are markets getting bigger? Yes. Are they becoming coordinated? Yes. Are they coming together? Yes. Is the world globalizing? Yes. The sooner the New Democratic Party recognizes that fact, the better off it will be and, frankly, the better off the level of debate and discourse in the House will be.
    We have to come to terms with the fact that we are members of NAFTA. I fought NAFTA. I did not like NAFTA. Why? Because I believed at the time that the Conservative government was mistaken in thinking that somehow, if we signed that agreement, we would be able to avoid American protectionism.
    The argument that was made by the Conservative Party at the time, by the prime minister of the day, was that if we signed the agreement, we would somehow come under an umbrella and we would not be subject to the kind of side-swiping which we have seen.
    I spent 12 years working with the private sector and for much of that time, I was involved in the softwood lumber dispute. My family appreciated the fact that I was so involved, because it was a long and arduous negotiation and discussion.
     The American Congress is not deeply attached to the notion of free trade between Canada and the United States. It likes to say it is, but every time we have a competitive advantage, every time we have an advantage which gives us access to markets in the United States, which is greater than the Americans would like to see, it responds.
    The free trade agreement did not and has not protected us against that. It has not had the effect of protecting us against American protectionism. We have to simply accept that fact and say that there is a level of integration that has taken place under NAFTA, there are issues that we still have, but we have to deal with the world as we find it.
    I also find it interesting that the member for Burnaby—New Westminster says that any kind of buy Canada provision that we would want to put in would be legal. That would depend on what the provision was. I am not ideologically opposed to a sensible buy Canada provision if I think it will match what other countries are doing, it is something we have to do and it is in the framework of our legal structure and of our international obligations. However, we are members of WTO. We are a trading country. Our co-ops depend on trade. Our co-ops depend on access to international trade.
    One of the most ludicrous comments the member made was to suggest that somehow the members of the Liberal Party were opposed to the co-operative movement. Tell that to my friend, the former minister of agriculture, who has done more to build up co-ops, supply management, intervention and the third sector in Canada. We do not need to take any lessons from the New Democratic Party in how we build up the third sector in our country. The fact remains, it has to be done in conformity with the law. It has to be done in conformity with our international obligations and with the fact that we are part of a big world. That world is good for our prosperity, it is good for Canadians and, frankly, there is no other way than for us to be engaged in this world in a positive and constructive way.
    That is why, in my conversations with American congressmen and with American senators, I say time and again that it is not that we understand what they are doing and that they should go ahead and do it because it is good for them and somehow we will cope with it all. That is a ridiculous message for a Canadian politicians to be delivering to our friends in the United States. The message I have been delivering is that their concern has to be, not simply with the short-term prosperity that they think they are buying with this measure, with what this will do to the whole pattern of world trade and to the pattern of world investment.

  (1245)  

    We are in the middle of a very difficult financial crisis, not only in Canada, not only in the United States, but around the world.
    When the leaders of the G20 met, Social Democrats, Conservatives, Liberals, representing a variety of political parties and political traditions, what did they all agree on? One of the premises that they all agreed on was that we would not play beggar thy neighbour. We would not try to advance our own short-term interests at the expense of our neighbours. We would not try to bring in a measure that might look as if it were helping workers in Indiana, or Ohio, or Pennsylvania or Florida. In fact, it would not have that great beneficial effect, but it would have a hardening effect on the sense of understanding, on the sense of reciprocity and on expanding commerce and expanding trade. That has to be a critical feature of our coming out of this crisis into a greater world of prosperity.
    My colleague from Kings—Hants has spoken very effectively about what we need to do together as a Parliament to make this change happen. He has spoken very effectively about the need for us to intervene. He has spoken very effectively about the need for us to improve relationships. He has spoken very effectively about how some of the positions taken by the Conservatives in the past have not particularly helped with respect to our developing ties and understanding with members on both sides of the aisle in the United States. It will require us in Canada to up our game and to improve how we are engaged and how we relate to our friends in the United States.
    I particularly want to emphasize the importance of this resolution at this moment in our history and in the discussions that are going on in the United States. Let there be no doubt in the United States where Canada stands. Let there be no doubt of the sense in the House as to our common interests.

[Translation]

     I was very interested in what the hon. member for Sherbrooke had to say. He made some critical comments about how important trade is not only to Quebec but to all of Canada. This is not just a Quebec issue or an Ontario issue or a British Columbia issue. All Canadians are affected, and I would even say, the whole world.
     We have a shared interest as members of Parliament in insisting that the rising protectionism in the United States does not help really us achieve the joint prosperity we all want and does not help to create more open, prosperous markets. What we want is to build a world together that respects the creative power of markets.
     We adhere to the principles of social partnership and social justice and believe that the moment of decision has come for this House. Now is the time for us to say with one voice that this is in the interests of all Canadians, and frankly, in the interests of all our American friends as well.

[English]

    We have to appeal not only to our sense of fairness to our friends in the United States, not only to their sense of what their international obligations are under the law, but we also have to appeal to their common sense and common interest. It is not in the interests of the United States to adopt measures that would limit the trade, the commerce and the exchange which needs to exist between our two countries.
    As my friend from Kings—Hants has said, a full 40% of the trade that takes place between Canada and the United States takes place within companies. There is no such thing as a Canadian car or an American car. The parts from Ohio move to Ontario. Cars are being assembled in Ontario and the other parts from Ohio are being added. This is a fully integrated industry. It is true as well for steel. It is true on so many dimensions and at so many levels.
    If the Americans pass this measure, will we have to respond in some way? Of course we will. Should we sit back and say we are not going to take it? Of course we will have to respond effectively.
    Let no one think for a moment that we are creating these autarchic economic models in our head, where the picture of the economy in our heads seems to be one where some bright boffin in Ottawa will manage the trade between one country and another and say that one country will produce over here and the other will produce over there. The world does not work that way. It is not the way the world should work. It is not the way the world will work.
    The sooner we come to grips with these two things we will be better off: first, what is happening in the world economy and how we have to understand it more deeply and respond more effectively and collectively to what we are facing; and second, that the moment of decision is coming in the American Congress and it is our responsibility to respond effectively and aggressively to those protectionist steps being taken in the Congress.
    The sooner we come to grips with these two simple facts, not political philosophy, not some abstract economic ideology, of the way things are right now, the better off we will all be.

  (1250)  

    Madam Speaker, the member made a number of points in his speech, one of which involved his opposition to NAFTA, an opposition stemming from concerns about softwood lumber. Of course he would know that softwood lumber had a special exemption under NAFTA, which is why it needed a separate deal. He might want to check his notes on that point.
    I do agree with the member on a lot of the points he made, and they are are important. I will refer back to words in an old country song, “I was country when country wasn't cool”. This party was actually friends with the Americans when the Liberal Party thought being friends with the Americans was not cool, when someone like Carolyn Parrish was calling them idiots.
    I remember, for example, the member for Selkirk—Interlake going with the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound and putting forward the interests of Canadian beef farmers. I remember the member for Yellowhead and the member for Edmonton—Leduc meeting with speaker Nancy Pelosi when she became leader in the Democratic Senate and effectively putting forward our case, saying that we are here and we are partners.
    Americans do not always change the rules when it works for Canada. When Canada was building up manufacturing jobs and increasing our footprint in the auto industry, we were selling those cars to the United States. That was NAFTA working.
    I agree with the member. We need open trade. We need to make sure protectionist measures not only do not creep into the U.S. system, but also do not creep into any of the major G20 economies. That is why we signed on. Canada is a trading nation, and we benefit from that. I encourage the member and the Liberal Party to keep their current stance. It is the right one. The Liberals opposed free trade, but they are on the right side now. Let them keep it up.
    Madam Speaker, I am sure the hon. member was country before country was cool. I can certainly understand why he would say that, but I do not think there is any point in any one of us competing to say who is best friends with whom. We are friends with the American people because of our long-standing relationship. We are friends and neighbours, and that relationship is there. We have differences of opinion with them and we have differences of policy with them from time to time. I am talking about how we effectively have to advance Canadian interests, and advance them in an effective and sometimes quite aggressive fashion.
    There was no special exemption for softwood lumber. This is one of the great myths that has been perpetrated over the years. There has never been an exemption for softwood lumber. There never was. The issues on softwood lumber were an object lesson for me.
    When we have a competitive advantage in the United States, 50% of the U.S. Senate represents states with less than 20% of the population. In those areas of resources and agriculture, as we are now finding in steel and in manufactured products, we have a fight on our hands with respect to American protectionism, and it will only grow. The sooner the members of the Conservative Party, the New Democratic Party and the Bloc can all come to terms with what that means and with the need to take strong action, the better off we will be.

  (1255)  

    Madam Speaker, I listened with a great deal of interest to the member's speech. It is interesting to note that he seems to be completing his drive to the right, because the Conservatives loved his speech, so he may be moving to another party.
    There were a lot of factual inaccuracies. Among many other things is the fact that we did not actually say whether we were going to support or oppose this somewhat inaccurate but relatively innocuous motion. There are a number of other inaccuracies I will not go into, but he attacked a whole variety of things.
    He attacked managed trade, which I suppose means that he opposed the auto pact. He attacks buy Canada, so very clearly he agrees with his Conservative counterparts that we should not take any measures to protect the Canadian industry. He also attacked the steelworkers. He said that he disagrees with the steelworkers.
    Leo Gerard and Ken Neumann, two notable steelworker leaders, have said to the Americans and to Canadians that we need “...to discuss a coordinated approach for the North American industry to strengthen its ability to create and preserve these good jobs in both countries”.
    Why is the member attacking steelworkers when they are the ones who are affected and the ones who have said that the NDP approach on a coordinated strategy is right?
    Madam Speaker, first of all, I do not know whether he is supporting it or opposing it. It sounded to me as though he was opposing it. If now he is saying he is not, we will wait for them to fall off the fence one way or the other. We will just have to see what they do. I have no idea what they are going to do. It was not clear from his speech, obviously.
    Second, I never attacked buy Canada. What I said was that whatever we do has to be compatible with our international obligations. He asked if it was legal or illegal. I said if it is legal, we will do it, and if it is not legal, we will not do it. It is as simple as that. I did not attack anything.
    Finally, I never, ever, in my comments attacked the steelworkers. I did not do that. Anybody listening would know that I did not do that. He is the one who is attacking steelworker jobs in Algoma. He is the one who is attacking steelworker jobs in Hamilton. He is the one who is attacking steelworker jobs in Regina.
    He is the one who is refusing to recognize that we are at a moment when the American Congress is about to take steps that are going to be harmful to Canadian steelworkers, and we do not have time for the political theory that it would be nice if we could work out some new trade pact on steel. We are not going to be able to do that in five minutes, but Congress is going to be passing this measure in five minutes, and that is why I am opposing this measure.
     I plead with my partners in the New Democratic Party, my friends in the New Democratic Party, because they are still my friends. I will say to them very clearly that I hope they will stand up with their fellow parliamentarians. I hope they will stand up for Canadian workers and say no to American protectionism, because it is bad for America and it is certainly bad for Canada.
    Madam Speaker, I do not often find myself nodding along with the hon. member when he is speaking. Usually I find myself with a bit of a contrasting opinion. In this case I do agree with most of what the hon. member said.
    I noted that he spent a good deal of his time strongly criticizing the NDP position and particularly the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, but I would note that until very recently the hon. member was the strongest advocate within his party for a coalition agreement with the NDP that probably would have seen the leader of the NDP as the industry minister, and might very well have seen the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster as the minister for international trade.
    I am wondering if the hon. member could square that circle for us.
    Madam Speaker, the coalition agreement negotiated between the former leader of my party and the leader of the New Democratic Party did not involve moving away from NAFTA, did not involve moving away from our commitments on international trade, and did not involve any steps at all that would have taken us from a sound and positive position for Canada.
    I have no problems in saying that what was there was there, and that what has happened since has happened. All I am saying to the hon. member is that Canada is at a moment when we need to come together as a Parliament. In my view, the vote next week should be a unanimous vote. It would be a great thing for this House to be sending the clearest message possible to the United States with respect to our position.
    If I mistook the 20 minutes of diatribe from the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster as a sign that he was in favour of the motion proposed by my colleague from Kings—Hants, and if somehow I failed to understand the sophistication of his argument and the intricacy of his conclusion, then I accept entirely the criticism. I would be delighted if the New Democratic Party were to support this motion, but it was hard to tell if that was the case. It was a little difficult to tell whether that was really where he was coming from.
    It is important for us to come together as Canadians and as parliamentarians and send a very clear message to our friends and colleagues in the United States.

  (1300)  

    I listened with interest to the hon. member's speech. I think he certainly understands the issue and understands the threat we all face. I agree with him that a unanimous decision by this House would be excellent.
    However, there was one point. I do not think there is any point in going back and looking at who said what, when they said it, which parties support the Americans, or which ones do not. As a fact, any government in Canada has to have a close relationship with its American partners regardless of its political colour.
    Madam Speaker, on a very personal note, my father was a minister in the Canadian embassy in the 1950s. I was Richard Nixon's newspaper boy. What could be a greater sign of cooperation than for me as a young nine- or ten-year-old to be delivering papers to Richard Nixon?
    I can hear the conspiracy theories coming from the other side--
    Resuming debate. The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade.
    Madam Speaker, before I start my speech I will go a little further on the question that I just raised, because I think it is only common sense. It behooves everyone in this place to have a reasonable and respectful relationship with our trading partners around the world, regardless of who those trading partners are.
    Certainly we are making a serious mistake if anyone in this place thinks that we do not have to have a rules-based trading relationship with the United States of America, our closest neighbour, our greatest ally and our largest trading partner. It is absolutely essential to our ongoing livelihood here in Canada. It is in the best interests of our workers, it is in the best interests of our businesses and it is in the best interests of all Canadians. The money generated from those economies helps to pay for everything that Canadians receive.
    There has been some attempt, I believe a playful one, at trying to drive a wedge between the government, the American administration and the new President. That is sheer folly and sheer foolishness, because regardless of the political party in power in Canada and regardless of the political party or person in power in the United States, it is absolutely incumbent upon both administrations to have a good, solid, respectful relationship, because both countries benefit. That is not rocket science in any way, shape or form.
    As you know, Madam Speaker, there has been a discussion in the House on this issue today. There has been some interesting debate, and the economic stimulus package is making its way through the U.S. congressional legislative process. We have been watching with great interest and trying to have as much influence as possible on the decisions that the Congress in the United States will make.
    We need to put the measures that are moving through the Congress in perspective. Governments around the world have all found themselves in the same position. We are moving into turbulent economic times, and these are very recent changes. These changes occurred in the last quarter, and we expect they will deepen in this quarter.
    When the G20 leaders met in Washington in November of last year, there was a wide range of views regarding both the nature and the seriousness of the situation. Certainly the situation had not progressed to the degree that it has today. In spite of these differences, however, the G20 leaders were able to agree to provide timely stimulus to domestic demand while also maintaining long-run fiscal sustainability.
    In Canada we acted on our own commitment. On January 27 we tabled our economic action plan, a plan to stimulate economic growth, restore confidence and support Canadians and their families during this synchronized global recession. The action plan will stimulate the economy by building infrastructure, reducing taxes, freezing EI rates, stimulating housing construction, improving access to financing and strengthening Canada's financial system by helping Canadians through training programs.
    Just as our economic action plan is meant to provide stimulus in Canada, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is predominantly meant to stimulate the U.S. economy. The cost of that bill is now approaching $900 billion. It includes extensive tax cuts, assistance to state and local authorities for education investment, new health care investments, unemployment benefits, and infrastructure and energy investments.
    However, there is another reality, the reality of the integrated North American economy of today. That stimulus package will also benefit the neighbours across the border, Mexico and Canada, and as long as everyone is contributing to the solution, we should be welcome within that stimulus package.

  (1305)  

    That is a clear message to the United States. Given the magnitude of the challenges we all face, no individual country is likely able to save itself without help from its trading partners. No individual country in the world is an island. Now is not the time to allow protectionism to rear its head. It will drive the economy downward; it will be a downward spiral not seen in the global economy since the 1930s.
    We are extremely concerned that the broadening of the buy American provisions in the U.S. stimulus package will lead to other countries following similar protectionist policies and will create that downward spiral and fuel a greater economic crisis. That is why our government was making our concerns known to the American administration, legislators and other stakeholders long before the opposition was on this file.
    One-third of all cross-border trade between Canada and the United States takes place with companies with a presence on both sides of the border, and two-thirds is within established supply chains. If either government were to introduce new barriers or preferences now, it would increase costs, cause delay and disrupt the way that businesses have organized themselves on the continent, thereby resulting in decreased North American competitiveness. I do not think any of us on the North American continent can afford that at the present time.
    The Minister of International Trade recently met with U.S. trade officials and strongly indicated Canada's concerns about increased U.S. protectionism and the pressures and possible broadening of buy American provisions in the proposed stimulus package. He said, “We know from history that protectionist legislation winds up hurting one’s own economy and invariably hurting the economies around it”. In a follow-up letter to the acting U.S. trade representative, he wrote, “Canada believes that elements of ARRA now under consideration are protectionist in nature and contrary to the very goals of economic recovery that this bill is intended to address”.
    That is the very start of what happened and how this issue has grown. It is important for all Canadians to know that we have taken our message to the American government. We have used all of the assets at our disposal, including one-on-one discussions with American legislators, congressmen and senators. We have certainly been in broad and thorough diplomatic discussions with the United States. We know how serious this issue will become if we are not able to nip it in the bud.
    Certainly, we are not alone in our concerns and we are not alone in the lobby. America's other trading partners have expressed concerns. There is domestic opposition as well from companies as diverse as Caterpillar, which has a tremendous national market in the United States but also is an exporting company. There are many national business organizations and corporations that have now taken another look at the bill and said that it looks good on paper, because protectionism always looks good on paper, but what are the results of it? The results are that America would lose jobs, would lose opportunity and would lose income.
    Canada has tremendous political capital with our closest friend and ally, the United States. We are optimistic that the United States will not proceed with a bill that would be damaging to international trade. After all, the greatest danger to global economic stability is that other countries would retaliate with protectionist measures of their own.
    Last night's vote by the U.S. Senate to ensure that the U.S. stimulus package meets all international trade obligations is an encouraging sign. It is the first crack and an encouraging sign that our combined efforts are making progress.

  (1310)  

    At the G20 in November our Prime Minister pushed for progress on four initiatives to address the causes of the global financial crisis, initiatives that were ultimately endorsed by the G20 leaders. We pressed for action to address the crisis, commitments to strengthen domestic financial regimes, an agreement to conduct transparent international assessments of national financial systems, and a commitment to resist protectionism and maintain open markets.
    We owe it to all of our trading partners to resist protectionism and maintain an open marketplace.
    Meanwhile, Canadians and Americans share the largest and most comprehensive economic partnership in the world. We are one another's largest customers and largest suppliers. We are joined at the hip. We are dovetailed together. Anyone in this place or any other place who thinks that we are not dependent upon the American economy and the American economy is not dependent on us is making a very serious lapse in judgment.
    Although our precise policies may differ because we are separate countries, our objectives as nations are similar. We seek prosperity, security and a good life for all of our citizens. The prosperity of our neighbours is inextricably tied to our own. Our two economies are so integrated that we must address this downturn together.
    The hon. member for Kings—Hants has called upon the government to intervene forthwith and persistently with the United States administration and Congress in light of what he characterizes as growing protectionism in the United States.
    As this House knows, the government has responded quickly and effectively to specific protectionist elements which appeared in the stimulus package being prepared by the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. It certainly does not stop there.
    Canadians will be gratified to learn that a committed and gifted team of civil servants and Canadian diplomatic representatives have been working around the clock on this file engaging their counterparts on the other side of the border, but also working with their contacts in industry, trade and academia.
    American newspapers, talk shows and radio phone-ins have been filled to the brim with debate on this issue, and yes, Canada can take plenty of credit for broadening the public discourse in America. Last night our friends in the Pearson Building received a note from our advocacy team in Miami. I will read a few lines of it.
    “On February 4, Miami head of mission, Marcy Grossman, addressed the 100-plus members and guests of the board of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, the leading business organization in this town with over 2,500 members. While the event had been arranged for Miami's head of mission to present the highlights of our newly available study of the Canada-Florida economic relationship, she used the occasion instead to deliver the Canadian message on buy American. Our timing was unusually felicitous because the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce board also considered today its advocacy priorities for the U.S. federal and state authorities in the next few weeks. In addition, the members of the board's international advocacy group were already considering what the chamber wants to say on this stimulus legislation to the Florida representatives in the U.S. Congress. The result was an immediate invitation for us to provide our information to the key people today, so they can consider it in their approach to Congress on the stimulus package. We have already sent them a package containing the basic talking points, Ambassador Wilson's letter to the Senate leadership, and the letters from the CME, the Canadian American Business Council, and the U.S. chamber and industry associations”.
    This morning the The Miami Herald published an op-ed piece by the respected Latin American columnist, Andres Oppenheimer, urging the U.S. Congress to kill the bill's buy American provisions. In it he observed that the exact details of the bill are far less important than the message it sends to the rest of the world. The column quotes Canadian Ambassador Michael Wilson and ultimately concludes:
    If it gives U.S. trade partners an excuse to pass their own ''Buy national'' laws, U.S. exports will plummet even more and more U.S. jobs will be lost than this provision would help save. Now, please make sure that “Buy America” doesn't turn into “Bye America.”

  (1315)  

    This debate has come full circle certainly in the United States. We have made great headway in the House of Commons. There are more of us in agreement on this issue than there are in disagreement.
    Our interventions and our interlocutors across the U.S. are being heard loud and clear. We have like-minded stakeholders in business, in industry and in academia. We have a situation where for the first time in many years, more than 100 major U.S. corporations have signed a common letter to the U.S. Senate leaders warning them about expanding protectionist measures, and their comments ring loud and clear in Canada as well as in the United States.
    There are lots of people weighing in on this debate. One U.S. economist at the Peterson Institute for International Economics has concluded that buy American provisions in the bill will cost more jobs than it will create. Most of us are in agreement with that. Earlier this week President Obama spoke out about the need to avoid sending a protectionist message when trying to stimulate the economy and about the need to make sure that the provisions in the legislation will not trigger a trade war. Again, I think the Americans have come full circle on this.
    Quite frankly, as the Minister of International Trade said last night, we are not out of the woods yet. The decision is yet to be made, so it is no time at all to give up on a full court press. It is no time to slacken the pressure that we are exerting on our American friends and colleagues. In many different arenas, in academia, in industry, in business and diplomatically, we have pursued this with great zeal on behalf of the citizens of Canada.
    I would like to thank the hon. member for Kings—Hants for this timely motion. It is an important debate. It is a debate that needed to be had. It has allowed all of us in the House to clarify our position vis-à-vis whether we are going to move in a protectionist direction, join the downward spiral of nations that would destroy the economy of Canada and potentially of North America, or if we are going to stick to our formula that has worked for more than the past decade of rules-based trading that is fair and equitable to all of the players, that allows everyone in every economy to join with their allies, whether they be across the American border, the Mexican border, the Colombian border, the Costa Rican border or the Peruvian border.
    The world is moving toward more free trade, not more protectionism. To turn our backs on that at the present time would be a serious mistake for our nation. It would be a worse mistake for our citizens, because we would let them down and be directly responsible for a greater loss of jobs than we are seeing in this downturn.

  (1320)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I want to start by thanking my hon. colleague for his remarks.
     The opposition message is very clear. The Conservative Prime Minister missed the mark on his first attempt with the new American government. The opposition wants, through this motion, to hold the government responsible for having neglected our relations with our most important partner, the United States. In addition, just as the Conservatives neglected Canada when they should have been focusing on the economy, they failed to participate actively in decision-making with our trading partners.
     Behind all the statistics on international trade lie relationships. We do not have much influence over the United States now because the Conservative government has not maintained a good relationship with it.
     I would like to ask my colleague a question. Why did the government act this way?

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I am sure there was a question there.
    I think the hon. member was trying to convince himself, or maybe even convince others, that somehow or another our government does not have a close relationship with the U.S., which of course is utter tripe and nonsense.
    I said earlier, in response to the other Liberal member who was speaking, that regardless of political stripe, it is only responsible for a Canadian prime minister, whether Liberal or Conservative makes not an iota of difference, to have a mature, respectful relationship with our American counterpart. That is not rocket science.
    We expect to have a very friendly and ongoing, and beneficial relationship with the present administration. If it was a different administration we would expect to have the same relationship with it. Political stripe really makes no difference at all.
    There has been no missing the mark or dropping the ball here. This is something new that has occurred. Most people in the world hold great promise and great hope for President Obama. This is his first real test as a president. He has to be very vigilant to make sure the protectionist forces do not overtake the Congress in the U.S. because there is no gain in there for his administration or for his citizens.
    We must look at the positive issues here. Canada went into this economic downturn because of decisions we made in the last couple of years in a very powerful position. We paid down $67 billion in debt in the last two years. That put us on a different footing than any other country in the OECD. We have the strongest banking system in the G20. As a matter of fact, we have the strongest banking system in the G7.
    Canada is in a very enviable position in this economic downturn. We were the last to enter it and we expect to be the first ones out of it. We are not going to get out of it, period, unless we continue to have a frank, open and mature relationship with our American neighbour and trading partner.

  (1325)  

    Madam Speaker, I am quite concerned, having listened to the parliamentary secretary quite attentively, because his comments showed the lack of understanding of the government in intervening with the Obama administration.
    Yesterday, the U.S. senate defeated the amendment that was brought forward by the Republicans 65 to 31. It was a landslide. The buy American provisions will be in the bill going through the senate. It is already in the bill that has gone through the House of Representatives.
    The parliamentary secretary continued to refer to rules-based trading. Linda Diebel requested in the Toronto Star that the international trade minister actually read the trade pacts. She said, “He might discover the North American Free Trade Agreement...allows an exemption for procurement contracts to allow only American iron and steel, a provision contained in last week's $819 billion stimulus package”.
    My question is very simple. Does the government and the parliamentary secretary understand that buy American is legal under NAFTA and legal under the WTO? Speaking to the Americans as if what they are doing is illegal, when it is very clearly legal, means we cannot communicate our message effectively. That is why we failed.
    Madam Speaker, I am not sure of the question. I am not sure if the member is supporting the procurement policies in the United States and saying those are a good thing, or if he is saying that we somehow should still be working against them. It is unclear because it is very clear with us.
    There are many provisions of buy American that are legal within U.S. domestic law, but there are also all kinds of provisions that are not legal under NAFTA and not legal under the WTO. We have to somehow level the debate here in the chamber. Hon. members simply cannot get up in the House and mislead Canadians, and mislead the Chamber and be in error on this issue. This issue is far too important.
    What we are talking about here is rules-based trading. We have always stood for rules-based trading and we will continue to stand for rules-based trading. It is a benefit to both Canada and the United States. The protectionist measures that are being talked about in the U.S. are extremely dangerous, not just to the U.S. but to the entire global economy.
    Madam Speaker, it is clear that the intention of this motion is to ensure that we are sending a consistent message to the Americans, that the buy American protectionist approach, and protectionism in general, is bad for the U.S. economy, bad for the Canadian economy, and bad for the global economy.
    I wonder if the hon. member is as concerned as I am with the message coming from the New Democrats today in support of the protectionist measures that we as Canadians stand to lose so much from. Does he agree with me that in fact the New Democrats today, in their message in support of the protectionist measures in the U.S., are actually imperiling Canadian jobs?
    Madam Speaker, I absolutely agree that increased protectionism would imperil Canadian jobs, it would imperil American jobs at the end of the day, and it would have widespread repercussions. This is the proverbial paddle in the pool and the ripples that extend out from that would be never-ending.
    I agree with the hon. member's opening statement that we have to send and we are sending a very consistent message in our contacts through business, through academia, through diplomacy, and through member-to-member with our friends and colleagues. We cannot afford to stray from that message, nor do we intend to stray from that message.
    I will go back to my original statement that Canada is the beneficiary of rules-based trading. We know that our American colleagues and counterparts can be difficult to trade with at times. We have all been there. We have been through it with softwood lumber. We have seen embargos and tariffs. We understand that. NAFTA helped us to a degree to move away from that, but it never insulates us from that. Any country under WTO can bring in anti-dumping charges. Any country can bring in other charges under international trade. The important part is that we have rules-based trading. Those rules are fair and open to all and they do not benefit one nation over another.

  (1330)  

    Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time this afternoon with the wonderful, outspoken and generous member for Malpeque, affectionately known as the “Malpequer” by many of our colleagues. I also want to thank the member for Kings—Hants for bringing forward this important motion and making it a subject of debate here in the House and across the country.
    The motion itself, if ordinary Canadians read it, might seem technical, but for ordinary Canadians or ordinary Labradorians who are involved in industries impacted by the legislation or the economic stimulus package in the United States, it is about their jobs, it is about how they are going to pay their bills. While it may seem technical to them, it hits home for many people.
    Our trading relationship with the United States is very important and it has to be based on mutual respect and on the rules. The riding of Labrador has a very direct role in the Canadian and international iron and steel industry. Our iron ore industry has a longstanding close relationship with Canadian and American steel industries, having been developed by North American steel makers in the 1950s and 1960s.
    Iron ore production in Labrador in 2008 was estimated at $2.5 billion, no small chunk of change. We have two of the three most important iron ore producers in Canada, those being Wabush Mines, the Iron Ore Company of Canada and the other being Quebec Cartier, neighbouring us in northern Quebec out of Fermont.
    We also have a number of new iron ore projects in the advanced exploration at the pre-development stage. I will mention just a couple, those with the New Millennium group and the ironsands project. Up until a few years ago, iron ore represented over 90% of the mineral production in the entire province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and that was before Voisey's Bay nickel came on stream.
    Labrador now represents 98% of the mining industry in our province. Nickel production at Voisey's Bay last year is estimated at $2.2 billion, with over half a billion dollars more in related copper and cobalt production from the same mine. Nickel of course is a component in many types of steel as well as iron ore. Among the three operating mines in Labrador, Wabush, the Iron Ore Company of Canada and Voisey's Bay, they account for nearly 10% of the value of all Canadian mining in 2006.
    In the past several years they have generated tens and even hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties which are paid to the provincial government. In certain instances a share of those revenues are transferred to the Nunatsiavut government, the Labrador Inuit self-governing body, and the Innu nation representing the Innu people of Newfoundland and Labrador.
    It is not hard to see from these facts that the economy of my riding of Labrador is very closely tied in with the Canadian international iron and steel industries. We have a direct interest in the domestic and international policies and politics that have an impact on this vital sector.
    Along with many other Canadians I was fascinated to watch the recent American election unfold and to see President Obama inaugurated just a few weeks ago. When the American stimulus package was drawn up, it included the problematic buy American clause. I and many in my riding were immediately concerned about the impact on the industries that were situated there which our economy was dependent upon.
    It seems that many on this side of the aisle and indeed throughout Canada, the U.S. and around the world share that concern. In the past few days and hours the president has signalled that he is open to measures to avert what could be an unfortunate international trade dispute, not just with Canada, but with other countries.

  (1335)  

    It is unfortunate that the Conservative government seems to have been caught off guard, flat-footed and, in some respects, dumbfounded by some of the protectionist developments south of the border. It seems to have no strategy and no comprehensive response, just a shotgun reaction.
    While the mine industry in Labrador has had boom times, in the past few months we have seen our share of trouble and there is more on the horizon. In western Labrador, we have already seen a number of projects deferred or cancelled, the announcement of 160 layoffs at Wabush Mines and scheduled shutdowns that will contribute to the hurt. In northern Labrador, Voisey's Bay has scheduled a summer shutdown this year as well.
     Our mine operators and especially mining employees are watching the global economic situation. They are keenly aware of the impact of the world situation on their jobs, their lives and their communities.
    In Labrador, just like the rest of the country, my people watched as the Conservative government denied the economic downturn, then ignored it, then delayed a response and now has brought forward a haphazard stimulus package.
    Canada needs to stand firm in ensuring that protectionist measures do not exasperate the stresses that our people now face in the metal producing industry. Workers in my riding need assurances that the Conservative government will fight for their interests now and in the months and years to come.
    Madam Speaker, I agree with the premise of the member's argument and obviously agree that the U.S. relationship is very important, which is why I made the argument in the run-up to the 2006 election when I was running as a candidate. I also made the point emphatically clear in the 2008 election. I have sat with members, like the members for Yellowhead, Edmonton—Leduc, Saskatoon—Humboldt, Leeds—Grenville and members from across the aisle, like the member for Malpeque and the member for York West. I have sat with these members and we have made these points to our American counterparts, Democratic counterparts, like Democratic Congressman Overstar, Democratic Congresswoman, Marcy Kaptur and Democratic Congresswoman Slaughter. We have built these relationships.
    As well, I have had personal conversations with the President of the National Governor's Association, Democratic Governor Ed Rendell. We have built this relationship. We are working in a comprehensive fashion. Its a full corps press by the Canadian government. We have not been caught off guard, nor did we fail to act when it came to economics. We were the first government to act and we have seen governments around the world respond in kind since this government took action in November 2007.
    I think that we have been acting--

  (1340)  

    I would like to give the opportunity to the hon. member for Labrador to respond.
    Madam Speaker, I did not hear a question but Canadians have been watching for months now. The Conservative government has not instilled a lot of confidence in Canadians that it knows how to handle our economy. The government denied that there was an economic crisis in Canada, ignored that there was an economic crisis in Canada and delayed a response. As I have said, it brought in a haphazard stimulus package. That is what has been said in the country and that is what Canadians have observed.
     If we do not have much confidence that the government can handle our own economy, there is not a lot of confidence that it can handle situations when it comes to the international economy and international relationships.
    What we have observed is a flat-footedness when it comes to the Canadian stimulus package. We observe that when we see the government reacting. It was not proactivity that we saw on the part of the government. It reacted to what came at it from out of the blue from our American counterparts.
    Madam Speaker, the member, in this Parliament, has shown that when the Liberal caucus takes a misinformed stand that he is able to distance himself from that misinformed stand.
    We heard earlier today from the member for Toronto Centre that the Liberal caucus opposes any sort of managed trade settlement, such as what the United Steelworkers are proposing on iron and steel. We also heard from the member for Toronto Centre that a buy Canada act would be illegal. Therefore, it appears that the Liberal caucus opposes that measure as well.
    Would the member be inclined to take that same kind of independent stand on these issues that he took on the budget, stand up and say that the Liberal caucus is wrong in opposing a managed trade settlement with iron and steel in the buy America provisions and wrong to say that buy Canada is illegal?
    Madam Speaker, what I will not support is the position of the NDP, where it wants to put up walls, walls between our provinces and between our countries. It wants to put up a wall between the United States and Canada which will cost Canadian jobs and American jobs. It will hurt the people in my riding of Labrador who depend upon the specific industries that we are talking about, the iron ore, steel and nickel industries. I will not support that.
    There was a president at one time, in a different context, who said, “Tear down those walls”. I would say to the NDP that it needs to start tearing down some of its walls on its own ideology that hurts Canadians.
    Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the motion from the member for Kings—Hants but, given my voice today, I will do an unusual thing. I will speak slow and low and hope my voice lasts the 10 minutes.
    The motion really calls upon the government to intervene forthwith and persistently with the United States administration and the congress in order to protect Canadian jobs. Simply put, what the motion really means to those opposite is that the Conservative government must wake up. The U.S. is becoming more protectionist and the government needs to be on top of this file. It needs to stand up for Canadians, not be asleep at the switch.
    This motion has become necessary simply because the United States, at the height of a global downturn, is looking inward and is becoming more protectionist. We saw back in the dirty thirties what happens when we have an economic downturn, or did not see, as my hon. colleague is laughing over there, or read about it in a history book. We know history and when we add an economic downturn and protectionist policies that basically seize up trading relationships between nations, then that makes matters even worse for all countries globally involved.
    Therefore, on the one hand, we have the U.S. becoming more protectionist, and on the other, the fact that the Conservative government seems to be asleep at the switch. Worse than that, the government record on this issue has been very poor. We know where it was on the softwood lumber dispute where the U.S. basically took the government to the cleaners. Canadians who work in the forestry industry and in the lumber plants, whether it is eastern Canada or western Canada, have suffered ever since.
    Canada is a trading nation. In fact, we are more dependent on trade than almost any other nation in the world and we are very dependent on the United States market. I see the Minister of Agriculture is here and he will know that no industry is more dependent upon that trade than the agricultural industry, for which I am agriculture critic for the official opposition.
    Sixty per cent of our hogs are exported, not all of them to the United States but we are greatly dependent on that market. Fifty per cent of our beef is exported and an even higher percentage of wheat, but the wheat industry is not as dependent on the United States market as it is around the rest of the world.
    Trade is extremely important. Yes, we need to expand our relationships around the world. In fact, I believe the minister made an announcement the other day in opening up an additional market for beef, and that is good, but the fact is that the U.S. is our closest trading partner. It is our neighbour and our friend most times and we will always be extremely dependent upon that market, and that cuts both ways. Both countries gain extensively from that trading relationship.
    Farmers, though, perhaps more than most, can tell us the impact upon their livelihoods when all of a sudden the United States uses whatever levers or excuse it has and becomes protectionist. No industry, bar none, was as integrated as the Canada and United States livestock industries, up until five or six years ago when we exported feeders to the United States and brought up slaughter cattle from the U.S., but then we had a situation where we had one cow with a case of BSE and immediately the border was closed.

  (1345)  

    As a result of that border closing, in what I believe were protectionist measures taken by the cattle industry in the United States and supported by congress and the senate, cattle farmers in Canada today are still suffering even though the border is now open. Billions of dollars have been lost. As a result, the previous government and the present government had to pump considerable millions of dollars into the industry to support it in its time of need. Those are the consequences.We have seen first-hand in the cattle industry the consequences of measures taken that will bring in protectionist measures and isolate certain industries from trading relationships.
    We know very well that congress and the senate especially can be very protectionist and the government opposite should know that. However, the government seemed to be caught off guard, just like it was on the economy. We heard stories during the election that this country would not see a deficit next year. Now we know differently. Instead of being on the ball and paying attention to what was happening in the U.S., it seems to have been caught off guard as the U.S. Congress and Senate take more and more protectionist measures.
    The purpose of this motion today is to push the Government of Canada to be more accountable, to take aggressive action with the United States, to send delegations to the United States from the ministerial level and to be on top of its counterparts in pushing the issue of good, open trade relationships between the two countries.
    When Ron Kirk was put forward as the United States' trade representative, he was quoted in a Reuters news service report saying:
    The United States cannot afford to turn its back on trade as it tries to dig its way out of a deep recession, President-elect Barack Obama's choice to be U.S. trade representative said on Sunday.
    He went on to say, talking to mayors:
    But I also know there are mayors in this room that represent communities that feel very differently about that, and part of our challenge as we go forward is to make sure we have a trade policy that basically makes sense to the American public.
    Mr. Kirk has pointed out very clearly the consequences of the United States becoming more protectionist. It would drive the recession even further. His second point is that, yes, there are mayors, communities, congressmen and senators who feel differently about that, and that is where our government needs to be on the ball. It needs to be on the ball talking to people at the congressional level, senate level and administration level to enforce the point of how valuable that trading relationship is to both our countries.
    I am a member of the Canada-United States parliamentary association, as some members are on the other side. One of our members, a co-chair, Senator Grafstein, has been to the United States several times in the last few weeks. In my view, he, as one senator, has been more aggressively pushing the fact and informing Americans on how serious these trade protectionist measures they are taking could be. I ask the government to catch up to the senator in terms of being aggressive and protecting Canadian interests, building understanding in the United States that this trade relationship is important to both our countries and pushing them to cease and desist on the protectionist measures that will undermine both our economies and livelihoods into the future.
    I am pleased to support the motion put forward by the member for Kings—Hants. It basically tells the government to aggressively pursue the U.S. administration to cease and desist on the protectionist measures it is proposing through its stimulus package.

  (1350)  

    Madam Speaker, I appreciate the position of the member's party. However, I would like to set the record straight on a few of the issues.
    It was our party, while in opposition in 2003, when the BSE crisis was affecting beef producers in my constituency, that applied for intervenor status to go down to the states and challenge R-CALF. It was not the Liberal government of the day. It left beef producers hanging by a thread.
    This government has certainly challenged R-CALF's next venture, which is the country of origin labelling, and has set the record straight, before the final ruling comes before the American people and the American government, to get Canadian exports of beef back into the United States and protect beef farmers. It has been because of the great work of our Minister of Agriculture and our international trade minister.
    Under 13 years of Liberal government, not one free trade agreement was signed anywhere for market access. Because of this government, through the European Free Trade Association, and we had the bill before the House, which will be passed, exports are going to China and South America. We have engaged the South American and the Caribbean community again. This government is getting it done.
    Is his party going to continue to support us when we move those kinds of bills—

  (1355)  

    Order, please. The hon. member for Malpeque.
    Madam Speaker, there is not enough time for me to re-set the record straight after the remarks by the member.
    The fact is the previous government was there for the livestock industry, putting out millions of dollars. The current government has basically failed in that.
    The member also mentioned China. I have to admit I have been to China and talked to some of the Chinese trading agencies. The Conservative government has really jeopardized our trading relationship with China by its attitude toward China in the public arena.
    However, the bottom line today, in terms of this motion, is for the government, and the hon. member should recognize that, to wake up and challenge the Americans aggressively on the stimulus package that would in fact bring in protectionist measures. It has been asleep at the switch.
    The whole purpose of this motion is to try to bring accountability to the Government of Canada and have it understand how very important jobs are, whether they are in my province of Prince Edward Island, or in the auto industry in Ontario or in the forestry industry in B.C. It is important for the government to stand up and challenge the U.S. at the congressional, the senate and the administrative level, and the government has not been aggressive enough in doing that.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would first like to congratulate my colleague, the international trade critic for the Liberal Party. I had wondered why the Liberals were going ahead with their motion, because Mr. Obama had announced that the United States would comply with WTO rules and international standards. But I soon realized that the motion was still relevant because it says that “this House calls upon the Government to intervene forthwith and persistently” and urge the United States to respect the trade agreements between it and Canada, the North American Free Trade Agreement and the World Trade Organization. The Liberals realized that Canada might have to go to court, whereas now we can take diplomatic action. We saw this in the softwood lumber sector. The Liberal and Conservative governments went through that. Time is of the essence, and the government must take strong action.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is correct. What he has said is that we must act now, meaning the government must take the initiative.
    As I said, it is a pretty sad commentary on the government when the co-chair of the Canada-U.S. Parliamentary Association, on his own practically, has done more and met with more congressmen, senators and people in the United States, in terms of fighting Canada's cause, than has the government. It is time for the government to wake up, smell the roses and fight for the interests of Canadians to keep this trade relationship open, and cease and desist on American protectionism.
    Order. We will resume debate later.

[Translation]

Auditor General of Canada

    I have the honour to lay upon the table the report of the Auditor General of Canada dated December 2008.

[English]

    Pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(g), this document is deemed to have been permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.

  (1400)  

Environment and Sustainable Development

    I have the honour to lay upon the table, pursuant to subsection 23(3) of the Auditor General Act, the Report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development to the House of Commons dated December 2008 with an addendum on environmental petitions received between January 5, 2008 and June 30, 2008.

[Translation]

    This document is deemed to have been permanently referred to the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development.

Statements by Members

[Statements by Members]

[English]

Canadian Forces

    Mr. Speaker, on January 19, 2009 Londoner, Private Andrew Knisley of the Royal Canadian Regiment, was seriously wounded in Afghanistan. Private Knisley is now back in Canada and recovering with the unwavering support of his father Ken, his mother Heather, his sister Ruth, his friends and his military family.
    We appreciate and admire those who risk their lives and their health in defence of Canada and the values we represent.
    Private Knisley is one of many seriously injured soldiers. Their sacrifice is a daily struggle and they deserve our unqualified support. They exemplify the brave Canadian soldier who heads to foreign lands to improve the lives of complete strangers.
    Unfortunately, like those he helped, Private Knisley will wear the scars of war for the rest of his life.
    Soldiers do not quit. They face adversity and use it to focus on what matters. It is who they are.
    We wish Private Knisley a quick recovery. We admire the brave soldiers who serve our country abroad.
    May God bless Andrew. He has this Canadian's sincerest gratitude.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

    Mr. Speaker, since 1996 war has raged almost continuously in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. With the official cessation of violence in 2002, fighting has still been a recurring and terrible facet of life in this region.
     As is always the case, war takes an especially terrible toll on the innocent. Since the beginning of August of last year, some 250,000 people have been displaced, not to mention the countless murders and kidnappings, as well as reports of torture. Violence against women is especially prevalent in this war zone.
    On June 19, 2008 the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed a resolution declaring rape as a weapon of war and a threat to international security, yet the violence against women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo continues.
    I urge all members of the House and all Canadians alike to condemn the systematic use of rape as a weapon and support the Congolese women's campaign against sexual violence by signing the online petition at www.drcsexualviolence.org

[Translation]

Nad Klima

    Mr. Speaker, this past Friday I was thrilled to attend the opening of a company in Sherbrooke, Nad Klima. Nad Klima is the outcome of an alliance between German technology and Sherbrooke know-how and has already carved a place for itself as a leader among air conditioning, heating and ventilation companies. Their innovative high induction air diffusers provide an unequalled level of comfort coupled with substantial energy savings.
    The opening of this new plant will create 50 direct jobs and another 50 indirect ones for Sherbrooke. Fortunately, unlike the Conservative government, there are business leaders who grasp the idea that the words economy and Kyoto go together to ensure sustainable economic development.
    My best wishes to Daniel Lauzon, president of Nad Klima, and to everyone on his team.

[English]

Gordon Bell High School

    Mr. Speaker, the wonderful students of Gordon Bell High School in Winnipeg are in a David and Goliath struggle with Canada Post so that these inner city kids can have a playing field and sports teams which other high schools take for granted.
    Anybody will tell us that inner city youth need more sports and recreation opportunities. We want these kids to join sports teams, not gangs.
    On behalf of the students of Gordon Bell High School, we call on Canada Post to let us buy the land next to Gordon Bell High School to give those students the options for sports and recreation that other kids have. Canada Post has lots of other options to build its letter carrier depot. The kids at Gordon Bell High School have only one option if they ever want a playing field and a green space for their sports teams.

Post-Secondary Institutions

    Mr. Speaker, Canada's universities are vital to our shared success. They advance our country through research and training of skilled workers. That is why Canada's economic action plan invests $2 billion to support expansion projects, maintenance and construction at colleges and universities across Canada. This will enhance the research capacity of our universities, enable them to attract students and help them provide a better educational experience.
    My riding of Winnipeg South is home to the University of Manitoba and Winnipeg Technical College, and I believe strongly in the value of these institutions. That is why I and others founded the Conservative post-secondary education caucus. I hosted the inaugural meeting yesterday and was very pleased to see how many of my colleagues shared this commitment. This new caucus will focus on how our government and we as MPs can best serve post-secondary institutions.
    Colleges and universities are vital to our communities and our country, and I am proud to be a member of our government whose commitment to support them is clear.

  (1405)  

[Translation]

Robert Dufour

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to take a few moments to pay tribute to a hero from my region. Mr. Robert Dufour saved the lives of two neighbours in their seventies when their house caught fire on January 26.
    Robert Dufour had been out bowling and had not been home long when he saw flames emerging from the house of his neighbours, Hector and Marina Beaulieu. Stopping only long enough to pull on his boots, he ran next door. Despite the minus 40 degree temperature and the thick smoke, Mr. Dufour risked his life to save his neighbours. His example of courage and selflessness in rescuing them from danger should serve as an example to us all.
    I encourage all the members here, as well as the people of Madawaska—Restigouche, to congratulate Mr. Dufour for this courageous act. He risked his own life to save others.

[English]

Fred Meilleur

    Mr. Speaker, it is with sadness that I rise today to pay respects to Fred Meilleur, an Ottawa Valley icon. For 62 years, Fred was the owner and operator of the Chapeau Hotel and Fred's Steak House, which anyone growing up in the Ottawa Valley knew simply as Fred's.
    Fred was known for his hospitality, his steak dinners and a photographic memory. That memory extended beyond a person to all of the person's family. It was not unusual to walk into Fred's on a Saturday afternoon and find a couple of the old lads singing the old songs over endless beers and coke glasses full of white wine. People would drive from all over for his steak dinners and his mouth-watering desserts, like butterscotch pie and lemon meringue pie.
    If Fred found out it was a person's first visit to his steak house, he would ask if that person would like to see the legendary tail of the silver beaver. Fred would walk that person around the hotel and eventually would walk inside the cooler where there was a nickel sitting on the counter.
    Fred represents the passing of a generation. May Fred go in peace.

[Translation]

Democratic Republic of the Congo

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to share with the members of this House the story of a touching encounter that I had on January 28 with a group of Congolese refugees who are living in Quebec. They braved the wind and snow to speak with me about their worries regarding the human tragedy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
    It is inconceivable and unthinkable to let tens of thousands of women and children needlessly suffer and die in this conflict where they are the main victims. A woman from this group told us about the horror and terror that she suffered in her home country. This group is desperately seeking a solution to this crisis, which, according to a number of experts, has already left six million people dead.
    I want to reiterate the Bloc's support for the work this group is doing to find peace for the DRC. I would invite all of my colleagues who are interested in and touched by the situation to pressure the Conservative government to help these people restore justice and peace to their country.

[English]

Sri Lanka

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to call on the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE to declare and honour an immediate ceasefire of hostilities. They must allow a full, safe and unhindered access for the evacuation of the sick and the wounded, and the delivery of much-needed humanitarian assistance to civilians. I support the actions of our foreign affairs minister who is delivering new aid and has made strong calls for a ceasefire.
    There is no military solution to this conflict. All efforts must be made to avoid civilian casualties. Only a durable political solution can bring peace to the people of Sri Lanka. That is why I am calling on both the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE to renounce violence, lay down their arms and usher in a new era of peace.

Spud Hockey Tournament

    Mr. Speaker, this upcoming weekend marks an exciting time for Atlantic Canadian minor hockey fans as the 34th Spud Triple A Minor Hockey Tournament begins in Charlottetown. This event will host 120 teams playing in 9 divisions.
    I have been attending this tournament for many years and I love to see the excitement it brings to families, players and fans. Not only is the hockey exciting and the competition great, but the many players and fans forge relationships that in many cases last lifetimes.
    I want to congratulate all organizers of the Spud Tournament for all their hard work, time and dedication. Their energy is inspiring.
    For the players, families and friends attending the event this weekend, I want to welcome everyone to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island and wish everyone a great and enjoyable experience and a safe journey home.

  (1410)  

[Translation]

Status of Women

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to announce that yesterday evening, the Minister of State (Status of Women) unveiled an exciting new partnership with Equal Voice, an organization working to advance the interest and participation of girls and women in political life. The multi-year project will pair girls and young women with positive, female political role models and mentors, which will encourage them to get involved in the political process.
    This project will enable some 5,800 girls and young women to learn the art of leadership and to practice their skills in their communities across the country. Our commitment to women's equality and their participation in our dynamic democracy is clear: we were the first government to appoint a female minister of state for the status of women, we have the highest percentage of female cabinet ministers in Canadian history, and we are working with women's groups.

[English]

Employment Insurance

    Mr. Speaker, my hometown of Hamilton is being hit by a tsunami of job losses, not just in steelmaking but in manufacturing, health care and just about every other sector of employment.
    This is the time when workers need to draw on the employment insurance that they paid into all of their working lives, but instead of helping workers to access what is rightfully theirs, the minister responsible for the program hurls insults by saying, “We do not want to make it lucrative for them to stay at home and get paid for it”. It is outrageous. Workers need EI not so they can stay at home, but so they can keep their homes.
     It gets worse. She then said that if Canadians were not working, it was simply because they were not looking hard enough.
     The minister needs a reality check and she needs to apologize to every laid off worker. Then she needs to act swiftly to hire enough staff to help laid off workers to access their benefits and to overhaul the entire EI system by improving eligibility, enhancing benefits and ending the two week waiting period. Laid off workers and their families deserve nothing less.

Science and Technology

    Mr. Speaker, last week's budget included a significant investment to fund leading edge research and provide innovators with the high end research equipment, laboratories and facilities that they need.
    Yesterday, the Minister of State for Science and Technology announced details of a new $750 million investment in the Canada Foundation for Innovation. This initiative will help develop new world-class research in my home province of Saskatchewan and across Canada, by attracting international talent to colleges, universities, research hospitals and institutions and by encouraging our researchers to conduct their research here.
    I am very proud of our government's investments in science and technology. Innovation will help Canada's economy recover more quickly, create jobs for the future and improve the quality of life for all Canadians.

[Translation]

Immigration and Refugee Board

    Mr. Speaker, in response to pressure from the Bloc, the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada has backtracked and postponed the hearing scheduled for next week, where a lawyer was being prohibited from arguing in French, as his client requested. In addition, the Board has announced that it will look at the issue of the language used during legal proceedings. However, it is asking the parties to submit additional arguments on this matter.
    Should a person not be able to get service in French when he or she requests it? Especially since, in this case, the panel is sitting is Montreal, where, as the president of Montreal's Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste says, the use of French as a common language is key to integrating newcomers and securing the future of French.
    The board must reverse its decision once and for all. That is why I invite the members of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration to support the motion I have put forward.

  (1415)  

[English]

The Economy

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday it was announced that Bombardier would be cutting over 1,300 jobs and HBC would also be slashing 1,000 jobs. The TD Bank also announced that Canada could lose an additional 325,000 jobs this year in addition to the massive job losses of 2008. This will raise the unemployment to almost 9%, once again proving that Tory times are tough times.
    These massive job losses are the direct consequence of the government being asleep at the wheel while the economic crisis worsens.
    Canadians are losing their jobs because the Prime Minister failed to act in the fall and instead locked MPs out of Parliament in December in order to save his own job rather than worry about the jobs of Canadians.
    This economic mismanagement is the reason why the Liberal Party has put the government on probation. Canadians simply deserve better.

[Translation]

Economic Action Plan

    Mr. Speaker, every Canadian can count on our government to take care of the economy.
    Canada's economic action plan, which we presented last week, takes into account the economic and social diversity of our country and was developed after the most extensive prebudget consultations in the history of Canada.
    Our government is implementing measures to help Canadian families and to encourage consumer spending. They deserve to have more money in their pockets and to be able to meet their own needs. This has been the cornerstone of the Conservative government since coming into office.
    Our plan gives a boost to construction companies and home renovators—two important engines of our economy—with its new home renovation tax credit of $1,350. Our plan also provides greater flexibility for those purchasing their first home. I can hardly wait to see the positive impact of the economic plan on businesses and families in the years to come.
    I invite all MPs to support Canada's economic action plan because it will allow us to emerge from the global recession stronger than ever.

ORAL QUESTIONS

[Oral Questions]

[Translation]

Aerospace Industry

    Mr. Speaker, this morning, Bombardier announced plans to cut over 1,300 jobs. Just two days ago, the Minister of Industry told the House that Quebec's aerospace industry was doing well.
    Will the Prime Minister tell his minister to stop telling tales in the House and explain why his aerospace strategy failed?
    Mr. Speaker, there are success stories and failures in every sector of the economy. We are in the middle of a global economic slowdown. The government has adopted an action plan to address these problems. I appreciate the Liberal Party's support for our action plan.
    Mr. Speaker, I am saying that the action plan is not working. The government is on probation because it failed to keep its promises. The billions of dollars set aside for infrastructure have not been paid out.
    Will the Prime Minister give Canadians a guarantee that the infrastructure funds promised in the budget will be paid out in full, on time, in 2009?
    Mr. Speaker, we have already expressed our intention to submit progress reports on infrastructure projects and other projects in the budget to parliamentarians.

[English]

    The Leader of the Opposition cannot support an economic plan earlier in the week and two days later say it is not working yet. That really does not have a lot of credibility.
    Mr. Speaker, I cannot help it if I am an impatient man.
    Could the Prime Minister assure us that his infrastructure spending will benefit all Canadians, no matter where they live or who they vote for?

  (1420)  

    Absolutely, Mr. Speaker. It is obviously the intention of the government, through the budget, to ensure that people in all sectors and all communities, particularly those hardest hit by the world economic slowdown, are put to work and kept at work.
    In terms of the Leader of the Opposition's patience, he demonstrated a lot of patience in his long 36 year return to Canada. I would urge him to show that kind of patience in the future.

Infrastructure

    Mr. Speaker, with all the significant dollars being committed to infrastructure projects, Canadians are concerned that some of that money will go astray.
    Could the minister tell us what measures the government is taking to ensure that federal infrastructure funds are being fairly distributed?
    Mr. Speaker, we are committed to work constructively with provinces, municipalities and other federal partners to ensure that these funds are spread out in various regions of the country. We think that is important.
    I can report for the member for Parkdale—High Park that the government is committed to working constructively, not just with the Government of Ontario, where we have a McGuinty who is doing a good job in helping us create jobs and opportunities, but we are working constructively with the mayor of Toronto on these important issues as well.
    We are pleased to note in the budget that Union Station is one of the important infrastructure investments that this government would make.
    Mr. Speaker, I hear what the minister says, but the facts say otherwise.
    Of the 26 projects announced so far for the building Canada fund, totalling over $1 billion, 75% of the money has been diverted to Conservative ridings. The majority of Canadians living in opposition ridings have been massively shortchanged so the Conservatives can get far more than their share.
    Will the minister agree to stop punishing people who did not vote Conservative and to use infrastructure funds to create jobs fairly for all Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, this is quite remarkable. Just last week he was saying there was not one project out the door. Now he is citing 26 of them where he is unhappy with their distribution.
    The Leader of the Opposition says he is impatient. We have had quite a week.

[Translation]

Taxation

    Mr. Speaker, while the Conservative budget offers mere crumbs to help the thousands of people who will lose their jobs and nothing for troubled industries and regions, the Minister of Finance will allow Canadian multinationals to avoid paying billions of dollars in taxes by using tax havens and will encourage job creation overseas.
    How can the Prime Minister explain that his government has quietly abandoned a provision of the Income Tax Act meant to fight against tax havens?
    Mr. Speaker, the government is following recommendations from an expert panel.
    Today, instead of working together to improve the economy, the leader of the Bloc has again proven his intolerance for people who have opinions that differ from his own. The leader of the Bloc insults the French president and the Quebec members in this House and divides Quebeckers with his sectarian ideology. He constantly forgets that a fundamental value in Quebec is respect for others' opinions.
    Mr. Speaker, once again, the Prime Minister is ducking the issue. He is not answering my question, which was also asked yesterday by the leader of the Bloc Québécois.
    The advisory group that is being used to justify the minister's decision is in a clear conflict of interest. Of the six members, four come from businesses that could have or that could in the future benefit from this scheme. For example, there is the former CEO of Scotia, the Canadian bank with the most subsidiaries in tax havens.
    Is the Prime Minister aware that pleasing the fat cats of Bay Street is not enough to justify his scandalous decision?

  (1425)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the only scandalous thing here is the fact that the Bloc Québécois members can do nothing more than stand in this House and complain about an expert panel, where they could have contributed when it actually mattered. Instead of howling in here, perhaps they should have presented their opinions to this very impartial panel that actually worked for free.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, in his 2007 budget, the Minister of Finance said that it was important to make sure everyone paid their fair share. He complained that some foreign and Canadian companies use tax rules to avoid paying tax. Every time that happens, he said, workers and SMEs have to pay more tax. He concluded that that was unfair.
    Why is the Minister of Finance allowing today what he considered unfair in 2007?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, this government wants to ensure that everyone pays their fair share and, in reference to the previous question, everyone receives their fair share. We took the recommendations of this expert panel that consulted across this country on what is fair for taxes and what makes Canadian companies competitive. The Bloc fails to recognize that we are in a global economy. We compete internationally and we want to make sure that our businesses can continue to compete internationally.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives have not broken any new ground when it comes to tax havens. The Liberals blazed that trail.
    The minister is using the international crisis to justify deplorable tax practices. We would like the minister to explain to laid off workers, the people we should be thinking about now, how tax evasion for his friends can solve the crisis they are going through today.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I am not sure how he brought that around to unemployment, but he seems to be able to do that quite capably.
    We continue to crack down on tax problems that face this country. We want to make sure that everybody pays their fair share. We are improving tax information exchange. We are providing more resources to Revenue Canada to make sure that taxes are collected and collected fairly all across this country.

Employment Insurance

    Mr. Speaker, I will tell the House who is impatient, it is the 7,000 people who have lost their jobs in the nine days since the government tabled its budget in the House.
    Today, the Toronto Dominion Bank estimates that upwards of 325,000 people will be losing their jobs in Canada over the next year. Despite this, the Prime Minister has refused to ensure that access to employment insurance is going to be increased to these people, no lifting of the two week waiting period, and no changes to eligibility at a time when we need it with unemployment soaring.
    Why will the Prime Minister not help those thousands of people who were looking for help from EI right now instead of leaving them behind?
    Mr. Speaker, the measures contained in the budget include a wide range of measures to assist those who are unemployed and those who will be looking for work, including an unprecedented extension of employment insurance benefits. Those 7,000 people and all of their families deserve an opposition in the House that will actually take the time to read the budget before deciding on its position.
    Mr. Speaker, the measures in the budget will not add one additional person who was previously excluded from EI to those who will be able to get some help even though they have paid for it for years.
    The Parliamentary Budget Officer delivered another blow to the budget today. He suggested that the jobs that are going to be contained in the stimulus are 20% less than the government reported just last week. That means that the jobs he is promising to create in his budget will total less than half of the jobs that are going to be lost in this country over the next year.
    Why is the Prime Minister leaving people behind instead of taking action to get them--
    The right hon. Prime Minister.
    Mr. Speaker, once again, this government went across the country, consulted people on the measures that are necessary in this budget and took those measures. The leader of the NDP has absolutely no credibility when he criticizes measures that everyone knew he had no intention of supporting in the first place.

  (1430)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, one thing is clear: the Conservatives' economic policies are a failure. They led Canada into a recession. They led Canada into a deficit. They led to 100,000 lost jobs in November and December, and things are only going to get worse.
    Thanks to the Conservatives' destructive policies, the Toronto Dominion Bank is forecasting that 325,000 jobs will be lost in Canada this year.
    What will the Prime Minister do to prevent this disaster and help people who are hurting now?
    Mr. Speaker, the budget contains very important measures for workers and the unemployed. These people and their families need an opposition, the NDP. Even though the NDP does not accept the election results, people have the right to expect the opposition to read the budget before deciding on its position.
    Mr. Speaker, nearly every day, we hear news about hundreds and thousands of people in Canada who are losing their jobs. Yesterday, it was the Hudson Bay Company; this morning, it was Bombardier. With each passing day, the minister's forecasts seem less and less likely to come true.
    How is the minister going to reach his job creation targets by March 26, when he makes his first report to Parliament?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it is always difficult when people lose their jobs. That is why we are taking significant steps to help people. We are helping them keep their jobs. We are expanding the work sharing program. We are helping them retrain when they lose their jobs. We are extending the benefits, so they can take care of their families while they are looking for those new jobs. We are particularly focusing on those who have worked in a job for a very long time and need new skills, so that they can transfer into the jobs of tomorrow.
    Mr. Speaker, TD Bank forecasts 325,000 jobs lost this year and an increase by one-third in the unemployment rate to 8.8%. At the same time, the Parliamentary Budget Officer says the government is exaggerating the employment impact of its budget.
    I have a very specific question for the finance minister. If the employment numbers continue to slide over coming months, will he commit to implement further actions before Parliament adjourns for the summer?
    Mr. Speaker, I guess this reflects once more that some people actually have not read the budget because that is in the budget. We will be working with the opposition that is going to help us get this budget bill through.
    This is all dependent on getting this through Parliament. We recognize that there are two opposition parties that will not help us get this through. They do not care about Canadians losing jobs. We are going to work together in this House to make sure that we get this budget bill passed and we can actually help Canadians.

The Environment

    Mr. Speaker, in announcing the public transit tax credit, the Conservatives promised 220,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emission reductions.
    Will the Minister of the Environment please confirm that after $635 million the results have been in fact negligible?
    Mr. Speaker, we continue to work on this. We continue to focus on emissions. We continue to ensure that we achieve the environmental objectives that we have spoken about in the House.
    Mr. Speaker, we all know what happens in baseball when we strike out three times. The government has broken another promise, has failed again our environment, and has wasted Canadian taxpayers' money. Today, the Auditor General confirmed that $635 million has led to results that are “negligible”.
    Does the minister disagree with the Auditor General?
    Mr. Speaker, I think it is clear from what has been said in the House over the last several years that every time the government takes specific action with respect to the environment, every time we bring forward choices for Canadians to make individual decisions to reduce energy, improve energy efficiency, tax credits that help Canadians, the Liberal Party is opposed to those individual responsibilities. They are different from us in that respect.
    We will continue to take action on the environment through choices by individual Canadians.

  (1435)  

[Translation]

Forestry Industry

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister is ducking the issue and refuses to rein in his Minister of State (Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec) who is spreading falsehoods by saying that granting loan guarantees to forestry companies would violate the softwood lumber agreement.
    Can the Prime Minister set his minister straight concerning this economic matter and confirm that loan guarantees are completely legal under the softwood lumber agreement?
    Mr. Speaker, our government, as always, will continue to implement measures to address this forestry crisis, which has been going on for many years, as we know. It is a matter of supply and demand. Our government has brought forward a number of measures to make some headway on this file, including $170 million that will allow the industry to do as much as possible, to diversify our markets and to develop new products. Once again, as always, the Bloc Québécois is looking for ways to undermine others. When will the Bloc work to move Quebec's files forward?

Aerospace Industry

    Mr. Speaker, forestry is not the only sector in trouble. Bombardier, the aerospace giant, has announced 710 layoffs in Montreal alone. Once again, Quebec is taking the hit.
    Does the Prime Minister not believe that refundable research and development tax credits would be more advantageous to businesses than more lax regulations for tax havens?
    Mr. Speaker, that announcement today by Bombardier is very sad. I can also say that this sector is not immune to global economic challenges. Today, however, Bombardier also announced the creation of 230 new permanent jobs for new aircraft programs in Montreal. That was part of the same announcement.

Agriculture and Agri-Food

    Mr. Speaker, re-opening WTO negotiations would endanger the supply management system. Agriculture-related provisions proposed in July, provisions that would be very bad for supply management, are still on the table. In Davos, the Minister of International Trade stated that he wanted to ask Pascal Lamy, the WTO director-general, to put negotiations back on the agenda. If that happens, producers subject to supply management could lose a billion dollars in revenues.
    Does the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food realize that, and will he make sure that the provisions include protection for supply management and sensitive products?
    Mr. Speaker, in 2005, this House passed a unanimous resolution asking the government to protect supply management. Our government has taken a clear position in favour of our agricultural producers and members of the GO5 coalition.
    We are staying the course. We want the WTO to respect supply management and we will continue to stand up for our people on that issue.

Public Works and Government Services

    Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General harshly criticized the government's lack of transparency when it comes to managing professional services contracts. She revealed that half of the contracts she examined cannot be found on the website responsible for disclosing this kind of information to the public.
    When will this government put an end to the culture of secrecy?
    Mr. Speaker, on the contrary, considering that this department that awards over $1 million in service contracts, I would remind the hon. member that if she had read the report properly, she would have noted that 96% of contracts produced positive results. This sort of thing has never before been seen at Public Works. With results like that, no one should resort to such fearmongering. The member should read the Auditor General's report.

[English]

Child Care

    Mr. Speaker, tomorrow is a shameful anniversary. It marks three years to the day since the Conservative government cancelled the Liberal child care agreements. The City of Toronto has just announced it will have to cut 6,000 child care spaces, almost a quarter of all its subsidized spaces. The budget is silent on child care.
    Jody Dallaire of the Child Care Coalition said, “But government refuses to meet the economic needs of women by investing in child care”.
    Is the government so out of touch with working Canadians that it cannot hear the families and child care organizations across this country crying out for quality affordable child care?

  (1440)  

    Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member were in touch with Canadians, he would hear how very pleased they are with the universal child care program that we brought in three years ago.
    That program gives parents across Canada the choice in the child care that they get for their children. We have also increased funding to the provinces so that they can create daycare spaces. That funding will increase by 3% next year to help them create even more spaces.
    Mr. Speaker, according to the Childcare Resource and Research Unit, since the Conservative government came to power in 2006, child care space expansion has evaporated. The government's plan to create spaces was a dismal failure. Families know it; the government knows it.
    The minister has now offended people on EI, speaks of affordable housing as a temporary need, and now speaks of a fictional 60,000 child care spaces. The minister's indifference is appalling. When will she wake up to the reality of working families? When will she take early learning and child care seriously?
    Mr. Speaker, for three elections the Liberals promised a national child care program and did not deliver a bit of it, not a space.
    It is the provinces that are reporting that thanks to our funding, they have created 60,000 spaces. In fact our government is spending three times as much money on early child care and early learning as the Liberals ever did. Canadians deserve it, families need it, and we are delivering it.

[Translation]

Chalk River Nuclear Facilities

    Mr. Speaker, after 10 days of questioning, the minister is finally tabling a report confirming the radioactive leaks, both liquid and gaseous, at Chalk River. The Conservatives have known for exactly two months now. Apparently everyone knew, except 33 million Canadians.
    Will the minister admit that if the information had not been leaked to the media, Atomic Energy Canada would never have acknowledged the facts and Canadians would never have known?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we asked for reports from AECL, from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, and from our Natural Resources Canada officials. They produced reports. The reports were received yesterday and tabled this morning in Parliament to give full disclosure to Canadians that there was no radioactive leak into the Ottawa River and that there is no risk to the health and safety of Canadians.
    Mr. Speaker, given the events of 2007 at Chalk River, any event of concern should have been a top concern and a top priority for the minister. It is clear from the report tabled today that there was a radioactive leak in early December. It is also clear that the minister did absolutely nothing to get the details until a week ago.
    If she takes nuclear safety and the supply of medical isotopes seriously, why did it take her seven weeks and a media story to ask for a report?
    Mr. Speaker, as I have indicated before, I was made aware at the time of the incident and unplanned closure at Chalk River on December 6. I was given an assurance by the CNSC and by the AECL, which has been proven to be true, that there was no health and safety risk to Canadians because of the incident at Chalk River.
    It is very important to remember that the facts are important for the Canadian public. We have tabled the facts here today. The truth is there. I invite Canadians to read it and not listen to the constant fearmongering from the other side of the House.

Small Craft Harbours

    Mr. Speaker, in ridings such as Nanaimo--Alberni, the interface between man and marine-based commerce is concentrated around small craft harbours.
    Could the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans explain how measures in our economic action plan will impact coastal communities?

  (1445)  

    Mr. Speaker, I understand that the member for Nanaimo—Alberni has always been a good advocate for harbours, especially in his riding.
    Members from the fishing communities should stand proud as this government will deliver millions more for core harbours in Canada and for a new harbour in Nunavut. This funding will also create jobs in coastal communities right across the country.
    In our economic action plan, we did profile harbours in coastal communities such as Nanaimo--Cowichan, in Acadie—Bathurst in New Brunswick and in Gaspésie--Îles-de-la-Madeleine in Quebec, but I must point out that members who represent those ridings--
    I am afraid the hon. member's time has expired. I am sorry.
    The hon. member for Welland.

Food Safety

    Mr. Speaker, despite listeriosis, despite salmonella, the government, just as was the case with the previous Liberal government, still does not get it.
    The Auditor General today told us that we spend more time, more money and more resources inspecting food that leaves our country than food that enters our country. This is extremely disturbing.
    Why does the government have higher food safety standards for exports than the food that is being fed to our grandparents, our parents, and our children?
    Mr. Speaker, I welcome the question from my hon. colleague opposite, but I have read those reports. We take them very seriously. The Auditor General does tremendous work in giving us a report card to renew our vigour in making sure the food supply for Canadians is safe. I am not sure what the member opposite read, but he is not very factual.

The Environment

    Mr. Speaker, the government has failed again on addressing climate change and toxins.
    The Commissioner for the Environment said it himself: negligible results, failed analysis, inability to report real measures taken, reliance on voluntary, failed enforcement. Now the government is ploughing multi-billions into unproven carbon capture technologies.
    Could the government tell Canadians what would be different this time? What new measures will the minister announce to ensure accountability and real results?
    Mr. Speaker, we welcome the commissioner's report. It contains valuable recommendations that the government is taking action on with respect to a number of areas in terms of some of the accounting issues that are raised. We have already taken action with respect to recommendations from the round table on the environment, a group I met with immediately after becoming the minister to discuss these very issues.
    In terms of investments in technologies that will reduce greenhouse gases, surely it is clear even to the NDP that such investments are essential. Renewable energies and investments in technologies are what will deal with our greenhouse gas emissions.

[Translation]

Transportation

    Mr. Speaker, a federal report indicates that Canadian National knowingly neglected work that its own engineers suggested be carried out on the Quebec bridge. In the meantime, the structure is deteriorating and the federal government is hiding behind its latest legal manoeuvre to justify its silence and inaction.
    What is this government waiting for to repossess the Quebec bridge and carry out the work required for the safety of all users?
    Mr. Speaker, we are working very hard on public safety in Quebec and throughout Canada. That is one of my department's priorities. We are spending a great deal of money this year to improve the quality of our bridges. We will continue to do so without the support of the Bloc members because they vote against our action plans.

Infrastructure

    Mr. Speaker, here is another example of the Conservatives' lack of political responsibility when it comes to issues in the Quebec City area.
    In an interview, the member for Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière implied that all three levels of government would make up the $13 million shortfall to complete work on the water system in Shannon.
    Does the Minister of National Defence confirm what his colleague said and, if so, does he realize that he is relieving his government of its responsibility and shifting two thirds of that responsibility onto the Government of Quebec and the City of Shannon, when it is the federal government that is responsible for this work?
    Mr. Speaker, we have had a number of discussions with the mayor of Shannon. We are concerned by the needs the community has expressed. However, what is very irresponsible is that the action plan we tabled last week contained $12 billion for infrastructure, yet the member for Québec and her colleagues from the Quebec City area voted against it.

  (1450)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance said that the funds will flow for Vancouver's new Evergreen rapid transit line, but he failed to include it in the budget.
    My question is simple. Can the minister tell us right here and right now how much money his government is going to commit to the Evergreen line and when B.C. will get it?
    Mr. Speaker, because of the efforts of many hard-working British Columbians, including the Minister of Canadian Heritage, the Minister of International Trade and the British Columbia caucus, we are working hard.
    I can commit to the hon. member that we are going to fund enough in that project to get the job done.
    Mr. Speaker, the crumbling infrastructure of our cities ought to be a priority for the Conservative government, especially in a time of economic crisis. However, the money has not been flowing. In British Columbia, only seven building Canada fund projects have been announced, and all seven are in Conservative ridings.
    That is disgraceful. All British Columbians deserve to have their infrastructure needs met. When will the Prime Minister stop exploiting the financial crisis to build a giant Conservative pork barrel and start taking his job seriously for all Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, last week those members said that no projects had been funded. This week they say there is an orgy of spending going on, but only in Conservative ridings. I can tell the member opposite that we are committed to public transit in the greater Vancouver area.
    I can say very directly that when one looks at British Columbia and the results of what the people of British Columbia delivered on election day, it is no wonder so much is going to Conservative ridings, because there are an awful lot of them in B.C.

Credit Card Interest Rates

    Mr. Speaker, Visa saw a 35% increase in its profits, achieved mostly off the backs of Canadian families. Now Canadian Tire is the latest company jumping on the rip-off-consumers bandwagon. Why is it that credit card companies continue to raise interest rates when the Bank of Canada's rate continues to decrease? It is because they know no one is going to stop them.
    Does the Conservative government seriously think a consumer awareness program will help solve the skyrocketing debt that Canadian families are facing?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for once again raising the same issue that has been answered many times in this House. We are also very concerned about it. Our Minister of Finance has spoken to many of the lending institutions to raise that issue.
    However, if the hon. member would wish to pass this on to his constituents, there is actually a group set up to listen to these complaints. It is the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada. It is available to all members and all Canadians online. He could help his constituents instead of asking questions to give them an answer.
    Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government's plan will not do anything more than inform Canadian consumers just how much they are being ripped off. Credit card balances have risen 40% since 2004 and continue to increase as families cope with this financial crisis. Canadian families should not bear the brunt of these tough economic times.
    Why will the government not end these cash grabs and protect families who are trying to make ends meet? Why will the government not stand up to the banks and credit card companies and do something now to help Canadians burdened by debt?
    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member had the opportunity to do something. He could have voted for the budget. In fact, he did not even read the budget because we talked about financial literacy, explaining to Canadians so they could actually understand. We are undertaking a project to prepare Canadians to deal with their financial institutions and ask the right questions.
    Instead of voting against everything that this government wants to provide to Canadians, such as new jobs and support for the unemployed, he should have supported the budget.

  (1455)  

Sri Lanka

    Mr. Speaker, Canadians are seeing the images of what is going on in Sri Lanka. Like all Canadians, I am concerned about the heavy cost to civilians. I know that those with loved ones in Sri Lanka, like many in my riding of Mississauga—Erindale, are especially concerned.
    Could the Minister of International Cooperation inform us how Canada is reacting?
    Mr. Speaker, I, too, have seen the images and, obviously, we are very concerned with what is happening in Sri Lanka. My colleague, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, has called for an immediate ceasefire and called on the Sri Lankan government to exercise caution. We need a ceasefire to allow the evacuation of the sick and wounded and to allow safe, unhindered access to humanitarian needs for civilians.
    Yesterday, I announced that Canada will commit up to $3 million in humanitarian aid.
     We continue to call on both parties to stop the fighting so that a durable political solution can benefit--
    The hon. member for Winnipeg South Centre.

Status of Women

    Mr. Speaker, the government's betrayal of women's equality is now an international issue. In November, the UN was scathing in its condemnation of Canada's record. Now it is the UN periodic peer review which cited serious concerns about Canada: failure to address violence against aboriginal women; failure to uphold the CEDAW obligations; and no strategy to eliminate poverty and homelessness.
    When will the government take action on these recommendations or will it again choose to ignore them?
    Mr. Speaker, we are taking action. We always are very concerned about human rights issues, which is why, for instance, last year we passed Bill C-21 which, for the first time ever, brought the Canadian Human Rights Act to bear on the conditions on first nation reserves across the country.
    I would invite the member to study the statements by someone from her own home town, David Matas, an international human rights lawyer from Winnipeg, who viewed Canada's presentation and called it exemplary. He went on to say that it is better than any other country in the whole world.
    We made good progress. There is always more to do but we are happy to work on human rights issues here in this House of Commons.

[Translation]

Mining Industry

    Mr. Speaker, Norway has just put the Canadian mining company Barrick Gold on its government investment fund blacklist because of that company's risky environmental practices.
    In light of this, will the government act quickly to follow up on the National Roundtables on Corporate Social Responsibility and the Canadian Extractive Industry in Developing Countries Advisory Group Report?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, our social responsibility for our international extractive sector is the highest in the world. Our companies are the best in the world and they continue to be that. We work closely with them and we will continue to work closely with them. Corporate social responsibility is alive and well in the extractive sector in Canada and overseas.

Veterans Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, on September 9, 2008, the Prime Minister told a bunch of Polish veterans that if the Conservatives were re-elected, they would have their veterans war allowance for allied and commonwealth veterans reinstated. However, that promise was not in the economic statement. It was not in the budget.
    I would ask the right hon. Prime Minister when that promise will be met. I remind him that these veterans are 86 years old. Since that promise, some of them have already passed away. They do not have much time left. When will the government honour that commitment or will this be just another example of a long line of broken promises to our veterans and their families?
    Mr. Speaker, this is an important issue. The member is referencing benefits that were taken away by a previous government, a Liberal government.
    We are committed to that and we have told the veterans community that we will honour that commitment.
    The interesting thing is that for all we have done for veterans, and I think the list is pretty long for the three years that we have been here, the NDP members have stood in their place and voted against every one of those measures that we brought in for veterans and our men and women in uniform. They should be ashamed of themselves.
    My advice for the member is for him to leave his seat and have a chat with Jack and see if they will support our veterans.
    I am not sure who the hon. member was referring to but I hope it was not another hon. member. He knows that is out of order.
    The hon. member for Newmarket—Aurora.

  (1500)  

Agriculture

    Mr. Speaker, I read today that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is moving forward with implementing a new policy for poultry inspection.
    I know that the government considers the safety of Canadians' food a matter of great importance.
    Could the minister inform the House about the state of this program?
    Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member for Newmarket—Aurora that the health and safety of Canadians is paramount for this government.
    This pilot program was developed by the Liberals in 2004. I can assure the member that this government will not introduce any program that does not meet due diligence and sound scientific facts. We will ensure that the veterinarians on the line have all the tools they require to get the job done.

Aboriginal Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, a lot of Canadians feel left out of the budget but none more so than the Métis.
    There were more than 5,000 words in the budget speech but “Métis” was not one of them, and yet the Métis people are among some of the most vulnerable in society.
    Why was the minister responsible so ineffective or uncaring to allow this glaring omission and injustice, and why was there nothing specific in the budget for the Métis people of Canada?
     Mr. Speaker, that is simply not true. There are provisions in the budget for aboriginals who live on reserve and off reserve. There are things that are very important to the Métis National Council, such as the ARDA funding, which it helps to administer, as well as many other things.
    We signed a protocol arrangement with the Métis nation just this last fall, something it had asked for from the Liberal Party for 10 years. We were able to sign that because we believe the Métis nation deserves a government-to-government relationship and it has it on this side of the House.

[Translation]

Business of the House

[Business of the House]
    Mr. Speaker, this being Thursday, I would like to ask the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons to indicate the business for tomorrow and next week.

[English]

    In particular, when will the budget bill be formally introduced and on which days does the minister propose to have it debated.
    Second, will there be another allotted day next week?
    Mr. Speaker, we will continue with the opposition motion today concerning the possibility of growing trade protectionism in the United States.
    Tomorrow we will carry on with the remaining legislation that the government scheduled for this week, Bill C-4, An Act respecting not-for-profit corporations and certain other corporations, and Bill C-5, An Act to amend the Indian Oil and Gas Act.
    Next week we shall begin and, hopefully, conclude debate at second reading of the budget bill. Following the budget bill, we will call Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992, and any legislation that is not completed this week.
    Thursday, February 12, a week from now, shall be an allotted day.
    Before I conclude my remarks, I would like to take a moment to thank all the opposition House leaders, whips and leaders for their patience, flexibility and cooperation while dealing with the budget bill. Although we do not see eye to eye on all of its contents, I appreciate the cooperation when dealing with the somewhat complicated process to bring such a measure before the House.
    It does not benefit anyone to get bogged down on process but there is a benefit to the public when we can get to the substantive policy debate that the budget bill will offer and, ultimately, to ensure the timely disbursements of the benefits it intends to provide Canadians during these difficult times.
    Despite the daily partisanship of questions period, this is clear evidence that if all of us work with the best interests of Canadians in mind, Parliament can work the way that Canadians deserve and expect it to.

Points of Order

Correction to Official Record  

[Points of Order]
    Mr. Speaker, I wish to correct the record.
    In response to the question by the member for Vancouver Quadra, I noted the hard work of the Minister of Canadian Heritage and the Minister of International Trade on important projects in Vancouver. I also should have mentioned the excellent, hard-working commitment of the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

GOVERNMENT ORDERS

[Government Orders]

  (1505)  

[English]

Ways and Means

Motion No. 6  

     moved that consideration of a ways and means motion to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on January 27, 2009 and related fiscal measures, be concurred in.
     Order, please. It being 3:05 p.m., pursuant to order made Wednesday, February 4, 2009, the House will now proceed to the putting of the question on Ways and Means Motion No. 6. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: No.
    The Speaker: All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.
    Some hon. members: Yea.
    The Speaker: All those opposed will please say nay.
    Some hon. members: Nay.
    The Speaker: In my opinion the yeas have it.
    And five or more members having risen:
    The Speaker: Call in the members.
    And the bells having rung:

  (1515)  

[Translation]

    (The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)
 

(Division No. 4)

YEAS

Members

Abbott
Ablonczy
Aglukkaq
Albrecht
Allen (Tobique—Mactaquac)
Allison
Ambrose
Anders
Anderson
Andrews
Ashfield
Bagnell
Bains
Baird
Bélanger
Bennett
Benoit
Bernier
Bevilacqua
Bezan
Blackburn
Blaney
Block
Boucher
Boughen
Braid
Breitkreuz
Brison
Brown (Leeds—Grenville)
Brown (Newmarket—Aurora)
Brown (Barrie)
Bruinooge
Byrne
Cadman
Calandra
Calkins
Cannan (Kelowna—Lake Country)
Cannis
Cannon (Pontiac)
Carrie
Casson
Chong
Clarke
Clement
Coderre
Cotler
Crombie
Cummins
Cuzner
D'Amours
Davidson
Dechert
Del Mastro
Devolin
Dhaliwal
Dhalla
Dion
Dosanjh
Dreeshen
Dryden
Duncan (Vancouver Island North)
Duncan (Etobicoke North)
Dykstra
Easter
Eyking
Fast
Finley
Flaherty
Fletcher
Folco
Foote
Fry
Galipeau
Gallant
Garneau
Glover
Goldring
Goodale
Goodyear
Gourde
Grewal
Guarnieri
Guergis
Hall Findlay
Harper
Harris (Cariboo—Prince George)
Hawn
Hiebert
Hill
Hoback
Hoeppner
Holder
Holland
Ignatieff
Jean
Jennings
Kamp (Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission)
Kania
Karygiannis
Keddy (South Shore—St. Margaret's)
Kennedy
Kenney (Calgary Southeast)
Kent
Kerr
Komarnicki
Kramp (Prince Edward—Hastings)
Lake
Lauzon
Lebel
LeBlanc
Lee
Lemieux
Lobb
Lukiwski
Lunn
Lunney
MacAulay
MacKay (Central Nova)
MacKenzie
Malhi
Mark
Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca)
Mayes
McCallum
McColeman
McGuinty
McKay (Scarborough—Guildwood)
McLeod
McTeague
Mendes
Menzies
Merrifield
Miller
Minna
Moore (Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam)
Moore (Fundy Royal)
Murphy (Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe)
Murphy (Charlottetown)
Murray
Neville
Nicholson
Norlock
O'Connor
O'Neill-Gordon
Obhrai
Oda
Oliphant
Pacetti
Paradis
Patry
Payne
Pearson
Petit
Poilievre
Prentice
Preston
Proulx
Rae
Raitt
Rajotte
Ratansi
Rathgeber
Regan
Reid
Richards
Richardson
Rickford
Ritz
Rodriguez
Rota
Russell
Savage
Saxton
Scarpaleggia
Scheer
Schellenberger
Sgro
Shea
Shipley
Shory
Silva
Simms
Smith
Sorenson
Stanton
Storseth
Strahl
Sweet
Szabo
Thompson
Tilson
Toews
Tonks
Trost
Tweed
Uppal
Valeriote
Van Kesteren
Van Loan
Vellacott
Verner
Volpe
Wallace
Warawa
Warkentin
Watson
Weston (West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country)
Weston (Saint John)
Wilfert
Wong
Woodworth
Wrzesnewskyj
Yelich
Young

Total: -- 214

NAYS

Members

Allen (Welland)
André
Angus
Ashton
Asselin
Atamanenko
Bachand
Beaudin
Bellavance
Bevington
Bigras
Black
Blais
Bouchard
Bourgeois
Brunelle
Cardin
Carrier
Charlton
Chow
Christopherson
Comartin
Crowder
Davies (Vancouver Kingsway)
Davies (Vancouver East)
DeBellefeuille
Demers
Deschamps
Desnoyers
Dewar
Dorion
Dufour
Duncan (Edmonton—Strathcona)
Faille
Freeman
Gagnon
Gaudet
Godin
Gravelle
Guay
Guimond (Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques)
Guimond (Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord)
Harris (St. John's East)
Hughes
Hyer
Julian
Laforest
Laframboise
Lavallée
Layton
Lemay
Leslie
Lessard
Lévesque
Malo
Maloway
Marston
Martin (Winnipeg Centre)
Martin (Sault Ste. Marie)
Masse
Mathyssen
Ménard (Hochelaga)
Ménard (Marc-Aurèle-Fortin)
Mulcair
Nadeau
Ouellet
Paillé
Paquette
Plamondon
Pomerleau
Rafferty
Roy
Savoie
Siksay
St-Cyr
Stoffer
Thi Lac
Thibeault
Vincent
Wasylycia-Leis

Total: -- 80

PAIRED

Members

Day
Duceppe

Total: -- 2

    I declare the motion carried.

[English]

Canada–EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act

     The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at the second reading stage of Bill C-2.
    The hon. chief government whip is rising on a point of order.
    Mr. Speaker, I believe that if you were to seek it, you would find that there is unanimous consent to apply the results of the vote just taken to the motion for second reading of Bill C-2 with Conservative members voting yes.
    Is there unanimous consent to proceed in this way?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Mr. Speaker, Liberals will be voting yes on this motion.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the members of the Bloc Quebecois will vote in favour of this motion.
    Mr. Speaker, members of the NDP will be voting against the motion.
    (The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)
 

(Division No. 5)

YEAS

Members

Abbott
Ablonczy
Aglukkaq
Albrecht
Allen (Tobique—Mactaquac)
Allison
Ambrose
Anders
Anderson
André
Andrews
Ashfield
Asselin
Bachand
Bagnell
Bains
Baird
Beaudin
Bélanger
Bellavance
Bennett
Benoit
Bernier
Bevilacqua
Bezan
Bigras
Blackburn
Blais
Blaney
Block
Bouchard
Boucher
Boughen
Bourgeois
Braid
Breitkreuz
Brison
Brown (Leeds—Grenville)
Brown (Newmarket—Aurora)
Brown (Barrie)
Bruinooge
Brunelle
Byrne
Cadman
Calandra
Calkins
Cannan (Kelowna—Lake Country)
Cannis
Cannon (Pontiac)
Cardin
Carrie
Carrier
Casson
Chong
Clarke
Clement
Coderre
Cotler
Crombie
Cummins
Cuzner
D'Amours
Davidson
DeBellefeuille
Dechert
Del Mastro
Demers
Deschamps
Desnoyers
Devolin
Dhaliwal
Dhalla
Dion
Dorion
Dosanjh
Dreeshen
Dryden
Dufour
Duncan (Vancouver Island North)
Duncan (Etobicoke North)
Dykstra
Easter
Eyking
Faille
Fast
Finley
Flaherty
Fletcher
Folco
Foote
Freeman
Fry
Gagnon
Galipeau
Gallant
Garneau
Gaudet
Glover
Goldring
Goodale
Goodyear
Gourde
Grewal
Guarnieri
Guay
Guergis
Guimond (Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques)
Guimond (Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord)
Hall Findlay
Harper
Harris (Cariboo—Prince George)
Hawn
Hiebert
Hill
Hoback
Hoeppner
Holder
Holland
Ignatieff
Jean
Jennings
Kamp (Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission)
Kania
Karygiannis
Keddy (South Shore—St. Margaret's)
Kennedy
Kenney (Calgary Southeast)
Kent
Kerr
Komarnicki
Kramp (Prince Edward—Hastings)
Laforest
Laframboise
Lake
Lauzon
Lavallée
Lebel
LeBlanc
Lee
Lemay
Lemieux
Lessard
Lévesque
Lobb
Lukiwski
Lunn
Lunney
MacAulay
MacKay (Central Nova)
MacKenzie
Malhi
Malo
Mark
Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca)
Mayes
McCallum
McColeman
McGuinty
McKay (Scarborough—Guildwood)
McLeod
McTeague
Ménard (Hochelaga)
Ménard (Marc-Aurèle-Fortin)
Mendes
Menzies
Merrifield
Miller
Minna
Moore (Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam)
Moore (Fundy Royal)
Murphy (Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe)
Murphy (Charlottetown)
Murray
Nadeau
Neville
Nicholson
Norlock
O'Connor
O'Neill-Gordon
Obhrai
Oda
Oliphant
Ouellet
Pacetti
Paillé
Paquette
Paradis
Patry
Payne
Pearson
Petit
Plamondon
Poilievre
Pomerleau
Prentice
Preston
Proulx
Rae
Raitt
Rajotte
Ratansi
Rathgeber
Regan
Reid
Richards
Richardson
Rickford
Ritz
Rodriguez
Rota
Roy
Russell
Savage
Saxton
Scarpaleggia
Scheer
Schellenberger
Sgro
Shea
Shipley
Shory
Silva
Simms
Smith
Sorenson
St-Cyr
Stanton
Storseth
Strahl
Sweet
Szabo
Thi Lac
Thompson
Tilson
Toews
Tonks
Trost
Tweed
Uppal
Valeriote
Van Kesteren
Van Loan
Vellacott
Verner
Vincent
Volpe
Wallace
Warawa
Warkentin
Watson
Weston (West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country)
Weston (Saint John)
Wilfert
Wong
Woodworth
Wrzesnewskyj
Yelich
Young

Total: -- 258

NAYS

Members

Allen (Welland)
Angus
Ashton
Atamanenko
Bevington
Black
Charlton
Chow
Christopherson
Comartin
Crowder
Davies (Vancouver Kingsway)
Davies (Vancouver East)
Dewar
Duncan (Edmonton—Strathcona)
Godin
Gravelle
Harris (St. John's East)
Hughes
Hyer
Julian
Layton
Leslie
Maloway
Marston
Martin (Winnipeg Centre)
Martin (Sault Ste. Marie)
Masse
Mathyssen
Mulcair
Rafferty
Savoie
Siksay
Stoffer
Thibeault
Wasylycia-Leis

Total: -- 36

PAIRED

Members

Day
Duceppe

Total: -- 2

    I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on International Trade.

    (Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

[English]

    I wish to inform the House that because of the recorded divisions, government orders will be extended by 12 minutes.

[Translation]

Business of Supply

Opposition Motion—Canada-U.S. Relations  

[Business of Supply]
    The House resumed consideration of the motion.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank all of the parliamentarians who have spoken for their contribution to the debate. I am pleased to have a chance to speak to this issue.
    The motion we are debating, which the Bloc Québécois will support, reflects the urgency and gravity of the current situation. The protectionist measures in the American recovery package could have a serious impact on Quebec's economy and undermine trade agreements between the United States and its partners. The Bloc Québécois believes that the House must take a strong stand and give the government a mandate to press our case immediately and tirelessly with American authorities.
     Although President Obama seems to have backed down on certain parts of the Buy American Act, the protectionist measures proposed by the United States may contain provisions to sidestep international trade agreements, such as NAFTA. For example, one clause in the Buy American Act imposes restrictions on the use of steel and steel by-products in American construction projects. Most highway infrastructure work is funded by the Federal Highway Administration, and we know that there is a big difference between the projects it funds and the direct purchases it makes. The projects it funds are subject to the Buy American Act provisions, while direct purchases are subject to NAFTA.
    In practice, this distinction means that chapter 10 of NAFTA will not apply to the 80% of U.S. highway construction projects that are considered funded , and that Quebec and Canadian companies will not be entitled to the same treatment as American companies. State-level projects are not subject to NAFTA and must comply with the Buy American Act. With respect to steel, the American recovery plan has tightened the rules to make it practically impossible for Quebec companies to bid on projects. This matter is serious because the requirement to use American-sourced metal now includes all public infrastructure construction, alteration, renovation, maintenance and repair projects.
    It is clear that these measures could do a lot of damage in Quebec. Our economy is very closely linked to that of the United States.

  (1520)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to apologize to my colleague from Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques for having interrupted him. He was in the middle of a very interesting speech, but he neglected to mention to the Table and the House that he would be sharing his time with the member for Joliette.
    Thank you. I am sure that the member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques also appreciates this information from his whip.
    He now has the floor.
    Mr. Speaker, I am sorry. I will learn.
    As I was saying, it is obvious that these measures could be devastating for Quebec. Our economy is closely linked with that of the United States, which accounts for 57% of Quebec's exports when interprovincial trade is factored in.
    In terms of international exports alone, that figure rises to 85%. Quebec has a large surplus due to its trade with the United States. In fact, Quebec sells twice as much to Americans as it buys from them. In this context, it is clear that Quebec wants trade with the United States to be as flexible as possible. A trade war, or even partially opting out of NAFTA, would not be beneficial for Quebec.
    Free trade is part of the Bloc Québécois philosophy as long as the agreements are well regulated and monitored. Contrary to what the Conservatives and Liberals are suggesting, which is that Canada join in the mad dash to implement bilateral trade agreements, the Bloc Québécois is questioning the nature and the long-term impact of these agreements. It is imperative to us that, prior to signing an agreement, we take the time to evaluate the positives and negatives of the agreement for our economy.
    We believe that in order for trade to be mutually beneficial, it must first be fair. A trading system that results in the exploitation of poor countries and dumping in rich countries is not viable. We cannot accept a system of free trade that would be based on the lowest common denominator. For that reason we find it difficult to understand why this government insists on signing and moving forward on the free trade agreement with Colombia in particular.
    We believe that multilateral negotiations are much more advantageous for everyone. They are better monitored and generally more effective. The liberalization movement that has taken place in the world in recent years now needs to be given a more human dimension. The problem in our mind with these bilateral agreements is that they do not allow us to apply rules to civilize trade.
    Most of these agreements do not contain clauses on human rights, labour rights or the environment. We believe that the government should perhaps sign better agreements rather than signing a large series of agreements that do not reflect our concerns.
    In this regard, the Bloc Québécois is urging the federal government to revise its positions in trade negotiations in order to ensure that trade agreements include clauses ensuring compliance with international labour standards as well as respect for human rights and the environment.
    In the end, we must continue to move forward, to improve our agreements and to increase the chances of prosperity for all. Therefore, we cannot understand why the new American administration is seeking to adopt measures that forsake our mutual commitments. This reminds us of the attitude of the previous administration which, in 2001, resorted to section 203 of the 1974 Trade Act in order to impose customs duties and a licensing system on steel imports for a period of three years. Under considerable pressure from industry representatives in Canada and Mexico, the United States decided to exempt these two NAFTA trading partners from these measures.
    Nonetheless, this sparked considerable irritation throughout the entire world, and the United States was harshly criticized for this unilateral move. In the situation concerning us now, perhaps we can be made an exception to the rule once again. But the message that has already been sent should caution us against possible protectionist measures and encourage us to protect our own industries better.

  (1525)  

    The difficulties Quebec has seen in recent years prompted us to change our trade priorities. Last year, the rise in the Canadian dollar, driven by Alberta oil exports, reduced the competitiveness of Quebec businesses on the American market, while emerging countries were dominating the global market.
    In this context of a deteriorating trade environment, the Bloc Québécois made accessing foreign markets our top trade priority. I would also like to point out that the Bloc is proposing important measures regarding international trade, while always keeping in mind the need for balance and healthy competition when it comes to trade.
    To close, the Bloc Québécois supports the motion before us today. The Bloc Québécois prefers a diplomatic solution over legal action to resolve the difference of opinion between Canada and the United States regarding protectionism.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my friend for his intervention and also thank him for actually supporting the motion.
    Our government has done a lot of work behind the scenes to oppose the protectionist measures that the U.S. is suggesting might be implemented. In fact, there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes.
    I noticed that the member acknowledged that in the province of Quebec one of the main focuses is to expand Quebec's trading opportunities to other countries around the world and not just the U.S. He also spent a lot of time attacking the very free trade agreements our government has been signing in order to expand our own national opportunities in trade around the world.
    I am wondering if he is aware of the experience in Chile. I sat in on the international trade committee when the Colombia free trade agreement was being discussed. The testimony at that committee was very clear that after Chile signed its free trade agreement with Canada, its human rights record actually improved. I am wondering if the member is aware of that, and whether he would not expect the same with some of the other countries with which we have signed agreements, for example, Colombia and Peru.

  (1530)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois is very aware of the importance of international trade, and our position favoured multilateralism.
    The partner we are talking about is also Quebec's main trade partner, the United States. They alone account for 57% of Quebec exports, that is, one and a half times more than what goes to Canada. As for Quebec's international exports, the United States takes in 85% of those exports. Those figures show that Quebec is an irreplaceable partner for the United States.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague on his first speech in the House of Commons since being elected. He did a very good job.
    Earlier, the Conservative Party member said that the government had done some behind-the-scenes work. That is not surprising; it seems to come naturally. But the government might end up having one put over on it. Even if Mr. Obama says that he will soften the impact by complying with WTO rules, we know that there are loopholes in NAFTA and the WTO rules that would allow him to continue applying protectionist measures. It would be better to rely on direct diplomacy and avoid backroom deals than to end up before the courts.
    My colleague had only a few seconds to touch on the Bloc Québécois' proposals for promoting international trade between Quebec and the rest of the world. I would like a little more information about that.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for giving me the opportunity to elaborate on certain measures endorsed by the Bloc Québécois. These measures would modernize our trade legislation to better protect our companies from foreign dumping. These same measures would make it impossible to ignore Canadian International Trade Tribunal rulings that recommend applying safeguards. These measures would also allow workers themselves to file complaints about subsidies and dumping with the Canadian International Trade Tribunal.
    Another measure would be to change Canada's negotiating position at the WTO, making social dumping its first priority and focusing on multilateral negotiations within the WTO. That is the only forum for making rules to civilize international trade.
    Lastly, another way to fight social dumping is to ratify the following International Labour Organization conventions: the Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, and the Minimum Age for Admission to Employment Convention.
    With these measures in place, we will have an edge in international trade.

  (1535)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate which is so important for Canada, obviously for Quebec as well, and also for our American neighbours. One of the responsibilities of the Conservative government and the Prime Minister is to ensure that both the American president and the American politicians understand this reality. Our economies are intertwined and we have no interest, none of us, in having protectionist measures such as those contained in the stimulus plan that was presented to and passed by the House of Representatives. There is also the discussion that is taking place in the Senate. We know that Senator McCain's amendment was defeated, and so we find ourselves back at square one.
    I do not need to talk about the close ties between the Quebec, Canadian and American economies. My colleagues—the member for Sherbrooke in particular—covered that. However, it is important to remember that, for Quebec in particular, this trade is extremely important. Today we find ourselves in a situation where, because of Quebec's dependence on oil—which is true for the rest of Canada as well, but since Canada exports oil to the United States, it is not as obvious as in Quebec's case, since we do not produce or export oil—Quebec's trade balance, whether in terms of foreign partners or Canadian provinces, is currently running a deficit of $7 to $8 billion.
    I mentioned earlier that this dependence on oil was important because it is one of the significant causes of this trade deficit. We know that our oil imports in Quebec represent nearly $6 to $7 billion, which explains a large part of the trade deficit.
    Obviously, where the advantage lies is with our American partners. In fact, we in Quebec have a trade surplus with the United States of around $5 billion. If protectionist policies became the norm in the U.S., we would have an even worse problem. In fact, we already have a problem in terms of trade which is, as I have said, related to our oil dependency, but also to the fact that, for some years, the Canadian dollar was inflated, by oil exports from Alberta to the United States in particular. This inflated dollar did a considerable amount of harm to the competitive ability of manufacturers, particularly those in Quebec, but the same is true for Ontario. We amuse ourselves by repeating this, though it is far from amusing: even the government ought to have twigged to that as early as 2007.
    I like saying—and again not because it is amusing, but rather because it illustrates the extent to which the government was asleep at the switch—that in the Minister of Finance's economic statement in October 2007, on page 28, there was a lovely table showing that all industrial sectors had been declining since 2005, with the exception of oil and hydrocarbons. So steps should have been taken as early as 2007, even 2006, to help the manufacturing sector. There was a refusal to take such actions, and unfortunately the budget of last week continues that tradition. Once again, there is significant aid to the automotive sector, in the form of loan guarantees, but nothing for the forestry sector and nothing, or next to nothing, for aerospace. When we think, for instance, of the $170 million over two years for all of Canada, including Quebec, for the forestry crisis, we can see that this is pretty puny as support goes. Annually, it works out to about $10 to $20 million for Quebec. That is clearly inadequate, particularly since Quebec is there the forestry crisis has hit the hardest.
    It is extremely important to us for the Conservative government, the Government of Canada, to set this campaign of persuasion against protectionism as its number one priority.

  (1540)  

    We in the Bloc Québécois hope that this protection issue, which is at risk of pitting Canada against the United States, can be solved by diplomatic means, rather than through the courts.
    I must say that I was somewhat surprised. When it is a matter of diplomacy, we feel that things have to go beyond a phone call from the Prime Minister to the American President—and we do not know if that call has even been made—to tell him that one of the provisions in his legislation poses a serious problem for us, and we think that it is in neither his interests or our own for that provision to be maintained. One expects the government and the Prime Minister to be extremely active on the diplomatic level. Yet we learn from a Canadian Press report that the Prime Minister of Canada called Mexican President Felipe Caldéron yesterday evening, that is on February 4. Mexico is one of the three partners in NAFTA. One of the agreements seems not to be respected by the House of Representative provisions, and it is currently under discussion in the Senate. That agreement seems to be at cross purposes with NAFTA, according to nearly all Canadian and Quebec experts. One might have thought that the Prime Minister would have been on the phone to the Mexican President as soon as the American intentions were made public, with a proposal that they join forces against this rise in U.S. protectionism. But no, it took the Prime Minister somewhere between 10 days and 2 weeks to make the call to the president of Mexico, one of the three partners in NAFTA.
    I seriously wonder what the Prime Minister and the Conservative government have done to try to coordinate their actions with the Europeans. We need to remember that under the provision of the bill, which is currently before the Senate and was passed by the House of Representatives, this protectionist measure will apply not just to Canadian steel, but to all manufactured products, wherever they come from. So the Europeans, like us, have a vested interest in seeing the protectionist approach in President Obama's recovery plan disappear.
    We have no evidence that the Prime Minister took the initiative to get on the phone and secure the European Union's support. Reference has been made to the World Trade Organization rules. That may be a less direct route than NAFTA, but there are provisions to prevent the use of protectionist measures. For example, I am thinking of the clause providing for reciprocity between WTO trading partners. If Canada agrees to allow American steel into our country, then the Americans have to agree to let in our steel.
    These provisions must be used, not aggressively, but simply to tell the American President and American politicians that rules were created in times of economic growth to address problems during times of difficulty or crisis. Trading partners must not take the first opportunity to abandon the rules they created to manage crises, because we are in a crisis. I wholeheartedly share the opinion of the movers of the Liberal motion. Everyone knows that a rise in protectionism will only exacerbate and prolong the economic slowdown. We need to learn from the 1930s.
    In closing, I want to remind this House that in the United States at present, and particularly with the new Democratic administration, there is an awareness of international trade and globalization that, unfortunately, the Conservative government does not have. I am thinking of all those measures that are needed to create a balance between healthy competition and a certain number of rights.

  (1545)  

    That may be the crux of the problem in the United States. Like many Quebeckers and Canadians and workers around the world, they felt that freer trade in recent decades benefited only people with capital and was not in workers' interests. And that has to be corrected. Unfortunately, that feeling is not reflected on the other side of the House.
    Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member on his speech. I agree with him: we can feel the optimism from the President of the United States, Mr. Obama.
    However, the only thing we have to go on is the words spoken by the president in a television interview. It was not something he said in a major speech before the Senate. It was not something he said in front of the Leaders of the Senate or the House of Representatives.
    Is the hon. member confident that the Obama administration will go before the Senate and the House of Representatives with those words that will ensure a period of global cooperation? Is he confident that the president will win the support of American politicians who, for the most part, are democratic but have a history of being protectionist?
    Mr. Speaker, I am going to be optimistic given that our own government and our own Prime Minister are attempting to convince the American president and members of Congress of the importance of this non-protectionist approach.
     I am convinced that Mr. Obama will not go up to bat first if he does not believe that trading partners—whether Canada, Mexico, Japan or Europe—are firmly committed to open markets even in times of crisis.
    I believe that the Canadian government has failed to apply pressure on Mr. Obama and the American legislators in order to convince them that we have the right approach.
    Therefore, we must first call on the Prime Minister of Canada and the current government to apply adequate pressure. A letter—a very polite letter—from Canada's ambassador, Mr. Wilson, is not enough to convince Mr. Obama to step up to the plate and solve the problem.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I noticed that my friend spent most of his time criticizing our government. While he grudgingly admitted that our government was acting on the file, the best he could do to complain was to say that it was not acting quickly enough.
    What he does not mention is that the Prime Minister has been personally involved in this issue, because of its critical nature to Canada. What he does not mention is that our Minister of International Trade was in Davos, discussing this with various trade commissioners from around the world. What he does not mention is that there is significant action happening within Congress to try to stall and stop this protectionist measure. He does not mention the fact that the President has stated publicly that he opposes these protectionist measures. He also does not state that the American senate will still have to act on this and that the President, in fact, may have a veto on this.
    Could the member tell me what he personally has done to bring this issue to the attention of the American authorities?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I will be brief. The Canadian government and the Prime Minister did not act soon enough. I do not understand why it took weeks for the Embassy of Canada in the United States to forward information about the protectionist measures in Obama's recovery plan, in particular the bill being examined by the House of Representatives.
    Action was taken after the House of Representatives passed the bill. Once again, it is not an easy thing to do. I am not saying that it is. They could also have mobilized parliamentarians from this House. I remember quite well that, for certain matters, a delegation of our parliamentarians met with their American counterparts to try to explain our point of view.
    At present, given what is at stake in this matter, not enough pressure is being applied. I am not saying that nothing is being done, but a great deal more pressure should be applied and there should be better coordination of all countries, parliamentarians, the government and the Prime Minister to achieve our objective. As we saw with softwood lumber, protectionist sentiments still run high in the United States, even in a period of economic growth.

  (1550)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Vancouver Centre.
     I am very pleased to have the opportunity to participate in this very important debate on the motion that was put forward by my colleague, the member for Kings—Hants, the official opposition critic for international trade. In case there is someone who does not know exactly what the motion is, I would like to read it:
    That, in view of the growing protectionism in the United States, which is reminiscent of the counterproductive behaviour that led to the great depression of the 1930s, this House calls upon the Government to intervene forthwith and persistently, with the United States Administration, and the Congress, in order to protect Canadian jobs, and urge the United States to respect its international agreements including the Canada-United States Trade Agreement (CUSTA), the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
    It is hard to imagine that the U.S. would violate those agreements. We are certainly hoping the Americans are not going to do that, but it is important that the appropriate pressure be put on them to make sure they understand the implications.
    Through this motion the opposition seeks to hold the government accountable for what we see as its failure to secure our relationship with our most important trading partner, the United States, on a better footing than it is today.
    Just as the Conservative government dropped the ball when it came to addressing the state of our economy, we feel it has not played an active enough role in shaping decisions with our trading partners.
    The Conservative government has let the Canada-U.S. trade relationship deteriorate, allowing major U.S. legislation to threaten key Canadian industries and jobs. The government's mishandling of the financial crisis and its delay in bringing forward a stimulus package has meant that Canada missed out on the opportunity to coordinate our response to the economic crisis with that of our largest trading partner. This failure has us scrambling to reach U.S. legislators now and to try to overturn existing legislation when we should have been promoting Canada's interest and leading the development of Canada-U.S. trade policy.
    Behind every international trade statistic are relationships. Clearly, the Government of Canada and all parliamentarians have been working on building those relationships through a variety of different sources, including our Canada-U.S. Inter-Parliamentary Group.
    It should come as no surprise that the U.S. Congress leans toward putting up barriers to trade in a time of economic crisis. The Conservative government continues to be caught off guard by U.S. legislators reacting to the U.S. agenda rather than advancing our own.
    The total absence of a considered strategic approach to Canada-U.S. relations has helped to bring us to the brink of this trade issue, and will continue to hinder the Conservative government's ability to hold sway on other matters of critical importance, such as border security, climate change, the auto sector and the list goes on.
    I welcomed last night's agreement by U.S. senators to change the protectionist provision inserted into the U.S. government's economic stimulus bill with the addition of a crucial clause that the bill be applied in a manner consistent with U.S. obligations under international agreements.
    On the surface it certainly makes us feel better that the Americans have recognized the issue. I am pleased that the Americans have recognized that they should not enact laws that contravene their commitments to liberalized trading regimes under WTO and the North American free trade agreement, but we are not out of the water yet. Very quickly after the announcement of that motion, some experts relayed concerns that cities and states could be exempt from these restrictions, and it could still hurt both of our ailing economies.
    Canadians can rest assured that we will monitor the situation very carefully and make sure that the Conservatives keep up the pressure on the United States. That is why it is so important for us to maintain a positive relationship with our largest trading partner. A strained relationship with the United States surely led to this major worry that such restrictions would spark a trade war and exasperate the economic downturn.
    We have a special relationship with the United States, a unique partnership with a long and colourful history where we always try to be respectful of distinct jurisdictions, principles and values.

  (1555)  

    I have had the privilege of serving as a vice-chair of the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group and I know the challenges that our countries face. We have had many meetings with congressmen, senators and representatives on the issues that bring us together as well as the issues that have given us huge problems, such as the border. On many of those issues we have been able to work them out through our relationship.
    It is the Prime Minister's job to make our trade relationship with the United States a priority. I feel he has failed to do this to date.
    The Liberal government had a strong record of cooperation with the United States. I would like to remind members and inform new members that former prime minister Paul Martin was so concerned about the relationship between Canada and the United States that he had a parliamentary secretary dedicated strictly to Canada-U.S. relations. In fact, it was the very member for Kings—Hants whose motion we are debating today. It was a huge help to the government at that time, and it might be a great opportunity for the current government to look at that very issue of having a parliamentary secretary working on those relationships.
    The Conservatives have failed Canadians before through their misguided actions with regard to trade. Think of the softwood lumber fiasco, for example. Members will remember that the proposal put forward by the Conservative government abandoned Canada's position. It was pursued by successive Canadian governments and upheld by trade panels at both NAFTA and the WTO that our softwood industry is not subsidized.
    Putting that aside, it is imperative that we work together to protect the jobs in both countries. We have so many industries that are intertwined, such as our auto industry, our steel industry, and too many more to list. Preventing trade would clearly be contrary to the North American free trade agreement.
    I am pleased to hear that the Bloc understands the issues and will be supporting the motion. I hope that the NDP will realize the outdated ideology it is functioning under and support this motion as well. It would be very important for the U.S. government to see that this motion has unanimous support and that we are all very concerned and want to work with the U.S. to solve these issues.
    For example, the exclusion of non-U.S. steel would violate NAFTA which lowered trade barriers among the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
    The Conservative government must end its politics of division and look to the Liberals and other parties in the House for a good example of how we can work together with our southern neighbours on important issues. We just heard the government whip make some great comments about parliamentarians working together and respecting each other, and I hope that will continue, especially through difficult times.
    There is a unique relationship between Canada and the United States. We all need to work to ensure that this important relationship continues to be shaped by our strong friendship and mutual respect.
    Mr. Speaker, I listened to the hon. member's comments with great interest. She spoke about the relationship the previous government had with the Americans. I certainly was not elected to this House at that time, but I do remember a time when our trading relations consisted of stomping on a doll of the American president. I remember a time when the hon. member campaigned against free trade. I am extraordinarily delighted now to see that the member and other members of the Liberal Party have come around and also believe that free trade is in the best interests of this country.
    However, she failed to mention all of the hard work that is being done by our Prime Minister, the Minister of International Trade and our ambassador in Washington to make sure that Canadian interests are being expressed and protected in Washington.
    I wonder if she might comment on when it was that she came around to the idea that free trade was good for Canada and that the best way to create and protect jobs is to actually improve access to markets.

  (1600)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is my understanding that it was a Conservative government that came to understand the importance and value of free trade.
    However, let me say very clearly it is important that as the United States is our largest trading partner, we need to be working together to make sure that we are creating jobs for Canadians and that we are doing it in the North American context. If we look at the auto industry, it is not a single industry for the United States or for us; it is an industry that is very much integrated.
    It is up to us to be that strong voice. That is the issue. We cannot lie back and wait for someone else to improve these relationships. It is imperative that all of us as parliamentarians do that. I am pleased to hear that the Prime Minister called the President of Mexico yesterday. At this point we need a very aggressive approach by all the ministers and all of us who have contacts and relationships that have been built over the years with various members through the Canada-U.S. Inter-Parliamentary Group or elsewhere so that we can get our point across to them.
    When people become frightened it is very easy for them to withdraw and say that they are going to block out everyone. That is going to hurt everyone in the world, not just the United States. I would hope that the Americans would see the light of day as people have seen the light of day on many different issues and that we would move forward.
    Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciated my friend's comments about the importance of working together in the House. I think she is dead-on. Our Prime Minister has taken the very same approach. My comments are not meant to reflect on that at all. I am going to give my friend the benefit of two questions and she can choose to answer one or both of them.
    First, I was intrigued by the member's observation about the outdated ideology of the NDP. Somewhat like the previous questioner, I wonder when my friend came to that conclusion, whether it was before or after she signed the famous memorandum regarding the coalition and whether she could possibly find herself in a government which was in coalition with that kind of ideology.
    Second, and more to the point of this debate, does my friend acknowledge that the President of the United States would not have had this issue come front and centre to his radar without the very strong representation from our government in Washington?
    Mr. Speaker, having been in government previously, I know that when our ears are to the ground we know what is coming and we do not wait until all of a sudden it shows up in the media to say that my goodness, we have a problem. Granted, these are unique times and the U.S. is acting out of fear and so on, but part of the Conservative government's role more so than anyone else's is to make sure its ears are to the ground.
    In respect to the so-called coalition issue, there was no discussion about anyone who was going to violate the NAFTA agreement or any other agreement. Critically those are important, and a country does not move forward by violating agreements that were duly signed and have clearly been of benefit to Canadians and to Canada.
     Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to the motion presented by the hon. member for Kings—Hants. At the heart of the motion is the fact that, under the Conservative government, a long-standing relationship with the United States has been deteriorating, not just slowly but rapidly deteriorating.
    We are a trading nation. Canada depends for 45% of its gross domestic product on trade, 80% of that trade is carried out with the United States, our neighbour to the south. That country has been our ally. We have disagreed, but we have always had a strong relationship. By a strong relationship, I do not mean that we stand there and pound our fists. I mean it is a relationship based on mutual respect.
    To create a relationship, we need to have ongoing and open lines of communication. We have to keep the relationship going. We have to continue talking. We have to continue building on the things that we share and stand firm on the things that we do not share.
    That was the nature of the relationship, at least under the Liberal government, for 13 years before the Conservative government came into power. The problem is that relationship no longer exists.
    The current relationship between Canada and the United States is typified by two descriptors: one is fawning or subservient and the other is reactive. The government either reacts to something that it obviously is not aware is coming down the pipe, or it bows its head and meekly does what it is told to do, at times when it needs to, and I will elaborate on these a little later.
    However, I want to talk a little about the fact that the reactivity is what is of great concern to us. If we have open lines of communication and if we maintain a strong relationship, we are friends. We talk to each other. We do not necessarily agree, but at least we know what is coming down the pipe. Even if we were not forewarned in certain conversations that we kept between us as two sovereign nations, one should just look at history and tradition.
    During the Great Depression, and in the dirty thirties as it was called, we saw how the United States reacted at that time to a depression. It began to be protectionist. This is the nature of any country, when it is faced with stress, to behave in certain patterns. We should have known those patterns. The reaction to stress by the United States is to immediately crawl in and become protectionist. Therefore, we should have seen it coming down the pipe for two reasons: first, because of tradition and history under stress; and second, because we also had lines of communication open.
    Therefore, the government has a failing mark on both of those, on reading the history or on being able to have open lines of communication. Now what we have is reactivity.
    Thank goodness for a new president whose administration is one that has decided that it would rather make friends and do the right thing, rather than continue to be strong and pound the table along with other people. We have seen this happen.
    President Obama said that he did not want to harm trade relationships with the world. Worldwide trade relationships will be harmed if the Americans resort to protectionism. We saw that happen after the Great Depression when the world trading relationships began to fall apart after the protectionism by the United States.
    Here we have something that we could have headed off at the pass without needing to have the President of the United States to turn around and say, “Oops, I'm sorry”. We could have headed that off. In good relationships we do not paint our friends in a corner and have them having to bow out and say, “I'm sorry, I didn't think about that earlier on”.
    However, what does it say, when we, as the nearest neighbour, supposedly a country with strong relationships, allies sharing the longest unprotected border in the world, did not know that we were on the agenda. It means we are not even on the radar with the United States. We used to be on the radar. A good example was when President Clinton came to visit. He came to the House. He spoke to the House. He spoke to the senate. We welcomed him.
    President Bush came here. He also came and spoke to everyone and was welcomed. We differ on certain occasions, but we maintain that friendship and the ability to lobby and to talk to each other.

  (1605)  

    It is not by chance that members of Parliament are able to use their flying points to go to Washington, D.C. because we must continue to keep those lines open.
    The government has failed on that. The lines are closed. No one knows what is happening. The result, as we have seen with the recession, was too little too late. The government pretends things are not happening. It is always in denial. When things fall apart at the seams, government members suddenly leap into the air yelling and screaming and wonder what to do next. That is the pattern of the Conservative government. We should not have been surprised that this occurred.
    I want to also talk about the other part of the relationship which we seem to have developed with the United States. It is not one of a strong partner with mutual respect for each other. It is a subservient kind of relationship, and I go back to the softwood lumber deal because it is something that we must bring to the table as an example of how we are either reactive or subservient.
    The relationship between the two countries has always been based on mutual respect and a strong sense that we understood each other. Canada would do what it thought was best and the United States would do what it thought was best, but we totally respected each other. That is gone.
    The Liberals made a strong deal with the United States when we negotiated an agreement on softwood lumber. The Conservative government came into power and agreed to a deal that left $1 billion, on the table, money that the Liberal government had negotiated, to go back to the U.S. The Conservatives also made an agreement that increased the tariffs under certain conditions. It was a bad deal.
    A legal analysis commissioned by the Free Trade Lumber Council and two Ontario associations had this to say, “We are sharply critical of the April 27th package which is a political bargain forsaking entirely the rule of law enshrined in the North American free trade agreement. It was something that was a political deal brokered between the administration of [the Prime Minister] and George Bush”.
    Political deals were made that were not in the best interests of Canada at all. We lost a great deal at the table.
    Here is what we also heard from people in the mill industry in British Columbia:
    They had phone calls at the mill level from Conservative MPs and they were told very clearly, “If you don't support this, don't count on the federal government for helping you with your difficulties later on”.
    We had a political deal based on subservience, brokered just to allow for good relationships to continue.
    I used to be a negotiator for doctors in the province of British Columbia. One cannot negotiate from a position of weakness, but must negotiate from a position of strength. There has to be mutual respect at the table if a deal is going to be brokered that is a win-win situation on both sides.
    Now we see a new administration in the United States, an administration that seems to be a polar opposite to the current Conservative government. It is sad because there seems to be little in common.
    The President of the United States believes in science. He listens to what others tell him. He is not ideological. He is bringing back things like stem cell research and talking about funding groups that are non-advocates and do not necessarily agree with him, but funding them nonetheless. He is going back to dealing with things based on knowledge and information and outcomes and what works. The Conservative government