The House resumed consideration of Bill , as reported (with amendments) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to take part in the debate on the agreement between Canada and Europe. More specifically, I would like to talk about the benefits it will bring to small businesses and to the agricultural sector.
In my riding, highly specialized agricultural ventures and small businesses play a vital role.
The comprehensive and economic trade agreement, or CETA, is one of the most ambitious trade agreements that Canada has ever negotiated. It will open doors and guarantee access for SMEs and agricultural exporters throughout the EU, the world's second-largest economy and import market.
This agreement will generate significant benefits for all Canadians. I want to speak, first, about the important of SMEs to the Canadian economy and why this agreement is essential to the success of our SMEs in global markets. In Canada, SMEs employ some 10 million Canadians, the equivalent of nearly 90% of Canada's total private sector workforce. SMEs clearly have a significant role to play in Canada's future prosperity. Our government firmly believes in supporting our hard-working SMEs in succeeding in this role.
In a recent profile by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada on Canadian SMEs and their export characteristics, it was found that about 10% of our country's SMEs exported goods and or services in 2011, with export sales accounting for 4% of total company revenues. Notably, the report highlights the superior financial performance by exporters compared with non-exporters. SMEs that export generated, on average, higher sales, pre-tax profit margins, and returns on assets compared with non-exporters.
The report also found that exporters were more research-and-development intensive than non-exporters, spending 8% of annual revenues on R and D on average, compared with 6% for non-exporters. Exporters were more growth-oriented than non-exporters with about 10% growing sales by 20% or more per year over the 2009-11 period compared with 8% for non-exporters.
These findings are indicative of the importance of global markets to Canadian SMEs' success. One way to support our SMEs is by ensuring they have accessible opportunities abroad and creating advantageous conditions with these markets for them to compete. The negotiation of CETA furthers such an aim.
The European Union and its 28 member states are an important market for Canada. I have to say that this is an access to a market of 500 million people for our SMEs. The EU is Canada's second most important destination for SME exports behind the U.S., and key for global supply chains with more Fortune 500 companies than anywhere else in the world.
This important access to supply chain is an important avenue of opportunities for the global ambitions of many Canadian SMEs. CETA aims to lift barriers that have held our SME exporters from taking full advantage of accessing this lucrative market. CETA's comprehensive tariff elimination will result in many Canadian products as supported by SMEs to become more competitive in the EU.
Of the EU's more than 9,000 tariff lines, approximately 98% will be duty free for Canadian goods when CETA comes into force. Almost all of the remaining tariff lines will be eliminated when the agreement is fully implemented.
For Canadian SME service suppliers, CETA will provide the best quality market access that the EU, the world's largest importer of services, has ever provided in a trade agreement. As well, it is the most ambitious commitment on temporary entry the EU has ever granted.
Furthermore, CETA will open new opportunities for Canadian SMEs in the EU's estimated $3.3 trillion government procurement market. Once CETA enters into force, Canadian firms will be able to supply goods and select services to all levels of EU government, including the EU's 28 member states and thousands of regional and local government entities.
CETA also includes other innovations that will save time and money for Canadian businesses, such as the protocol on conformity assessment that will allow Canadian manufacturers in certain sectors to have their product tested and certified in Canada for sale in the EU. This can be particularly useful for SMEs. CETA addresses many of the barriers noted by SME exporters head-on and will create advantageous conditions for SMEs to pursue new opportunities in the EU.
Our government is committed to supporting the dynamics and export preparedness of our Canadian businesses, particularly SMEs. CETA is a landmark initiative that furthers this goal.
The other important part of my riding is agriculture. The Canadian agriculture and agrifood sector is also a vibrant and important facet of our economy.
We are the fifth-largest exporter of agricultural and agrifood products in the world, and renowned as a reliable supplier for safe and high-quality products. As a medium-sized economy, our economic prosperity is built on open trade, and this is especially important for agricultural and agrifood exporters.
It is estimated that approximately half of the value of primary agricultural production in Canada is exported, either as a primary commodity or processed food and beverages product. The EU is an important market for Canada in this sector and holds strong potential for our agricultural exporters. Preferential market access to the EU, the world's second-largest importer of agriculture and agrifood products, will foster growth and create new opportunities for Canada's producers and processors.
CETA reduces tariffs and non-tariff barriers to create a more stable and transparent export environment for our agricultural sector. To give members an example, it is estimated that, because of CETA, $1.5 billion of potential exports will happen for our agricultural sector: $600 million for our beef sector; $400 million for our pork producers; $100 million of grain and oil seeds; and $300 million in processed foods, fruits, and vegetables. This is good news for our farmers.
Currently, Canadian agricultural exports to the EU face prohibitively high tariff rates, with average EU agricultural tariffs of 13.9%. Key Canadian exports, such as durum and high-quality common wheat currently face maximum tariffs of up to 148 euros per tonne. When CETA is fully implemented, most of these tariffs will be eliminated, making Canada's agricultural products more competitive and attractive to the EU's half a billion consumers.
CETA will also create new opportunities for the food processing and beverage industry. On the day of CETA's entering into force, all EU tariffs on Canadian processed foods, with the exception of sweet corn and refined sugar, will be immediately eliminated. This comprehensive tariff elimination across the board will directly benefit Canada's processed food and beverages sector to generate more opportunities, which will lead to more jobs, higher wages, and greater long-term prosperity for Canadians.
CETA also recognizes that barriers to trade extend beyond import tariffs. The agreement will establish mechanisms to address key issues of importance to our producers, including committees and regulatory co-operation.
CETA also includes provisions to address non-tariff measures in the EU, such as those related to animal and plant health, and food safety.
The Canada-European Union comprehensive economic and trade agreement is a good deal for our farmers and our small businesses. Access to a market of 500 million consumers is very good news for our country. At the end of the day, this agreement is good for small businesses and farmers.
Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure and a privilege to rise today to speak to Bill an act to implement the Canada-European Union trade agreement.
I would first like to make some acknowledgements to our team members, the ones who made this possible. I speak, of course, of Mr. Steve Verheul and Kirsten Hillman, as well as their team, who worked long and hard and have proven to be some of the very best negotiators this globe has to offer. I speak, as well, of colleagues of mine. They are the member for , who was the former trade minister, and our thoughts and prayers are with him, as he has some health issues, and the former agriculture minister, who is the current trade critic and with whom I have the privilege to sit as deputy critic on the trade committee. We also want to congratulate the Liberals for doing the work that was necessary to bring this home. Today we are working toward signing the agreement and sending it on its way to make it a reality.
I want to start off with a quick history of trade.
We have always traded. People have always known that it is important. It is not only important, but it is impossible for us to acquire what we need without trade. Some of us are blessed with agriculture. Some of us are blessed with the ability to make things. Some of us have other abilities.
Throughout history, civilizations have moved with trade, but there has always been the issue of tariffs. There has always been protectionism that caused trade to slow down. There have been governments that, for their own selfish reasons and ambitions, have taken some of those hard earnings and the work of those who created the goods.
Throughout the history of the world, people and governments have worked toward freeing trade. I think we can begin with the 18th century. Adam Smith argued that we must more and more lower tariffs, eliminate tariffs, and make trade global. That continued in the 19th century and the 20th century. We saw two awful wars. We saw World War I, and the death and destruction it caused, and World War II, which seemed to accelerate the ability of people to wreak havoc on our lives.
There was a renewed call to make people work together and give them a reason to live in peace. Trade is a wonderful example of that. In 1949, the World Trade Organization was formed, and work went on to free up trade.
We saw what that led to. On our continent, it led to NAFTA, an amazing agreement that allowed us to work with the United States and Mexico to have a flow of goods continue to move back and forth, and that has resulted in some prosperity.
There have been some mishaps and some setbacks are happening in the United States at this point. However, here in Canada, we know that NAFTA has been a good thing.
We have also had a number of smaller agreements, but today we want to talk about CETA. CETA is amazing. It has been called the crown jewel of trade agreements.
Trade has lifted nations out of poverty. I read recently that the World Health Organization has stated that extreme poverty has been cut in half in the last 15 years. We know that these are things that work and benefit mankind.
Some hard work and coordination has taken place. The Conservative government's record is excellent on free trade. We understand the importance of free trade. I mentioned NAFTA earlier. There were some smaller agreements the Conservative government arranged, such as the free trade agreement with Korea, and then of course CETA.
We are a trading nation. The Conservatives believe in free trade that will generate increased economic activity, drive prosperity and job creation, and foster greater co-operation among our democratic allies.
In my home province of Ontario, we are quite excited about trade. It certainly has some great possibilities for us. My colleague likes to refer to it as the “reunification bill”, because most of us can trace our ancestry to Europe. Some of us can trace a very recent development with respect to that as well. My parents came from the Netherlands. I know, Mr. Speaker, that your parents came from Italy. I think we could go on and on in this House. There is no question that we have some great roots and ethnic abilities.
There are four things I want to talk about.
First, when CETA comes into force, nearly 100% of all EU tariffs on non-agriculture products will be duty free, along with close to 94% of EU tariff lines for agricultural products. Why does that make a difference to southwestern Ontario? In southwestern Ontario, we are blessed to have incredible land and a beautiful climate. We produce some of the highest outputs of corn, soybeans, and wheat. We also have an incredible greenhouse industry. It was started by Italian immigrants. This industry has spread and grown. My riding of Chatham-Kent—Leamington has the largest collection of greenhouses in North America.
There are possibilities and opportunities to move forward and present them to people who have direct roots in Europe.
Second, the Canada-EU trade agreement will also give Canadians service suppliers. Service suppliers employ more than 13.8 million Canadians and account for 70% of total Canadian GDP. The best market access to the EU has been granted through this free trade agreement. The agreement will establish greater transparency in the EU service markets, resulting in better, more secure, and more predictable market access. We will have that opportunity as well, oftentimes with people we know, people we are accustomed to, and customs that we know. It will provide access to 500 million people and the largest GDP on the planet.
Third, the Canada-EU trade agreement will provide Canadian and EU investors with greater certainty, stability, transparency, and protection for their investments. Preferential access to the EU will attract investments in Canada from our largest trading partner, the U.S. Conversely, EU investors will look to Canada as a gateway to NAFTA. If that is true, then it is certainly true for southwestern Ontario and my riding, because we are right at the doorstep of the United States. We have the opportunity to trade with the United States, which will be looking to us to access Europe, because it is not participating in this EU agreement. As well, Europe will be looking to us for access to the United States. It offers us an amazing number of possibilities.
Fourth, the Canada-EU trade agreement gives Canadian suppliers of goods and services secure, preferential access to the world's largest procurement market. What does that mean? There are a number of countries in the EU that are in constant need of services and supplies for their governments. This gives us an opportunity to tap into those.
I want to close with the government's responsibility. I want to talk about the responsibility of government, which is to keep us competitive. We do that by lowering red tape, lowering taxes, and reducing debt. I wish I had more time to talk about that. I implore the current government to not make the mistake it is making by going further into debt, which will cause higher taxes and result in making us less competitive.
I will close by saying that the government's responsibility is to make sure that this agreement works. It is the people's responsibility to be creative and to offer products at reasonable rates that will be attractive to their clients, but it is the government's responsibility to make sure that it will work. It is its responsibility to do that by keeping taxes low and regulations low. I am looking forward to this agreement being signed.
Mr. Speaker, I was very pleased to listen to my colleague, who sits with me on the Standing Committee on International Trade. I am very proud to have been serving on that committee for the past year now.
I rise today to speak to Bill , the Canada-European Union comprehensive economic and trade agreement implementation act, which has reached third reading.
Having had the unique opportunity of sitting on the Standing Committee on International Trade for almost a year now, I can attest that the Canada-European Union comprehensive economic and trade agreement, also known as CETA, is not only a priority, but also a great source of Canadian pride for our committee.
As I indicated at second reading, CETA was already a major topic of discussion when I was a member of the Quebec National Assembly as far back as 2007. At the time, I was lucky enough to be the critic for economic development, and I strongly supported economic diversification in Canada and Quebec, specifically through the diversification of our trading partners. I remember how difficult the 2008 financial crisis was for Canada, but I never lost faith in our people and our institutions to get through that difficult time.
Significant changes have taken place on the world stage recently, especially when it comes to trade. The global economic and trading conditions have shifted on every continent. Just look at the United States and how it withdrew from the trans-Pacific partnership negotiations, on which we worked so hard over the past year.
The shift is inward facing. Some of the speeches we have heard could even be described as having protectionist overtones. We have seen it in Europe, where the European Union will now have to negotiate with Great Britain, and even south of the border, where our neighbour's new leader has been making major trade announcements.
During these trying times, I am personally very proud to see Canada assert its leadership on progressive international trade and move forward while protecting Canada's economic interests.
Many economists agree: market diversification is key to the success of our businesses here at home from coast to coast. To our government, progressive trade represents growth, and growth represents more jobs here in Canada and in our local communities, who are all desperate for work.
I know and am convinced that the comprehensive economic agreement with Europe will bring about growth and also real opportunities to strengthen Canada's middle class. Let us not delude ourselves, however. As we have seen in 2008, when our main trade partners' economies falter, Canada is also hit hard. It is in this context that Canada leads the way by negotiating one of the most ambitious and progressive economic agreements ever.
The implementation of CETA, and passage of Bill , is a real Canadian success story that all Canadians can be proud of because we must diversify our economy and accept new trade partners for the sake of our children, our small businesses, and future generations.
Greater access to European markets is the natural next step not only because we have similar values but also because we want to diversify our economies and our trade partners. It is natural for Europeans to want to trade with countries like Canada. First we are staunch supporters of human rights and workers' rights, and we are also an economic hub for innovation and knowledge. Canada is a country that provides excellent training, our workforce is highly skilled, and we understand that the knowledge economy is the economy of the future and of the 21st century.
I can say that my riding in the northern suburb of Montreal has many innovative businesses and leaders in a multitude of key Canadian economic sectors including manufacturing, robotics, automation, aerospace, informatics, and food processing.
I have all of that in my riding. The signing of CETA will lead to many new opportunities for those companies. Since the election, I have been meeting with companies. I have visited their facilities and I have listened to what they have to say about what works for them and what does not. One thing these companies always mention is how they are looking forward to CETA's coming into force.
The implementation of CETA will have an unprecedented impact on these companies. They will be able to increase their production because European markets will now be open to them. The opening of these markets will allow a number of companies, not only in Rivière-des-Mille-Îles but all across Canada, to really take off and finally gain access to a larger demand in some sectors where the customer base may be somewhat limited.
I often hear Canadians saying that SMEs, companies in my riding and across the country, are trapped in the valley of death. Access to European markets will allow many of them to finally cross that valley, find new clients, and have new opportunities that will allow them to really take off.
CETA also provides an opportunity for Canadian and European companies to share best practices in their field, and it may also allow some companies to be able to grow quickly and achieve their full potential.
The sharing of best practices is essential, and it is one of the agreement's strongest elements, as is the provision that facilitates labour mobility. Once this important economic agreement comes into effect, this little-known provision will allow greater labour mobility in a number of key sectors in the Canadian economy, especially the service industry, which has been booming for the past few years. It is also important to note that, not only is the European Union the second-largest economy in the world, boasting a market of 500 million people, but it also has one of the most developed and advanced service industries on the planet.
This agreement will put more Canadians to work; it means growing channels of innovation; and it means exciting times for our small and medium-sized businesses in many sectors.
While much of the rest of the global economy is closing its borders, Canada, for its part, is opening its arms, well aware of the important role it has to play. When CETA comes into force, Canada will be in an enviable position, for it will be able to eliminate tariffs and will be the only country to have such a massive trade agreement with European markets.
As Canadians, we can all be proud of the Canada-European union comprehensive economic and trade agreement that was concluded and, as a result, the opening of our markets with Europe. I am very proud of this. I hope all my colleagues in the House will enthusiastically support this agreement and Bill .
Mr. Speaker, did the member consider the recommendations at the trade committee or will she support the CETA revisions we are proposing in the House today, which will give me confidence as the member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith that some very specific businesses and industries in my region will be protected?
I understand that Vancouver Island cheese producers who use words like “feta”, “brie”, and “Camembert” in their packaging will no longer be able to do that. This will affect the Comox cheese, Natural Pastures, and Salt Spring Island cheese companies, which are big businesses in our region. They will not be allowed to use those words anymore.
The government, both the Conservative and Liberal, failed to negotiate similar protections for our local brands, the Nanaimo bar, for example. Will a European company be able to market a Nanaimo bar? Will it be able to market Saskatoon berries?
I am very concerned that there are no protections for wineries in Nanaimo. Both Chateau Wolff and Millstone are growing wineries in my region. I am afraid the provisions will in fact exacerbate the existing tremendous trade imbalance between European and Canadian wine. The Canadian Vintners Association asked for protections in order to accommodate, but it received no assurances.
I am very concerned about local jobs in the maritime industry. If we no longer ensure it has to be local people, who know our waters intimately, and if they no longer have those jobs, safety is jeopardized and absolutely coastal economy is jeopardized. Three thousand jobs are at stake, and now those can be offshore.
Could the member please assure me that she gave those recommendations serious consideration at committee and that she will support the motion brought forward by the member for which proposes to make CETA a better deal for Canada?
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin my comments by sharing a few small but important examples with the House on why trade is important to my riding.
Back in 2013, the former minister of agriculture, known in this place as the member for , signed a deal with China that would result in an innovative new way to send B.C. cherries to China. It was not only innovative from both a food science and regulatory perspective, it actually resulted in B.C. cherries being able to access the Chinese market two weeks faster than our competitors from other countries. Two weeks is a massive time savings when we consider cherries have a one-month shelf life.
I mention these things because one day I had a meeting with a group of local fruit growers. The growers came to my office not to request more government funding or support, but rather to share with me that this new opportunity in China was working incredibly well for them and was creating very lucrative returns.
Many people in my area are concerned about keeping farmers farming. If there is a good income to be made, the fastest and strongest way that any government can support farmers is to ensure that they can receive those returns. Again, I go back to it. In other words, they wanted me to know what their government had done and that it was working for them.
Now I will briefly provide another quick example. A local winemaker shared with me news that he done a million dollar deal selling his wine direct to Asia. For a small family winery, that is simply massively exciting news for them. More so, when we consider that this same small family winery still cannot sell directly into Ontario. However, that is a topic we will save for another day.
The point of these examples is that trade creates new opportunities that in turn create prosperity. Best of all, it is not government largesse but opportunity that they want. We know now that when Canadians compete with the world, we can and do succeed every day, allowing us to thrive and for these farm families, these small businesses, to flourish.
I say we know now because, of course, as a country, we did not always know that. There was a time shortly after the first free trade agreement when the free trade agreement with the United States was announced, some B.C. vintners threatened to tear up their grapes, so convinced were they that they could not compete with the vast acres of the massive California wine industry.
Today one of my constituents frequently consults and provides his expertise to the California wine industry. Another one of the wineries in my riding is actually buying up a few California wineries.
I believe members can all understand my enthusiasm and my support for what new opportunities will become available with the implementation of the comprehensive economic and trade agreement deal.
On that same theme, I would like to commend the government for carrying on the good work of the former government to see this CETA deal moving forward. Having said that, I do have a few serious concerns I would like to share.
None of us in this place know exactly what changes, if any, may become of our most important trade relationship south of our border. However, I believe we would all agree that diversifying and creating new trade opportunities is the type of due diligence and leadership that we can collectively provide in Ottawa.
However, we must also be very careful. So much as market access is critically important, we also must not forget that trade is always a two-way street. If our side of the street is full of road bumps that slow things down and is more expensive to travel on, then trade can become more of a one-way street and flow more in one direction.
How do we prevent that? Here is the good news. On the regulatory side of things all parties in this place voted in support of the Red Tape Regulatory Reduction Act that was approved in the 41st Parliament. I mention this as the new president has indicated that he will introduce similar measures in the United States, even going a step further than our one for one regulatory reduction, calling for a two-to-one reduction.
Historically, also working in Canada's favour is the fact that we have had lower corporate and small business taxes, something members may recall the Burger King Corporation was eager to take advantage of when it moved its head office from the United States to Canada. Here again the new president has indicated he will seek to lower U.S. corporate taxation rates similar to Canada.
Most of the world has paid no attention to the fact that the president is doing these things because people are mesmerized instead by his presidential Twitter feed. Rest assured that in Canada we need not lose focus on the big picture, and it is the big picture about which I am most concerned.
The Liberal government has dictated a national carbon tax regime that will increase the costs of doing business in Canada. We must keep in mind that none of our major competitors, not the United States of America, not China nor India are following our lead on this. When people are no longer following us, then we are no longer leading the way.
The Liberals say that these increased carbon tax costs will not make a difference to our competitiveness. Here is some food for thought on that.
In British Columbia, in 2008, at the time the B.C. carbon tax was introduced, basically 100% of all cement used in British Columbia was manufactured in British Columbia. Why not? Concrete is not exactly a lightweight, inexpensive product to import and then transport from other jurisdictions. What happened when B.C. produced concrete that was subject to a carbon tax in 2008? It became more expensive.
By 2014, B.C.-produced concrete only accounted for roughly 65% of all concrete used in British Columbia because cheaper concrete was being imported from jurisdictions with no carbon tax. As result of this, the B.C. government is now providing financial subsidies to the B.C. concrete industry. Now the B.C. pulp and paper sector is looking for similar carbon tax relief.
It should also be pointed out that B.C. greenhouse growers have also secured B.C. carbon tax exemptions, not unlike many of Ontario's worst industrial polluters that have also received extensions and exclusions from the Ontario cap and trade way of taxing carbon.
In every one of these situations, these exemptions or subsidies are being provided to protect jobs and support local economies. However, we must not overlook who they are protecting these jobs from, and that is ourselves. It is our own government-imposed carbon taxes that we are now in turn subsidizing to compete against jurisdictions that do not have a carbon tax. Let us not forget the exceptions of the B.C. government that has a balanced budget. Many of these subsides are being provided with borrowed money, borrowed money that taxpayers pay interest on, and this is over and above the carbon tax they pay. We must also consider that in jurisdictions like Ontario, government policies have created some of the highest energy costs in North America.
In Ontario, over 600 jobs are being lost as General Motors is closing a car manufacturing plant and moving jobs to Mexico where they have considerably lower production costs, all at a time when the Liberal government is dramatically increasing the costs on employers through a new carbon tax called big CPP. Even the finance department has said that the big CPP will harm jobs and the Canadian economy for somewhere between 20 and 25 years. We should think about that.
I want to recap something. I am supportive of these opportunities. It is incredibly important that government support these things, but let us not lose sight of the big picture here. The big picture in this government is making us our own competitors. We need to be showing the way in a way that our industries can compete internationally.
Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise to speak to Bill for the second time now. It is a great event when we can implement a progressive trade agenda between Canada and our second-largest trading partner, the European Union.
It gives me great pleasure as the chair of the Canada-Italy Interparliamentary Group, as an Italian citizen, a European citizen, as well as a Canadian citizen to say that our two communities are working together. This is an unprecedented trade deal in the world we live in. It will bring great benefits to the Canadian economy as well as the European economy. It will open up new markets for our manufacturers and our service providers, firms looking to create personal wealth for their citizens. It will drive long-term economic growth.
When I look at the trade deal that we brought over the finish line, that we completed as a government, I must congratulate our current for her work on completing the agreement, and I congratulate the European Parliament for passing the agreement and now it will go to the individual European Union members.
When I look at what we are putting in place as a government, I say how are we growing the middle class, how are we strengthening the middle class, which is the backbone of our economy, the backbone of Canadian society for generations, and that is the way it will continue.
This morning we created a thing called Toronto Global, where we joined with our municipal partners and our provincial partners and we invested funds to help grow the Toronto economy, an investment hub in Toronto. Toronto as we know is an economic generator in Canada, along with the oil patch in Alberta, along with the manufacturing sector in the heartland of Ontario, and here we are investing.
A few months ago, the created this Investment Canada hub downtown, $218 million over five years, again, to attract investment to Canada. Why? To create good-paying, middle-class jobs for all Canadians, for the future of my daughters, and for folks here who may be grandparents or parents, so that they will have good jobs for their kids.
I look at our progressive trade agenda that has been implemented with the European Union. I look at some of the things we have done with this deal. There is a chapter on environmental protection, a chapter on sustainable development, and a chapter on labour. This is what I would call a trade deal that is win-win, fair, right, and progressive. We need to underscore it, because that is important for our relationship with all countries around the world, and specifically with the European Union.
I look at companies such as Fiat Chrysler Canada, which is part of FCA group headed out of Turin, Italy. I look at investments they have made in cities like Windsor and Brampton. I look at the jobs that they are creating, the good middle-class jobs that they are providing for Canadians from coast to coast to coast. It is very important.
I look at my own personal background and what trade has done for me. I grew up in northern British Columbia. To pay for my university education, I worked at the Canadian grain elevator, which as we can imagine exported wheat, barley, and oats through Prince Rupert to countries all over the world. These were very good, and still are very good, above-average paying middle-class jobs.
It gives me great pride to acknowledge that trade grows our Canadian economy. Trade is good, and that is what this deal does. The European Union alone imports over $2 trillion worth of goods and services. That is larger than the Canadian economy. We think about the opportunities that Canadian companies will have to export their manufactured goods, but even above that, above the manufacturing sector, we think of the services, so we think of consultants, we think of organizations. We look at the opportunities for procurement, for transportation companies to not only bid on jobs in the European Union, but also to employ Canadians. The opportunities are tremendous.
We look at what we have done to strengthen the middle class in addition to CETA. We look at our plan for infrastructure in Canada. Obviously that will be a plan that will strengthen our ports, our airports, and our waterways, so goods and services can be exported expeditiously and efficiently to countries in Europe.
Another bonus is our plan for middle-class Canadians in terms of taxes. We lowered taxes last year. Nine million Canadians now pay lower taxes in Canada. Over $20 billion of tax relief is another measure to strengthen the middle class. The Canada child benefit is something to strengthen the middle class. CETA is something that will strengthen the middle class. I am very proud to speak to this measure today.
When I look at the country of Italy where my parents came from, the trade that goes back and forth and the strong cultural and historic ties, I can only say that CETA is a win-win for both where I came from and for the country we now call home and love. CETA provides us with a tremendous opportunity to strengthen ties, to invest in both countries, and to create those good-paying middle-class jobs.
I would say to my colleagues on the other side of the aisle that if they look at the economic data on Canada, we have had very strong gross domestic product and employment numbers in the last two to three months. We have seen a pick-up in Canada. There is uncertainty, but the only thing we can do with uncertainty is to have a steady hand. That is why we have a foreign affairs minister doing what she is doing and a trade minister doing what he is doing, which is reaching out to our counterparts and allies. We will stand together with them, grow the economy through CETA, and continue to do that. I am proud to be a part of that.
On the infrastructure side, there is $181 billion over 12 years. As we know, infrastructure allows for the strengthening of economic growth, today and tomorrow. We will continue to implement that. In a few months, in the riding I am from, they will open a new subway, the York-Spadina subway extension from the city of Toronto. That is infrastructure that is being put to use. Approximately three or four weeks ago, I was proud to announce an investment by the Canadian government for a new inter-regional transit terminal in the city of Vaughan. That will again strengthen the local economy, move goods and services, move people, and strengthen the middle class.
CETA is a trade deal that will help us grow the economy, create good jobs, and at the same time strengthen the middle class. I have to underline that.
CETA's improvements for services, investments, labour mobility, and government procurement are groundbreaking. It will be a model for other trade deals that will occur throughout the world. For Canadian companies, 98% of Europe's tariff lines will be eliminated. Again, this is all great for the economy.
As I have heard this morning and in past days, we have been hit with uncertainty on the horizon. However, CETA provides an avenue of certainty for Canadian firms to know that they can trade and invest with the second-largest economy in the world and the second-largest trading partner for Canada. That will allow us to grow a stronger economy.
I will also look at the other measures we have implemented to strengthen the middle class, such as the CPP enhancement, which was groundbreaking for us. It will allow the next generation to know that they will have a strong and healthy retirement, and allow them to retire in dignity.
I think my time is almost up. However, I would like to say this with respect to the CETA deal. It demonstrates to us just how important relationships are in today's world. I believe that the majority of members in the House are in support of the deal. It demonstrates to all of us the path forward that we, as a government, must take with our international allies, a path forward where progressive trade deals and a progressive agenda win. That is the way we will grow our economy. That is the way we will strengthen our middle class. I continue to underline that.
In reading over CETA and the chapters on environmental protection, the innovative approach to investor protection and investment dispute resolution provisions, and the safeguards that are in place regarding our manufacturers—we have obviously excluded the social services aspect from the deal—this deal is groundbreaking. We have finished it, and I am proud of that fact.
To conclude, as someone who has worked internationally, both in New York City and for some time in London, England, and has travelled extensively in Europe and the United States, I look at this deal as almost guaranteeing for my children the opportunities that I have had. That is effectively what it does. It allows us to grow our economy and provide opportunities for individuals and businesses who want to trade, invest, create wealth, and create good-paying Canadian jobs.
Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure and a privilege to rise to speak on what I believe are national issues of great importance. This is one of those issues, because it is all about trade.
For a number of years, the leader of the Liberal Party spoke quite well about the importance of Canada's middle class. He started talking about Canada's middle class prior to it becoming a popular topic of discussion or debate in the chamber, in fact, when he was the leader of the third party. Then, during the election campaign, he made it very clear that, from a party's perspective, priority one was Canada's middle class and those working hard to become a part of it.
I am very happy that Canadians recognized and supported that priority. Now the leader of the Liberal Party is, indeed, the of Canada and the government has been able to deliver in many different ways on something very tangible for Canada's middle class and those striving to become a part of it.
In the debate on CETA today, I agree with many of the comments put on the record by my colleague across the way. It is important. Trade really does matter. Canada is a trading nation and this file has been handled so well in the last 18 or 19 months. The former minister of international trade, now the , did a phenomenal job representing Canada's best interests and the Government of Canada.
We need to recognize that the Canada-European Union trade agreement was not a completed deal. The government spent numerous hours finalizing the agreement, and that is important to recognize. Many members opposite made accusations that we dropped the ball, that we were not successful at getting this agreement across the goal line. Not only did we get it across the goal line, but we accomplished many other things related to the trade file.
Whether it was the signing of the Ukraine trade agreement, the ratification of the World Organization Trade agreement legislation that dealt with numerous countries around the world, or some of the pet projects, such as the canola issue in the Prairies with respect to China, or beef and pork exports, we have been very proactive on this file. Why? The has it right when he says that trade does matter. It is through trade that we generate the opportunities for Canada's middle class to grow into the future, and Canada is that trading nation.
I am somewhat disappointed. The New Democrats are like a broken record on trade. Yet again we have an opportunity and it does not matter. There is no appeasing the New Democrats on this file. They oppose this agreement. I do not agree with the NDP. I really believe that it has, once again, lost sight of the end goal, which is to ensure there are good quality jobs into the future and protecting, where we can, the industries that are so critically important to our nation. The NDP is going in a totally different direction on such an important file, especially if we take into consideration what is happening south of us.
I listened to the questions being put forward by the New Democrats today, and previous days, and the only word that comes to mind is “hogwash”. At the end of the day, who are they trying to kid? No matter what agreement we come up with, it is in the DNA of the New Democrats, at the national level anyway, to oppose trade agreements. That is what we are hearing yet again.
The New Democrats are critical of us saying that we have taken different positions on trade agreements. The simple reason is that if there is a trade agreement that is in the best interests of the Canadian economy and Canada's middle class, Canadians will know that we as a party will support it.
We know what it is we speak of. In fact the last time we actually had a trade surplus, it was under a Liberal administration. We actually had a multi-billion dollar trade surplus. We understand the importance of trade. Whether it is the manufacturing industry in the province of Ontario, commodities in the province of Alberta, or my home province of Manitoba where there is a wonderful mixture, we are seeing more and more throughout Canada a diversity in manufacturing, commodities, and so forth. We recognize the actual value of trade.
I often make reference to the pork industry in Manitoba. It is an industry I am familiar with. The Maple Leaf plant is so dependent on being able to export its products. We can look at the Maple Leaf parking lot and see the cars of employees. There are over 1,400 employees working there. They are driving cars, renting and buying homes and furniture, and feeding their families. Manitoba has more pigs than people. The vast majority of that product goes outside of the province of Manitoba. That applies to so many industries.
Some of the very best buses, and I may be a little biased but I would argue that they are the very best buses, are manufactured in my home city of Winnipeg. I can talk about tractors. I can talk about pumps. All sorts of aerospace industry parts and products, from jets, to propellers, to rockets, are manufactured. All sorts of industries are so well developed not only in my home province but throughout this nation.
Canada does not have to take a second seat to any other nation when it comes to quality products. We can market to the world. This government, unlike the New Democrats, values the work and efforts of the industries we currently have. We believe that we can be a conduit that will allow for increased sales abroad, which will in fact create the jobs that Canadians really and truly want.
Jobs are important. We have talked a great deal about the middle class. We know that if there is a healthy middle class, we will have a healthier economy. That is something this government has taken very seriously and will continue to do so.
The Canada-European Union comprehensive economic and trade agreement that we are debating today allows Canada to go even further than one might think, given some of the things that are taking place in the U.S. today. We have an opportunity to be like a gateway into the United States, and to a certain degree a gateway going from the United States to the European Union.
We need to keep the trade file as a high priority. I know that the and the cabinet are committed to continuing to push on the trade file. We know that by doing so we are creating future opportunities. I am talking about those valuable jobs that Canada needs in the future in order to continue to prosper.
It is with pleasure that I was able to add a few thoughts about the importance of trade. I know I am quickly running out of time, but I hope to have the opportunity to answer questions and comments the next time we debate this bill. I know my colleague to my left is quite eager to ask some questions.
With those few words, I look forward to seeing the government continue to push the trade file, because it is important to all Canadians that we do just that.