The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to discuss Bill , the continuity agreement between Canada and the United Kingdom. For a little background, I would like to take us through the relationship that we have had with the United Kingdom and how we have come to this point so far.
The United Kingdom is our fifth-largest trading partner and third-largest export market, with two-way trade between the U.K. and Canada worth $29 billion as of 2019. When the United Kingdom left the European Union on January 31, 2020, a transitional period lasting until December 31, 2020, went into effect. If no Canada-U.K. agreement were in place by the close of the transitional period, CETA, Canada's trade agreement with the EU, would no longer govern trade between Canada and the U.K. Trade instead would be governed by the U.K. Global Tariff scheme. This would have been the worst-case scenario for Canadian business.
In July 2018, a notice was issued in the Canada Gazette that the government was intending to negotiate a Canada-U.K. trade agreement. Canada walked away from the trade negotiations with the U.K. in March 2019, only to return to the table in July 2020.
When questioned on the status of this agreement in early November 2020, the made a remark that the U.K. lacked “the bandwidth” to finalize an agreement, despite the U.K. having concluded negotiations with multiple countries.
On November 21, Canadian and U.K. officials announced that an agreement had been reached. The government finally tabled legislation to enact the agreement, Bill , on December 9, 2020, just two House of Commons sitting days before CETA's application to the U.K. would end. During committee testimony, the minister stated that she had not coordinated with the Senate on this bill's passage and it was likely not to be ratified by the end of 2020. As the government did not have time to pass and enact the legislation before year's end, on December 22, Canada and the U.K. reached a memorandum of understanding to provide continued preferential tariff treatment until the Canada-United Kingdom trade continuity act is ratified.
I lay out these timelines because it is a continuing pattern with the government and it should be a worrisome pattern to Canadians. It seems that the government only takes action on files and on issues when it comes to the crisis point, and that is no way to govern. There are countless examples that lay out the government's pattern of basically waiting until the 12th hour and not making a decision until one is foisted upon it.
We saw it when it came to the negotiations for CUSMA, the new NAFTA. Our negotiators were late coming to the table. The United States was negotiating with Mexico before our negotiators were even there. I do not lay that at the feet of the public servants within Canada; I lay it at the feet of the government, this and the former foreign affairs minister, who waited and waited to get engaged and get involved with the administration in the United States on behalf of Canadians. We needed to have competent people at that table to fight to get us the best possible trade deal when it came to CUSMA. Unfortunately, they failed Canadians once again, because they waited until the last hour to try to negotiate a deal.
Unfortunately, we saw it recently again when it came to the cancellation of the Keystone XL expansion. We know that President Biden campaigned on this deal, so the cancellation should not have come as a surprise to the government. Not in just the four days before he was inaugurated, but in the months after he became president-elect and in the years before Mr. Biden went to Washington, our ambassador should have been promoting the idea of Keystone XL tirelessly, talking about how well our oil sector is doing environmentally, talking about how the Keystone XL pipeline would create jobs not only in Canada but in America as well. That is what we should be doing differently.
When I talk about Keystone XL, people ask what I would do differently. To start, I would be a proud advocate on behalf of our energy sector and an advocate on behalf of Canadian businesses. That would be the start of not always being the last one to the dance or the last one to the table, and trying to play catch-up every time there is a new decision that needs to be made.
We have seen this in other recent negotiations by the government. We saw it when the COVID pandemic outbreak started. I am new in the Chamber, and I am slowly learning the processes of what it takes to pass legislation. However, there are a lot of people who have been here for a long time, especially on the government benches.
However, once again, the government has foisted a huge spending bill on this House, and because it was not prepared, it is saying that we need to pass it so that spending gets out the door. I remember we had four hours to debate hundreds of billions of dollars worth of spending because the government was not prepared. The government is not providing certainty to Canadians.
Time and time again, when it comes to providing opportunities to not only oppose legislation or oppose agreements, but also to take a fine eye and go through them to help the government make better decisions and come up with better trade agreements and legislation, the government has continuously been found lacking.
We are seeing this again with the crisis that arose with approving the continuation of spending. The government did not realize the COVID programs were sunsetting, and they needed to be continued. Where is the foresight? Where is the foresight for Canadians to ensure that the programs are there? Where is the foresight, when the government is making agreements with the U.K. or the United States, to be there earlier to talk and advocate on behalf of Canadian businesses and what Canadians want to see in the agreement?
The government could take a page from Japan's book during its U.K. negotiations. Japan's trade delegation was able to secure a free trade agreement with the United Kingdom on October 23, several months before Canada was ready to move ahead with an agreement.
Like Canada's agreement, Japan's agreement is very similar to what it had in place when the U.K. was still a member of the European Union. Unlike Canada's agreement, however, the U.K. and Japan were able to identify and eliminate enough trade barriers to result in an additional £15 billion, or over $25 billion, in trade between their two countries. They made sure that the agreement was already firmly in place before the trade agreement deadline of January 1, 2021. Not only did this give Japanese businesses and investors a head start over other countries, but they were able to take advantage of new negotiating positions and score big wins for its automotive sector.
I ask members to imagine a government that has the foresight to make trade deals sooner, and to make them better and in favour of the businesses in the country it represents. That would be a great country to be a part of, one with a government that actually cares about some of its industries.
We know that the Liberal government has difficulties with the philosophy of being an energy independent country. We understand that it does not like what we do in western Canada. It does not like the energy sector.
I remember when the let it slip that he wants to phase out the energy sector and the oil sands. Unfortunately, through the litany of promises he has made and broken, this might be the one promise in which he actually succeeds, the phasing out the energy sector across western Canada. That will not only damage those in Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Newfoundland and Labrador, but it will also damage us across the country. When the energy sector does well in Canada, Canadians do well, and our economy does well.
It is imperative for people to realize we are being forced to make decisions in crisis mode because the government has continuously had a lack of foresight to do the groundwork necessary to make sure Canadians are getting the best deal. Whether it is the CUSMA, the Canada-United Kingdom trade agreement, or the cancellation of Keystone XL, the government continues to show Canadians that it does not have the ability to govern competently. That means we need a government that is working hard for Canadians, respects all industries in this country and wants to secure our future for generations to come
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House to speak to Bill , an act to implement the agreement on trade continuity between Canada and the United Kingdom.
The Bloc Québécois has always been in favour of free trade, so it will come as no surprise that we are in favour of this bill to approve the agreement and make the necessary legislative changes for the transitional and coming into force provisions. It is important to realize from the outset that the purpose of the agreement is to keep trade flowing. Maintaining the flow of trade is of the utmost importance to our businesses, in Quebec in particular.
What does the agreement do? It keeps 98% of goods tariff-free and preserves access to government procurement, which may seem restrictive in some ways, but which gives us access to a market worth $118 billion annually. Agreements on services, investments, intellectual property, sustainable development, environmental protection and labour standards are all renewed. It is all good, and that is why we are in favour of the bill.
However, we have to anticipate greater competition in the U.K. because the reality has just changed. That country will be perfectly entitled to change its tariff rates on other trade partners, including those that are members of the World Trade Organization.
Nobody will be surprised to hear me say a few words about agriculture. Fortunately, this agreement does not increase access to our supply-managed sectors. Unfortunately, that is only for the time being. Let us be realistic. This is a transitional agreement while we await a permanent one.
Consider the side letter about cheese, which states that cheese originating in the United Kingdom shall continue to be imported into Canada under the tariff rate quota for the European Union until 2023. It will then be up to the U.K. to negotiate a new reserve and to talk to its trading partner, Canada and Quebec, about what it can export here. I do not want to be pessimistic, but I have a feeling the U.K. will ask us to let more cheese in. Our answer must be a hard no. We must and will be vigilant. Regardless of what happens with the United Kingdom's cheese exports, it is not up to producers in Quebec and Canada to pay for Great Britain's choice. That must be clear from the start.
We know that our farmers across the country, particularly in Quebec, have demands. Through its president, Daniel Gobeil, the Producteurs de lait du Québec is calling for “the federal government [to] continue to keep its promise to stop making concessions in the dairy sector in other trade negotiations, just as it did in the transitional agreement between Canada and the United Kingdom”, the agreement we are talking about today. Obviously, Mr. Gobeil is talking about the dairy industry, but other associations, such as those representing egg and poultry farmers, feel the same way. It would also be good to hear what processors have to say since they are always left out when it comes to compensation.
Let us be vigilant and protect key sectors of our economy, such as dairy production, in the case of Mr. Gobeil, which represents a significant portion of our GDP, or $6.2 billion to be exact. We can do that by passing Bill , which was introduced by the Bloc Québécois and seeks to exclude supply-managed sectors from future trade negotiations. Of course, we understand that some people are concerned that doing so could negatively impact a future agreement. However, every country has sectors that it needs to protect and, in our case, these sectors have already given enough, since the dairy sector alone has already given up 18% of its market.
This fight must continue. Once again, I invite all parliamentarians to support our bill. Even if their minds are made up, they can change them.
In response to my question about compensation and promises, my esteemed colleague from the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food said earlier that we need to promote our agriculture. What a great idea. The next time we are negotiating a trade agreement, let us promote supply management rather than cutting it up into pieces and tossing it all over the place.
Let us teach others about this effective, amazing system that is working well for our farmers. Let us show others the way.
We have the right to assert ourselves. Once in a while, it is good to stand firm and stop giving in. I apologize to those who have already heard me say this, but I really like this sentence by Pierre Falardeau, who said, “If you lie down, they will stomp on you. If you remain standing and resist, they will hate you, but they will call you 'sir'.”
We have to protect our sectors from time to time. I therefore urge my colleagues to support Bill . I was not planning on talking for so long, but I could not help myself.
As I said at the beginning of my speech, we support the agreement, but we denounce the lack of transparency.
Since the debate began, I have heard my colleagues repeat that it is not right that the text was unavailable. Remember, the Standing Committee on International Trade sat seven or eight times last fall without seeing the text. The meetings that took place over the summer also took place without the text. Committee members were not able to read the text until the day they were to submit their report.
I do not have the right to show my colleagues the document, but I would have liked to do so. It is not just a two-page letter. It is a very thick document written in small font. The situation is completely ridiculous. This government is always putting us in a position where urgent action needs to be taken at the last minute. It does not make sense.
Members need only think about what happened in the fall. We had to quickly vote on a Friday to extend the support measures that were expiring that Monday just because the government chose to shut down Parliament to cover up scandals.
I would like us to be able to do our job properly. The Bloc Québécois has not changed its views on that since October 2019. Of course, we come here to promote Quebec's independence, but we also come here to work in a constructive way and to make progress. We come here to work for our constituents, to keep the economy going. We cannot work if we do not know what is happening. Think about all of the improvements that we could make.
Even when we get commitments from the House, there is no follow-through. The Canada emergency student benefit is an example of that. We got a formal commitment from the House, but it took months for anything to actually happen.
The NDP secured an agreement for advance access to the CUSMA documents. This time, we did not get the documents. Transparency is very important. Not having access to the documents is preposterous, and so is getting them at the last minute. We need to think about revamping the system. I encourage my colleagues in government and the other parties to start thinking about that.
Let us come up with a process. We cannot keep acting in this bad movie where we are forced to vote for agreements with our backs to the wall and a knife at our throats without having read the documents, purportedly to prevent people from running out of grocery money. That is preposterous. The same thing happened with this agreement.
We also need to find a way for the provinces and Quebec to participate. My colleague, who is a member of the Standing Committee on International Trade, suggested to the committee that Quebec be invited to participate in the negotiations. His suggestion was turned down. In fact, it was turned down by many of the members, including the Conservatives. They have been sucking up to Quebec in recent weeks, claiming that they will give us everything we want. Apparently that is not really true.
In closing, I want to say that what I like about Brexit is the independence aspect. This is a clear, powerful example of a state reclaiming its trade bargaining powers overnight. The fearmongering federalists want us to believe that this would be a horror show, but the Brits signed agreements with 60 of the 70 countries with which they had relationships before leaving the European Union.
Since Canada always waits until the last minute, it is not one of the countries with which the Brits signed agreements. We are doing so now, but I want to point out that today is January 29 and we have continued to trade since Brexit came into force on January 1.
The evidence is clear, and it speaks for itself. It was not a disaster. There are, of course, some adjustments to be made, but it was not a disaster.
Canada ranks fifth in terms of trade with the United States. I might disappoint some people by saying that the United States will not stop trading with us if we become independent. Furthermore, we will be able to sign agreements and protect our key sectors.
Madam Speaker, like my colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé, I am honoured to be given the floor by this new chair occupant.
First, I would like to thank someone who worked very hard on this file on behalf of the Bloc Québécois, and that is my colleague from . I would like to thank him for the work he did in committee to defend the views of the Bloc Québécois and all the work he did for Quebeckers to help them better understand the issues related to trade agreements, something that many people feel is far removed from their daily lives. However, as we saw during the debate, these issues have a very real impact on people's lives and even affect the issue of independence, which is something that our party cares a lot about.
What is more, I would like to thank those of my colleagues who, like the member from Berthier—Maskinongé, spoke to Bill . We see that everything is related and that the work of the Bloc Québécois, what we are going to do to defend agriculture and food sovereignty, is essential. I therefore thank my colleagues for demonstrating how this teamwork helps Quebec to be better heard and defended.
It has been said before, but I think it bears repeating: The Bloc Québécois supports Bill . We are not questioning the need for trade agreements and treaties that have been around since the beginning of time and that improve people's lives from an economic, social and cultural perspective.
This debate is about a bill to implement a temporary agreement that will be in effect until a permanent trade agreement is signed. This historic example is proof that there is no black hole when at state decides to reclaim its sovereignty. Everyone wants to keep the trade channel open so we can reassure our businesses and our economy that there will be a smooth transition. Because this agreement is temporary, we can make improvements. Having to renegotiate is not a bad thing; it actually provides opportunities, including the opportunity to work on one of the issues that came up today, dispute resolution mechanisms. We will have no choice but to renegotiate in the coming months, and that is a good thing.
Here is the first thing I would like us to focus on now: transparency in all its forms. I feel like I have talked about this concept repeatedly during this Parliament and the previous one. I am going to talk about how the committee work played out and how we ended up studying this bill. I found the whole process totally ridiculous, and I want to stress that.
I will use an analogy to put the situation in context. In our personal life, when we reach an agreement or sign a contract to buy a car—a very practical example—or to get married, which outside of love may be very practical as well, the stakeholders, those who are affected by the agreement or the contract, have to be heard. They must be able to express their interests and their wishes and to discuss them. For there to be agreement, the people involved have to be able to talk to one another. The bill was tabled on December 9 at the Standing Committee on International Trade, just two days before the House rose for the break.
As my colleague from put it so well, it really is like a theatre of the absurd. What is even worse is that the Liberals have no idea they live in such a world, although everyone else sees it.
The government brought this bill before the committee and asked that it be reported back. In this case, committee members were to examine a trade agreement and submit a report.
Without access to the text of the agreement, they had to take part in the deliberations, express opinions, take considerations into account and ask all their questions. This is completely absurd, even beyond absurd. This calls into question the very privileges of parliamentarians.
We are talking about legislating, deliberating and holding the government to account when we cannot even express our views on a bill. I do not think my constituents would be very pleased with me if I told them I voted for a bill without having any idea what it was about or what impact it might have. They would not understand that, like a good, obedient opposition member, I trusted the government, which has fooled us many times with these kinds of trade agreements. I do not need to name them, because they include last three agreements.
I believe that we have the right to legislate, deliberate and hold the government to account. However, to do this properly, we need all the information.
I find that the government is irresponsible. As parliamentarians and citizens, we must always learn from our mistakes, find solutions and do better. I am urging us to do so as we move forward. As this is a transitional agreement, we should not wait until the last minute again. We must renegotiate and we can establish a timeline so that this happens very quickly.
I would also like to talk about the historical perspective, which we as separatists have a keen interest in. I have already thanked my colleague from for his analysis of Brexit, the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union. It represents a true precedent for Quebec. We are seeing the will of a nation to take back its sovereignty. We are moving from theory to reality.
How many times have we heard economic threats directed at separatists, telling us that we cannot make it without Canada? I think we have often seen that we are very capable of making it without Canada. My colleague from noted earlier that Quebec does not wish to be independent solely for economic considerations.
This is a practical, and not theoretical, example of what happens when a trading nation decides to take back its sovereignty. The United Kingdom's experience is a prime example. There was no black hole at the end of these agreements during the transition period. The United Kingdom has already restored 60 of the 70 trade agreements that had been signed with the European Union. I think it is worth noting that the Brits now have an agreement with Japan, which they did not have before.
Earlier the notion of turbulence came up. In response to that, I want to point out that no matter where you fly, your plane will go through turbulence, and yet you always get to your destination. I am happy to get on that plane, whether it is headed towards Ottawa or towards Quebec's independence.
As a final note on the topic of sovereignty, decision-making and the opportunity to do things on our own, I want to stress that our principles and our values are not for sale. Topics such as health, workers' rights, the environment, food sovereignty and democracy are all things that a sovereign state can protect. When we step up to a bargaining table, we do not negotiate over issues that are important to us, that make us who we are or that bring us together to work as a people, as a whole. That is why we want to sign our own trade agreements.
We could then protect supply management, softwood lumber, aluminum and all of the issues that make Quebec what it is. This is what my constituents want.
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill , an act to implement the Canada-United Kingdom Trade Continuity Agreement. I will say at the outset that I support the passage of this legislation so that the agreement can be studied at committee. I will also say, in unequivocal terms, that it is absolutely vital for Canada to achieve a permanent comprehensive trade agreement with the United Kingdom. It is vital for jobs. It is vital for trade stability, given the fact that the United Kingdom is Canada's fifth-largest trading partner and third-largest export market. It is vital given the special relationship that Canada enjoys with the United Kingdom.
Our countries share a common history and common values. Indeed, I can think of no more special of a relationship that Canada enjoys than that with the United Kingdom, other than perhaps that with the United States.
In light of that common history and common values, and the fact that trade between Canada and the United Kingdom is a big deal, with $29 billion of two-way merchandise trade in 2019 and opportunities to expand, five years after the Brexit referendum the government has failed to achieve a permanent comprehensive trade agreement with the United Kingdom. What we have instead is a transitory agreement that merely continues the terms of trade between Canada and the United Kingdom from CETA.
Let me be clear. CETA was a groundbreaking agreement, negotiated under the leadership of Prime Minister Harper by my colleague, the hon. member for , while he served as Minister of International Trade. On the whole, it has been a win for Canada regarding trade with the European Union broadly and in the context of trade with the United Kingdom. That being said, CETA was negotiated several years ago, and in that regard I would submit it constitutes the floor: We could do better, and we have not yet to date.
Why have we not done better? It seems that the basis for not doing better is the government's set of priorities. For much of the past five years, the government has been focused, when it comes to trade, on a trade deal with Communist China, an unreliable trading partner that does not share our values, instead of focusing on a trade agreement with countries like the United Kingdom that are reliable trading partners and share our values.
In March 2019, at the very first opportunity, Canada walked out of negotiations with the United Kingdom. The government then proceeded to sit on its hands, not just for weeks or months, but for more than a year. The government continued to sit on its hands even after the EU-U.K. withdrawal agreement took effect in January 2020. The withdrawal agreement set in motion the date upon which the European Union and the United Kingdom would sever their ties and, consequently, the United Kingdom would no longer be a party to CETA. That date was December 31, 2020.
Notwithstanding that, while other countries secured permanent trade agreements with the United Kingdom, the current government instead chose to let the clock tick: January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, and achieved nothing. In November, we got this trade continuity agreement: a copy-and-paste of CETA, the floor for it, rather than something closer to the ceiling. The government then dithered yet again and failed to bring forward enabling legislation until two days before the House rose for Christmas. That made it virtually impossible to ratify the trade agreement by the December 31 deadline.
As a result of the government's mismanagement, Canada was put at the precipice in its trade relationship with the United Kingdom, with no trade agreement in place but a trade relationship that would be governed by WTO rules. It was a completely untenable situation that was only averted as a result of a memorandum of understanding the government entered into on December 22, nine days before the December 31 deadline. Talk about cutting it close. Talk about a lack of a plan. Talk about a lack of prioritizing Canada's important trading relationship with the United Kingdom and, more broadly, the very special relationship we enjoy with the United Kingdom.
As I say, maintaining the CETA terms does provide stability. It provides continuity for the exchange of goods and services between Canada and the United Kingdom, and that is a good thing. However, we could have done a lot better. We could have addressed a number of issues with CETA, including non-tariff barriers; opportunities to expand the export of agricultural products and goods, particularly beef and pork, where we have had significant challenges with the European Union; and opportunities to expand investment and to achieve greater regulatory alignment and to make closer the relationship between Canada and the United Kingdom.
It is true that this agreement does contemplate that within a year of its ratification, negotiations will commence toward a comprehensive trade agreement to be concluded within three years. However, there is no mechanism to require that to happen. There is no sunset clause to this agreement.
Consequently, what we have is a purportedly temporary agreement that might in fact be a permanent one. I hope it is not. I hope the government refocuses. I hope it prioritizes getting back to the negotiating table, something it largely failed to do over the last five years, and engages with the United Kingdom, as described by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, correctly, I believe, as an “open, generous, outward-looking, internationalist and free-trading” country.
Let us get back to the negotiating table to negotiate a permanent comprehensive trade deal that will be a win-win for Canada and the United Kingdom.