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View Cathay Wagantall Profile
CPC (SK)
View Cathay Wagantall Profile
2020-03-11 16:08 [p.1948]
Madam Speaker, to pass this legislation swiftly, as all stakeholders and constituents had requested, so the vacuum of uncertainty would be lifted on our trade relations with the U.S., our official opposition made many suggestions as to ways we would gladly co-operate with the government.
Knowing that the federal election was coming up in October, the Conservatives offered to begin a pre-study on the original legislation, Bill C-100, in May of this year. That way the government would only have to deal with clause by clause later on, but it declined. When the revised agreement was signed in December, the Conservatives offered to come back early from the Christmas break to begin work on the bill. Again, the government declined.
The international trade committee had approximately 200 requests come in on CUSMA, and the amount of work to do on the legislation had not changed. We consistently offered to commence that work earlier, but the government declined.
The Conservatives ultimately offered to complete clause-by-clause examination by no later than March 5, under the assumption that the government would not be recalling the House of Commons during the constituency break. Again, the government declined.
A unanimous motion was passed at the international trade committee, requesting that the government release its economic impact analysis for CUSMA. It was not provided until one day before committee conducted its clause-by-clause review and the government's economic impact report compared CUSMA to not having a NAFTA deal at all.
What this said was that the government wanted Canadians to believe that any trade deal, no matter how unbalanced or restrictive, would actually be better than nothing at all.
Thankfully, the C.D. Howe Institute released a report comparing CUSMA to the old NAFTA deal on February 21. It affirmed that CUSMA would reduce Canada's GDP by $14.2 billion. Canada's exports to the U.S. would fall by $3.2 billion, while our imports from the U.S. would increase by $8.6 billion. The C.D. Howe Institute's report shed some light on why the government said it was important to support the new agreement moving quickly and then balked at every opportunity we gave to expedite the passing of the legislation.
We are here now dealing with the issues around what was not good in the agreement. With those 200 organizations and individuals who wanted to come and talk to the committee, we were able to process through 100 of those.
The Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters said, “If we want Canada to take full advantage of this agreement, the government must take steps to insure Canadian manufacturers' productivity levels are equivalent to that of other OECD countries so they can succeed on North American markets and globally.”
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce said, “The CUSMA, as signed last autumn, was in imperfect but necessary agreement to provide greater predictability in our relations with Canada's largest trading partner.” Predictability was lost to such an extent that we were to the point where people were saying that we needed to just get this done.
Last week, I met with my own chamber of commerce and also held a town hall, with the shadow minister for agriculture, in my riding with a number of farmers from the area.
Agriculture and agrifood producers, manufacturers, exporters and all the support services of small businesses in my riding are experiencing the serious impacts of uncertainty with which the government has plagued our economy: increased costs and a loss of customer base because of the punitive policies of the government: an uncertainty of our relationship with our biggest trading partner, plus the shutting down of supply routes due to strikes and lack of rail cars because oil is flowing on our tracks instead of safely through our pipelines; barricades that created dangerous situations and prevented products from being shipped; carbon taxes on heating and cooling systems that are necessary for manufacturing; and increased payroll taxes and red tape.
People feel they have been attacked and ignored by the government. They know that CUSMA is an imperfect, but necessary agreement to provide better predictability in our relationships with Canada's largest trading partner. Therefore, we are here ready to pass Bill C-4.
The Aluminum Association of Canada said, “As part of the ongoing collaboration between the Government of Canada and industry, we intend to initiate discussions with the government to encourage Mexico to implement a similar measure, which would help limit the arrival of products that do not comply with the rules of the agreement between our three countries.” Canada's aluminum industry is concerned by the government's failure to secure the same made-in-North American provision for aluminum as was given to steel. Canada is North America's largest producer of aluminum.
While the 70% rule of origin included looks good on paper, in reality the failure to include a smelted and poured definition, which is what the industry is asking of in Mexico, will leave the North American industry vulnerable to dumping from overseas, particularly through Mexico.
As well, the government needs to report on the status of the $2 billion in tariffs, the revenue that it has collected thus far, to ensure it actually was used to support Canadian businesses impacted by those tariffs. The manufacturers in my communities were very discouraged by what they saw in the government's behaviour when they were facing shut downs, including its suggestion that it help the manufacturers deal with it by giving more EI. They did not want more EI; they wanted to keep those people working.
As well, there is an urgency to develop a strategy to market Canadian aluminum as the greenest in the world to help shore up our competitiveness in existing and emerging markets. This is part of the Conservative environmental plan. It looks at showcasing and bragging to the world about what Canada already has done and how we can help to impact the global issues on climate change that have impacted so many other countries that are not as clean as Canada.
Then there are our dairy farmers.
The largest group left behind by the government during the negotiations is Canada's dairy sector. The government has managed to simultaneously shrink the opportunities for dairy producers and processors at home, while also limiting their ability to grow by exporting.
Canada agreed to place a worldwide cap on exports of certain dairy products in CUSMA, which is unprecedented in regional trade agreements. As the nation's prosperity depends on reliable access to global markets in every market, but specifically in dairy, Canada must not agree to this kind of provision in any future trade agreement. Why would the government say yes to giving the U.S. that kind of power over our sovereignty and our opportunity to trade as we wish with other countries?
This concession is an affront to our sovereignty and there is no excuse or rational argument for this capitulation to go hat in hand to the U.S. to ask if we can please have its permission to export dairy to any country with which we choose to trade.
There are so many areas that are faulty in this agreement, which stakeholders brought to the attention of the committee, and we were able to create recommendations for the government to move forward and to rectify a lot of those issues.
Regarding government procurement, we have no chapter on being able to secure Canada's access to the U.S. market.
Regarding auto, Canada's exports of motor vehicles to the U.S. will decline by $1.5 billion relative to the current trade regime under NAFTA, and imports would decrease by $1.2 billion. In light of the hardships faced by Ontario's auto sector, which were compounded by the punitive actions of the government against our competitiveness, it must fulfill the auto sector's request to delay the implementation of CUSMA for the auto sector until January 2021 to allow it to adjust to the new climate of the deal.
Regarding forestry, so many mills have closed and support services, small businesses and whole communities have been brought to a standstill by the government's indifference. They do not deserve this attitude from their Prime Minister, whom they expect to re-engage right now with the United States trade representative to find a solution to this issue.
Regarding cultural exemption, the price of protecting it in CUSMA was to open ourselves up to retaliatory tariffs not limited to that sector. For example, if Canada decides to implement a digital service tax for a company such as Netflix, the United States would be within its right, as per CUSMA, to place a tariff of equal commercial effect on any Canadian export.
These are just a few of the examples of where the government has capitulated to the U.S.. The U.S. reply to the whole document is a huge document of all of its successes. Ours, from what I understand the previous minister of trade on this side of the House said, was 72 pages long. Clearly, Canada has not come out on the best circumstances here, but as stakeholders have said, we just need to get this done and move on, hopefully in the future with better arrangements.
View Scott Duvall Profile
NDP (ON)
View Scott Duvall Profile
2020-03-11 17:07 [p.1956]
Madam Speaker, Quebec is one of the biggest aluminum producers in North America and an excellent, well-paid workforce. It does not have the same protections under the aluminum strategy as it did with the steel industry. Does the member fear, because the rules are so vague in the aluminum industry, that there is going to be a massive job loss in Quebec?
View Yves Perron Profile
BQ (QC)
View Yves Perron Profile
2020-03-11 17:07 [p.1956]
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his very pertinent question.
Yes, we are afraid. That is why we made such a ruckus over the aluminum issue. We will remember that when the Bloc Québécois raised the aluminum issue in the House, we were told by just about everyone that we were off track, that we were raising a problem that did not exist. We even had to explain the problem to government officials because they did not understand what they had signed. Next time, it would be advisable that they read all the provisions when they sign a contract.
Yes, we are concerned. That is why we went to the mat on this issue. The commitments obtained from the government are the most we could get. Naturally, we will remain vigilant to ensure that they are applied to the letter.
We are indeed worried.
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
BQ (QC)
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
2020-03-11 17:24 [p.1959]
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise and speak to the bill to ratify CUSMA. We are at third reading; things are moving fast. I am glad this is moving forward, but it is important not to rush. We need to take the time to properly study and debate this bill.
The job of the Bloc Québécois is to represent the interests of Quebeckers. That is why we are here. We agree with free trade agreements in principle. We need free trade. In economics, Quebec could be described as a small, open economy. We have a large territory with a population of about eight million. We need to trade with the rest of the world. Our areas of expertise include aerospace, artificial intelligence and computer science. We are proud of our farmers and our forestry workers in the regions. We are well positioned to trade. In essence, we support free trade agreements.
Obviously, no agreement is ever perfect. NAFTA was not perfect. Did we really need a new agreement like CUSMA to replace NAFTA? Our neighbour to the south demanded it. I would say this agreement is fairly good for the Canadian economy. The government did pretty well for the auto industry, for example.
There is one thing I find disappointing about this agreement and other agreements Canada negotiated recently. Generally speaking, an agreement should benefit the majority of the population, Canada's population in this case, but somebody always gets the short end of the stick. I do wonder—though not for long—why sectors that are important to Quebec's economy are always traded away.
In this agreement, concessions were made with respect to supply management. That happened with the trans-Pacific partnership too. Quebec is nowhere near the Pacific Ocean, but a significant chunk of the economy was traded away. The same thing happened with the Canada-EU free trade agreement. It seems that when Canada negotiates, it is all too ready to give up Quebec when it needs to offer something in exchange. Canada would like to protect Quebec's interests, but when it has to choose, it sacrifices part of Quebec's economy.
We saw the same thing happen when China joined the WTO. That killed our textile sector. It is still around, but as a shadow of its former self. The government did nothing to support that sector. Many women who had worked in the industry all their lives were left out in the cold, empty-handed. In contrast, the United States supported its textile industry and managed to save more jobs.
The same thing happened with our shipyards. The agreement with northern Europe ended up putting shipyards in Montreal and Sorel out of business, with neither compensation nor support. What a shame.
That being said, this agreement may not be perfect, but we think it offers a great opportunity to resolve the softwood lumber dispute. Quebec's forestry system was overhauled from top to bottom to ensure that the U.S. would have absolutely no reason to say it is subsidized and that we could do business on softwood lumber with our neighbour to the south.
Sadly, the new agreement did not resolve that dispute. The U.S. strategy is to drag out the dispute as long as possible and levy taxes to cool down this industry's market. Once it is on the verge of collapse, we will sign on the cheap. So far, this has not been done. I lament the fact that the Prime Minister has never spoken up in defence of Quebec's forestry industry. Forestry companies are paying more for lumber, since the price is determined by a market mechanism, and on top of that, they get taxed at the border as well. We did what was needed to fix that, but the government did not do its job at the federal level. As a result, our industry is paying twice. That is truly deplorable.
Given all that, we decided a year ago that the Bloc would support CUSMA on two conditions. The first was full compensation for supply-managed farmers. I am quite proud that I asked for the unanimous support of the House for full compensation for the last three agreements before ratifying this agreement. Naturally, we had to wait for the former member for Beauce to step out to go to the bathroom, because he was fiercely opposed to supply management. After all, he could have held it in. When we saw the support in the House we decided we could support this new agreement since half our conditions had been met.
The other condition was to have the illegal taxes on steel and aluminum cancelled. There are indeed steel producers in Quebec, as my colleague from Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères confirmed. However, we were mainly concerned with the aluminum sector because 90% of the aluminum made in Canada comes from Quebec. There has been longstanding trade with our American neighbours when it comes to aluminum. I went to Washington and I wrote newspaper articles there. We held several meetings, we all pitched in and managed to get these taxes lifted. We thought that was it.
On December 10, 2019, after Mexico and the United States had signed the agreement, the House decided to move forward and the Liberals were patting themselves on the back. However, when we saw the final version of the agreement, we saw that a key section of Quebec's economy had once again been sacrificed. There was a disparity between the protection given to steel, which is primarily manufactured in Ontario, compared to aluminum, which is primarily manufactured in Quebec. Once again, Quebec got a last-minute surprise in the House. Quebec's economy did not receive the same protection as Ontario's. That is unacceptable. Since the United States and Mexico had already ratified the agreement, it was very difficult to go back and renegotiate provisions so that Quebec would have the same protections.
There was all kinds of pressure from the government and various stakeholders to sign the agreement, and we were made to believe that it could no longer be amended. My colleagues from Lac-Saint-Jean and Jonquière immediately rallied stakeholders in their regions, elected officials, workers, unions and businesses. They said that they could not allow this to happen and that they would do something. We were being told to sign the agreement because it was good for the rest of the economy. We were being asked to forget that supply management and the aluminum sector were being short-changed, and to think about the sectors that were gaining something.
We nevertheless decided to fight this and to stand up for the aluminum sector. We did not know how to proceed, but we managed to make significant progress with the help of stakeholders and—credit where credit is due—the Deputy Prime Minister.
We now know that the problem caused by last-minute changes to CUSMA was that steel was being given significant protection. The “melted and poured” provision of the agreement required that most of the automotive parts made in the territory of the agreement were to be made with North American steel. This clause did not apply to aluminum.
Many automotive parts are made in Mexico, which imported aluminum from China, the dirtiest aluminum in the world because it is made at coal-fired plants, compared to Quebec's aluminum, which is the greenest and made at the most energy efficient plants in the world. All Mexico had to do was process the Chinese aluminum to make it North American aluminum. Even the Prime Minister acknowledged that the dumping of Chinese aluminum is unacceptable and illegal in international trade.
We obtained a commitment from the government that it would ensure that Mexico applied the same traceability measures as Canada's to track Chinese imports and the portion of components made with Chinese aluminum. If a problem arises, we can then revisit the “melted and poured” clause. I have been led to believe that the Americans agree with us and that very soon they will implement traceability measures to prevent Mexico from using dumped aluminum.
I will stop here, as my time has expired.
View Luc Berthold Profile
CPC (QC)
View Luc Berthold Profile
2020-03-11 17:37 [p.1960]
Madam Speaker, I commend my colleague on his speech.
He spoke about the aluminum industry, which we were very concerned about. We also stood up for the aluminum industry in the House.
Unfortunately, I think the Bloc Québécois is being quite naive. It was satisfied with the Deputy Prime Minister's stated intention to perhaps do something with the Americans to protect our aluminum industry, to provide for traceability measures.
These negotiations unfortunately never materialized. They are yet to happen, and the Bloc Québécois seems to be taking the Deputy Prime Minister and the Liberal government at their word.
Earlier the parliamentary secretary spoke about give-and-take. Where is the give-and-take in all of this?
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
BQ (QC)
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
2020-03-11 17:38 [p.1961]
Madam Speaker, first of all, I find my Conservative colleague's comment pretty ironic because the Conservative Party was quick to vote in favour of the new NAFTA at second reading and at all subsequent stages even before we had these enhanced protections.
Second, elected representatives, union members and workers in Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean are all very pleased with what we achieved.
We targeted Chinese aluminum and proved that dumping is illegal, and we ensured that measures will be implemented, as is the case in Canada for what enters Mexico. That sends the right signal.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Gabriel Ste-Marie: I would really like my colleague to stop interrupting and let me speak.
We are well aware that the U.S. government agrees and clearly wants to make sure that aluminum entering Mexico is traceable.
View Bob Saroya Profile
CPC (ON)
View Bob Saroya Profile
2020-03-11 17:40 [p.1961]
Madam Speaker, I come from the private sector and I am really glad to speak to this very important subject.
For Canadian businesses, when it comes to finding customers, Chicago and Toronto are separated by only 800 kilometres. Vancouver and Toronto are separated by 4,000 kilometres. For businesses in Vancouver, customers in Seattle are much closer than even customers in Calgary.
To put it into perspective, 66% of Canadians live within 100 kilometres of a border. It is closer to ship to the south. Geography is a part of it, but over 325 million potential customers is a powerful reason for businesses to look south before they look east or west. For any growing Canadian company, it is just a matter of time before it looks to expand south.
Business is just one part of this equation. Customers in the United States demand Canadian products and Canadians demand American products.
In terms of trade, no relationship compares to that between Canada and the United States: 75% of Canada's trade is done with the United States and $2 billion worth of goods crosses the border everyday.
Just because trade is mutually beneficial does not mean it is easy. Trade can be complex, with different regulations, safety concerns and government help to the industry in different countries. Free trade is never free of rules. That is why agreements need to be reached.
When Canada and the United States began to trade, we did it piecemeal until 1992. That is when Canada, led by then prime minister Brian Mulroney and the Progressive Conservative Party, signed the North American Free Trade Agreement. That created the world's largest economic trading zone. That agreement was an overwhelming success in growing our trade in both the United States and Mexico.
The deputy prime minister put it into perspective when she said, “Today, Canada, the United States and Mexico account for nearly one-third of global GDP despite having just 7% of the global population.”
The clear benefits of NAFTA have helped establish free trade as a foundation of Canadian conservatism, a foundation that former Prime Minister Harper built on by signing trade agreements with South Korea, Jordan and Columbia, among others. Let me remind everyone that the new European Union trade deal was negotiated almost entirely under the previous government. Simply put, the Conservatives understand that.
I am here to discuss the next stage of our trade relationship with the United States and Mexico, the Canada-United States-Mexico agreement, CUSMA, also known as the new NAFTA.
We all know how we got here. On the campaign trail, President Donald Trump promised Americans a better deal with trade. Millions of Americans were concerned that jobs were flowing south to Mexico because of low wages, little regulation and few rights for workers. President trump told them that they were right. On election night, many analysts pointed to these words as the reason that President Trump was able to carry the rust belt states. That delivered him the presidency.
Unfortunately for Canadians, as soon as President Trump was elected, it became clear that calls for a new deal were more than just hot air. Renegotiating NAFTA was a primary goal for his presidency. That meant Canada would be back at the negotiating table.
The talk around the negotiating table was not comforting. Statements made by the Canadian government made it look like it did not take the situation seriously. The Prime Minister threw personal attacks at President Trump, which showed an interest in scoring political points rather than securing a good deal for Canadians.
On the other side, statements by the President about Canada were often not true. At times, it seemed as if Canada was an afterthought, as President Trump focused on Mexico.
The good news is that the deal is done. After years of uncertainty, businesses can once again begin investing in Canada, and investors can be assured that trucks, ships and planes carrying goods between the United States, Canada and Mexico will not grind to a halt due to the repeal of NAFTA.
Many businesses and industries as a whole have made it clear that they want this deal signed, and they want it signed soon. Premiers across the country have also added their voices to that message.
I have already made it clear that the Conservative Party supports free trade. We understood that billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of jobs, if not millions, were at stake. We wanted the best deal possible for Canadians.
As my colleague from Prince Albert put it, we wanted a good dealt that would last for the next 50 years, but that is not what we got. Instead, Canadians have a deal with new red tape and other barriers that hurt Canadian businesses, a deal that ignores ongoing problems and mutually beneficial economic opportunities.
The barrier I find most disturbing involves trade deals with other nations. Under CUSMA, if Canada continues expanding it free trade network, it will have to seek permission from the United States. This overreach into Canadian sovereignty is a hard pill to swallow. Canada should be free to pursue its trade interests with anyone.
That question of American oversight also made its way into the rules about dairy products. Canada gave up 3% of the market to American suppliers in the deal, but the concessions did not end there. Milk protein exports are now something the United States government has a say over. The Canadian government also negotiated away milk classes 6 and 7. With all these drastic changes, it should not be a surprise that the dairy industry will need help. That help will most likely come in the form of subsidies or payouts for which Canadians will be on the hook.
The new rules around aluminum have also raised concerns. Canada is a massive producer of aluminum. Globally we are the fourth-largest producer in the world. When CUSMA was being negotiated, it was clear we had to protect our market share in the United States, which, according to the Financial Post, is “just over half of it.” The new rules protect our steel industry but do nothing for aluminum.
As I mentioned before, one of the problems with this deal is the issues that were ignored. The issue that comes to the top of mind is the buy America policies. We failed to get rules in CUSMA that would stop the unfair boxing out of Canadian companies from government contracts in the United States. Mexico was able to strike a deal.
As for the lingering softwood lumber dispute, it was ignored and left in the hands of the World Trade Organization, an organization that has struggled to make any progress on the issue at all.
In terms of opportunities lost, a glaring example was not including more professions under section 16. That would have made it easier for companies to bring in high-demand low-supply professionals who they need to grow their businesses.
Instead of the 50 years of certainty, the new NAFTA gives 16 years, 16 years before we are back at the negotiating table, and that is if we can make it past the six-year formal reviews of CUSMA.
While there are many flaws, a deal is better than no deal, and we need to focus on the next steps. The agreement has put many industries at risk. There needs to be discussions on how Canada is going to ensure CUSMA is not a crippling blow for them. Unfortunately, that means Canadian taxpayers are once again facing new costs because of poor decisions by the Liberal government.
View Denis Trudel Profile
BQ (QC)
View Denis Trudel Profile
2020-03-11 17:53 [p.1963]
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.
Generally speaking, what I am noticing this afternoon from my Conservative colleagues' comments is a wilful blindness with respect to protecting aluminum. They seem to have difficulty understanding that my Bloc Québécois colleagues, our leader and I worked very hard with the Deputy Prime Minister to negotiate an agreement that includes the traceability of aluminum. Today, the greenest aluminum in the world is protected thanks to the efforts of the Bloc Québécois. Of course, this remains to be seen, but time will tell.
The Conservatives agree that we relinquished 3% of supply-managed markets in this agreement in addition to what was lost in previous agreements.
Today we are talking about compensation. Could my colleague tell us what compensation might be offered?
In his view, what is 3% of the dairy market worth and how much should we give farmers in the coming years?
View Bob Saroya Profile
CPC (ON)
View Bob Saroya Profile
2020-03-11 17:54 [p.1963]
Madam Speaker, yes, I agree with you that Quebec produces the greenest aluminum. That was left behind because the deal was not negotiated with Canada. The deal was negotiated with Mexico, and we ended up signing the deal for the sake of signing a deal.
As I said, I come from the private sector, where we would rather have this deal than no deal, but the deal was not negotiated with President Trump in good faith and at the end of the day we took what he gave us.
View Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Profile
BQ (QC)
Madam Speaker, I am very happy to be rising in the House again, this time to speak to Bill C-4 and also the aluminum industry.
I first want to acknowledge all those who worked hard to ensure that the Bloc Québécois could support the agreement. This includes elected officials, such as the mayor of Alma, Marc Asselin; the mayor of Saguenay, Josée Néron; union representatives, in particular Éric Drolet, Sylvain Maltais and Alain Gagnon; as well as economic stakeholders.
People were indeed expecting us to vote, but they wanted us to be voting for gains. Instead of ordering us to shut up and vote no questions asked, they instead chose to work with us, which worked out really well in the end.
Indeed, it was a pretty good idea. We used the full power of our positions to ensure that the fundamental interests of Quebec and its regions were protected. We were not simply criticizing without making any suggestions.
It may have been a long shot back in December, since the House seems to have forgotten that an opposition can do more than oppose for the sake of opposing. We had to believe that it was possible to make gains. Clearly, our belief ultimately paid off.
I will come back to the steps that finally led me to say that I would vote in favour of Bill C-4. It think they are worth mentioning, mainly for those who are watching at home and who are wondering what happened between two days before CUSMA was ratified and now regarding the loss of protection for aluminum.
On December 10, we learned that aluminum was no longer protected, as my colleague from Joliette so clearly pointed out. The government abandoned the aluminum industry even though aluminum is Quebec's second-largest export. What is worse, the government considered the matter to be closed for the next 10 years. That was a disaster for us and for many stakeholders in Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, the North Shore and central Quebec.
On December 12, we clearly announced our intentions. We would not vote in favour of the agreement unless aluminum was given the same protections as steel. Even the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord was on our side. He told the media that he planned to vote against the agreement. He issued a press release with us, which basically said the following:
There are some good things in the agreement, but the lack of protection for the aluminum industry is unacceptable...my constituents will always come first. The aluminum industry was not respected...and unless something is done to secure our place on the North American market or unless export programs are put in place, I am seriously considering voting against the agreement.
That has changed, but that is what he was saying not too long ago.
I imagine that he trusted us to do the rest. The following week, on December 19, we took part in a demonstration, without him, but with many unions, business owners, and municipal and provincial officials from all across Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean. More people turned out than for LNG.
Aluminum has been a big industry for us for 100 years. What is more, the aluminum produced in my region and in Quebec is the greenest in the world.
Fundamentally, however, what everyone needs to remember is that when all this started, the Bloc Québécois were the only ones saying aluminum had not received the same protection as steel, because we were the only ones who had read the agreement carefully.
Curiously enough, the steel industry is concentrated in Ontario, and the aluminum industry, as we now know, is almost exclusively located in Quebec. In fact, 90% of Canada's aluminum is produced in Quebec, and 60% of that comes from Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean. It is no surprise, really. Quebec is starting to get used to being used as a pawn in international treaties and being sacrificed for the sake of Ontario's auto industry and western Canada's oil industry.
We were the only ones saying it, while the Liberals kept trotting out the same old convoluted talking points. After repeating our arguments and proving them in debate, we eventually got the NDP and the Conservatives on our side. However, the Liberals continued to deny the sad truth. Unlike our colleagues in the other opposition parties, we could not let down our aluminum workers. We could not vote for the implementation of the agreement. There was just no way we could do that.
I may have mentioned this before, but I stuck a little note to the side of my nightstand that says, “Who do you work for”. It is the first thing I see every morning. The answer to that question is that I work for my constituents, for the people of Lac-Saint-Jean and for Quebeckers as a whole.
What do we do in this situation?
Some people said we were on our own. They did not reckon on the courage, strength and determination of our people. Our people mobilized, and we supported them politically and technically. We were not alone, and they were no longer alone. They all came here, to Ottawa, at the end of January, to air their concerns. Elected officials, workers and economic players from our regions came here to share their concerns, and they brought a study with them.
Basically, the study said that 30,000 jobs would be at risk if the expansion phases did not go through. Investments worth $6.2 billion were in jeopardy. That would have been $1 billion in economic spinoffs every year for 10 years gone if the agreement was not changed and a real solution not found. We needed a concrete proposal to provide better protection for aluminum.
Considering those massive numbers, should we have just sat there twiddling our thumbs?
We are talking about the vitality of our regions and of Quebec as a whole. We are talking about our families and our children, and that is why we all took a stand.
We did more than just criticize; that would not be our style. We also proposed a solution. Initially, no one on the other side of the House was listening to us. Life is like that, but only a fool will not change his mind. In the end, the Liberals did listen to reason. I will give them that, and I thank them for it.
The Liberals agreed to negotiate, and we finally reached an agreement. At the end of the day, some of my hon. colleagues were able to set partisanship aside and put the interests of their constituents ahead of the interests of the parties in the House.
There are many things that divide us in this place. For instance, I strongly believe that Quebec should become a country, and as soon as possible. Despite the obvious differences in our political perspectives, we were able to secure a win and ensure that aluminum would be better protected. It was a Bloc Québécois proposal, but it was the Deputy Prime Minister who brought that proposal to Washington. I thank her for that.
Imagine what would have happened if we had just remained in our seats and voted in favour of implementing the agreement without making any demands. It is not complicated. If the Bloc had acted like all the other parties in the House, our aluminum workers would have been left out in the cold. The regions in Quebec would have been abandoned. Quebec's economy would have once again been the big loser in another international treaty signed by Ottawa.
This House was then able to see the principles that guide the Bloc Québécois. Above all, we are guided by our conscience. There is no denying that we have had a positive influence on how work is done in the House. So much the better if the other parties represented here are inspired by our approach. In the end, it is the men and women we represent who come out on top.
Who do we work for? I know. Now it is up to all my hon. colleagues to answer that question.
View Mario Simard Profile
BQ (QC)
View Mario Simard Profile
2020-03-11 18:08 [p.1965]
Madam Speaker, since my colleague is so familiar with what happened on the aluminum file, I would like him to explain how the Bloc Québécois and the Liberal Party managed to come to an agreement. I would like the entire House to be able to hear his answer.
View Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Profile
BQ (QC)
Madam Speaker, we certainly played our cards well. We maintained the same public stance by holding the government's feet to the fire and voting against Bill C-4 at first and second reading.
We negotiated with the government behind the scenes while keeping the pressure on it publicly. Ultimately, we made a great proposal. The government had no choice but to accept it and acknowledge that it was good. The collaboration started then. The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs went to Washington, and we got a commitment from the government. All in all, I am pretty proud of the strategy used by the Bloc Québécois. We proved once again that we can get the job done.
View Scott Duvall Profile
NDP (ON)
View Scott Duvall Profile
2020-03-11 18:21 [p.1967]
Madam Speaker, I am really concerned about one particular issue with respect to this agreement, and that is the aluminum industry. The interpretation is very vague as to what protection there is.
I am wondering if the member is concerned that this will allow the doors to be opened for dumping aluminum through Mexico and there will be a loss of jobs in Quebec.
View Mario Simard Profile
BQ (QC)
View Mario Simard Profile
2020-03-11 18:21 [p.1967]
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question, which was far more sensible than others.
Will the current agreement allow aluminum dumped by China to be processed in Mexico?
The mechanism we managed to negotiate with the government will ensure that if any dumping occurs, we will be able to demand that aluminum receive the same status as steel and put an end to it.
Such a mechanism already exists. Every six months, checks are done to determine whether Mexico is importing aluminum from China or other countries tariff-free. If that is shown to be happening, we will be able to demand the same protection as steel gets, with the blessing of the United States, which is aware of the process.
View Omar Alghabra Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Omar Alghabra Profile
2020-03-10 10:10 [p.1844]
Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to this very important bill, Bill C-4, an act to implement the new North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA, formally known as the Canada-United States-Mexico agreement. This agreement is extremely important to Canada, Canadian businesses and workers, and I can say, as a representative of a Mississauga riding, that the bill, this agreement, is very important for my constituents and the businesses in Mississauga.
Our government has embarked on a very aggressive trade agenda because trade is extremely important to Canadian businesses and workers. Members will be interested to know that one out of six jobs in Canada depends on trade. It is because our country produces some of the best products and services in the world, and the world needs more Canadian products and services. We know that with our agenda to grow and support the middle class and create more jobs for the middle class, we need to encourage Canadian businesses to trade, export and import more.
Our government maintained an aggressive trade agenda, and over the last few years we have signed and ratified CETA, a free trade agreement with the European Union, and the CPTPP, a free trade agreement with Asia-Pacific nations. Today, Canada is the only G7 country that has a free trade agreement with all other G7 nations. This is a competitive advantage that our friends and competitors in the United States do not have. We have a great environment in Canada for businesses and workers to export our products and services around the world.
Over the last few years, after the U.S. election, President Trump has campaigned on the issue of revamping and reviewing NAFTA. Our government took that very seriously and engaged with the U.S. administration to make sure that we protect Canadian interests, particularly the interests of Canadian workers and businesses. Access to the United States market is extremely important for businesses. Every day, almost $2 billion of products and services cross the border into the United States, so we know how important maintaining access to U.S. customers and businesses is for our businesses and workers.
At a time of increased protectionism, when, as we all know, the U.S. administration was adamant about increasing protectionism and building barriers, it was very important for our government to protect the interests of Canadian businesses and workers. What did we do? We assembled a strong team of industry, labour and stakeholders, a team that transcended partisan lines, with representatives from different parties and groups, to make sure that a complete voice for Canadian businesses was at the table as we were negotiating and protecting Canadian interests.
Canadians will recall the process that we engaged in over the last few years. It was at times very difficult, as most trade negotiations are, and there were moments of challenges and difficulties. In assembling a great team, engaging the provinces, premiers, stakeholders, legislators in the House of Commons and senators, we took an excellent team Canada approach as we embarked on this negotiation process with the United States, led by the Deputy Prime Minister, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and other ministers. We made sure that Canada's voice was strong and firm at the table, as we were very interested in maintaining access to Canadian businesses, markets and workers.
There were some challenges. As members may recall, there was a period when the U.S. administration imposed steel and aluminum tariffs on Canadian businesses. We were very firm and clear in our opposition to those tariffs. We fought very hard for businesses and workers to have those tariffs lifted. There was a regrettable time when some opposition voices were asking us to lift the countervailing duties that we had imposed on American products, but we knew it was the right thing for Canada. It was the right thing for Canadian interests.
The outcome of the negotiations was very good for Canada. We ensured that 99.9% of Canadian businesses, products and services maintained tariff-free access to U.S. markets. It was really important for business certainty, for business continuity and for workers to know that that access would be maintained.
For the automotive sector, we have increased the rules of origin to 75%, and that is good news for Canadian workers and businesses. We all know how important the auto sector is to the Canadian economy. It is very important for businesses in my riding of Mississauga Centre.
We have also preserved the state-to-state dispute resolution mechanism. That was something the U.S. administration was intent on removing, but we knew it was really important to continue to have an independent adjudicator for the dispute resolution mechanism, and we were able to preserve it.
We were also able to preserve the integrity of our supply management system. Again, the U.S. administration came to the table intent on completely dismantling our supply management system. However, we stood our ground. We stood firm behind our farmers and producers, and we protected the integrity of our supply management system.
We also preserved the cultural exemption that existed in NAFTA. That was very important for our cultural industries. Canada, compared to the United States, is a relatively small market, but we have our own unique identity. We have the unique identity of bilingualism and multiculturalism. We were able to protect an inclusion for our cultural industries, so that we could maintain our policies to nurture and support Canadian culture here at home.
We created provisions or chapters for rules of labour, for the environment and for making sure that we maintained our policies for reconciliation with indigenous peoples. We wanted to make sure that we retained sovereignty over our policies as we were embarking on this journey of reconciliation with our indigenous peoples.
The agreement preserved important access to the United States and Mexican markets. Today, businesses are seeing a lot of uncertainty, especially during this difficult time of dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak around the world. It is very important for businesses that are investing in Canada, and for businesses that rely on access to the United States, that they know that access to the U.S. market is preserved and supported, and is there for the long term.
It is really important to thank all the stakeholders who were involved throughout this difficult and long journey to reach this agreement with our friends, the United States and Mexico.
It was important to have their voices at the table. It was important to have their insight at the table and our government made sure that we took their input into account.
I want to take a moment to thank our colleagues in the House, the Conservatives, the Bloc and the NDP, for offering support to help us ratify the bill in front of us today. It is a sign for all of Canada that we can set aside partisanship when we know that we are working on something that is in the interests of all Canadians and Canadian businesses. Even at a time when people are saying minority parliaments may be more difficult to work in, this is a great moment for all of Canada to see that we are able to set aside partisanship interests because we know what is in the interests of Canadians is in the interests of all parties in the House.
I am grateful to the Standing Committee on International Trade for doing its job in studying the bill. I know the members worked tirelessly around the clock to make sure that voices who wanted to offer their opinion on the bill were able to testify at committee. Experts were able to come and present their testimony before the committee. Members of the House who sat across from each other at the committee were able to work collaboratively and pass the bill at second reading and send it back to the House of Commons.
This is a moment for us to acknowledge that we are able to work together for the benefit of all Canadians. I look forward to our colleagues in the Senate studying the bill in an expedited fashion. I know they understand the importance of the bill. We know that our friends in the United States and Mexico have already ratified the agreement, so Canada is on its way to finalize the ratification process.
Businesses know that it is very important for them. It is very important to note that businesses are breathing a sigh of relief today when they see the House of Commons about to ratify this NAFTA and they are comforted by the fact that there are so many upgrades to this agreement that benefit them.
I talked about the protection for labour standards, environment, indigenous policies and cultural exemptions, and about increasing the rules of origin for our products. I also want to take a moment to recognize how we were able to deal with the steel and aluminum tariffs that were imposed on Canadian products by the United States.
We were able to stand firm. Today not only have we been able to lift those tariffs, but now we have a side letter with our friends in the United States that ensures that, if at any point in the future the United States decided to impose tariffs under the guise of national security, we were able to get Canadian businesses an exemption from those tariffs. Those exemptions are at a greater level than the levels of our current production and current exports to the United States. Not only were we able to lift those tariffs, but we were able to get guarantees and exemptions from the United States that if at any point in the future, for some reason or another the United States decided to impose those tariffs again, Canadian products and services from steel and aluminum will be exempted.
When we tabled Bill C-4, I know our friends in the NDP and the Bloc had some questions about the bill. I am happy to talk about the process of our discussions that took place, ensuring that we listened to their concerns and we found a way to address their questions so we could reach consensus on the bill.
Let me take a moment to thank my colleagues in the NDP. We were able to reach an agreement that, with future trade agreements, we will declare our intentions and objectives of those negotiations here in the House of Commons where all MPs and Canadians will see up front what the objectives of those negotiations are.
In discussions with the Bloc, we were able to come to an agreement that on behalf of Canadian workers and producers of steel and aluminum, Canada will work with our friends in the U.S. and Mexico to encourage them to implement some monitoring measures the way we have in Canada on the production of steel and aluminum.
This is a great example of how our government is able to work with the other parties in the House to respond to their needs and address their legitimate questions.
I know the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and entire government are all looking forward to ratifying this important legislation. It will mean stability and increased exports for our businesses and workers. It will mean increased and growing prosperity for the middle class. It will mean growing jobs for the middle class in Canada. I am grateful to my colleagues in the House of Commons for supporting us and I am looking forward to the debate.
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