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View Dan Albas Profile
Madam Speaker, let me say, as I probably rise for the last time in this Parliament, how honoured I am to represent the good people of Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, how much I have learned from my colleagues here, but also how invigorated I am by the greatness of this country and my commitment to work hard for the people I represent.
As I join this debate today, I feel compelled to make a few observations. To be clear, Canada did not ask to be put in this position. However, as we know, the U.S. election resulted in a new administration, with a mandate, among other things, to renegotiate NAFTA. That is where all of this started.
I think we can all agree that this particular renegotiated agreement resulted in an outcome that is less than ideal, but of course, it could have been much worse. Many concessions were made, and we still have unresolved issues, such as the lack of a deal for Canadian softwood lumber, something that is critically important to my riding.
Ultimately, it is not a secret that the official opposition will be supporting this deal. Unlike the third party, we do believe it is better than no deal. However, that does not mean that there are not some lessons to be learned here.
To me, it is deeply troubling that the Prime Minister went into these negotiations with his usual theme of demanding things that are all about building his brand and appealing to his base of supporters. In other words, the Prime Minister thought he saw an opportunity to score some political points and feed the brand. This is not unlike what he tried to do when he approached China.
In both cases, he failed miserably. Why would he not fail miserably? Would we as Canadians accept another leader trying to push his or her own values onto us? We simply would not accept that. What nation would? However, that is precisely what the Prime Minister attempted to to. Some may call this arrogance. Whatever we call it, it was easily foreseeable that it was a path to failure.
However, the Prime Minister did not care and went about his virtue-signalling anyway, so we ended up on the sidelines: Canada, a world leader, on the sidelines. There we were, on the sidelines with our biggest trading partner, while Mexico was in the driver's seat, getting the deal done.
Here is the thing. Mexico did get it done. Let us look at its approach. Mexico did not use the trade negotiations as some sort of domestic political opportunity to score points. Mexico did not use this as an opportunity for virtue-signalling. Mexico did not have a lead minister giving a speech within the United States of America that took veiled potshots at the U.S. administration. Mexico discussed issues related to trade and did so professionally. It is easy to see why that approach worked so well for it.
Our approach, led by the Prime Minister, was a complete failure. It did not have to be that way. I can tell colleagues that, on this side of the House, we would have taken a much different approach. I am actually quite confident that there are members on the government side of the House, whom I have worked with at various committees, who I suspect would have also taken a much different approach. I believe it is important to reflect on these things so that we can learn from them.
Canada should never again be in a situation where we are sitting on the sidelines with our greatest trading partner, while Mexico is driving the bus. I hope that is one thing we can all agree on. Perhaps that is why we are now hearing the name of Mark Carney, because there are other Liberals who feel the same way.
Now we have a new deal. Whether it is called the new NAFTA, NAFTA 0.5, USMCA, CUSMA, or whatever, there is something we should all think about. Recently, Jack Mintz wrote a very good piece on investment fleeing Canada. Members who have read the article would know that it debunks some Liberal talking points that had been carefully cherry-picked.
As an example, yes, investment in Canada was up in 2018. However, that sounds good until we consider that it was up from 2017, and 2017 was an absolute disaster of a year. Even in 2018, it was still below where things were in 2015. Yes, I mean that 2015.
Yes, investment in the U.S.A. is down, but that is outside investment. There is a large increase in U.S. domestic capital now staying in the United States. This means it is not coming to Canada.
Why should we care about that? Let us look at our automotive sector. Yes, there is still some investment in Canada, but there is considerably more occurring in the United States and Mexico. Mexico, in particular, has been a hot spot for automotive investment. Let us think about that. Mexico has no carbon tax. It has no new and enhanced CPP causing premiums and payroll taxes to increase every month. Much of its industrial power is cheap, and I would even say it is dirty.
CUSMA does more to address some of those issues than the NAFTA deal it replaces, but we also have to recognize that foreign investment in Canada is not the rose garden the Liberals are trying to suggest it is. This is a deal among three countries. If we become the most expensive, most regulated and most inefficient country to do business in, we lose collectively as a country.
The Prime Minister can continue to be virtuous. He can continue to ask people to pay just a little bit more. He can continue to lecture others for not sharing his values. However, at the end of the day, none of those things are going to attract the investment we need to make the most of this deal.
While we are on the subject of trade, I note that last week, during question period in this place, the Prime Minister vilified former prime minister Harper close to a dozen times. As the Liberals' good friend Warren Kinsella recently pointed out, the Prime Minister is looking “for an enemy to demonize”.
I mention that because the former Conservative government of Mr. Harper concluded more free trade agreements than any prime minister in the modern era. It is not as if the Liberals, or the Prime Minister, would be unaware of this, because they sat in this place during the last Parliament and voted in support of all those new trade agreements, yet the Prime Minister turns around and vilifies the former prime minister, who has a demonstrably more successful record on trade agreements.
However, perhaps that is preferable to talking about the lack of progress on Canadian softwood. I looked up on the Open Parliament website how many times the Prime Minister has even mentioned the word “softwood”. The answer is 18 times since 2016. The vast majority of those times were only because he was answering questions on softwood lumber asked by the opposition.
How many times has he referenced Stephen Harper? It is 190 times, and it will probably be more than 200 after today's question period. With the Prime Minister's priorities so focused on vilifying Mr. Harper instead of focusing on softwood lumber, is it any wonder he has made zero progress on this file?
Why do I point this out? I point this out because lumber mills are closing all across British Columbia at an alarming rate. My riding has lost lumber mills. I know first-hand what that does to a small rural community. It is devastating. However, there is complete silence from the Prime Minister regarding softwood lumber unless he is asked about it by the opposition in this place. Why? Maybe it is because he is too busy vilifying Mr. Harper.
In my view, that is not acceptable. B.C. forest workers deserve better. They deserve to know that they have a prime minister in Ottawa working to reach a softwood lumber deal.
I sometimes wonder whether, if Mexico had a vibrant softwood lumber sector, we would now have a deal done by extension as well. It is clear that Mexico has a more effective track record in these negotiations than the brand-first approach of the Prime Minister.
To summarize, we did not ask to be in this situation, clearly. However, I believe the approach taken by the Prime Minister to try to use this as a political opportunity was deeply flawed and made a bad situation worse.
Again, as evidence of that, I say to look no further than the approach taken by Mexico and the success that it had while we sat on the sidelines.
I have raised this point with ministers of the Crown. They told us that the meetings between the United States and Mexico were simply on bilateral issues that had nothing to do with Canada. However, they came out with a trilateral agreement, and Canada had a take-it-or-leave-it moment.
Despite the many concessions that the Prime Minister has made on this file, we can still make the most of it, but only if we recognize that we need to be more competitive. We have a regulatory environment in which things can get done in Canada. Many people have raised alarm bells, particularly the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, and not just about the lack of investment but also the ability to get things done.
The Leader of the Opposition today clearly asked the Prime Minister several times for the date for the Trans Mountain pipeline. The Prime Minister promised the Trans Mountain pipeline, one of the most important projects on the deck and one of the only ones on the deck, would go forward to help build the national interest, but the Prime Minister cannot give a date.
Originally, the Liberals said that it would be operating this calendar year. Again, I would submit that one need to look no further than the Trans Mountain pipeline as evidence as to where the challenges are. It has been four years, and still there is not a shovel in the ground. The fact that the Liberal government had to buy the project to save Kinder Morgan from the embarrassment of not being able to build it in a timely manner is all part of the problem. The fact that today even the government has serious challenges in trying to navigate the process to get it done is telling. Does anyone seriously believe that Bill C-69 and Bill C-48 will make it easier to invest in Canada?
The Prime Minister says that tankers can operate totally safely in one part of British Columbia and in other parts of Canada, but are so dangerous in another part of British Columbia that they must be banned. Does anyone seriously think that makes sense? In fact, a number of the senators in the other place have commented on the lack of scientific evidence on Bill C-48. The committee that studied it in depth recommended that the bill not proceed.
The approaches of the current government do not reconcile. These are the types of mixed messages that are just not helpful. However, I remain hopeful that we can become more competitive and that as we move forward, we can ultimately try to fully capitalize on this agreement despite the many concessions.
I would like to close on a more positive note, and I will add a few positive observations.
As we have established many times and in many areas, Canada and Canadians can compete and succeed against the very best in the world. As legislators, it is our job to ensure that they have a level playing field and unrestricted market access to do so. Therefore, I will vote in favour of this agreement as, ultimately, it will provide these opportunities.
However, I must say one more time that until we have full, unfettered free trade within Canada's borders, we are, as a country, not owning up to the promise of Confederation, and that falls on us. It falls upon the provinces that have not allowed Canada to become not just a political union but an economic one.
This will be my last speech in the 42nd Parliament, and I would like to share a few words on a personal note.
We all share the collective honour of being elected members of this place, and our families all share the sacrifice for the many times that we cannot be there for them. It is my hope that our families, particularly our young ones, understand that in this place our collective desire to build a better country starts and ends with them. I would like thank all families of parliamentarians for their understanding and support.
I would also like to share a word with other members of this place. It is so unfortunate that much of the work we do here is often summarized by many Canadians as what transpires in question period. Much of the most important work that we do collectively happens at committee.
On that note, I would like to sincerely thank the many members I have worked with on various committees. Everyone I have worked with shares the same commitment to help ensure that the federal government provides the best level of governance possible. We may disagree on programs, projects and approaches, but I have found that we share a commitment to making these programs work best for Canadians.
A final point I would like to make should not be lost by any of us. The former Conservative government introduced a program to provide supports for kids directly to their parents. At the time, the Liberal opposition mocked it, ridiculed it, and suggested that parents would simply blow the money they received on beer and popcorn, but when the Liberals formed their majority government in 2015, they did not kill that program. Liberals saw the merits of it and saw that it was working so they made improvements to it, and now it is working even more effectively. I wish to commend them yet again for that.
That is an example of two very different governments coming up with a program and finding ways to improve it to ensure that it helps support Canadian families.
Trade is similar. After all, we are a nation of traders. We need to have these things that make us collectively prosper, that allow us to build stronger ties and relationships and provide the security and the sense of certainty that it takes for someone to start a business or for a country to get behind a new program. These are great examples of the work that we do when we are here on behalf of Canadians.
Thank you, Madam Speaker, for the time you spend in the chair. I am sure there are many different ways you would rather spend your time than listening to me, but I do appreciate the work you do and I am sure my constituents do as well. I look forward to the challenges in the upcoming months and in the questions and comments I will hear from my fellow colleagues.
View Dan Albas Profile
Madam Speaker, in my speech I pointed out that this is obviously a three-way agreement and that trade is influenced by many different things: the ease of transport, the tax regime, and tariffs, obviously, because that is what a free trade deal is supposed to deal with.
As I mentioned in my speech, Mexico has seen a rise in the development of its automotive sector because Mexico is not subject to many of the costs that are associated with doing business in Canada, such as the enhanced CPP, for which employers have to pay higher premiums, and the carbon tax, which increases the price of everything, particularly for processes that require a tremendous amount of energy, such as those in the automotive sector.
We must remain competitive if Canada, a nation of traders, is to compete in trade. We cannot take our products and services to other countries if we are priced out of the market because of our input costs. That is an area where we cannot allow Canada to fall back. I hope that when the time comes, the member will advocate for a new government to deal with the red tape and excessive taxation that the government has put on this country.
View Dan Albas Profile
Madam Speaker, I want to reiterate my thanks to the member for her kind words, and to say the same. We all should respect members who work so very hard for our constituents. I thank her for her service.
One thing I have learned as an elected official, both at the city council level and now as a member of Parliament, is that business asks for just one thing from government: certainty. While the negotiations kept going on, I heard right across the country at business round tables that people felt they could not make those once-in-a-lifetime or once-in-a-generation investments in their businesses on the Canadian side. Often the reason people chose to go south with those investment choices was that we did not have trade certainty.
I am fully cognizant that this deal is a sub-par deal that the government's approach led us to this position. I will support this only because the business owners I speak to and the people they employ are asking for that basic certainty.
However, we need to make sure that our entrepreneurs, our producers and ultimately our employees have a level playing field. Right now, I am very concerned about the competitiveness aspects of our country. While we maintain trade ties with Mexico and the United States, competitiveness is going to become more and more important. It is something that we should never take our eyes off of.
View Dan Albas Profile
Madam Speaker, I will just go back to my speech.
Again, it is about putting forward values that may be important to the Prime Minister, that may be important to Canadians. He tried the same approach with China. China rejected that.
I would just ask it the other way around. If the leader of China came to Canada and said, “We want a free trade agreement, but here is what we want to see” and put values in it that are contrary to Canadian values, Canadians would rightly say that we were not in support.
In the case of Mexico, Mexico was laser-focused on where it could win. When we asked the government where it got any wins, the Liberals said that we kept chapter 19. If they cannot say where their wins are and can only say that they kept one component, it is not much of a win.
There was concession after concession, not to mention the steel and aluminum tariffs that kneecapped many in our industry. That was the wrong approach.
In my speech, I gave an alternative view. We should not have allowed Mexico to isolate Canada in those bilateral talks that ended up being trilateral ones. That was a key error, regardless of what the government says. I know there are Liberals on that side who would agree with that assessment.
View Dan Albas Profile
Madam Speaker, the member seemed most offended by the Canada-China FIPA, so I will address that straight away.
First of all, the member should review the Constitution. It is the executive, in this case the Prime Minister and cabinet, that has the authority to enter into agreements with other countries. It was actually the Harper government that made changes that allowed those agreements to be tabled for 21 days here so that parliamentarians could review them.
If the member and his leader want to win enough seats to form an official party, they can make that the question on their opposition day.
When we push Canadian companies to sell their products and services abroad, and they choose to enter a place like China, they may not feel that they are going to be treated the same way they are in a rule-of-law country like Canada, like the United States and like many in the European Union, where there is due process and similar values in that due process. They would ask how they were going to protect themselves in case there was confiscation without compensation. Having that process in place in places like China allows some protection.
I would be happy to speak with the member further about his views.
View Cathy McLeod Profile
Mr. Speaker, in March 2016, the Prime Minister promised to resolve the softwood lumber dispute. He said, “I’m confident that we are on a track towards resolving this irritant in the coming weeks and month.” That was three years ago. Yesterday, the third mill in my riding in two weeks closed its doors.
The Liberals have lots of time for their millionaire friends, but when it comes to B.C. workers, they cannot lift a finger.
Will the Prime Minister finally make good on his promise to resolve the softwood lumber dispute and save jobs?
View Mel Arnold Profile
View Mel Arnold Profile
2019-06-18 22:02 [p.29364]
Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Davenport for her valiant attempt to defend something that is indefensible. She talked for 20 minutes trying to extol the virtues of this agreement, yet in that 20 minutes she never once mentioned the softwood lumber agreement.
In March 2016, her Prime Minister and her trade minister promised to have a deal framework within 100 days. We are now years past that 100 days and nothing has ever been done by the government on the softwood lumber agreement between Canada and the U.S.
Currently, in my home province, British Columbia, and in my riding of North Okanagan—Shuswap, we have mills shutting down because of the difficulties in the market, because there is no certainty created for them out of this trade deal whatsoever. The Liberals have completely abandoned the softwood lumber agreement and left those mills in limbo.
Could the member explain why she did not even mention that in her 20-minute intervention?
View Cathy McLeod Profile
Mr. Speaker, in the past few weeks, the communities of Vavenby and 100 Mile House have been devastated by sawmill closures. We have an industry in crisis and it is moving en masse to the United States. Despite this urgency, the government failed to even consider it as part of the NAFTA negotiations.
The Prime Minister is heading to Washington next week to meet with the U.S. President. Will he commit to addressing the softwood lumber dispute with President Trump?
View Dan Albas Profile
Mr. Speaker, while Conservatives support stability, let me point out that we have heard the government say before that everything is fine.
The Mexican government met with the Americans to discuss trilateral issues that they originally said were all bilateral. By the time the Liberal government had woken up, smelled the coffee and realized it had been played, it ended up getting handed a NAFTA 0.5, which is this agreement that is now being referred to as CUSMA.
The Government House Leader has said that she heard specifically that the Canadian process will be in tandem with the American process. The Liberal government has been played before. What evidence does the Government House Leader have from either Congress or the administration that the government will not be played again?
View Cathy McLeod Profile
Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the community of 100 Mile House received very difficult news about the closure of Norbord and the 160 jobs that will go with it. This is 10 days following Canfor in Vavenby, with 180 jobs, and the government is partly to blame. The Liberals had four years to resolve the softwood lumber issue, and they have had no progress. They could have attached it to the NAFTA negotiations, but they did not seem to care. Instead, we have an industry that is moving en masse to the United States.
Can the Prime Minister tell us his plan to support these communities?
View Ed Fast Profile
View Ed Fast Profile
2019-06-10 19:42 [p.28850]
Madam Speaker, it is an honour to speak again to Bill C-101, which is effectively a story of failed foreign policy, a story of failed Liberal trade policy and a story of abandonment of our western industries and our manufacturers.
This bill, in short, is really reflective of the Prime Minister's failure to recognize how important the relationship between Canada and the United States is. That relationship is with our largest trading partner. Our bilateral trade is somewhere in the order of $850 billion a year.
What happened was that, for a number of years, the United States has been asking Canada to address a serious trade challenge. That trade challenge is the issue of steel and aluminum imports coming into North America, coming into Canada, effectively being dumped in Canada by countries that sell it at prices that are below the actual cost. It is about illegal imports of steel coming through Canada and then being transshipped into the United States.
The challenge here is that, even though the United States was asking Canada to implement some legislation that would address this very serious trade challenge, our Prime Minister did not listen. He thought that Donald Trump was bluffing, and he did not do anything about it.
A year ago, our American cousins became frustrated and said that if Canadians were not going to listen to their concerns, they were simply going to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum. That is exactly what happened. It took over a year for this Prime Minister to actually take that message seriously.
Today, we are debating the legislation that should have come forward over a year ago. We did not have to go through this period when the United States was imposing tariffs under the guise of national security concerns. We can just imagine Canada, one of the most trusted partners of the United States, security partner, trade partner, foreign policy partner, and the United States becoming so frustrated that it said it would have to use section 232, the national security exemption, to impose these tariffs on Canadians. It might be illegal at the World Trade Organization, but the U.S. was going to do it anyway because it was so frustrated with Canada's intransigence.
That has to be laid at the feet of the Prime Minister. It is symptomatic of a broader malaise in Canada's trade agenda and policy that started back in 2015. Canadians have a right to ask what the playing field was like back in 2015 when the Conservatives left government and the Liberals came in.
Over the preceding 10 years—
View Ed Fast Profile
View Ed Fast Profile
2019-06-10 19:46 [p.28851]
Madam Speaker, thank you for your consideration. There was a lot of heckling coming from over there. They have very thin skins over there because they do not want to hear the truth about their reckless trade policy.
What did 2015 look like? The Conservative government under Stephen Harper had just completed free trade agreements with 46 different countries around the world: trade agreements with the European Union, with the Trans-Pacific Partnership partners, with South Korea, with Jordan, with Peru, with Colombia and with Ukraine. We also modernized trade agreements with countries like Chile and Israel. We had the most aggressive, successful trade agenda this country had ever seen.
For 2015, the tableau had been set. Our diplomatic relationships and trade relationships around the world were as good as they had ever been. We then had a Liberal government come in. Here we are four years later, and what does that agenda look like? Can our Prime Minister travel to China and talk about trade policy? He absolutely cannot. The Prime Minister went to the Philippines and he embarrassed the president of the Philippines in his own country when our Prime Minister was the president's guest at the East Asia Summit.
It has been a disaster of a trade policy. We can think about India. We can think about the tweet about Saudi Arabia—
View Ed Fast Profile
View Ed Fast Profile
2019-06-10 19:50 [p.28851]
Madam Speaker, that is funny. The member started off by saying the Liberals completed the agreements. He then said the agreements are not effective. We are talking about the largest consumer market in the world, the European Union, negotiated under the former Conservative government of Stephen Harper. It is the second-largest trade agreement we would have with any other trading partner in the world, the U.S. being number one. The one thing he said that is truthful is that the United States is our largest trading partner and our bilateral trade is some $850 billion.
However, the second-largest consumer market in the world is the European Union, a well-heeled market under which trade is growing. There are huge opportunities for Canadians to now penetrate that market and drive economic growth and prosperity here at home.
View Ed Fast Profile
View Ed Fast Profile
2019-06-10 19:57 [p.28852]
Madam Speaker, as a former trade minister involved in the negotiation of the TPP, I can tell members that I was aghast, and all of my Conservative colleagues were aghast, at what happened in Vietnam. The 11 remaining partners of the TPP had completed negotiations and they all agreed that they were going to meet the next morning to sign the TPP, finalize everything and have a formal announcement. They all got together the next morning, except that there were two chairs empty. Canada's trade minister was missing and Canada's Prime Minister was missing. They were missing in action. They did not show up.
It is among the most embarrassing trade moments that Canada has ever been responsible for. I can tell members that under the next Conservative government, that kind of embarrassment will never happen again.
View Todd Doherty Profile
View Todd Doherty Profile
2019-06-07 11:44 [p.28753]
Madam Speaker, it is obvious that the government does not care about the over 200,000 Canadians who are employed by forestry, or the 9,500 forestry jobs in indigenous communities across our country, or the hundreds of communities across rural Canada that depend on the forestry industry for at least half their base income.
Despite having a once-in-a-generation chance to end the long-standing softwood dispute by negotiating a new NAFTA, Liberals squandered the opportunity. Why?
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