Mr. Speaker, I am proud to give my first speech, to address the 43rd Parliament on a very important agreement that would impact many Canadians not only in my riding but throughout this nation.
First, I would like to thank the constituents of Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa. It is an honour and a privilege to represent them each and every day.
In addition, I would like to recognize and thank my lovely wife Leigh and our children Hannah and Michael. Without them, standing in this House today would not be possible.
Before I begin my comments on the new NAFTA, it is important to take this opportunity to describe my constituency to the House in order to properly reflect its priorities in response to such a significant piece of legislation and its impact on Canada's international trade. Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa is a constituency slightly larger than the province of Nova Scotia. It is a region that is deeply rooted in riches of a social and natural heritage which holds a significant place in our country's history. That history is tied to the physical environment, which is defined by its majestic hills, rivers and plains.
Its bounty has been the lifeblood of our region for thousands of years, beginning with our indigenous ancestors and later the eastern European homesteaders of the early 20th century. More recently, our constituency has welcomed many newcomers from across the world, most prominently from the Philippines. Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa has become a diverse constituency made strong by the contributions of the land and its peoples. Those traditions, that history and that work ethic are what drive me as the people's representative each and every day.
As a region our economic wealth is derived from our abundant natural resources and agriculture strengths. More important, our economic wealth has been derived from our ability to export our excess production. Therefore, it is without question that my constituents would expect me to rise and address this important piece of legislation.
Let us be clear. Our party strongly supports free trade initiatives that will generate increased economic activity and job growth. After all, it was our party that negotiated the original NAFTA. With that said, it is our democratic obligation to analyze this legislation that is brought before this House, especially when that legislation is a free trade agreement with our neighbour, a neighbour with whom we hold our most important trading relationship. Furthermore, it is my democratic responsibility to analyze this agreement, to ask the questions and to raise the concerns so we can ensure that the people of my riding are not forgotten again by the Liberal government. Our party and I will fulfill that democratic obligation.
What are the facts of the new NAFTA? First, the Liberals failed to work with the opposition parties during the negotiation and ratification process, and now we are rushing to get this deal done without proper consultation. Second, the Liberals have failed to provide documents outlining the impacts of a new trade deal, despite numerous requests from opposition members. As a farmer, as a steward of the environment and as a former representative of a farm organization, these failures were evident each and every day during the negotiation process, specifically in our dairy sector.
The agriculture and agri-food processing sectors are key drivers in my riding, providing economic growth, good jobs and social stability, linking rural and urban businesses together and supporting other sectors of our economy. The agriculture industry is the bedrock not only of my riding but also of this nation.
In my province of Manitoba, the dairy industry plays a key economic role, generating over $250 million in farm gate revenues every year. It is a Canadian industry that proudly produces the highest quality of dairy products in the world. Our party recognizes the contribution that the dairy industry makes to family farms, allowing them to be profitable, to be financially stable and to be able to give back to their communities. This, in turn, grows and connects our rural and urban economies, yet our farm families and rural communities will bear the brunt of these changes.
Now let us examine a few of these impacts. First, an additional 3.6% of the Canadian dairy market has been opened up to import. Second, the new NAFTA dictates specific limits for Canadian exports of milk proteins, skim milk powder and infant formula. If the export limits are exceeded, Canada will add duties to additional exports. This will make them more expensive in countries that trade with the U.S. and limit us in helping to nourish developing nations. As a result of these changes, current and potential future investments in food processing are increasingly threatened in Manitoba and across Canada.
We have heard the concerns from across the industry. David Wiens, the chairman of the Dairy Farmers of Manitoba and vice-president of the Dairy Farmers of Canada, noted that Canada's dairy farms are losing 20% of their market share. He said locally produced milk from Canadian dairy farms is going to be pushed off the shelves to bring in dairy products from the U.S.
The more dangerous precedent in this agreement for Canadian dairy farmers is that the new NAFTA puts limitations, through tariffs, on Canada's ability to enter foreign markets or operate in a foreign dairy market that the U.S. is already in. Mr. Wiens also said it will further limit our ability to export dairy products, noting that Canada's largest exports are products such as milk proteins and baby formula. He added, “With that tax it will be very difficult for us to compete against the U.S. dairy industry in any [foreign] market they are in”.
Here we are with a new NAFTA that is threatening our domestic food supply, and the Liberal government should be informing Canadians of how they will be impacted. It is the Liberals' duty to be transparent and accountable, something I hope they learn during this Parliament. Dairy farmers and Canadians have been betrayed by the Liberal government by not providing the complete details of this new NAFTA and the real impacts it has on their livelihoods, their families and their communities.
The members opposite do not seem to recognize the realities of this new minority Parliament. They do not seem to recognize that they will be held accountable at every step of the legislative process, to ensure my constituents, Manitobans and Canadians understand the full impacts of this agreement and what it means to them.