Madam Speaker, as this is my first opportunity to address the House in formal debate, let me first thank the amazing citizens of Red Deer—Mountain View for their support during the last election. None of us makes it to this place on our own. From that perspective, I wish not only to recognize the numerous volunteers who have supported me, but also my devoted family who has stood beside me all along the way. My wife Judy, our son Devin, our daughter Megan, our son-in-law Hanno and our grandchildren Julian, Serena and Conrad are my inspiration for my service to my community.
I have been blessed to have so many wonderful people guide me along my political journey. Over the past 12 years, I have continually felt that same sense of duty and honour each time I enter this chamber. I reflect upon the love, passion, desires and counsel my parents, brothers, family, colleagues and friends have taught me, and I strive to live up to the honour they have bestowed upon me by allowing me to serve as their representative.
During the last Parliament, I was honoured to serve on the international trade committee. Committee members had a unique view of the negotiation process and numerous opportunities to meet with parliamentarians from around the world, including our American neighbours.
I was also honoured to accompany Prime Minister Harper to London in the final days of the CETA negotiations, where discussions with Canadian producers, manufacturers and distributors looking to do business with their European counterparts took place.
Canada is a trading nation. As Conservatives, we truly are the party of trade. This was obvious from the respect that Prime Minister Harper commanded as he spoke with global leaders. It saddens me to hear how the current Liberal government continually tries to minimize the great work done by our former government and how it desperately tries to weave its way into the international trade narrative.
When it comes to the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the European Union, the current government was handed CETA on a silver platter. All the Prime Minister had to do was retrieve the ball the Harper government had hit over the fence for the walk-off home run, and sign it.
The government's insistence that it reopen parts of the agreement caused serious confusion with our trading partners and showed inconsistencies and weaknesses of which other signatories were quick to take advantage. This became the opening that encouraged one of those European partners, Italy, to initiate unsubstantiated, non-tariff trade barriers against Canadian durum wheat. Ironically, its ploy was to demonize us for herbicide use. This came from a region that uses three to six times the amount of herbicide our Canadian farmers do. Because the current government had no strategy or ability to help our farmers, the rest of the world saw this administration as weak.
Canadian farmers once again took it on the chin when the government chose to tweet in Arabic about internal issues in Saudi Arabia, which had always previously been dealt with professionally through proper diplomatic channels.
Similarly unexplainable behaviour by the Prime Minister created a near disaster with Vietnam at a time when tensions were high after the U.S. pulled out of TPP discussions. Because the TPP was a template for a renewed North American trade agreement and was so close to being a reality in July 2015, it was with disbelief that we saw the Prime Minister once again put our position in jeopardy by creating a scene during these negotiations. Whether it was the entire reason or not, the consequence is that we have another non-tariff trade barrier with Vietnam that once again affects our agricultural exports.
Then we had our problems with India. The trade committee happened to be in Malaysia on the last leg of an ASEAN trade tour when the Prime Minister's Indian antics hit the global news wire. To say that all of us were embarrassed would be an understatement. If it had just been the costume party, that would have been bad enough, but revelations about his guest list and the snubbing of the Indian prime minister went beyond the pale.
Canada had always had agreements with India regarding our pulse exports, but these agreements needed constant vigilance. The government dropped the ball, and all of a sudden we had an international incident: another non-tariff trade barrier that put our Canadian pulse producers in jeopardy. This multi-billion dollar market became another casualty of a disjointed government strategy that lacked both knowledge and direction.
Sadly, Canadians are no longer surprised by these types of unforced errors from the Prime Minister. This has also been the underpinning of his attitude with our southern neighbours. This was obvious from the Prime Minister's confrontational commentary once he thought the American president was out of earshot. His irresponsible statements inflamed our relationship with the United States at a time when we should have been addressing solvable irritants with our southern neighbours.
There may have been a sense of bravado at the PMO, but the result was that the U.S. administration lost its respect for its traditional ally and stopped listening to us.
This heightened the problems associated with the stalled steel and aluminum tariffs, slowed any action on softwood lumber, and in the new NAFTA, solidified their entrenched position on dairy.
The issues that we have with China today are complex and I wish our diplomatic team success as it deals with these concerns. On the trade file, the concerns we have today have been exacerbated by the government's global, knee-jerk response to serious trade issues and the serious diplomatic missteps that have been a hallmark of the government.
If Canada would not stand up to the non-tariff issues of the countries I previously mentioned, then the Chinese government was pretty confident that we would not stand up to its import restrictions either. Canola, pork and beef were to become pawns in this debate. With the present developments with the U.S.A.-China agreement, we find ourselves on the outside looking in. Quite frankly, neither of these important trading partners have time for us. No longer are we that soft middle power that both our U.S. neighbours and the Chinese government would seek counsel from when issues arose. The egos of the leaders and administration of all three countries now dominate the discussion and as Canadians, we suffer the most.
Where does this leave us with the new NAFTA? We have always had strong relationships with our southern neighbours and we must continue to value these trusted partners through a strong, well-thought-out free trade agreement. However, while doing so, we must always think of our Canadian workers and their combined expertise, our manufacturers and their ability to compete with Canadian raw materials, our farmers and their world-class food production, and our natural resource industry and its respected environmentally friendly footprint.
These are the people, and the industries in which they toil, that any free trade agreement must consider. In our present national discussions, we hear a lot of talk about the environmental practices of our mining, oil and gas, agriculture, forestry and other industrial users and naively think that this matters to the rest of the world.
As a western Canadian, I would love it if we would use our environmental record as a lever for global acceptance of best practices and that as a nation we would champion this expertise so that the world would take notice. Sadly, our global competitors that pile on when it comes to natural resource development have found allies with anti-development actors that have infiltrated political parties, honest ecological activists and inculcated our education system. All this to portray our natural resource industries in a negative light.
In Alberta, we did not look for sweetheart deals from the federal government to allow our heavy emitters to put actual pollutants into the air or to get permission to pour raw sewage into our rivers. Instead, we set up strong environmental conditions that made sense for our geography, that recognized our natural resource advantages from forestry and agriculture, and our desire to build on all resources for the betterment of the nation. We wanted to do our part.
Do any of these things seem to matter to the eco-activists that will do all they can to shutter in our resources while ignoring the blatant economic sabotage and environmental disasters that are practised by our competitors? No, but we in the west still forge ahead despite these attacks because we know that this is how we can help build a nation.
We will stand up for the green aluminum producers from Quebec because we are proud of what they produce, because it is the right thing to do. We will stand up for our oil and gas industry because by doing so we can help displace poorly regulated and environmental suspect energy from other global suppliers, because it is the right thing to do. We will stand up for our forestry workers and we will stand up for our great farmers and ranchers who produce the best food in the world with the softest environmental footprint, because it is the right thing to do.