Madam Speaker, just before we were so rudely interrupted, I have never done that myself.
We are here to talk about the USMCA, or CUSMA, NAFTA or “halfta”, as it has been called.
It should come as no surprise to my colleagues that I am deeply passionate about my province of British Columbia and my riding of Cariboo—Prince George. The issue at hand that has not been addressed in CUSMA and has not been addressed by either the current government or the previous Liberal government is that of securing a new softwood lumber agreement.
Over 140,000 jobs in my province, whether directly or indirectly, are forestry related. One hundred and forty communities across the province of British Columbia are forestry dependent. Over the course of the last year, we have had 25 mill closures. That is 10,000 jobs lost just over the last year because we do not have a softwood lumber agreement and because accessing our fibre is getting harder, with a carbon tax on top of that. These are making it much harder for our forestry producers to compete.
More and more forestry producers have been divesting themselves of Canadian operations since the Liberals became government, whether it was in their first term in the previous Parliament or during this term. More forestry companies have divested themselves of Canadian operations and are investing south of the border. Members heard that right. More Canadian companies are fleeing our market and investing in U.S. markets. Why is that? It is because it has become easier to do business there and they have a favourable work environment or a favourable investment environment.
We talk about the familial ties between the U.S. and Canada. The U.S. is our closest trading partner. Why is that important? I always bring it down to families and how our trade agreements and our policies have their impact. The things that we do here in Ottawa or in our provincial capitals right across our country, the policies that are developed and the agreements that are developed, impact our families.
My family and so many families in our ridings are tied to forestry. My riding is a forestry riding. A lot of our jobs are cornerstone industries, such as agriculture, forestry, oil and gas, and mining, but whether it was the Speech from the Throne in 2015 or the Speech from the Throne in 2019, forestry was left off the books. There was not one mention of forestry.
I will bring the House back to the early days of our previous Parliament. The Prime Minister and his then Minister of International Trade said they were going to get the job done, that they would secure a new softwood lumber agreement. It was early 2016 when a big state dinner took place in Washington. Everybody was invited. Even the Prime Minister's mom was invited. One person was left behind, and that was the then minister of natural resources. Sadly, he did not get an invitation. I guess he did not rank high enough to be there.
One of the very first statements that our Prime Minister made in 2015 on the world stage was that under his government, Canada would become known more for its resourcefulness than for our natural resources, and boy, that is true.
We have taken a lot of hits with the Liberal government because it sidles up to third party groups like Tides Canada, WWF, and Greenpeace. The government allows these groups to permeate the highest levels of office, and that indeed then permeates our policy. They look down upon our forestry practices. They look down upon our natural resource producers, such as oil and gas.
I want to talk about forestry again. Sixty-two per cent of our provincial land base is forest. In the province of British Columbia, we harvest less than 1% of our forests. For every tree that is harvested, three are planted, yet the government continues to look down upon forestry producers.
The province of British Columbia is the largest producer of softwood in the country, and our number one trading partner is the U.S. Therefore, securing a softwood lumber agreement, one would think, would be very important and top of mind. However, here we sit five years later with no softwood lumber agreement.
I will take members back to early 2016 when a state dinner was taking place and the then minister of international trade said the Canadian government had a new-found friendship between the Prime Minister and President Obama. As a matter of fact, I believe it was called a bromance. He said that, within the next 100 days, they were going to secure a solution to the softwood lumber irritant. I believe he said 100 days back in 2016.
Here we sit, time and time again, asking the question. We are told the Liberals' hearts go out to the hard-working forestry families. This is very similar to what they said to the oil and gas workers in Alberta: “Just hang in there.” Sadly, we cannot hang in there much longer.
Time and again, the government members have stood in the House and answered questions on softwood. As a matter of fact, in June of last year, in the dying days of the session, I stood and asked about all the mill curtailments and closures and the job losses in the province of British Columbia. A member, who was a British Columbia MP, who I do not believe made it back to the House and maybe this is the reason why, stood in the House and proudly said, “Job numbers are great. Employment is up and we are doing great.” What a tone-deaf response.
The fact of the matter is that, in my province, every day people open up newspapers and see the job losses, the work curtailments and mill closures. Just before Christmas, in 24 hours, 2,000 jobs were lost. That was just in 24 hours. If that was an auto plant in Ontario, or maybe a manufacturing plant in Quebec that had ties to the Prime Minister, I bet somebody would stand and say, “Enough”, and it would get some form of bailout. However, because it is in British Columbia, which is a long way away on the other side of this country, it seems it is too far and it is forgotten time and time again.
Liberals continue to say that they stand with our forestry families. Time and again, they put their hands on their hearts, maybe wipe away a tear with a tissue, and say they stand with our forestry families.
Are they standing with them in the unemployment lines? Are they standing with them when the banks foreclose on their homes, or are they standing with them when they are facing bankruptcy? That is the reality today. That is what we are facing, and that is shameful.